Embarking on a journey through the wrestling world, one name stands tall, casting an imposing shadow that few could ever hope to eclipse – Andre the Giant. A titan not only in stature but in impact, Andre’s story is interwoven with the very fabric of professional wrestling lore. From humble beginnings in France to the electrifying arenas of global wrestling, this blog post aims to delve deep into the life, the myth, and the legend that is Andre, painting a portrait of the man who truly became the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Join us as we step into the ring with a giant.
Real Name: André René Roussimoff
Stats: 6′ 11″ 450 lbs.
Born: April 24, 1916
Born in the picturesque village of Molien, France, on May 19, 1946, André René Roussimoff was the third of five siblings in a hardworking farming family. As a child, André’s extraordinary size, a result of a rare condition called acromegaly, quickly distinguished him from his peers. Despite facing ridicule and bullying, he maintained a gentle demeanor and found solace in the rural life, assisting his family on the farm and developing an affinity for the outdoors. Young André’s life took an unexpected turn when a local wrestling promoter discovered him at the age of 18. Enthralled by the world of professional wrestling, André seized the opportunity and embarked on a journey that would eventually lead him to become the legendary André the Giant, a global phenomenon who would capture the hearts of millions.
Recognizing his potential, the promoter introduced him to the world of professional wrestling, where André’s extraordinary size and strength would prove to be valuable assets. Initially wrestling under the name “Géant Ferré” in France, André honed his skills and gained experience in the ring. His impressive performances caught the attention of wrestling promoters across Europe, and he soon started competing in the United Kingdom, Germany, and other European countries. During this period, he adopted the name “Monster Roussimoff” and built a reputation as a formidable and captivating wrestler.
In 1971, André traveled to North America to further his wrestling career. He worked primarily in Canada, wrestling for the Montreal-based Grand Prix Wrestling and the Vancouver-based All-Star Wrestling promotions. During this time, he first used the moniker “André the Giant,” which would become synonymous with his legendary wrestling persona.
André’s remarkable size and his natural athleticism and charisma made him an instant sensation in the wrestling world. In 1973, he signed with the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), later known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), and now WWE. This marked the beginning of his rise to superstardom, as he quickly became one of the most beloved and iconic wrestlers in the history of the company.
André the Giant’s early wrestling career was filled with significant matches that showcased his incredible size, strength, and skill. He worked in France and all over Europe before journeying to the United States. His first significant matches in North America took place in the early 1970s, primarily in Canada. He wrestled for Montreal-based Grand Prix Wrestling and Vancouver-based All-Star Wrestling, where he first used the moniker “André the Giant.” Some of his early feuds in Canada were against notable wrestlers like Don Leo Jonathan, Killer Kowalski, and Gilles “The Fish” Poisson. These wrestlers were considered large for their size at the time, so Andre towering over them, it allowed his size to make up for his lack of experience to the fascinated crowds.
André the Giant’s debut in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) in 1973 marked a pivotal moment in his career. His first match was against Buddy Wolfe, where André showcased his immense size and skill, defeating Wolfe in a dominant performance. He then feuded with Black Gordman and Great Goliath. Because of his inexperience, Andre would be showcased mostly as a novelty in these early years. While his size was a tremendous drawing card for him, it put promoters in a bind because it would seem impossible for regular-sized wrestlers to defeat him. Therefore, the prospect of him reigning as a title-holder became a double-edged sword for each promotion. How could you hope to draw fans expecting a competitive match for the title between an average-sized wrestler and an opponent that weighs almost twice as much as him. As a result, Andre was used mostly as a novelty, never challenging for a title reign. Instead, he often traveled from territory to territory, staying fresh in the eyes of the public, thus not allowing them to become bored by his dominance. Over this period of time, Andre enjoyed a prolonged winning streak (which was estimated at over 15 years).
He toured the world as his own traveling one-man show, boosting sales in each territory his visited. Billed as a giant, he became a favorite of children in each city he visited. He had a great business relationship with Vince McMahon, Sr. and the WWWF for a while served as his home wrestling base. But other wrestling promoters across the United States would often contact McMahon and ask him to loan the Giant to their struggling promotion for a short-term boost in sales. This helped these promotions but also helped McMahon and Andre because it prevented him from becoming stale in the Northeastern United States.
Andre would also take part in tours of other countries where crowds were not used to seeing a man of his massive size competing against their usual wrestlers. In addition to his early tours across Europe and North America, he also toured Japan during his early wrestling career, competing for promotions like New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) and All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW). These tours allowed him to experience Japan’s unique wrestling styles and traditions, further expanding his in-ring abilities and international appeal. He would eventually maintain a continuous worldwide tour, competing in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and various countries in Africa and the Middle East. These tours helped solidify André’s status as an international wrestling icon and further increased his fan base.
In 1984, Andre signed an exclusive contract with the WWF (although he was allowed to wrestle on occasion with NJPW). He began to feud with Big John Studd that year over the claim of who was the “true giant” of professional wrestling. The two would culminate the feud in a match at Wrestlemania I on March 31, 1985, held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. He and Studd engaged in a “Bodyslam Challenge” in which the first man to bodyslam the other would win a $15,000.00 prize. Andre slammed Studd to the audience’s delight and then proceeded to throw the prize money into the crowd until Bobby “the Brain” Heenan snatched the bag of money away.
The following year, Andre began to suffer from the effects of the advancing deterioration from acromegaly, the disease that had spurred his enormous growth. In the midst of a feud with Studd and King Kong Bundy, he requested a leave of absence from the promotion. His absence was explained by his suspension for failing to attend a match. When he eventually returned, he did so under a mask where he wrestled as the “Giant Machine. Eventually, Andre would shed the mask and return as himself. He was thereafter reinstated by the promotion, curiously with the approval of Heenan.
In early 1987, on an episode of Roddy Piper’s “Piper’s Pit,” Hulk Hogan was being honored for holding the WWF World title for three years. Andre was on hand and “heartily” shook Hogan’s hand. A week later, Andre was honored with a smaller trophy for being “the only undefeated wrestler in wrestling history.”. Hogan came to reciprocated and congratulated Andre but big-footed him, drawing the attention to himself. Annoyed, Andre walked off, leaving Hogan standing awkwardly, applauding. A week later, on February 7, 1987, Andre appeared on Piper’s Pit to clear the air with Hogan. When Andre arrived, he was accompanied by his new manager, Bobby Heenan. Andre remained quiet while Heenan accused Hogan of ducking the Giant. A stunned Hogan tried to reason with Hogan, but a challenge was issued to Hogan for a match at Wrestlemania III. To put a personal stamp on his challenge, Andre snatched a crucifix off of Hogan’s neck, drawing blood from his chest.
Wrestlemania III was the most important event in the history of the WWF, and the promotion’s very existence depended on its success. The match between Hogan and Andre was set for the main event. While it was also remembered for the tremendous match between “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Ricky “the Dragon” Steamboat, the event was most remembered for the battle between “the Hulkster” and “the Giant.”
As the promotion was wanted to do, it exaggerated the attendance (93,173, when in reality it was estimated around 78,500) as well as Hogan and Andre’s height and weight (Hogan at 6′ 9″, 302 lbs and Andre at 7′ 4″, 520 lbs.). In a back-and-forth match, dominated by Andre, ogan made his patented comeback, “Hulking Up” and body-slamming the Giant before securing the pinfall. WWF announcers proclaimed this to be the first time that Andre has ever been body-slammed. In reality Andre had been slammed numerous times over the years, notably by Stan Hansen in Japan and even by Hogan himself.
Andre stepped away from the promotion to tend to the pain caused by his disease. He returned, howeever, when the WWF came up with an angle where the “Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase set his sights on obtained the WWF title belt. He hired Andre to win it for him. On the Main Event, to air 5 February 5, 1988 of NBC’s Saturday Night Main Event, Andre defeated Hogan with the help of Earl Hebner (who snuck in to referee the match after his twin brother Earl had been kidnapped by DiBiase). Andre immediately sold the belt to DiBiase, and the title was declared vacant soon thereafter.
Andre continued to wrestle over the years, but his health continued to deteriorate. He wrestled in the United States and Mexico but chose Japan for his final match on December 4, 1992, where he teamed with Giant Baba and Rusher Kimura to defeat Haruka Eigen, Masanobu Fuchi, and Motoshi Okuma.
Even outside of the squared ring, Andre chose to entertain his fans. His size made him a unique character in Hollywood. Starred as Sasquatch in an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man in 1976, followed by episodes of B.J. and the Bear, the Fall Guy, and the Great American Hero. After appearing as a youth in a french boxing movie, he appeared in the Arnold Scwarzeneggar epic Conan the Destroyer, followed by a role in Harold and Maude. His theatrical highlight, however, was his appearance as Fezzik in the Rob Reiner-directed classic the Princess Bride. He received rave reviews and was heartened by the respectful treatment by the cast and crew.
Andre the Giant is the inaugural inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1993. Additionally, he’s been honored with inductions into the Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame (1995), Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (1996), Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum (2002), and the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame (2016).
André the Giant’s personal life was marked by both extraordinary experiences and challenges stemming from his immense size and unique position as a global wrestling icon. While much of his life was spent in the public eye, several aspects of his personal life are worth discussing. His extraordinary size resulted from acromegaly, a rare hormonal disorder that causes an overproduction of growth hormones. This condition led to numerous health issues throughout his life, including chronic back and joint pain and difficulties with mobility. Despite the challenges posed by his condition, André maintained a positive attitude and continued to perform in the wrestling ring for many years.
Born into a humble French farming family as the third of five siblings. He maintained a strong connection to his family throughout his life, often returning to France to visit them when he wasn’t touring or competing. Although André never married, he had one daughter, Robin Christensen-Roussimoff, who was born in 1979. The two never had a real relationship as she saw him only five times in his lifetime.
Despite his immense size, André deeply appreciated fine food and was known to be a connoisseur of French cuisine and wine. His fondness for alcohol was legendary. He was alleged to have once consumed 119 12-US-fluid-ounce beers in a six-hour period, and he once told TV host David Letterman that he once drank 117 beers. A documentary about his life explained that because of his immense size, doctors struggled to measure the amount of anesthesia to use for his surgery in 1987. Doctors made an educated guess after Andre allegedly told them ““It usually takes two liters of vodka just to make me feel warm inside.”
Andre owned a ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolina, looked after by two of his close friends. When he was not on the road, he loved spending time at the ranch, where he tended to his cattle and played with his dogs.
Andre the Giant died at age 46 of congestive heart failure and an apparent heart attack in his sleep ina hotel rrom in Paris. He was in Paris to attend the funeral of his father. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered on his ranch. He left his estate to his daughter Robin.
In the annals of professional wrestling, Andre the Giant looms larger than life, not only for his astounding physical stature but also for his indelible impact on the sport. An emblematic figure, Andre’s journey from rural France to the pinnacle of wrestling stardom epitomizes the global allure of the squared circle. Dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” his unmatched in-ring prowess and his innate ability to captivate audiences worldwide solidified his position as a transcendent icon, ensuring that his legacy would forever be etched in the pantheon of wrestling greats.
Frequently Asked Questions
Andre the Giant, also known as André René Roussimoff, was a professional wrestler known for his impressive stature and significant impact on the wrestling world. He was often referred to as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and is intertwined with the very fabric of professional wrestling lore. He was born on May 19, 1946, in Molien, France.
Born in the picturesque village of Molien, France, André was the third of five siblings in a farming family. He had a rare condition called acromegaly which caused his extraordinary size. Despite facing challenges and bullying, André was kind-hearted and enjoyed rural life. At the age of 18, he was discovered by a local wrestling promoter, marking the start of his legendary wrestling career.
Andre began his career in France under the name “Géant Ferré” and later adopted the name “Monster Roussimoff” while wrestling in Europe. He moved to North America in 1971, eventually adopting the name “André the Giant.” In 1973, he joined the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), which later became WWF and now WWE. Andre toured worldwide, wrestling in various countries and became an international wrestling icon. One of his most notable matches was against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III.
As Andre’s health declined, he chose Japan for his final wrestling match in 1992. Outside of wrestling, Andre was involved in entertainment. He had roles in several TV shows and movies, with his most iconic role being Fezzik in the film “The Princess Bride.” He was also inducted into several Hall of Fames, including the WWE Hall of Fame in 1993.
Andre’s size was a result of acromegaly, a condition leading to an overproduction of growth hormones. This brought about various health issues, including chronic back and joint pain and mobility problems. Despite these challenges, he maintained a positive spirit. He was also known for his love for French cuisine, wine, and notably, his exceptional alcohol consumption capabilities, once claiming to drink 117 beers in a sitting.
Besides wrestling, Andre ventured into Hollywood. He starred in episodes of various TV shows like “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “B.J. and the Bear,” “The Fall Guy,” and “The Great American Hero.” Additionally, he appeared in films, with his most memorable role being Fezzik in the classic film “The Princess Bride.”
Andre had acromegaly, which caused his significant size and related health issues. He was the third of five siblings in a French farming family. He had a daughter named Robin Christensen-Roussimoff, though they didn’t share a close relationship. Andre was also known for his love of fine food, wine, and his legendary alcohol consumption. He owned a ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolina, where he spent time when not touring.