The wrestling world is mourning the death of boxing legend Muhammad Ali who died Friday evening, June 3, 2016, after suffering from a respiratory illness. He was 74. Ali had also been battling Parkinson’s disease for many years.
In their statement, the WWE extended their condolences to Ali’s family, friends and fans.
Along with his incredible achievements in the world of boxing, Ali fought Antonio Inoki in the first ever boxer versus wrestler match at the Budokan Hall in 1976.
Ali challenged any wrestler in New Japan Wrestling to fight him and Inoki stepped up to the challenge presenting Ali with a crutch.
“When your fist connects with my chin, take care that your fist is not damaged,” Inoki told Ali at a pre-match press conference.
The match itself ended in a draw but brought the two legends together as life-long friends. Inoki would go on to fight another boxing legend: Leon Spinks.
In a precursor to that match, Ali would confront Gorilla Monsoon in the ring on an episode of WWE’s Championship Wrestling. Taking exception to how Monsoon was treating opponent Baron Mikel Scicluna, Ali climbed into the ring. The two sized each other up, circling each other until the two started throwing punches. Monsoon would airplane spin Ali and slam him to the canvass.
Ali would reappear on the wrestling scene as a special guest referee at the very first WrestleMania in 1985 keeping order in the main event of Hulk Hogan and Mr. T versus Paul Orndorff and Roddy Piper. When the action spilled outside of the ring, Ali clocked a rowdy Piper.
On Twitter, wrestling legend Ric Flair wrote: “An icon lost. Your legend will live on!”.
Mick Foley paid tribute to Ali by posting the cover of the 1978 DC comic book, ‘Superman vs. Muhammad Ali’. He stated: “An incredible athlete, an extraordinary showman; a man who changed the world.”
NXT superstar Austin Aries Tweeted: “The REAL Greatest Man That Ever Lived. Thank you for all that you were.”
Kevin Owens wrote: “The word “legend” may not have been invented for Muhammad Ali but there’s no one else it describes better…What a life!”