The most badass thing to come out of France since Medieval times.
Hard to imagine there was a time when he wasn't fuck-ugly.
Andre Rene Rousimoff is arguably the most popular wrestler of all time. Born in the town of Grenoble in the French Alps in 1946, Andre was born with a genetic condition known as Acromegaly (more commonly known as "Gigantism"), which causes those who have it to never stop growing. By the time he was 17, he stood 6'10" and weighed in at 309 lbs. He moved to Paris in 1963 to become a professional wrestler. Since he was already basically a circus freak, he found work wrestling with carnival sideshows. Alfred Hayes, a popular wrestler of the '60s, realized with the right promotion, a wrestler that big would sell out arenas everywhere he went. Under the tutelage of French-Canadian legend Edouard Carpentier, the now 7-foot Andre was dubbed "The Eighth Wonder of the World" and began touring North American and Japan.
With "Lord" Alfred Hayes now acting as his manager, Andre became the most popular babyface (good guy) in the world. In 1973, he signed with Vincent J. McMahon's World Wide Wrestling Federation. Guinness World Records estimated that the now 7'2" Andre was making $400 thousand a year. It was at the insistence of Gorilla Monsoon (McMahon's number-one heel) that in order to mainain Andre's mystique, he must never lose a match by pinfall or submission. Andre only lost two matches over the next 15 years, both sixty-minute time-limit draws against Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel.
In 1980, Andre was placed in a feud with up-and-coming mega-heel, "The Incredible" Hulk Hogan. Yes, that's right: when Hulk Hogan first got started, he was immediately the most hated man in wrestling. Hogan had already survived rioting-fans in New York City after squashing their home-town hero (Monsoon!) and was now going up against the most beloved wrestling figure in the world. In his "autobiography", Hogan recounted an incident where a fan in Philadelphia jumped the guard rail and came at him with a knife. Andre broke character, and kicked the guy's ass. Their feud culminated in a showdown before a then-record-setting crowd at Shea Stadium. At the time, Andre was a lean 480 lbs, so it was relatively easy for the performance-enhanced Hogan to bodyslam him. However, Andre still came out on top. Never exactly the most graceful mat technician, Andre's finishing move was a scoop slam... followed by sitting on his opponent.
Much like his wrestling skills, Andre was a very casual man. As you might've heard in Paul Rudd's I Love You, Man, due to his massive size, Andre could in-fact consume up to a case of beer before getting buzzed. He once drank six bottles of wine in two-and-a-half hours, stopping only to take a piss break. Traveling was hell for the man, but it was even worse in Japan. In a country where the average person is only 5-feet tall, can you imagine what it must've been like for a man who was half-Sasquatch? Determined not to let life get him down, Andre made the best of his time in Japan. Since he couldn't fit onto the standard Japanese toilet seat (hell, the fact that he could even fit into the bathroom is miraculous), Andre would sometimes take a shit in the bathtub, and then wipe his ass with the curtains. He was pretty much a one-man Frat house. And despite literally being four times the size of them, Andre had a legion of groupies in Japan. This spits right in the face of all laws of human physiology.
This is what it probably looks like when Andre is having sex.
In 1981, Andre entered into what is considered to be the greatest feud of his career, and one of the greatest feuds in pre-Hulkamania wrestling history. While stumbling out of a bar (apparently one of the few times in his life) Andre tripped on the curb and broke his ankle. To explain his absence, announcers said that "Mongolian" wrestler Killer Khan (actually Japanese) had wrapped a folding chair around Andre's ankle, and the performed a diving knee-drop off the top rope onto it. Despite the match never having took place, shows were only broadcast locally, so audiences in other cities believed whatever they were told. So even they had never even been in the same ring together, when Andre returned, the fans were dying to see him destroy Khan. Because of the high levels of intensity surrounding this film, a gimmick was added that stipulated their big match-up would be a "Mongolian Stretcher match." The object was that you had to throttle the opponent to the point where they could not fight back against being strapped to a stretcher and then rolled backstage. And who do you think was the winner?
Like most sufferers of Acromegaly, Andre's body was literrally becoming to much to handle. His weight had continued to climb as past 550 lbs. Even though speed was never something you expected to see in his matches, at this point he could barely move. While he remained on the road year-round, his work load was lessened to sometimes only one match a month,no more than five minutes each. Fortunately, Hogan's cameo in Rocky III (where he played a bad guy) was quickly becoming one of the most popular face's in the country. When he defeated The Iron Sheik for the World title in 1984, Hogan also claimed Andre's title of the most popular wrestler in the world.
For the inaugural WrestleMania, Andre entered into a feud with Big John Studd (who stood 6'10" and weighed 364 lbs) to determine who was the "true" giant of professional wrestling. In hindsight, considering Andre had half-a-foot and nearly 200 lbs on him, it seemed pretty obvious who that moniker belonged to. However, since just walking had become a difficult task for Andre, there match would be a $15,000 Bodyslam Challenge. The first man to bodyslam his opponent would win $15k. If you've watched any wrestling at all over the past few years, you can honestly say that this isn't the stupidest idea you've ever heard. Studd made the first attempt, but couldn't even make Andre budge. Andre, of course, slammed Studd. And like any good guy, he tossed the money into the audience!
Since Hogan's popularity/ego had allowed him to defeat literally every other wrestler in the WWF, a match with Andre was inevitable. Now, over the past three years, Hogan's biggest feud wasn't with any particular wrestler, but with heel manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. Every few months, Heenan would recruit someone new to his evil stable, The Heenan Family, in an effort to dethrone Hogan's reign at the top. On an episode of interview segment of "Piper's Pit," Heenan bragged that his latest acquisition would finally be the one to end Hulkamania. Wrestling fans everywhere were shocked when out stepped from behind the curtain... Andre the Giant. Andre called out Hogan, accusing him of stealing the spotlight (which he did) and dramatically ripped off Hogan's t-shirt & crucifix. Or, at least, that's how it was supposed to go down. What little English Andre spoke was garbled by the fact that he had obviously been drinking (his fingernail also cut Hogan's chest). Since it was prior to the time of national television, absolutely no references were made to their original encounter back at Shea Stadium, in order to play up the historical significance of their match-up. At WrestleMania III, in front of what WWE loves to brag was over 93.000 people (Pontiac Silverdome only holds 80.000) Andre challenged for the World title for the first time in his 25-year career. To reinforce the belief in Andre's chances, a new belt was custom made to fit only him, double the dimensions of the standard world title. Now, while with most wrestlers, you'd like to think there is a reasonable doubt that they could kick out of a pinfall if they really wanted to. When Andre pinned you, you didn't get up unless he wanted you to. That was just a fact of life. So for Andre to willingly get pinned by a guy he knows wouldn't stand a chance against him, it really says a lot about the kind of guy he was. During the match, there was a planned spot where Hogan would attempt to bodyslam Andre (who was wearing a back-brace underneath his singlet), but Andre would fall on top of him for a pin attempt. The problem was, Andre couldn't get off of Hogan fast enough, and it was very apparent that Hogan's shoulders had been pinned for more than three seconds, but the referee had still acted as if Hogan had kicked out. Every Hulk Hogan match ends the same way: get hit; Hulk Out (no-sell); point finger; punch opponent repeatedly, backing him into the ropes; Irish Whip across the ring; big boot to the face; atomic leg-drop. No variation. When the big moment finally came, instead of the big boot, Hogan bodyslammed Andre in one of the most iconic moments in wrestling, ending his 15-year winning streak.
Andre took a break from wrestling to have some much needed back surgery. During his recovery, he was offered a major role in Rob Reiner's next movie. I am, of course, talking about the best all-around movie of all-time, The Princess Bride. If you haven't seen it, go rent it now. Hell, even if you *have* seen it, watch it again!
[TWO HOURS LATER]
Ah, still great after all these years! Tthere is no movie in existence that is as quotable. You expect a chick flick, you get an off-the-wall fantasy/comedy filled with memorable scenes, dialogue, and characters. But probably the most memorable character was the Turkish giant, Fezzik. To you lazy bastards that couldn't be bothered to watch the movie, the soon-to-be princess bride Buttercup (Robin Wright) has been kidnapped by Sicilian criminal mastermind Vinzinni (Wallace Shawn) as part of a plot to instigate a war, just for the hell of it! Fezzik is one of his henchmen, and is constantly berated by his much smaller boss. While trying to escape Buttercup's would-be rescuer, Vinzinni instructs Fezzik to finish the Man in Black off "his way."
He then picks up a fucking boulder, and proceeds to do as he's told. Seriously, this is an amazing movie, and Andre's presence just makes it all the more magical. Whoever reads this first, you need to make a topic page for it.
When Andre returned to the WWF a year later, he was ready for revenge. It was stipulated that if Andre had lost, he would never get another rematch. However, on "The Main Event" on NBC, Heenan revealed he had sold Andre's contract to "Million-Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, who had also failed to defeat Hogan. The match (if you could call it that) lasted all of six minutes, and Andre's offense consited mostly of headbutts. After a very weak side-slam, Andre covered Hogan for the pinfall, who clearly kicked out at two. Shockingly, Senior Referee Dave Hebner counted three, and called for the bell. Jesse "The Body" Ventura, now the heel announcer, was ecstatic, playing it off as the greatest moment in the history of sports. Andre gave the most incomprehensible victory ever, only to promptly announce he was surrendering the title to DiBiase! Everybody's got a price... But then, in the most soapish-operatic twist in all of pro-wrestling, who would come running down to the ring, but... Senior Referee Dave Hebner??? WTF?!?! As it turns out, DiBiase's manservant, Virgil, had locked Hebner in a closet backstage, and DiBiase had paid-off his "evil" twin brother Earl to officiate in his place! Diabolical!!! These shenanigans would not stand, and the world title was declared vacant. Andre's sole world title reign is officially recorded as having lasted 45 seconds.
Andre's last major storyline was two years later, and it pitted him against Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Andre in real life had ophidiophobia -- a fear of snakes. If you don't see where this is going, give it a minute...
Roberts would carry a burlap sack to the ring, with a Burmese python named Damien inside. It's a cliche in wrestling that it's impossible to eliminate the biggest guy in a battle royale unless everyone else works together. So when it came down to Andre & Roberts, Jake whipped out Damien, causing Andre to stumble backward over the top rope in fear, accidentally eliminating himself. This formula was repeated about a dozen times, culminating in Andre suffering a (fake) heart attack after Roberts through Damien at him.
Andre's career came to a close when he teamed with fellow Heenan Family member, Haku "The Tonga Kid" as the Colossal Connection to win the tag-team championships. Today, they are regarded by wrestling afficionados as one of the worst pairings ever. When they lost the titles back to S&M duo Demoliton at WrestleMania VII, Heenan made the unwise move of not only yelling at Andre, but slapping him! Andre did what every wrestling fan of the '80s had wanted to do, and that was to chokeslam that weasel Heenan!!! After having earned back the love of the fans, Andre quietly faded away from wrestling... He died of a massive heart attack in January of 1993.
To honor his memory, the WWF aired a small two minute video package on an episode of Superstars. At the end, all it said was just simply "Hall of Fame."
Of course, the Hall of Fame now also includes Pete Rose and William "The Refrigerator" Perry, so it's kinda lost it's symbolic value.
During the late '80s/early '90s, the street-skateboarding subculture began a propaganda campaign that involved placing vinyl stickers bareing Andre's image in as many public places as possible in urban locations across the country.
It was a modern update of the "Kilroy Was Here" phenomena of World War II, where American G.I.s left the grafitti message in various locations across Europe and the Pacific. Never one to miss an opportunity to be a dick, Vince McMahon, Jr. (the one we all know today) sued the supposed originator of the fad, forcing him to stop using the likeness of his "property." Street artists responded by omitting the name "Andre the Giant," but continuing to spraypaint a more stylized version of the picture all over the world.
Along with Ted "Lurch" Cassidy, Fred "Herman Munster" Gwynne, and Richard "Jaws" Kiel, Andre's memory lives on in the hearts of fans as the gentlest giant the world has ever known.