In an interview with Japan’s Tokyo Sports yesterday, Japanese puroresu legend Atsushi Onita claimed that he had been invited to attend WrestleMania 34 weekend by the WWE.
Onita had been wrestling for 43 years (he was one of the first graduates from the All Japan Dojo in 1972) until his retirement match on October 31 at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, following a retirement tour that took him through such promotions as Japan’s ZERO-1, All Japan, Typhoon and the very promotion he created in 1989, Frontier Martial-arts Wrestling (FMW). He also travelled to the US with two matches with CZW.
It’s unsure why the WWE would invite Onita to the WWE’s biggest event of the year, but there are several theories. He could simply be a special guest for the weekend or be part of this year’s AXXESS. It’s also possible that WWE is considering inducting him into the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE has honoured Japanese legends in the WWE Hall of Fame in the past, such as NJPW founder Antonio Inoki and NJPW legend Tatsumi Fujinami, and Onita is certainly one of All-Japan’s legends, not to mention his influence on the hardcore style of wrestling that came to form the foundation for today’s deathmatches in such promotions as CZW, GCW or the late original ECW. His promotion FNW also influenced MMA promotions as well. WWE has inducted hardcore pioneers of the past already, such as Abdullah The Butcher, The Sheik and Terry Funk (although Funk was inducted more for his NWA run in the 1970s than his ECW run), and adding Onita would pretty much cover some of the hardcore originators (although Bruiser Brody is painfully missing still).
There has been no word from the WWE or anyone connected to the WWE that the invitation was indeed extended or for what purposes. But it wouldn’t be the first encounter between Onita and Vince McMahon. Back in 1997, Onita met with McMahon to discuss bringing his famous deathmatch creation, the Exploding Barbed Wire Match, to the WWF. The idea would start with a Best of 7 hardcore match series between Mick Foley and Terry Funk, with the final match being an exploding barbed wire match. After the meeting, apparently the two sides never spoke again and when the feud began in early 1998, Mick Foley (in his Cactus Jack persona) faced off against Chainsaw Charlie (Funk under a stocking mask) and after their first match, they teamed up instead and faced the New Age Outlaws.
I guess we’ll have to see how legitimate Onita’s claims are of this WrestleMania 34 invitation and if true, what the invitation pans out to be.