WRESTLING NEWS
Why Antonio Inoki's WWE Championship Reign Isn't Recognized By The Promotion
By ROBERT GUNIER
Controversy followed Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki throughout his career, including an incident involving the WWF Heavyweight Championship. Inoki was the victim of a phantom title change — where the historical records of a company don't give recognition to a title reign — and to this day hasn’t been given credit as the WWE’s first Japanese World Champion.
Bob Buckland, the reigning WWF champion in ‘79, faced off against Inoki in a WWF Championship defense on November 30, 1979, in Japan. During the bout, Buckland had been able to get a three-count pin on Inoki, but the bell never rang. While Buckland celebrated, Inoki rose and pinned him, but this time the bell rang, giving Inoki the champion title.
A rematch was held on December 6, 1979, and Buckland defeated Inoki, returning to the United States as the WWF champion again. However, since news from overseas rarely made it to America, the company was able to sweep his win under the rug and still reports that Buckland’s reign lasted 2,135 days — the second-longest WWE Championship reign ever.