Before the match, they agreed that the advantage would swing between the fighters for awhile, but Inoki would ultimately come out on top. It was, after all, in Japan, and the home crowd wanted to see Inoki destroy this sloppy Western villain. The Great Antonio was more than willing to play the antagonist in the bout -- he was so eager, in fact, that he antagonized Inoki into actually beating the piss out of him.
Antonio Inoki, seen here dressed as Che Guevara for some reason.
When It Got Real
While strength, dexterity and a fancy finishing move are all important to professional wrestling, the primary ingredient is acting -- you have to know how to throw yourself across the ring even though your opponent only nudged you. But about two minutes into the match, the Great Antonio made it very clear that he wasn't going to be doing any of that.
In fact, you can almost see the moment when he realizes, "Wait a minute, only one of us has 'The Great' in front of his name. I should be winning." So when Inoki threw a kick at him, instead of "selling" the move (that is, stumbling backward as if he'd been hit with a real blow), he just stood there. In other words, he basically just told the crowd, "See? All of this is fake."
Except the gut. 1970s special effects couldn't fake that.