Andre the Giant

Andre Rene Rousimoff was born in France in 1946. Andre suffered from a growth hormone disorder known as acromegaly. By his teens, Andre was well over six feet tall. He left school to enter the world of professional wrestling.

Andre was trained by the legendary Edouard Carpentier and Frank Valois. It was Vince McMahon, Sr. who first called Andre by his ring name of Andre the Giant. Andre worked the European corridor before coming to the United States in the late 1960’s.

History of Andre: The Journeyman Giant

Before wrestling became the worldwide entity it is today, wrestling was regionalized. The U.S. was divided into numerous “territories” who would have their own base talent and would from time to time employ “free agents” who plied their trade in multiple territories. Andre was the most requested “free agent” of his time.

Andre was one of the highest paid wrestlers of that era. He was a unique entity that was guaranteed to draw crowds. Kids loved the big man and Andre almost always portrayed the gentle giant that adored small children and elderly people. Andre would only fight when necessary. His arsenal of moves was quite limited, but he didn’t need a slew of moves. His size was his biggest weapon. Andre’s height has always been questioned. The WWE claimed that he was 7’4″ tall. Other promotions claimed that Andre’s height ranged from 6’10” up to 7’8″ tall. His weight also varied. Andre was billed as being between 310 and 550 pounds. While his physical size may have been exaggerated for marketing purposes, Andre’s ability in the ring were never questioned. Andre possessed great strength and, early on, amazing agility. Andre rarely lost a match during his journeyman days. On the rare occasions when he lost, it was almost always due to a cheating opponent. Andre would soon return to avenge the injustice. The crowd loved Andre.

Andre the Giant in the 80s

The WWE

By the mid 1980’s, wrestling had begun to change. The emergence of cable TV made wrestling available to the entire country at once. Vince McMahon came to Andre and offered him a lucrative offer to have him work for the then-WWF. Andre had worked for the McMahon in the past. In 1973, Andre first entered the WWE as a competitor. His first opponent was Buddy Wolfe. Over the next 19 years, Andre would face every heel (bad guy) in the federation and quite a few of the faces (good guys) after his heel turn in 1987.

By 1987, Hulk Hogan had held the world title for over 3 years. Hogan needed to face someone who could dominate him and end his first title run. Andre squared off against Hulk Hogan in the main event of Wrestlemania III. Andre actually pinned Hogan in the match, but the referee made a bad call. The crowd erupted with anger. Many in the crowd wanted to see Hogan knocked off his position as champ. Sadly, Andre would end up on the losing end of that match. Revenge would be sweet for Andre on February 5, 1988. Andre finally beat Hogan for the belt after months of trying. Sadly, Andre (by story design) made a foolish choice and sold the championship belt to Ted DiBiase. WWF president Jack Tunney said that the selling of a championship belt was not allowed and that Andre had forfeited the belt by relinquishing it. Since Andre accepted DiBiase’s offer within seconds of winning the title, Andre still holds the dubious honor of “shortest title reign in WWE history”. Even the rapidly changing Hardcore title never changed hands as fast as Andre’s loss of the WWE title.

Over the next 3 years, Andre would have one more championship run, as 1/2 of the tag team champions. The Colossal Connection teamed Andre with Haku. The two men unseated Demolition on December 13, 1989. The match wasn’t shown on WWF TV until December 30th. This pairing was done to try and extend Andre’s wrestling career. Andre’s health had started to fail and Vince McMahon wanted to use Andre for as long as possible.

Andre would be given a final run as a face, thanks to Haku and manager, Bobby Heenan’s, attacking Andre following the loss of the tag belts at Wrestlemania VI. Andre was scheduled to feud with Haku and the other members of the Heenan family, but he was unable to continue in the ring. He retired in 1991 and made only one other appearance, at a WCW Clash of the Champions show in 1992.

Acting

Andre’s first foray into acting came in 1968 in a French film called Casse Tete Chinois Pour Un Judoka. It was a small role in the film, but Andre knew that he wanted to do more acting.

His next run at acting would come with a two-episode arc on the Six Million Dollar Man. Andre played a sasquatch. These two episodes would lead to several TV guest spots over the next few years. He usually portrayed non-speaking monsters, due to the difficulty that most people had understanding him. He showed up on BJ and the Bear and the Greatest American Hero.

Andre’s second big screen acting role came as an uncredited Dagoth character in the 1984 sequel to Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer. Later that year, Andre would portray Dudley Moore’s acquaintance in Micki and Maude. In 1985, Andre would appear in the film, I Like to Hurt People. He would take a 2 year break from acting to focus on wrestling before taking his most famous role.

In 1987, Andre was cast as the giant, Fezzik, in The Princess Bride. Reports from the set claim that Andre was a wonderful person to work with. He would receive praise from the reviewers for his performance.

Following The Princess Bride, Andre focused totally on his wrestling career.

After retiring from wrestling, due to his declining health, Andre accepted a part in the film, Trading Mom. In his last film, Andre came full circle. He had begun his career as a wrestling giant in the carnivals of Europe. In Trading Mom, he played a circus giant. The film was released after his death.

Passing on and passing the torch

Andre’s father died in January of 1993. Andre returned to France for his father’s funeral. On the following morning, January 27,1993, Andre was found dead by his driver. Andre’s official cause of death was congestive heart failure. The heart problems that Andre suffered were a by-product of his acromegaly. Andre’s body was returned to the United States for cremation. Because of his large size, no funeral parlor in France was able to perform the cremation. Once cremated, Andre’s ashes was scattered, per his request, on his farm in North Carolina.

Later that year, Vince McMahon created the WWF/E Hall of Fame so that he could honor the man who had done so much for the business.

In 1995, Paul Wight began wrestling in WCW. His original character, The Giant, was a tribute to Andre. In fact, Paul’s first storyline had him portraying the son of Andre, which he wasn’t. Paul attacked Hulk Hogan, claiming the Hogan had “killed his father”. The angle was quickly dropped after requests from the family of Andre. Wight wore a black singlet wrestling outfit for many years, to pay tribute to his idol.

The Great Khali character is also somewhat of a tribute character to Andre. The chops that Khali uses are very similar to those used by Andre. Andre would often uses translators during interviews, as does Khali.

Interesting facts about Andre

  • Andre is the shortest reigning champion: approximately 5 seconds.
  • Andre was the first WWE Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Andre was the first wrestler to utilize the Tombstone Pile-driver.
  • Andre has a daughter, born in 1979, who lives near Seattle, Washington.
  • Andre would not attend plays or films because he had difficulty fitting into the seats and felt his size would prevent others from seeing.

Andre the Giant is still, to this day, the most popular wrestler of all time. He eclipses even Hulk Hogan. The Gentle Giant was generous to a fault and was always willing to help a charity, if needed. While his arsenal of moves was limited, Andre created exciting everywhere he went.

Close to 15 years after his death, there are still several web site dedicated entirely to Andre. While there are many legends in wrestling, none will ever achieve the level of fame that Andre the Giant did. He is a legend’s legend.

Triple H

The arena lights black out. The bell tolls and smoke rolls into the aisle. A crack of thunder and flash of lighting. The funeral dirge creeps in as a figure in black appears. The camera cuts to the crying faces of children in the crowd.

What Makes Me Proud to Be a Wrestling Fan

As a young kid myself, I have just experienced one of the greatest spectacles in all of professional wrestling — the entrance of the Undertaker.

Whereas some kids might read comic books and others watch professional sports to find their superheroes, I had professional wrestling. For good or bad — and there has been a great deal of bad — I was enamored. From the Undertaker’s entrance and for the next dozen or so years, I found many things that didn’t embarrass me to be a wrestling fan. Even now that I have grown out of watching wrestling on television, there are still a few moments that give me chills. Here are a few examples taken from when I was at my most heated as a wrestling fan.

Wrestlers that made me proud to be a fan

Chris Jericho – The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla is an incredible performer and fantastic on the mic. I became a fan when he was in WCW and misspoke all of his opponents and stayed a fan when his matches were regularly the most exciting to see on any show.

Mankind – In each of his characters, Mick Foley endured a great deal of unnecessary pain to bring a dose of realism to every match. As Cactus Jack he flew onto concrete and into Japanese death matches, but as Mankind he took what could have been just another cheesy WWE gimmick and created a genuine character. It is too bad that he will probably be remembered for his fall off the top of Hell in a Cell as he was great at drawing you into how real a wrestling match could be.

Stone Cold Steve Austin – Stone Cold was a machine and he made wrestling popular for everyone to be a fan.

The Undertaker – This is another gimmick that could have hit the garbage chute with the likes of the Red Rooster and Doink the Clown. A big part of the fun of pro wrestling is the outrageous characters, but there is a fine line to tread between outrageous and insipid. The Undertaker defines how a pro wrestler can become an attraction by himself.

Shawn Michaels – On pure athletic ability, nobody can deny that Shawn Michaels is incredible. His matches are always exciting. The prime example of what can make wrestling greater than what it appears to be.

Match Gimmicks that made me proud to be a fan

Ladder Match – I had never seen anything like a ladder match until Shawn Michaels versus Razor Ramon. When you begin to add metal ladders and the threat of falling from said 10-foot high ladder, some of the complaint about how wrestling is fake gets thrown out the window.

Hardcore Battle Royal – I am thinking of a specific WWE match that was a lot of fun and is the reason behind someone like Crash Holly becoming a 20-something-time hardcore champion. It also began the storyline of the hardcore championship being defended 24/7. A specific favorite was Crash Holly running from several would-be champions through a Chuck E. Cheese type establishment. Now I am not necessarily proud, nor does that make wrestling look anymore authentic. It was just a lot of fun.

Those are a few examples, there are actually many more. I also tend to enjoy the things that make wrestling look ridiculous. As long as its fun, that is the only real requirement.

Pro wrestler leaping off ropes

Professional wrestling is a very popular form of entertainment. In the United States, over 6 million people watch professional wrestling on television each week. The most popular company that provides weekly television programming is the WWE, also known as World Wrestling Entertainment. They produce three hours of original programming, fifty two weeks a year, to the USA cable network. Their WWE Monday Night Raw show accounts for almost 3.5 million viewers.

The other companies that produce weekly episode is Spike TV’s Impact Wrestling, as well as Ring Of Honor. The popularity of professional wrestling, also known as sports entertainment, has spawned many athletes, both male and female, to look into a career in the wild world of wrestling.

These are the steps one must take to become a professional wrestler.

See Your Doctor

The first thing you should do if you’re going to get into professional wrestling is to visit your primary care physician. It is imperative that you get a full physical from your doctor. Pro wrestling is a highly physical activity, and is stressful on your muscles and joints. Getting a full physical from your doctor or local hospital will provide you with information about your body and health. You will then be able to make the proper decision if wrestling is right for you.

Gym, Tan and Wrestle

After you’ve been cleared by your primary care physician to wrestle, the next step you must take is to get into proper shape. Although it is widely known that pro wrestling is predetermined, it is far from fake. Every year, many of these pro athletes get injured in the ring. To help prevent this, you should get a gym membership. Working out three or four times a week for an hour will keep your body in great condition. In addition, pro wrestling is just as much about appearance as it is about talent. Use this opportunity to get your body looking its best.

School Of Hard Knocks And Headlocks

The next step in becoming a professional wrestler is a very important one. In fact, it may be the most important part in accomplishing your goal. You must seek out proper training. There are a lot of professional wrestling schools operating all over the nation. Many of these training facilities are run by guys who have never accomplished anything in the world of sports entertainment. Do your research before going to a school. Ask for references. A legit school will be more than happy to provide you with a list of talent they have produced. You should choose the school that has an adequate trainer. When a pro wrestler retires from WWE, the pro wrestler will usually open a school in their area. Such is the case with Spike Dudley. The former WWE and ECW star now runs a wrestling school in Fall River, Massachusetts.

You Are Your Own Business

After you’ve enrolled in a pro wrestling training school are ready to have wrestling matches, you need to start making connections. Don’t be afraid to ask other wrestlers for contacts of other companies. The more you get booked in wrestling matches, the more popular you will become. You must remember that as a pro wrestler, you are in the business of selling yourself. You are your own business and product. Advertise yourself as a competent pro wrestler who will add value and a unique edge to an event. Also, don’t forget to use the internet to your advantage. Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are a great way to get your name out to people who may never have heard of you. And it’s free.

If you have followed all these steps, you should be well on your way to becoming a professional wrestler. Just remember that fame and fortune won’t happen overnight. The bright lights of celebrity can only be obtained by hard work and accomplishing your goals. Be sure to keep a positive attitude and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. With luck, one day you’ll be one of the stars of WWE’s Monday Night Raw.