Eric Bischoff played a key role in reacquainting two of combat sports' most iconic figures.
After their infamous bout in 1976, Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki didn't speak for nearly twenty years. It wasn't until 1994 when Eric Bischoff arranged a meeting in a Denver hotel room that the two titans would reconnect.
Appearing on Busted Open Radio to pay tribute to Inoki just days after his passing, Bischoff shared the story of how he brought the two men together and how just one year later he was on a plane with Ali to North Korea in advance of NJPW and WCW's 'Collision In Korea.'
"The Japanese culture is so different than our culture at every level, particularly when it comes to business. Because things deteriorated as badly as they had, there was a lot of money involved, between WCW and New Japan, I thought it was highly unlikely I was going to be able to resurrect that relationship because it was hostile. One of the things that I think really helped turn a corner is I got a call from Brad Riggins. Brad was kind of like the American liaison, he worked very closely with Masa Saito, and Brad Riggins and I had been friends since high school so we had a long relationship. Brad called me and said, 'Hey, Mr. Inoki is coming to Denver and he would really like to become reacquainted with Muhammad Ali. They had lost touch. There had not been any conversation subsequent to their fight, whenever it was, back in 76, 75, I can't remember. So they had completely lost touch and I the year before had done some business with Muhammad Ali and had become, I don't want to say friends, but friendly. I could call. I could talk to his wife. When Brad called and said, 'Hey, Antonio is going to be in Denver, he would really, really love an opportunity to become reacquainted with Muhammad Ali, I called Muhammad's wife and said here's the situation and Antonio Inoki would love to meet Muhammad and here's the dates, and next thing I know I'm sitting in a hotel room in Denver with Muhammad Ali and Antonio Inoki seeing each other for the first time since that fight. Me being able to make that happen and facilitate that probably went a long way for Antonio Inoki and it was one year later that now I'm on a jet flying to Pyongyang, North Korea sitting next to Muhammad Ali," Bischoff said.
You can view more reactions to Inoki's passing from those in the wrestling community by clicking here.
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