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WRESTLING COLUMNS

80s Legends: Andre the Giant
April 21, 2006 by Jacob Sutton


In July 2004, I was just a regular wrestling fan; I had probably most enjoyed Royal Rumble 2004 and WrestleMania XV, but I wanted to buy the double disc DVD of WrestleMania III & IV. I just wanted to see what it was like, and mainly to watch Andre versus Hogan after reading about it a few times. And when I bought it, I was sold.

ANDRE THE GIANT:

In the 1980s, Andre the Giant was undoubtedly one of the most recognisable sportsmen in the world. It started out as one of his best decades, but finished as his worst (and last). He fought Hulk Hogan in 1980 at Shea Stadium in a match that was one of those pre-main event battles that ends up stealing the show. Unknowingly to a lot of people, Hogan actually slammed Andre there and then too. He was in memorable feuds with the bizarre Killer Khan which culminated in a stretcher match in 1981.

He fought Kamala a lot in 1983-4, which was another violent war, for the time. But one of his most well remembered feuds - besides Hulk Hogan - was with Bobby Heenan and his "Heenan Family" in late 1984. This got the wrestling fans even more on his side because of constant 2-on-1, sometimes even 3-on-1 attacks on "The Gentle Giant" (mainly Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy; before Bundy appeared in '85, usually Ken Patera). In December 1984 they [Studd and Patera] cut Andre's afro off after Andre had been "knocked out". This of course lead to the WrestleMania 'Body Slam Challenge' match in which Andre won a well hyped but not spectacular match-up.

After WrestleMania, Andre needed a tag team partner to take on the big King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd [Ken Patera disappeared until mid-1987] and that of course was Hulk Hogan. They fought countless times, one of which was a memorable November '85 clash in which Andre yelled at 'Mean' Gene Okerlund: "I didn't get enough!" after the victory.

This of course was all build up to WrestleMania III. In 1986 though, still a face, but wearing a bit thin, he teamed with Hillbilly Jim to fight the duo occasionally, one of which he no-showed in the story leading to his suspension. This was really time to heal his back but also to film "The Princess Bride". He did return a little early but played a masked character named "Giant Machine" as part of the stable "The Machines".

When he returned in February 1987 he was involved in a ceremony type angle with Hulk Hogan - Hogan's award was for being champion for three years and Andre's was for being undefeated for fifteen years (even though in 1986 he was beaten by Antonio Inoki in Japan). Andre stormed out during the ceremony and this is where the heavy build-up began. Andre then interfered in a Hogan interview and challenged Hogan to a title match at WrestleMania III. Hogan was shocked at the challenge and claimed that they were meant to be friends - but Andre ripped the shirt and the crucifix off Hogan - which shocked the fans back then. They didn't think Andre could be so 'cruel'. There was even a press conference that was broadcast on WrestleMania III just moments before the big match. Everyone, old school fan or not, knows how the match ends, surely! Andre gets slammed by Hogan followed by a quick leg drop and a [what I thought was a little fast] three count. This was where the top wrestler at the time was beaten by the new fan favourite, and Andre was ultimately now second best. But that wouldn't even last long.

Andre's matches after this eventually got worse and worse. His match with Hogan at WrestleMania IV as part of the tournament was just as bad quality-wise as the previous (just a little more controversial with the double DQ ending) but it turned out good for the tournament, as 99.9% of the WWF's fans at the time thought Hogan would reign supreme again. After the SummerSlam '88 encounter, with Andre teaming up with new top heel Ted DiBiase for a number of months "under his payroll" against Hogan and Randy Savage, the unusual but quite successful teaming of Andre and DiBiase seemed to vanish.

Andre's last stint of glory was in 1988/89 when he got into quite a well developed feud with Jake "The Snake" Roberts, who was pretty over at the time. The storyline unfolded to reveal that Andre supposedly had a phobia of snakes. Jake constantly let the snake "Damien" slither around and near Andre - causing him to either whisk away backstage or like in late '88 have a "cardiac arrest". It was surprising how many people thought this was actually real. This feud was Andre's last ever decent time in the WWF; his conditioning was really plummeting down rapidly and he couldn't wrestle like he could at the beginning of the 80s. After WrestleMania V, where Jake defeated Andre by DQ, he was rarely ever seen again wrestling in a singles match.

He won the WWF Tag Team Championship with Haku in December 1989, but lost them at WrestleMania VII to Demolition [Ax and Smash]. This is remembered to be when Andre turned "good"/face again after nailing manager Bobby Heenan. This is where he totally disappeared from television. His last WWF TV appearance was at WrestleMania VII, where he helped the Big Bossman against Heenan Family member Mr. Perfect.

His death on January 27, 1993 was a shock to all the wrestling world and many fans mourned the loss of the lovable "Gentle Giant" for months after. He was the first ever inductee into WWE's Hall of Fame in 1993.

By Jacob Sutton


James Watts wrote:
You've listed Andre as an '80s legend, but he was so much more than that. He fought all over the world during the '70s as well, competing in memorable hardcore matches with the Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher in Japan, as well as taking on Japanese icon Antonio Inoki (which I believe was the first match in which anyone had ever bodyslammed Andre. Hogan wasn't the first to do it). He also competed against British legend Giant Haystacks in Australia, and wrestled in Morocco, Tunisia, Germany, Scotland, Nigeria, France and Canada before becoming an icon in the WWE.
Larry DaSilva wrote:
There was one other appearance, where he came to ring side in medical canes, some sort of tag match for some reason I want to say helping out the Bushwhackers""
James Redd wrote:
While I must admit that Andre versus Hulk is one of the greatest matches from any Wrestlemania, I am sad to say that the WWE has tainted the image of smaller wrestlers body slamming giants. In the recent past John Cena (who is much smaller and more annoying than the Hulk) gave the FU to The Big Show (Paul Wight) and Kurt Angle (who will be written about as a Legend himself one day) gave an Angle Slam to the same giant onto the announcer's table. The fact that I respect Angle and despise Cena does not matter to the wrestling world as much as the fact that what was once considered amazing will not be considered amazing anymore if it is done repeatedly. Big John Studd was slammed a few times, Andre a few times, Yokozuna, The Big Show and soon enough the Great Khali will certainly join the ranks-if he lasts that long. Sinbce the wrestlers seem to be getting smaller as the "slammee" gets bigger, maybe Rey Mysterio will do it...
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