In the 1980s, when the WWF was beginning its rise to national recognition, Vince McMahon brought in a bunch of superstars to launch the company’s growth in the USA. Amongst these superstars was Andre The Giant, who if only for his size alone, was a talent that was sure to attract huge crowds no matter where he went, as nobody had seen a man of this size in professional wrestling prior to this point. Although Hogan was pushed as the leading superstar in the company, it is undoubtable that Andre drew in a huge number of fans.
Andre was discovered by Lord Alfred Hayes, a former English wrestler who went on to play non-wrestling roles in WWF post-discovering Andre. Andre then left home as a teenager to become a wrestler in Paris, but wrestlers willing to face him were few and far between, due to his sheer size and strength. He made a name for himself in these arenas, and after moving to Canada to continue his career in wrestling, he soon began speaking to two Vince McMahon’s, both senior and junior, and they helped launch him into an industry that was ready to welcome Andre with open arms.
DID YOU KNOW? Andre The Giant was billed at 7ft4 by the WWF, and although Jim Duggan and Bobby Heenan insist that this was correct, there are claims of his height being a whole range of different figures, from 6ft9 all the way up to the 7ft4 that the WWF were claiming.
Andre made his debut in the WWF as a face, and during this time he became the biggest superstar in the company temporarily, as in 1984 Andre was featured in the Guinness World Records for being the highest paid wrestler in history, earning $400,000 in a single year. Andre’s first major feud involved him and Big John Studd, as the two men went around the world, battling to decide who was the greatest giant in professional wrestling. Eventually, at the first Wrestlemania, this feud came to a conclusive end as Andre defeated Studd in a body slam challenge, reinforcing the statement that most people already believed, that Andre The Giant was the greatest giant in wrestling, not only at that time, but better than any giants that had come before him.
Andre continued to be shown off by the WWF as a collossus who was almost unstoppable, right up until the following year, when he took part in a battle royal with top superstars, as well as top NFL players. Already well established names such as Bruno Sammartino were involved in this battle royal, and even so, the WWF were so keen to show Andre off that they had him defeat these huge names. Of course, they didn’t get any bigger in size than Andre, and at the end of the match, it was down to only him and the Hart Foundation. In another showing of Andre’s dominance in the ring, he then proceeded to eliminate Jim Neidhart and Bret Hart alone, cementing his position as a true powerhouse who was dominant.
DID YOU KNOW? Andre The Giant actually fell asleep during a match with Big John Studd once.
Prior to Wrestlemania III, Andre went through a 15 year period in which he only lost by pinfall or submission on two occasions. Canek beat him by pinfall in 1984, and Antonio Inoki beat Andre by submission in 1986. In addition, he took Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkle to a time limit draw, proving that his incredible size didn’t cause him to become a sloppy performer as time progressed during a match. With this in mind, it is incredible to think at how well looked after Andre must have been, for his physical condition allowing him to wrestle for an hour against the two major world champions of that era, in Race and Bockwinkle.
Andre then turned heel in 1987, after being awarded a trophy for being “undefeated for 15 years”, which was only true inside a WWF ring, and discounted a handful of count-out losses. On one of the most famous editions of Piper’s Pit, Andre then went to rip Hogan’s viking style army veteran hoodie off, before challenging him to a match at Wrestlemania III. It is unknown whether Andre would’ve won the match, but he agreed to lose to Hogan due to health issues, as by this time he was billed at 525lbs. Even so, Hogan claims that Andre felt closer to 700lbs. This was the match that put Wrestlemania on the map, and had the whole world talking.
DID YOU KNOW? Such was Andre’s great size at Wrestlemania III, Hulk Hogan actually tore his latissimus dorsi whilst slamming Andre.
This feud continued over the following year, with Andre and Hogan eventually going onto captain rival Survivor Series teams, at the inaugural event. Andre’s team were victorious this time, as Andre got the winning fall over Bam Bam Bigelow. However, this wasn’t the last time Hogan and Andre would compete for the WWF Championship in the ring, as when Ted DiBiase couldn’t persuade Hogan to sell him the title, he then turned to Andre, who went onto win the WWF Championship, and this was the only time that Andre would hold the prestigious title belt. Andre then sold the title to DiBiase, but DiBiase is not credited with a championship reign due to Jack Tunney vacating the title upon this happening.
DID YOU KNOW? In 1993, the WWF Hall Of Fame was created, and in that year, Andre was the only superstar inducted.
Andre’s health was now declining severely, and so after teaming with Haku for a while, once winning the World Tag Team Championships as The Colossal Connection, he then faded out of the professional wrestling picture, eventually announcing his official retirement in 1992. Andre passed away less than a year later, in his hotel room in Paris. Ironically, Andre was only in Paris to attend his father’s funeral. As he wished, Andre was cremated and his ashes were scattered at his ranch in North Carolina. There is no doubt that the legacy of the first great giant in professional wrestling history will never be forgotten. I’ve been James D, and you’ve been reading about the first man to make giants in professional wrestling famous. R.I.P Andre “The Giant” Roussimoff 1946-1993.
write by Alvin Lenahan