André the Giant
|André the Giant|
André making his way to the ring in the late 1980s
|Birth name||André René Roussimoff|
May 19, 1946|
|Died||January 27, 1993
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||André Roussimoff
André the Giant
Monster Eiffel Tower
|Billed height||7 ft 4 in (2.24 m)|
|Billed weight||520 lb (240 kg) |
|Billed from||"Grenoble in the French Alps"|
|Trained by||Frank Valois
André René Roussimoff (May 19, 1946 – January 27, 1993), best known as André the Giant, was a French professional wrestler and actor. His best-remembered acting role was that of Fezzik, the giant in the film The Princess Bride. His size was a result of gigantism caused by acromegaly, and led to him being called "The Eighth Wonder of the World".
In the World Wrestling Federation (now known as WWE), André was a one-time WWF Champion and a one-time WWF World Tag Team Champion. In 1993, André was the inaugural inductee into the WWF Hall of Fame.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional wrestling career
- 2.1 Early career
- 2.2 World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation
- 2.3 All Japan Pro Wrestling (1990–1992)
- 3 Acting career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Death
- 6 Legacy
- 7 In wrestling
- 8 Championships and accomplishments
- 9 Filmography
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
André Roussimoff was born in Grenoble, France, to Boris and Mariann Roussimoff, a couple of Bulgarian and Polish ancestry. As a child, he displayed symptoms of his gigantism very early, reaching a height of 6'3" (190.5 cm) and a weight of 240 pounds (110 kg) by the age of 12. Unable to fit on the school bus, he was driven to school by playwright Samuel Beckett, a neighbor. Roussimoff was a good student, but he dropped out after the 8th grade since he did not think having a high school education was necessary for a farm laborer. He then worked on a farm, completed an apprenticeship in woodworking, and next worked in a factory that manufactured engines for hay balers. None of these brought him any satisfaction.
Professional wrestling career
At age 17, Roussimoff moved to Paris and was taught the art of professional wrestling by a local promoter who recognized the earning potential of Roussimoff's size. He trained at night and worked as a mover during the day to pay living expenses. Roussimoff was billed as "Géant Ferré", taken from the name of a mythical French giant, and began wrestling in Paris and nearby areas. Canadian promoter and wrestler Frank Valois met Roussimoff in 1966, becoming his business manager and adviser. Roussimoff began making a name for himself wrestling in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.
He made his Japanese debut in 1970, billed as "Monster Roussimoff", wrestling for the International Wrestling Enterprise. Wrestling as both a singles and tag team competitor, he quickly won the company's tag team championship alongside Michael Nador. During his time in Japan, doctors first informed Roussimoff that he suffered from acromegaly.
Roussimoff next moved to Montréal, Québec, where he became an immediate success, regularly selling out the Montreal Forum. However, promoters eventually ran out of plausible opponents for him and, as the novelty of his size wore off, the gate receipts dwindled. Roussimoff wrestled numerous times in 1972 for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) as a special attraction until Valois appealed to Vince McMahon Sr., founder of the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), for advice. McMahon suggested several changes. He felt Roussimoff should be portrayed as a large, immovable monster, and to enhance the perception of his size, McMahon discouraged Roussimoff from performing maneuvers such as dropkicks (although he was capable of performing such agile maneuvers before his health deteriorated in later life). He also began billing Roussimoff as "André the Giant" and set up a travel-intensive schedule, loaning him to wrestling associations around the world, to keep him from becoming overexposed in any area. Promoters had to guarantee André a certain amount of money as well as pay McMahon's WWF a booking fee.
World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation
Debut and various feuds (1973–1987)
André was one of professional wrestling's most beloved "babyfaces" throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. As such, Gorilla Monsoon insisted that André was never defeated for 15 years by pinfall or submission prior to WrestleMania III. This, however, is not true. André actually had lost cleanly in matches outside WWF parameters: a pinfall loss in Mexico to Canek in 1984 and a submission loss in Japan to Antonio Inoki in June 1986. He also had sixty-minute time limit draws with the two other major world champions of the day, Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel.
In 1976 André fought professional boxer Chuck Wepner in an unscripted boxer-vs-wrestler fight. The wild fight was shown via telecast as part of the undercard of the Muhammad Ali vs Antonio Inoki fight and ended when André threw Wepner over the top rope and outside the ring.
In 1980, he feuded with Hulk Hogan, wrestling him at Shea Stadium's Showdown at Shea and in Pennsylvania. The feud continued in Japan in 1982 and 1983.
In 1982, Vince McMahon, Sr. sold the World Wrestling Federation to his son, Vince McMahon, Jr.. As McMahon began to expand his newly acquired promotion to the national level, he required his wrestlers to appear exclusively for him. McMahon signed André to these terms in 1984, although he still allowed the Giant to work in Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW).
One of André's feuds pitted him against "the Mongolian Giant" Killer Khan. According to the storyline, Khan had snapped André's ankle during a match on May 2, 1981, in Rochester, New York, by leaping off the top rope and crashing down upon it with his knee-drop. In reality, André had broken his ankle getting out of bed the morning before the match. The injury and subsequent rehabilitation was worked into the existing André/Khan storyline. After a stay at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, André returned with payback on his mind. The two battled on July 20, 1981, at Madison Square Garden in a match that resulted in a double disqualification. Their feud continued as fans filled arenas up and down the east coast to witness their matches. On November 14, 1981, at the Philadelphia Spectrum, André decisively defeated Khan in what was billed as a "Mongolian Stretcher Match", in which the loser must be taken to the dressing room on a stretcher.
Another feud involved a man who considered himself to be "the true giant" of wrestling: Big John Studd. Throughout the early to mid 1980s, André and Studd fought all over the world, battling to try to determine who the real giant of wrestling was. In December 1984, Studd took the feud to a new level when he and partner Ken Patera knocked out André during a televised tag team match and proceeded to cut off André's hair. After gaining revenge on Patera, André met Studd in a "Body Slam Challenge" at the first WrestleMania, held March 31, 1985, at Madison Square Garden in New York City. André slammed Studd to win the match and collect the $15,000 prize, then proceeded to throw cash to the fans before having the bag stolen from him by Studd's manager, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.
The following year, at WrestleMania 2 on April 7, 1986, André continued to display his dominance by winning a twenty-man battle royal which featured top NFL stars and wrestlers. André last eliminated Bret Hart to win the contest.
After WrestleMania 2, André continued his feud with Studd and King Kong Bundy. At about this time, André requested a leave of absence to tend to his health—effects from his acromegaly were beginning to take their toll—as well as tour Japan. He had also gotten a part in the film The Princess Bride. To explain Andre's absence, a storyline was developed to have Heenan—suggesting that André was secretly afraid of Studd and Bundy, whom Heenan bragged were unbeatable—challenge Andre and a partner of his choosing to wrestle Studd and Bundy in a televised tag team match. When Andre failed to show, WWF President Jack Tunney indefinitely suspended Andre. Later in the summer of 1986, upon Andre's return to the United States, he began wearing a mask and competing as the "Giant Machine" in a stable known as The Machines. (Big Machine and Super Machine were the other members.) The WWF's television announcers sold the Machines—a gimmick was copied from New Japan Pro Wrestling character "Super Strong Machine", played by Japanese wrestler Junji Hirata, —as "a new tag team from Japan" and claimed not to know the identities of the wrestlers, even though it was obvious to fans and the television audience that it was André competing as the Giant Machine. Heenan, Studd, and Bundy complained to Tunney, who eventually told Heenan that if it could be proven that André and the Giant Machine were the same person, André would be fired. André thwarted Heenan, Studd, and Bundy at every turn. Then, in late 1986, the Giant Machine "disappeared," and André was reinstated. Foreshadowing André's heel turn, Heenan expressed his approval of the reinstatement but did not explain why.
Feud with Hulk Hogan and WWF Champion (1987–1988)
André agreed to turn heel in early 1987 to be the counter to the biggest "babyface" in professional wrestling at that time, Hulk Hogan. On an edition of Piper's Pit in January 1987, Hogan was presented a trophy for being the WWF Champion for three years; André came out to congratulate him. On the following week's Piper's Pit, André was presented a slightly smaller trophy for being "the only undefeated wrestler in wrestling history." Although André had suffered a handful of countout and disqualification losses in WWF, he had never been pinned or forced to submit in a WWF ring. Hogan came out to congratulate André and ended up being the focal point of the interview. A visibly "annoyed" André walked out in the midst of Hogan's speech. A "discussion" between André and Hogan was scheduled, and on a Piper's Pit that aired February 7, 1987, the two met. Hogan was introduced first, followed by André. André was led by longtime rival Bobby Heenan. Speaking on behalf of his new protégé, Heenan accused Hogan of only being André's friend so he wouldn't have to defend his title against him. Hogan tried to reason with André but his pleas were ignored as he challenged Hogan to a match for the WWF Championship at WrestleMania III. Hogan still couldn't believe what André was doing, prompting Heenan to say "You can't believe it, maybe you'll believe this Hogan" before André ripped the t-shirt and crucifix from Hogan.
Following Hogan's acceptance of André's challenge on a later edition of Piper's Pit, the two were part of a 20-man over the top rope Battle Royal on the March 14 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Although the Battle Royal was won by Hercules, André gained a psychological advantage over Hogan when he threw the WWF Champion over the top rope. The match, which was actually taped on February 21, 1987, aired only 2 weeks before Wrestlemania III to make it seem like Hogan had met his match in André the Giant.
At WrestleMania III, he was billed at 520 lb (240 kg), and the stress of such immense weight on his bones and joints resulted in constant pain. After recent back surgery, he was also wearing a brace underneath his wrestling singlet. In front of a record crowd of 93,173 Hogan won the match after body slamming (later dubbed "the bodyslam heard around the world") André, followed by Hogan's running leg drop finisher. Years later, Hogan claimed that André was so heavy, he felt more like 700 lb (320 kg), and that he actually tore his latissimus dorsi muscle slamming him. Another famous story about the match is that no one, not even WWF owner Vince McMahon, knew until the day of the event if André would lose the match. In reality André had agreed to lose the match some time before, mostly for health reasons, though he almost pinned Hogan (albeit unintentionally) in the second minute of the match after Hogan tried to slam The Giant but couldn't hold his weight. Contrary to popular belief, it was not the first time that Hogan had successfully body slammed André in a WWF match. A then-heel Hogan slammed a then-face André following their match at the "Showdown at Shea" on August 9, 1980, though André was much lighter (around 470 lb (210 kg)) and more athletic at the time (Hogan also slammed André in a match in Hamburg, PA a month later). This took place in the territorial days of American wrestling three years before WWF began national expansion, so many of those who watched Wrestlemania III had never seen The Giant slammed (André had also previously allowed Kamala, Harley Race, El Canek, Masked Superstar, Stan Hansen, Antonio Inoki & Riki Choshu to slam him.) By the time WrestleMania III had rolled around, the WWF had gone national, giving more meaning to the André–Hogan match that took place then. The feud between André and Hogan simmered during the summer of 1987, even as Roussimoff's health declined. The feud began heating up again when each wrestler was named the captain of rival teams at the inaugural Survivor Series event. André's team won the main event after André pinned Bam Bam Bigelow.
In the meantime, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase failed to persuade Hogan to sell him the WWF Championship. After failing to defeat Hogan in a subsequent series of matches, DiBiase turned to André to win it for him. Acting as his hired gun, André won the WWF title from Hogan (his first title) on February 5, 1988 in a match where it was later revealed appointed referee Dave Hebner was "detained backstage", and a replacement (whom Hogan afterwards initially accused of having been paid by DiBiase to get plastic surgery to look like Dave, but in fact was revealed to have been his 'evil' twin brother Earl Hebner), made a three count on Hogan while his shoulders were off the mat. After winning, André "sold" the title to DiBiase; the transaction was declared invalid by then-WWF President Jack Tunney and the title was vacated. This was shown on WWF's NBC program The Main Event. At WrestleMania IV, André and Hulk Hogan fought to a double disqualification in a WWF title tournament match (with the idea in the storyline saying that André was again working on DiBiase's behalf in giving DiBiase a clearer path in the tournament). Afterward, André and Hogan's feud died down after a steel cage match held at WrestleFest on July 31, 1988 in Milwaukee.
At the inaugural SummerSlam pay-per-view held at Madison Square Garden, André and DiBiase (billed as "The Mega Bucks") faced Hogan and WWF Champion "Macho Man" Randy Savage (known as The Mega Powers) in the main event, with Jesse "the Body" Ventura as the special guest referee. During the match, The Mega Powers' manager Miss Elizabeth (Savage's real life wife Elizabeth Hulette) distracted The Mega Bucks and Ventura when she climbed up on the ring apron, removed her yellow skirt and walked around in a pair of red panties. This allowed Hogan and Savage time to recover and eventually win the match with Hogan pinning DiBiase.
Concurrent with the developing feud with the Mega Powers, André was placed in a feud with Jim Duggan, which began after Duggan knocked out André with a two-by-four timber during a television taping. Despite Duggan's popularity with fans, André regularly got the upper hand in the feud.
Various feuds and The Colossal Connection (1988–1990)
André's next major feud was against Jake Roberts. In this storyline, it was said André was afraid of snakes, something Roberts exposed on Saturday Night's Main Event when he threw his snake, Damien, on the frightened André; as a result, André suffered a kayfabe mild heart attack and vowed revenge. During the next few weeks, Roberts frequently walked to ringside during André's matches, causing him to run from the ring in fright (since he knew what was inside the bag). Throughout their feud (which culminated at WrestleMania V), Roberts constantly used Damien to gain a psychological edge over the much larger and stronger André.
In 1989, André and the returning Big John Studd briefly reprised their feud, this time with Studd as a face and André as the heel. During the late summer and fall of 1989, André engaged in a brief feud, almost entirely consisting of house shows (non-televised events), with then-Intercontinental champion The Ultimate Warrior. The younger Warrior, WWF's rising star, regularly squashed the aging André in an attempt to showcase his star quality and promote him as the "next big thing".
In late 1989, André was joined with fellow Heenan Family member Haku to form a new tag team called The Colossal Connection, in part to fill a void left by the departure of Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson (The Brain Busters, who were also members of Heenan's stable) from the WWF, and also to continue to keep the aging André in the main event spotlight. The Colossal Connection immediately targeted WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (who had recently won the belts from the Brain Busters). At a television taping on December 13, 1989, the Colossal Connection defeated Demolition to win the titles. André and Haku successfully defended their titles, mostly against Demolition, until WrestleMania VI on April 1, 1990, when Demolition took advantage of a mistimed move by the champions to regain the belts. After the match, a furious Heenan blamed André for the title loss and after shouting at him slapped him in the face; an angry André responded with a slap of his own that sent Heenan staggering from the ring. André also caught Haku's kick attempt, sending him reeling from the ring as well, prompting loud cheers for André for the first time in three years. André went into the match as a heel, but left as a face. Due to his ongoing health issues, André wasn't actually able to wrestle at the time of Wrestlemania VI and Haku actually wrestled the entire match against Demolition without tagging in André.
Sporadic appearances (1990–1992)
At one point he was advertised to enter the 1991 Royal Rumble, but backed out due to a leg injury. Andre finally returned to action on April 26, 1991 in a six man tag-team matchup when he tagged with the Rockers in a winning effort against Mr. Fuji and The Orient Express at a house show in Belfast, Northern Ireland. On May 10 he participated in a 17 man battle royal on a house show in Detroit, MI. (won by Kerry Von Erich). His last major WWF storyline following WrestleMania VII had the major heel managers (Bobby Heenan, Sensational Sherri, Slick, and Mr. Fuji) trying to recruit André one-by-one, only to be turned down in various humiliating ways (e.g. Heenan had his hand crushed, Sherri received a spanking, Slick got locked in the trunk of the car he was offering to André and Mr Fuji got a pie in his face). Finally, Jimmy Hart appeared live on WWF Superstars to announce that he successfully signed André to tag-team with Earthquake. However, when asked to confirm by Gene Okerlund, André denied the claims. This cemented André's face turn. This led to Earthquake attacking André from behind (injuring his knee). Jimmy Hart would later get revenge for the humiliation by secretly signing Tugboat and forming The Natural Disasters. This led to André's final major WWF appearance at SummerSlam '91, where he seconded The Bushwhackers in their match against the Disasters. Andre was on crutches at ringside, when the Disasters won the match they set out to attack Andre, but the Legion of Doom (wearing the football pads with large spikes they wore during their ring entrances) made their way to ringside and got in between them and The Giant who was preparing to defend himself with one of his crutches. The Disasters left the ringside area as they were outnumbered by the Legion of Doom, the Bushwhackers and Andre, who struck both Earthquake and Typhoon (the former Tugboat) with the crutch as they left. His final WWF appearance came on a house show in Paris, France on October 9. He was in Davey Boy Smith's corner as the Bulldog faced Earthquake. Davey Boy hit Earthquake with Andre's crutch, allowing Smith to win.
All Japan Pro Wrestling (1990–1992)
After WrestleMania VI, André spent the rest of his in-ring career in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW). He toured with AJPW three times per year, from September 1990 to 1992, usually teaming with Giant Baba in tag team matches. He wrestled his final match in December 1992.
André branched out into acting again in the 1970s and 1980s, after a 1967 French boxing movie, making his USA acting debut playing a Sasquatch ("Bigfoot") on the 1970s television series The Six Million Dollar Man. He appeared in other television shows, including The Greatest American Hero, B. J. and the Bear, The Fall Guy and 1990s Zorro.
Towards the end of his career, André starred in several films. He had an uncredited appearance in the 1984 film Conan the Destroyer as Dagoth, the resurrected horned giant god who is killed by Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger). That same year, André also made an appearance in Micki + Maude (billed as André Rousimmoff). He appeared most notably as Fezzik, his own favorite role, in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. Both the film and André's performance retain a devoted following.
Roussimoff had one daughter, Robin Christensen Roussimoff, who was born in 1979.
Roussimoff has been unofficially crowned "The Greatest Drunk on Earth" for once consuming 119 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) beers (over 41 litres) in 6 hours. On an episode of WWE's Legends of Wrestling, Mike Graham said André once drank 156, 16-US-fluid-ounce (470 ml) beers in one sitting, which was confirmed by Dusty Rhodes. In her autobiography, The Fabulous Moolah writes that André drank 127 beers in a Reading, Pennsylvania, hotel bar and later passed out in the lobby. The staff could not move him and had to leave him there until the giant awoke from his slumber.
When André underwent surgery in 1987, his size made it impossible for the anesthesiologist to estimate a dosage via standard methods; consequently, his alcohol tolerance ("it usually takes two liters of vodka just to make me feel warm inside") was used as a guideline instead.
In a eulogy after his death, William Goldman, the author of the novel and the screenplay of The Princess Bride, wrote in his nonfiction work Which Lie Did I Tell? that André was one of the gentlest and most generous people he ever knew. Whenever André treated someone to a meal in a restaurant he would pay, but he would also insist on paying when he was a guest. After one meal, Arnold Schwarzenegger had quietly moved to the cashier to pay before André could, but then found himself being physically lifted, carried from his table, and deposited on top of his car by André and Wilt Chamberlain.
Roussimoff died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on the night of January 27, 1993, in a Paris hotel room. He was in Paris to attend the funeral of his father. Roussimoff's body was cremated according to his wishes and his ashes were scattered at his ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolina.
- In 1993 when the then-World Wrestling Federation created the WWF Hall of Fame, André the Giant was the inaugural inductee (and the only 1993 inductee).
- André was the inspiration for the 1998 film My Giant, written by his friend Billy Crystal, whom he had met during the filming of The Princess Bride.
- Paul Wight, better known as "The Big Show", is more similar in body structure to André than any other wrestler since André's death. He was originally billed as the son of Andre during his stint in WCW (when he was known as simply "The Giant") despite no biological relation. While also suffering from acromegaly, unlike André, Wight did get surgery on his pituitary gland in the early 1990s, which successfully halted the progress of his condition. The former wrestler Giant González suffered from problems similar to those that André had near the end of his life and died in September 2010 due to diabetes complications.
- The OBEY brand icon originated from a stencil that artist Shepard Fairey had created based upon a photo of André the Giant that Fairey had found in a newspaper.
- Capcom's video game character Hugo, from Street Fighter series (known as Andore in the Final Fight series) is based on him.
- André has made appearances as himself in video games for years, as early as 1989's WWF Superstars, where he appears as a non-playable game boss along with Ted DiBiase, fighting as their real-life tag team The Mega Bucks, he is also playable in WWF No Mercy, WWE 12, to as recently as WWE 2K14, released in October 2013, where he appears as one of many playable "Legend" characters. He also appears in the WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW, WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006, and WWE All Stars game as a playable "Legend" character.
- On January 25, 2005, WWE released André The Giant, a DVD focusing on the life and career of André. The DVD is a reissue of the out-of-print André The Giant VHS made by Coliseum Video in 1985, with commentary by Michael Cole and Tazz replacing Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura's commentary on his WrestleMania match with Big John Studd. The video is hosted by Lord Alfred Hayes. Later matches, including André's battles against Hulk Hogan while a heel, are not included on this DVD.
- The 2014 graphic novel André The Giant: The Life and The Legend (First Second Books), written and drawn by Box Brown, tells the story of André's life and career. Research for the book included interviews with André's fellow wrestlers and actors such as Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin and others.
- On the March 10, 2014 episode of Raw, WrestleMania XXX host Hulk Hogan announced that there would be an André the Giant Memorial battle royal at the event, with the winner receiving the Andrè the Giant Memorial Trophy, which is made in the likeness of André. On April 6, at WrestleMania XXX, Cesaro won the match after eliminating Big Show.
- Signature moves
Championships and accomplishments
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- New Japan Pro Wrestling
- NWA Tri-State
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Tri-State version) (1 time) – with Dusty Rhodes
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Championship Wrestling (Australia)
- World Wrestling Federation
- WWF Championship (1 time)
- WWF Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Haku
- WWF Hall of Fame (Class of 1993 - inaugural inductee)
- Slammy Award for Bobby "The Brain" Heenan Scholarship Award (1987) with Haku, Tama, Hercules, King Kong Bundy, and Harley Race
- Held a 15 Year "Undefeated Streak" from 1973-1987 
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2011)|
- Casse tête chinois pour le judoka (1967)
- The Six Million Dollar Man – "The Secret of Bigfoot II and I" (1976), Bigfoot
- B. J. and the Bear – "Snow White and the Seven Lady Truckers" (1981), Manny Felcher
- The Greatest American Hero – "Heaven Is in Your Genes" (1983), Monster
- André makes an appearance in "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" music video by Cyndi Lauper, along with several other 80s icon wrestlers like "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and The Iron Sheik.
- Conan the Destroyer (1984), Dagoth (uncredited)
- Micki + Maude (1984), Himself
- I Like to Hurt People (1985), Himself
- The Princess Bride (1987), Fezzik
- Trading Mom (1994), Circus Giant
- Symphorien (1978), French Canadian sitcom on Quebec television
- Les Brillants (1981), French Canadian sitcom on Quebec television
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- SNME Battle Royal 1987
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