I was born 15 months before Muhammad Ali’s penultimate fight – an awful TKO stoppage by then heavyweight champion Larry Holmes in October 1980.
Thus, an attempt to come close to copious amount of Ali tributes about his impact on society, the black community, and boxing would come up a bit short.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the efforts of World Wrestling Entertainment to pay tribute to the Greatest of All-Time on Monday night.
The WWE displayed tributes throughout the night for Ali including a wonderful video package that showed highlights of his work with the company.
Ali dabbled in the wrestling scene while he was an active boxer. He collided with Gorilla Monsoon for an in-ring segment in the mid 70s.
Also, he battled Antonio Inoki in a boxer vs. wrestler match in 1976. The lackluster bout in Japan should be considered a notable tale in the end of Ali’s boxing career. Inoki’s repeated kicks to Ali’s legs damaged the champ with two blood clots.
Adding to the long-term physical impact of the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier a year earlier, Ali’s career ended with three losses in his last four fights.
After retiring from boxing in 1981, Ali resurfaced with the WWE in 1985. he served as special guest referee for the main event of WrestleMania I – the epic tag-team collision between Hulk Hogan and Mr. T squaring off against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff.
During Monday Night Raw, the WWE brilliantly captured Ali’s impact while also explaining to fans what he meant to the product.
Without question, Ali was a major influence on the business even when he wasn’t around. Just take a look at the promos cut by the American Dream Dusty Rhodes and Superstar Billy Graham during the 1970s and 80s.
Their interviews were basically a knockoff and tip of the cap to Ali.
There are plenty of reasons why Ali was called by many (and himself included) the Greatest of All Time.
It was cool to see WWE pay their respects to a man who significantly impacted and helped promote their product.