What Really Happened When Andre The Giant Wrestled Akira Maeda

At 7'4" tall and over 500 pounds, Andre the Giant dominated the professional wrestling world for nearly two decades. After being brought to the WWE (then the World Wide Wrestling Federation) by Vincent McMahon Sr., no one seemed to be able to stop the gargantuan Frenchman. According to his WWE bio, Andre's winning streak was unprecedented: he went undefeated for almost 15 years. He also sparked up some epic rivalries with big names at the time, such as Blackjack Mulligan, "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd, and, of course, Hollywood Hulk Hogan, but "no one could overpower the giant."

With such a monumental record, it's no wonder that fans of his colossal legacy are still scratching their heads as to what happened when he fought Japanese wrestler Akira Maeda in 1986. In the video of the match posted to Daily Motion, Andre is seen taking down Maeda by simply falling on top of him. The two struggle for a minute or so before Maeda squirms out from under the giant in the corner of the ring. Little did fans know at the time that the scuffle would be just about all the action they were going to get from these two. After a couple more uneventful grapples, Andre did little more than stumble around the ring in a daze while Maeda taunted him to attack. And fans still speculate to this day as to what went wrong that May afternoon in Japan.

Was Andre the Giant drunk or was he toying with Maeda?

Getting 500 pounds of Frenchman drunk is no easy task. As fellow wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts – who as a rookie had the job of driving Andre from show to show – told CBS Sports, the giant could guzzle the better part of two cases of beer without appearing drunk or even needed a bathroom break. Future wrestling star Ted DiBiase, aka "The Million Dollar Man," told the story of a night out with Andre in Amarillo, Texas, in which the big guy ordered a trash can full of ice and three cases of beer. So for the giant to have gotten so drunk as to be unable to perform in the ring with Maeda seems unlikely.

According to Bleacher Report, however, it's not out of the realm of possibility. "Andre looked intoxicated," wrote columnist Ryan Dilbert. "The way he moved about the ring, his lack of speed and his lack of balance all point in that direction." It's been proposed that a sloshed and uncooperative Andre the Giant insulted Maeda, who got visibly frustrated with the way things were going. Maeda practiced shoot wrestling, a style that originated in Japan in the 1970s and involved more realistic, sometimes even all-out full-contact moves to make for more crowd-pleasing matches. He began to give his titanic opponent real kicks that almost, just almost, sent the towering mass tumbling to the floor.

Or was Maeda being taught a lesson?

Awkwardness characterized the match that had been highly anticipated by Japanese wrestling fans. Andre teetered and backed away, while Akira grew more and more frustrated. The smaller of the two (but not by much — only a man like Andre the Giant could make a 6'3" fighter like Maeda seem small) finally whipped Andre to the floor in a single-leg takedown, and the latter didn't appear to want to get back up any time soon. Dilbert compared the colossus to "a turtle that has fallen on its back." Then he appeared to be telling Maeda to pin him and get it over with already. "The narrative that these men were supposed to tell the fans had long been abandoned," wrote Dilbert.

A capitulation by Andre the Giant would have definitely thrown a wrench into the gears of any plans that Antonio Inoki, founder of the New Japan Pro Wrestling company (and seen slapping Maeda in the above picture), may have had for Maeda. As another rumor about the flopped fight goes, Inoki may have ruined Maeda's match in order to teach him a lesson in being humble. Whatever the reason, the fight that had fans so hyped up ended up being a major dud. Inoki ran into the ring and utilized the hubbub around it to distract the crowd from the fact that no one really won or lost the fight, and pro wrestling fans still wonder what went wrong that day.