The Eighth Wonder of the World
January 17, 2006 by John Austin
When most fans look back on all the legends and icons that have dominated this business called "Sports-Entertainment", many of us make the mistake of mistaking "style for substance" with our opinions on whom is the greatest. I wrote an article a few months ago about one of the most charismatic personalities ever to step in a wrestling ring in Ric Flair, whom although I don't agree, is often criticized for being the "poster child" of this statement. I thought I would take this time out to remind the fans who have forgotten, or to educate the fans who are new to wrestling, about a man who was definitely the opposite, but nonetheless one of the most charismatic personalities and without a doubt, greatest wrestlers ever to step in a ring. It is sad to me how this Icon seems to get lost in the shuffle when by all means he should be one of the first mentioned. Here is my tribute to the "Eighth Wonder of the World", Andre The Giant.
On May 19, 1946, proud parents Boris and Marian Roussimoff welcomed their new son, Andre Rene, into the world. Despite having four other children who had no health problems, Andre suffered from Acromegaly, also known as Gigantism, a disease that caused him to grow at an abnormal rate. Because of this, Andre stood nearly 7' tall by the time he was 18. But in a way, this was also a gift of sorts, because it helped Andre immediately become noticed as he tried to make it as an up-and-coming wrestler under the names "Monster Roussimoff", and "Monster Eiffel Tower".
Well-known French-Canadian wrestler Eduoard Carpentier was impressed by Andre and decided to bring him into Canada, where Andre wrestled under the name "Jean Ferre" for Grand Prix Promotions. It was then that he acquired the nickname "The Eighth Wonder of the World", which was taken from the movie "King Kong".
It was around this time that Vince McMahon Sr. took interest in Andre, and signed him to wrestle for the then-WWWF in 1972. He also changed Andre's name to "Andre The Giant" to draw from his immense stature. It was during this time that Andre became one of wrestling's biggest (if not THE biggest) names while working for the WWWF (later WWF). He definitely became the "measuring stick" in the business (pardon the pun), as up and coming wrestlers like young Terry Bollea strove to reach his status. During this run and occasional moves to the then-NWA, Andre accumulated an undefeated streak that lasted 15 years and will never be emulated. Andre was featured in Sports Illustrated in the largest feature that had ever been published by them at the time. He was also the first wrestler to be cast in major acting roles, playing in various TV shows such as "The Fall Guy", B.J. And The Bear", and as "Bigfoot" in the "Six Million Dollar Man". He also got calls from Hollywood, being cast in movies like "Conan The Destroyer", and his unforgettable role as "Fezzik" in the "Princess Bride". In 1987, Andre was part of the biggest draw in wrestling history to this day, as he and Bollea (Obviously known by then as Hulk Hogan) squared off in front of an estimated 93,173 fans at the Pontiac Silverdome for WrestleMania III. This was the biggest match in wrestling history, as Andre allowed himself to be bodyslammed and pinned for his first loss ever, passing the torch to the new "measuring stick" of the then-WWF. Andre competed in many other memorable WrestleMania matches, such as the $15,000 bodyslam match against Big John Studd, and the Battle Royal at WrestleMania II that featured not only WWF stars, but NFL and NHL greats.
He also won a share (in my opinion not a FAIR share) of titles, including the NWA Tag Titles with Dusty Rhodes, the WWF Tag Titles with Haku (a.k.a Meng), and controversially, the WWF title from Hulk Hogan a few months after the loss to him at WrestleMania III. Around this time, the effects of his disease began to take a horrible toll on him, as Andre was more likely to wrestle shorter matches or ones that involved him in a tag team or merely interfered in them. The once "unbeatable" Andre began losing most of his last matches, but he knew that it was part of the business to pass the torch to the up-and-coming stars like Jake "The Snake" Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior. His last match was on April 1, 1990, in the Toronto Skydome for WrestleMania VI, where his team of the Colossal Connection lost the Tag Titles to Demolition. What was special about this match was that Andre, who had been heel for years after his feud with Hulk Hogan, had finally had enough of evil Bobby Heenan and proceeded to take it to him and his former partner Haku after the match, then left on the mechanized cart waving to the fans, soaking in their adulation once again like the days of old.
Sadly, that would be the last time fans would see Andre in a wrestling capacity, as the disease began to make it difficult for Andre to walk without crutches. He did however, prove to be a thorn in Heenan's side again the following WrestleMania, as he came to the ring to help the Big Boss Man against his former manager and new protege, Mr. Perfect. Andre's final TV appearance would be for a 20 year anniversary show for NWA/WCW. Shortly after, Andre flew back home to France to attend his father's funeral, and sadly, due to the grief and/or the ravaging disease, succumbed to a heart attack in his hotel room after. His ashes were taken back to North Carolina, and spread over his ranch. A few months later, Andre was presented with the honor of being the first official inductee in the WWF/WWE Hall Of Fame. Andre was truly a man who gave his all to the fans, as it was rumored that despite the constant pain he was in during his final months, that he was planning another run in the WWF. I definitely look at Andre Roussimoff as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and in my opinion is the "Original Icon". He definitely has a place in my heart as wrestlers go, and in my opinion CAN NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.
by John Austin ..
I love to see people still remembering the REAL Giant and the far more charismatic one at that. Your column was well researched but you fail to point out a huge misconception about Andre. Most people think that he was always the slow motion Giant we saw in his last years. Andre was so mobile during the late sixties and seventies that is was truly amazing and brought many a tear to my eyes. There is even footage of him doing a sommersault type move off the top rope against Antonio Inoki in black in white at MSG. He took on all comers and always sucked the viewer into his matches. It was impossible not to like him. He seemed to always be having fun with the new "toys" that had been thrown into the ring with him.
I encourage people to dig up his earlier footage (60s and 70s) and see why he truly was wrestling biggest draw before Hulkamania. Wrestlemania III was not the Giants best match by far, he was already toward the end of his career. Great tribute John!
Steven Pozaryck wrote:
Awesome article. You're absolutely right that Andre
The Giant was the original icon. He was the best of
the best, in my opinion, crushing one opponent, two or
even three in a single match. I'm only an 18 year
old, but I always watched Andre's matches in
amazement. I was always angry that Andre didn't get a
major run with his WWF title reign. I also wished
that his tag title reign with Haku went a little
longer as that team was so impressive. These two
wishes of course were a fantasy because of his health
conditions as you pointed out. However, you're
absolutely right with everything you said and
professional wrestling would not be the same without
Andre The Giant. I guarantee that. Great job.
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