Andre the Giant vs Akira Maeda

Date: April 29, 1986
Location: Tsu City Gym in Mie, Japan
Source: Tributes by Dave Meltzer

Andre the Giant was a star in Japan for many years, and was brought in by New Japan for a match with Akira Maeda. Maeda was coming off a two year period where he was a leading star for the UWF in Japan in 1984 and 1985, which proclaimed to be a “real” pro wrestling promotion (it really wasn’t, but that’s how it was marketed). He came back to New Japan after the UWF went out of business, having made numerous comments about how pro wrestling wasn’t a real sport.

Maeda was known for having great matches against his fellow Japanese wrestlers, but not with Americans. Sure enough, Andre would not sell any of Maeda’s submissions, and would often mock his “shooter” gimmick during the match. Andre appeared to go after Maeda’s eyes at one point, and as the match wore on, it turned into a shoot. It was a disaster for the live crowd, as Maeda would just stand there and throw kicks to Andre’s legs, and Andre pretended they didn’t hurt (even though his knee was swelling up). Andre was largely immobile by this point, and a legit 500 pounds plus.

The back story is that Maeda was getting a really big head behind the scenes, and during this time period he was often going into business for himself (the infamous “shoot kick” against Riki Choshu would come a year later). Andre was told to embarrass him in the ring, since everyone believed in the Andre myth that he was the toughest man in pro wrestling (which he may have been at one point, but by 1986 he was overweight and barely able to move). Maeda didn’t know Andre’s plan was to embarrass him, and to make matters worse, Andre was drunk. And even though he wasn’t in top shape, Andre was still an extremely powerful man.

Maeda started to defend himself after Andre went after his eyes and he realized there was no cooperation. The reason it wasn’t stopped earlier is that the idea was for Andre to kick Maeda’s ass and they were waiting for it to happen. He just kept kicking Andre’s knee, and took him down rather easily a few times. Maeda turned to Kantaro Hoshino outside the ring and asked if he could finish him off, and Hoshino shook his head “no.” Andre was on his back, daring Maeda to jump on him.

Promoter Antonio Inoki finally got in the ring with no explanation and ending the match. Andre was furious and shouted at the referee (Frenchy Bernard, also his traveling companion) that he wanted Maeda back in the ring. Maeda was furious as well, throwing a wicked kick to the guard rail that was more vicious than any kick he threw at Andre.

While Maeda has been very unprofessional at times, this was a case where his opponent started it with him. Andre was twice his size, and Maeda was trying to protect himself, scare Andre, and also not hurt him, all at the same time. Dick Murdoch, who at the time believed in the myth of Andre, later said he thought Maeda was going to end Andre’s career. Despite this being one of Andre’s more memorable career moments, most American fans have no idea it ever happened because it happened overseas a good decade before the internet started to gain prominence.