Whoever coined the phrase â€œbigger is betterâ€ must have certainly been talking about Andre the Giant. He is hands down the most prolific â€œbig manâ€ or super heavyweight to be a part of the wrestling industry. Every big man who has come after Andre in the business has been invariably been compared to Andre, either directly or indirectly.
21. ANDRE THE GIANT
Real Name – Andre Roussimoff
Aliases – Butcher Roussimoff; Giant Roussimoff; Monster Roussimoff; Eiffel Tower; Monster Eiffel Tower; Jean Ferre; Geant Ferre, Giant Machine
Hometown – Coulommiers, France
Debuted – 1970
Titles Held – NWA Australian Tag Team (with Ron Miller); NWA Florida Tag Team (with Dusty Rhodes); IPW World Tag Team (with Michael Nader); NWA United States Tag Team (with Dusty Rhodes); WWF World; WWF World Tag Team (with Haku)
Other Accomplishments – Winner of PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year award in 1977 and 1982; Winner of PWI Match of the Year award in 1981 (vs. Killer Khan); Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Feud of the Year award in 1981 (vs. Killer Khan); Winner of PWI Most Hated Wrestler of the Year in 1988; Winner of PWI Match of the Year award in 1988 (vs. Hulk Hogan); Recipient of PWI Editor’s award in 1993; Inducted to WWF Hall of Fame in 1993; Member of Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame; Inducted to Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996; Ranked #3 of the Top 500 Singles Wrestlers of the PWI Years by Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2003
Andre was a man born with acromegaly, a disease that essentially causes extremities enlargement through a release of excess growth hormone. As he continued to grow larger than most normal men he became a sight to behold. In the 1960s he was discovered by Lord Alfred Hayes and was trained to be a wrestler in France. In the early â€˜70s, French-Canadian Edouard Carpantier brought Andre to North America, but his size caused him to run out of plausible opponents in a hurry.
Once the McMahon family got a hold of him in the mid â€˜70s, they transferred him into a traveling attraction, never staying in one spot too long so as to not wear out his welcome. He specialized in 2 or 3-on-1 handicap matches and battle royals that showcased his size and ability in a spectacle setting.
By the time Vince McMahon, Jr. began his national expansion in the early â€˜80s he kept Andre as an exclusive North American property of the World Wrestling Federation, while allowing him to continue his international commitments. He was one of the companyâ€™s top babyfaces through the first half of the â€˜80s, having memorable feuds with Killer Khan (that was highlighted by a Mongolian Stretcher match) and the â€œtrue giant of wrestlingâ€ battle with Big John Studd that was highlighted by the WrestleMania I bodyslam match. He followed that up with a big win at WrestleMania 2 in the NFL-WWF co-branded twenty man battle royal, last eliminating Bret Hart.
But it was in 1987 when things really got good. After he turned on Hulk Hogan for essentially being a glory hound, the stage was for the biggest match in wrestling history â€“ Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. When people say this was the biggest match in history, for once it wasnâ€™t hyperbole. Hogan and Andre legit sold out Pontiac Silverdome to a tune of anywhere from 79,000 â€“ 93,173 fans (depending on who you ask or believe.) Andre did the honors for Hogan that night, taking the pin after a bodyslam and a legdrop. The match itself was atrocious, but for historical purposes it is a must-see. Andre had successfully passed the torch to Hogan. His health was quickly deteriorating, and he was ready to fade into a part-time spot.
He spent the rest of â€™87 and into â€™88 feuding with Hogan. He and Hogan captained five man teams at the inaugural Survivor Series on Thanksgiving night 1987. Andre was the sole survivor in that ten man elimination match, that led to him receiving a WWF Championship rematch live on NBC in February â€™88. Thanks to the â€œtwin Hebner refereesâ€ and a fast count, Andre won the belt. He immediately surrendered the belt to â€œMillion $ Manâ€ Ted DiBiase, which then caused the belt to be vacated and put up in a tournament at WrestleMania IV. Andre and Hogan had another rematch in the quarter finals of the tournament, but were both disqualified. Andre continued to feud with Hogan through the first half of â€™88 before transitioning into feuds with other top card babyfaces like Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Jake â€œThe Snakeâ€ Roberts. He also was called upon to put over The Ultimate Warrior during the second half of â€™89 through a series of 30 second long house show matches. By this point his health had gotten so bad that he could no longer work a full match and these short spots were done for both menâ€™s benefits.
His last hurrah in the WWF was when he and Haku won the WWF World Tag Team Championship from Demolition in early 1990. It allowed Andre to still seem like an active competitor without having to work much of a match, and the title reign was probably a little â€œthank youâ€ from the company for all of Andreâ€™s years of service. After he and Haku dropped the belts back to Demolition at WrestleMania VI, Andre turned on his manager Bobby Heenan and his partner and left the ring a babyface. It was the last time he would wrestle in a WWF ring.
Andre made appearances with the WWF through 1990 and â€™91 as face on-air personality. He traveled to Japan in 1992 and briefly teamed Shoechi â€œGiantâ€ Baba as a superstar tag team. His last public appearance was a brief interview on the WCW Clash of the Champions XX special held on the September 2, 1992.
He died on January 27, 1993, in a Paris, France, hotel room while there for the funeral of his father. He was 46 years old.
Because of his illness he knew his time wouldnâ€™t be long on this earth so he lived every day to the fullest; eating, drinking, laughing and being around the people he cared about the most, as he knew any day it could come to an end. His size and the pain it caused him physically and mentally definitely wore on him, but outwardly he just wanted him and those around him to always be having a good time. Andre was and is a true pioneer in the wrestling business, especially now in a time when phrases like â€œlegendâ€ and â€œHall of Famerâ€ get thrown out with reckless abandon. He was the first member of the WWF Hall of Fame, inducted posthumously in 1993, and set the bar high (pardon the pun) for what it means to be Hall of Fame worthy. He is and always be the prototype and measuring stick for any â€œsuper heavyweightâ€ wrestler who comes down the pike. Who else could get away with being called â€œThe Eighth Wonder of the World?â€
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.
Tags: Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, WWE, WWF