As a mainstream athlete, Antonio Inoki is probably best known for battling Muhammad Ali to a draw in an actual on-the-level fight—albeit one restricted by last-minute rule changes—after The Greatest backed out of plans to lose a traditional entertainment wrestling match. But Antonio Inoki is not a mainstream athlete. He’s a professional wrestling legend, and one of the most grandiose and ambitious batshit merchants that this deliriously batshit sport has ever seen. Forty years ago this weekend, he painted something that came very close to being his masterpiece of bullshit artistry. That it remained unfinished doesn’t matter at all.
Inoki has parlayed his wrestling fame into multiple terms in Japan’s equivalent to the U.S. Senate, and has attempted to merge his two careers with ridiculous stunts like partnering with North Korea to run a pair of cards in Pyongyang back in 1995. Inoki, naturally, headlined the second card, putting on a show with Ric Flair in their first-ever meeting; George Foreman was the originally announced opponent within the DPRK, but appears never to have been involved at all. While it’s hard to top the North Korean expedition for gonzo Inoki ventures, in large part because it actually happened, it’s worth remembering that, four decades ago this week, Inoki got mainstream sports media to report that he was setting up a wrestling match with Ugandan strongman—as in military dictator, not wrestler—Idi Amin.