Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Muhammad Ali/Antonio Inoki Fight's Surprising Cameos

What had happened was this: I was reading the Japanese Wikipedia entry for Risa Komaki with regards to the Momoranger wallpaper we recently linked here. While there, I made a surprising (to me) discovery. As it turns out, Komaki (best known as "Peggy Matsuyama", the alter ego of Momo on GORANGER) had been one of the women presenting the ceremonial bouquets prior to the infamous Muhammad Ali/Antonio Inoki fight!

The Ali/Inoki fiasco is something that deserves more coverage than I am going to give it here. Suffice to say, I find the story surrounding it far more compelling than the match itself. I tried to watch the whole thing, but only made it through 2 rounds. If you want to see Ali dancing and yelling while Inoki lies on his back and kicks his legs for 15 rounds, it's 5 stars. Otherwise, it's a good cure for insomnia.

The funny part is I sat through all the preliminaries yesterday, and found them engrossing. The event itself is remarkable, even if the fight doesn't live up to expectations in any way. Now, obviously I expected to see some New Japan guys in Inoki's corner, and Ali's usual boxing entourage was there in force. But some of the other faces, well...

1) First, Risa Komaki is there, and she's plainly visible at the 7:35 mark in the video in this post. What's more, I think she may even be wearing one of the "Peggy Matsuyama" outfits from GORANGER! I suspect the connection is that both GORANGER and Inoki's New Japan Pro Wrestling aired on NET (today's TV Asahi). The other bouquet woman with Komaki is also an actress.

2) I knew "Classy" Freddy Blassie was going to be there, but it's still strange to see him in Ali's corner. Blassie was managing in the WWWF at this time, and was a legendary figure in Japanese pro wrestling. He looks visibly uneasy as he's walking to the ring, as if he knows the whole thing is going to be a farce. I tend to give credence to his version of events from his biography over some of the more "accepted" versions. I know Blassie spun a lot of stuff in that book, but his version had a ring of truth to me from a worked pro wrestling perspective.

3) "Judo" Gene LaBell was the referee. I knew this too, but I somehow imagined he would have looked more fearsome even in a ref get-up. LaBell never was famous as a wrestler, but he was known as a shooter and made a name for himself as a Hollywood stuntman, too.

4) Karl Gotch was in Inoki's corner. I didn't see this coming, but I should have. Gotch was much more famous in Japanese pro wrestling than anywhere else in the world. Seeing Ali trash talking Gotch was amusing.

5) The Three Degrees sang the American National Anthem! I...wasn't expecting this in any way.

The video below is the preliminaries and the entire fight from an NET broadcast. Risa Komaki is at 7:35. The fight itself starts at around 20 minutes or so. Anyone who makes it through the whole thing has more stamina than yours truly.

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