May 26, 1986 was an odd day in the history of pro wrestling.
Andre the Giant, less than a year from his de facto sports entertainment swansong at WrestleMania III against Hulk Hogan, was booked to wrestle Akira Maeda on a New Japan Pro Wrestling card.
Andre was 40, well past his prime physically, and reportedly came to the ring drunk. Maeda was 27, had a rep as a legit fighter burnished in the defunct UWF promotion, and was a top star in New Japan. Andre was a legit 6-foot-9, almost 6-10. Maeda was 6-3; smaller, but hardly small.
Andre no-sold Maeda’s moves and strikes, making him look foolish. Maeda got aggravated, so they started “shooting” – fighting for real.
It wasn’t a very entertaining shoot: Maeda kicked Andre in the knee a bunch of times. Maeda also took Andre down.
It was a boring (but dangerous) situation. New Japan owner (and top star) Antonio Inoki came to the ring, and the match stopped. Andre was prone on the mat, telling Maeda to come pin him.
Inoki thought Maeda’s ego was out of control, and may have told Andre to take Maeda down a few pegs by no-selling. Regardless, Andre was at fault. Pro wrestling is about cooperation, and Andre didn’t cooperate.
Maeda gets credit for not hurting Andre badly, because he could have.
This situation did not make it onto HBO’s “Andre the Giant” documentary, which was nonetheless terrific.