On November 30, 1979, Inoki defeated WWF Champion Bob Backlund in Tokushima, Japan to win the title. Backlund then won a re-match on December 6. However, WWF president Hisashi Shinma declared the re-match a no-contest due to interference from Tiger Jeet Singh, and Inoki remained Champion. Inoki refused the title on the same day and it was declared vacant. Backlund later defeated Bobby Duncum in a Texas Death match to regain the title on December 12. As Inoki refused the title his reign is not included nor is it recognized by WWE in its official history and Backlund is recognized as having one reign from 1978–1983.
On February 1, 2010, World Wrestling Entertainment announced on its Japanese website that Inoki would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2010. On February 9, WWE held a press conference in Tokyo, Japan to officially announce the induction, making him the first ever Japanese person to receive the induction.