AEW Star Reportedly Training Antonio Inoki's Grandson

When you mention the word wrestling in Japan, the first person many people will think of is Antonio Inoki. The founder of NJPW has left an untouchable legacy on wrestling and the wider world of sports, with his famous bout with Muhammed Ali being credited as an early example of what mixed martial arts would eventually become. Inoki passed away on October 1, 2022 at the age of 76, but it seems the next generation of the Inoki family might be ready to get in the ring. In November 2023, a photo of AEW star Katsuyori Shibata circulated around social media as he was spotted in the gym with Inoki's grandson Naoto. Given how young Naoto is, many thought it was just a wholesome photo of an Inoki family member posing with a man who not only came through the NJPW dojo, but cites Inoki as an inspiration.

However, it seems that Naoto Inoki has taken his training a little more seriously since this photo, as Dave Meltzer noted in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Inoki's grandson is being properly trained by Shibata. The former NJPW star signed with AEW in December 2023, and is a former ROH Pure Champion who has also acted as the head trainer of the NJPW dojo in Los Angeles. He was given the role after being forced into temporary retirement in 2017 due to a serious head injury he suffered during a match with Kazuchika Okada.

Shibata, Naoto, and another one of Inoki's grandson's Hirota were part of the opening ceremony at AEW WrestleDream, a pay-per-view designed to honor the legacy of Inoki and his influence on the wrestling business. The event took place on October 1, 2023, exactly one year to the day that Inoki passed away.