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Wrestling / André the Giant

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Andre taking out Jake "The Snake" Roberts
Andre the Giant, real name André Rene Roussimoff (Bulgarian: Андрей Рене Русимов; Polish: Andrzej Renat Russimow; May 19, 1946 — January 27, 1993) was a French professional wrestler well-known for his impressive size.note  You may also remember him as Fezzik in The Film of the Book of The Princess Bride.

During his tenure in the WWF (now the WWE), he was dubbed "The Eighth Wonder of the World" due to his frame, and held a fifteen-year undefeated streak in the company (with the exception of disqualification and count-out losses). One of the most famous matches of his career was against Hulk Hogan for Hogan's WWF World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania III.note 

Unfortunately, his great size was due to gigantism, and he suffered intense pain throughout his body, especially as he got older. On January 27, 1993, shortly following his retirement from professional wrestling, he died in his sleep from congestive heart failure. In his honor, the WWF made Andre the first inductee into the company's Hall of Fame, established that same year, and starting from Wrestlemania XXX have held a special battle royal event for the "Andre the Giant Memorial Trophy" made in his likeness at each Wrestlemania.


As usual, That Other Wiki has a nice read-up on his life and career.

"Giant Tropes":

  • Acrofatic: Believe it or not, Andre wasn't always the lumbering behemoth we know from the late 80s - in his youth, he could execute dropkicks and move fairly fast for his size. He was also very agile during his early days in the WWF. However, by the time the mid 1980s rolled around, age and problems with acromegaly had forced him to slow down. He'd switched to his more well-known power wrestling style earlier on due to promoters wanting him to appear as an unstoppable force of nature, and moving like a wrestler of normal size detracted from that image.
  • Actor Allusion: The Princess Bride' had a subtle one: during Fezzik's battle with Westley, he comments on how there's a big difference between fighting ten men at a time and fighting one man. In the 1970s, Andre was a specialist in winning battle royals, matches that often start with ten or more men in the ring (thus, the reason the annual Wrestlemania event is the "Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal".)
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  • Afro Asskicker: At times earlier in his career, sporting an afro while wrestling in territories such as what is now known as WWC. Big John Studd shaved it off.
  • The Alcoholic: André. Loved. Liquor. And his consumption abilities were comparable to those of a Norse God. Because of his size, he could easily outdrink everyone at whatever function he was at; the stories about his drinking really get into extreme territory. Just check that link for some of the best. When he had to go into surgery, he was so large that the anesthetist had to base dosing on what it took to get Andre drunk. So he told the anesthetist that it took two liters of vodka just to make him feel "warm inside."
    • One wrestler related to the one time he did pass out drunk, when he was in a hotel. His sheer size meant that even the combined strength of the wrestlers couldn't move him. So they simply left him asleep on the floor of the hotel lobby overnight. The hotel clerk ran into him in the morning and was in shock. The amount of liquor needed for that is believed to be about 119 bottles of beer.
      • They did give him a blanket. Where'd they get it? It was a piano cover.
    • Many of his friends often commented that when Andre was drunk, it was a very good thing that he still kept his gentle and easygoing personality, and was slow to anger (although pissing him off, drunk or sober, was a very bad idea). A man of his size and strength being a mean drunk would have meant a lot of property damage and injured bystanders.
      • Apparently most of his meals consisted of a 6 pack of beer and at least one entire bottle of wine.
  • Arch-Enemy: Killer Khan, Kamala, Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Hulk Hogan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, The Ultimate Warrior, Demolition
  • Ass Kicks You: He would back people into the turnbuckle then ram his backside into their gut.
  • Bash Brothers: Giant Baba, Hulk Hogan, Jimmy Snuka
  • Big Damn Heroes: How Andre was often booked in the territory days (i.e., pro wrestling before the Wrestlemania era). Since Andre's trademark was his virtual invincibility, he didn't typically vie for titles like most stars did. Rather, regional promotions would book an angle where the local hero had been taken advantage of by several heels working together and could not possibly defeat them all by himself. Then Andre would come to town to be the hero's partner. You can guess the rest.
  • Big Eater: He had an appetite for food equal to his love for booze.
  • Big Foot Sasquatch And Yeti: He played Bigfoot on The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Big Fun: Partially because he knew his gigantism would be the death of him (and it was, in a roundabout way), he decided that he would party and drink as much as humanly possible.
  • The Big Guy: He was called Andre The Giant for a very good reason.
    • A friend of Andre's tells the story of a dinner where he tried to pick up the check (Andre refused to let anyone else pay for his prodigious meals) while Andre was in the bathroom. He was speaking with the waiter when Andre returned, tucked his friend under his arm and firmly replaced him in his seat. This particular friend was not exactly a midget himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Andre died in 1993, but was the first inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame in the same year.
  • Blatant Lies: When he was placed in the ring with someone like Ernie Ladd (6'9", and promoters couldn't bump him up because he was a well-known pro football player), even the thick lifts in his boots weren't enough to keep up the myth of the 7'4" giant. When he fought Chuck Wepner on the undercard of the infamous Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki bout (unlike the main event, Andre's match was worked), the legit sports reporters covering the bout placed him at or around 6'9" compared to the 6'5" Wepner. When he visited the Mexican set of Conan the Destroyer and took a picture with 7'1" Wilt Chamberlain, Vince McMahon Sr. did everything in his power to keep the photo from being widely circulated as it revealed André the Giant is actually shorter than Wilt. As Deadspin neatly put it, "Before CGI, there was only André."
    • Andre was a legit 7'1" early in his career, before the acromegaly gave him a stoop. The afro would have made him seem even larger.
  • The Bully: After a fashion. If he decided he did not like you, you were in for some very brutal matches. Pictured, Jake Roberts was a good example: Andre disliked him a great deal, and would go out of his way to hurt him for real in the matches. He also didn't like Randy Savage.
    • This was apparently how Andre tested people as when Roberts confronted him about it and Andre grew to respect him as compared to others such as Savage who stayed terrified of him.
  • Bullying a Dragon: A group of men once hassled him in a bar. After chasing them out, he turned over the car while they were in it.
    • In kayfabe, Bobby Heenan managed to trigger a Heel–Face Turn by slapping Andre - the commentators quickly pointed out the idiocy in that move.
    • On Andre's side, he once told a racial joke aimed at Bad News Brown/Allen. Bad News became the only person who ever got Andre to back down from a fight. It should be noted that Bad News held a Bronze Medal in judo and was considered possibly the (legit) toughest brawler in the locker room. Andre was smart enough to know that his size didn't mean much when faced with a person who could snap his leg like a twig, though even Bad News admitted in an interview he wasn't entirely certain if he could take Andre on in a straight fight if it actually came down to it.
      • Andre ended up getting his revenge in a hilarious and disgusting manner; the two were programmed together in Mexico. Andre ate a ridiculous number of burritos before a match, sat on Allen's chest, and biology ensued.
  • Captain Ersatz: A few times in Fire Pro Wrestling.
  • Cassandra Truth: Likely the reason André was never charged for the above incident when he chased four guys out of a bar, then flipped their car over while they were in it. Four drunk guys talking about an angry giant would have been just a little hard to believe, especially if the cops thought the overturned car was due to their own intoxication.
  • Charlie Brown from Outta Town: The Giant Machine. It drove Bobby Heenan and his men furious, as Giant Machine was billed from Asia, yet possesed a suspiciously familiar French drawl.
  • Comic-Book Adaptation: He's the subject of an affectionate graphic biography by Box Brown.
  • Consummate Professional: Andre took wrestling very, very seriously. Hogan related a story about a time he made the mistake of bringing a girl to a match against Andre to show off, and Andre beat on and humiliated him in the ring to teach him a lesson about professionalism.
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: He is Hulk Hogan's Crowning Moment of Awesome. Specifically, Hogan was the first person to lift him up and bodyslam him, at least during the WWF's "Rock 'n' Wresting" era.note 
    • Although an obvious set-up, André was having increasing health problems which slowed him down considerably. Hogan practically danced around him in the ring making the spectacle somewhat believable.
    • Andre was the generator of such moments for many other wrestlers back before Hogan. Hogan wasn't the first, but he was the first to do so with a national audience. Before that, Andre would go around to various territories and put over wrestlers by having them slam him. In addition, Hogan (back in 1980, when the Hulkster was a villain and Andre was the good guy) slammed the big guy at least twice.
    • Andre let Hogan retain the championship at WrestleMania III, as Hogan knew the giant could defeat him in the ring if he wanted, regardless of what had been decided beforehand. For Hulk Hogan, it was Andre choosing to put Hogan over that made it the greatest moment in his career.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Here are but three American examples. Before Baby Doll became a valet in then NWA flagship Jim Crockett Promotions, she wrestled as Andrea The Lady Giant. The Team 3D Academy's Betsy Ruth, who was bigger than Baby Doll and turned into Andrea Mother in the Japanese promotion Diana. Then Ring Wars Carolina found a roller derby competitor even larger than Betsy, who went on to go by Andrea The Giant. (also seven year rule, as Baby Doll had long retired by then)
  • The Dreaded: Many wrestlers got over just by wrestling Andre and lasting, not actually beating him or even wrestling him to a draw.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Inverted, Andre had a habit of calling everyone "Boss".
  • Evil Costume Switch: As a babyface, Andre wore trunks. Once he turned heel in 1987, Andre wore a black one-strap singlet.note 
  • Finishing Move: Big splash, elbow drop, leg drop, sitdown splash and vertical suplex.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Played this role in Japan, as "Monster Rousimoff," for the better part of 15 years before his heel turn in the WWF. Oddly enough, he would make a Heel–Face Turn in Japan at around the same time. He worked most of that time for New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and when he could no longer perform at the level required for a promotion that athletically focused; NJPW owner Antonio Inoki, out of appreciation for Andre's long service, negotiated a deal where he would move to All Japan Pro Wrestling and work comedy matches with "Giant" Baba as his tag team partner.
    • Oddly enough, averted in his heel runs in the US. Him being from France was usually acknowledged, but was never used as part of his character. Andre himself almost never brought it up in promos either. Then again, it was Andre. He didn't need to act like a foreign wrestling heel to get heat. His size and brutality as a heel were enough.
  • Gasshole: The man really appreciated a good fart joke.
    • Especially when he cut a sixteen-second long fart on the set of The Princess Bride. It brought shooting to a standstill. Rob Reiner asked if he was okay and Andre's response was "I am now, boss!"
  • The Giant: It's in his NAME! Subverted in that he was actually a moderately skilled Greco-Roman wrestler.
    • To give an idea of his size: he could hold a beer can in the cup of his hand, and his boot size was 22.
  • Gentle Giant: His role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride.
    • In Real Life too. He kept a small farm where he would walk around and play with the animals because they didn't stare at him and Robin Wright says that he used to put his hand on her head to keep her warm during cold days on the set of The Princess Bride. Nearly every wrestler who worked for him, not to mention the people in the French village where he had grown up, had similar stories about him.
  • Hard Head: Though it may have as much been that his head was disproportionately large as opposed to how hard it was.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Suffered during his infamous run-in with Jake Roberts' snake, Damien. Needless to say, once Andre recovered, he didn't take to suffering this sudden illness very well.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Alongside the 5'6" Robin Wright in The Princess Bride.
  • Insists on Paying: André's meals were always huge and expensive, since André not only had huge dietary requirements, but also a great love of fine dining, and were always accompanied by prodigious amounts of liquor. He always insisted that he pay for his own food and drink, because of it.
    • Arnold Schwarzenegger related a story where he was dining with Andre. Knowing Andre's insistence to always pay, Arnold sneaked over to the waiter to ask him to bring HIM the check instead. Before he reached the waiter, Andre picked him up and carried him back to his chair.
  • Kavorka Man: Andre was never married, but he had many, many women throwing themselves at him, according to (among others) Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper and Bobby Heenan.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: A common side-effect of Andre's form of acromeagly was a very low sperm count, and as such, he refused for several years to believe that his daughter was, well, his daughter. When a blood test finally proved it, he felt so guilty about his treatment of her and her mother that he left them nearly his entire estate.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Early in his career, he was around 400 lb/180 kg and could throw dropkicks. Acromegaly slowed him to Mighty Glacier later.
  • Like You Were Dying: André knew from his youth that he would likely die young. His entire life can be seen as a way to defy his fate and just enjoy himself.
  • Masked Luchador: Andre wrestled wearing a mask in Japan as 'Andre the Giant Machine' in 1985.
  • Mighty Glacier: In his later years, Andre lost most of his agility and speed, but kept his incredible strength. Very few wrestlers could get him off his feet.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: He definitely had more teeth than average.
  • Mythology Gag: In his appearance in a commercial for Honeycomb cereal,note  he plays a literal giant.
    • While not the case in his Princess Bride appearance, his character Fezzik is nonetheless referred to as a "giant".
  • Never Gets Drunk: As noted above, his huge size meant that it took an incredible amount of alcohol to make him get drunk. The one time he was ever recorded as pass-out drunk, he had consumed ten cases of beer.
    • Cary Elwes notes in his book about the making of The Princess Bride that André's drink of choice during filming was what he called "The American" — a 40 oz. (~1.2 L) pitcher filled with a mixture of brandy and whatever other hard liquor the bar could spare — and he would drink multiples most nights.
  • Odd Friendship: With the playwright Samuel Beckett. Apparently, it started when Beckett would drive Andre to school because he couldn't fit in the school bus.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Pretty much André's trademark, taking punches and throw attempts like they are nothing.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: The anesthetist mentioned above had to base dosage in that manner because most hospital charts simply would not account for someone of Andre's size.
    • An issue Andre often faced was that not only due to his height, but also the bizarre proportions his gigantism caused, most public services and products couldn't accommodate him. He had to special order shoes and clothes, and it was difficult for him to even find a hotel with beds that fit him. This was especially noteable in Japan, which Andre often visited as part of his tours.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Before his acromegaly reduced him to Mighty Glacier status, Andre could actually move frighteningly fast and agile for someone of his size, and was decently skilled at Greco-Roman wrestling to boot. They actually had him slow down because his speed and agility detracted from the audience's ability to percieve him as an intimidating monster of a man.
  • Square-Cube Law: He died young because his body was violating it.
  • Squash Match: Several, often of the handicap (André vs. 2 or 3 guys at once) variety.
    • This was an Enforced Trope during his early tours of the US. Since his English was limited, he was put in handicap matches with his traveling partner Frank Valois (who would call all the spots), and a small job guy (who would take all the moves after receiving his cues in English from Valois).
  • Super Strength: As a side effect of his gigantism, Andre was incredibly strong.
  • Tag Team:
  • Underwear of Power: Wore trunks as a babyface prior to his 1987 heel turn.
  • The Unintelligible: His thick accent combined with a slight jaw deformity often made it difficult to hear what he was saying.
  • Unrelated Father and Son: The Giant (Paul Wight) in WCW was supposedly André's "son." The only thing the two had in common was their disease, they didnt even have the same nationality, as Andre was French while Wight is American.
  • Ur-Example: The first wrestler inducted into the WWF Hall Of Fame. The WWF Hall of fame was established in the first place to honor André after his death.
  • Wham Line: In perhaps the most famous segment of the Piper's Pit, Andre—accompanied by Bobby Heenan—delivered one to Hulk Hogan, pointing his finger at Hogan's chest and declaring, "I’m here for one reason: to challenge you to a championship match at WrestleMania.” Andre then ripped Hogan's shirt and walked out. Hogan was simply left babbling and needed to be comforted by his long-time Arch-Enemy, Roddy Piper.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: During their feud, Jake "The Snake" Roberts exploited André's fear of snakes with the help of his pet snake Damien. Notably averted less than two years earlier when Andre was a guest on the Snake Pit (hosted by a then-heel Roberts) when Andre merely scoffed at Damien, calling him a garter snake.
  • You Talk Too Much: Andre was one who gladly accepted suggestions and feedback from his fellow wrestlers, and often had great cooperation in helping plot out matches. But not always. One example came in planning the special "WWF Wrestlers vs. NFL Players" battle royal at Wrestlemania 2; Bill Fralic, then an offensive guard with the Atlanta Falcons, was rambling on and talking about what he thought would make a great battle royal, but only succeeded in getting on everyone's nerves. Andre was patient but finally when he saw everyone had enough, Andre finally spoke up and said, "You talk too much!" That shut Fralic up for the rest of the rehearsals.