Andre the Giant will forever be known as one of the most beloved people in the sport of Professional Wrestling. Not blessed with great grappling ability, Andre possessed enormous strength and exceptional quickness for his size. A fan favorite for most of his career because of his gentle nature, Andre’s biggest match came when he faced Hulk Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight championship in front of the largest indoor crowd ever of 92,000. A consistent drawing card for all of his career, no one was suprised that it would be Andre who would held attract such a massive audience.
Andre the Giant
Real Name: Andre Roussinoff
Stats: 6′ 11″ 400-500 lbs.
Born: May 19, 1946
By Steve Slagle
Andre the Giant was truly a one of a kind performer. Although his monolithic proportions were sometimes over-exagerated by promoters who billed him as standing 7’4, and later, 7’5, he was without a doubt the overall largest professional athlete ever to compete in any sport. But there was much more to this one of a kind performer than just his size, and he rose to previously unimagined levels of fame and mainstream notoriety. Although he passed away on Jan. 29,1993, his legacy and influence will be felt in this sport forever…
Andre The Giant was born Andre Rousimoff in a small farming community in France on May 19, 1946. Over time, it became obvious that the young Andre was, to say the least, not like other children. Although born of “normal” sized parents, he reportedly reached 6`3 and weighed 200 lbs. by the time he was twelve.
The fans loved it, the wrestler(s) teaming with Andre always enjoyed sharing the considerable attention/spotlight that followed The Giant, and the promoters were eager to pay Vince McMahon Sr. the considerable finders fee it took to bring him into the territory because a card featuring Andre The Giant always equaled a sold-out arena, or at the least a very substanital upturn in attendance. Andre was also a mainstream celebrity throughout the seventies, the eighties and up until his death in the early nineties. Already the most famous wrestler in the world, his first big Hollywood break came when he was perfectly cast as “Bigfoot” for 2 highly rated episodes of The Six Million-Dollar Man in 1976.
He was also on the undercard of the infamous Ali-Inoki closed-circuit event, easily defeating boxer Chuck Wepner — which again exposed his overpowering size and persona to the mainstream public. He landed a starring role in the very successful film The Princess Bride, in which he, along with the film, was given rave reviews. In what was a accomplishment at the time, Andre was featured in Sports Illustrated. Fittingly, Andre’s S.I. profile was the largest featured article up to that point in time for the publication. And, of course, in 1987 he and Hulk Hogan performed in front of 93,000+ fans (plus millions more watching on PPV) at Wrestlemania III, the largest card ever held in the United States.
Clearly, whatever Andre decided to do in his life, he always did it in a BIG way! Including indulging his love of good beer and fine food. Although it never affected his ring performance, it has been said that Andre would consume up to 7000 calories a day through drinking beer alone. True stories about the amount of food that Andre could/did eat have turned into legends over the years. In the eyes of the fans, Andre was often considered the “Uncrowned World Champion” during most of his career until his dubious and forgettable (had it not been so bizarre) WWF World Title “victory” over Hulk Hogan. His transient nature and the constant demand for him from all points of the globe never allowed Andre to stay in one territory for too long.
However, despite his never-ending schedule of appearances (often within several different promotions in a short span of time) Andre did manage to collect a few titles during his career. We won the IWA Tag Team titles w/Michael Nador in 1970, the Austral-Asian Tag Team title w/ Ron Miller in Australia, to name a couple. He also teamed with “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes to win 2 championships — the N.W.A. US (Tri-State) Tag Team title in New Orleans, and the Florida Tag Team title on February 15, 1981.
Of course there was the WWF title fiasco, in which Andre defeated Hogan after one of two twin referees made an illegal count on the Hulk. Andre then “sold” the WWF World title belt to “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, meaning his “reign” lasted a matter of minutes. Several years later, he also had a 4-month long WWF World Tag team title reign in 1989 w/Haku (Meng). This would end up being the last title Andre would hold, and his career soon ended forever. He died soon after his last public appearance, which was at the celebration for 20 years of NWA/WCW wrestling on TBS. Despite his rapidly deteriorating health at the time of his death, the giant was said to have been gearing up for another run with the WWF when he passed away.
Most longtime wrestling fans will remember Andre the Giant not as the slow, bitter, old Giant he portrayed in his final years in the sport he ruled for over 15 years…but rather, as the smiling, gentle, yet unbeatable and undefeated Andre that stood for all that was good. Unquestionably, Andre was a force like none other, and a truly irreplaceable figure in the history of professional wrestling.