Born in the French Alps, André the Giant’s career began at a young age when he was discovered and thrust into the world of pro wrestling. Instantly, he became a phenomenon, and was soon known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Standing at a reported 7-foot-5, André was thought to be invincible. Because his legacy began at a time where television was non-existent and the internet had not even been thought of, the news of this “giant” sweeping wrestling arenas around the globe travelled mostly by word of mouth. He never stayed in one place for very long, and portrayed himself as the moral hero of wrestling.
During his career, André René Roussimoff evolved into André the Giant by way of being known as “Monster Eiffel Tower,” “Monster Roussimoff,” “The Butcher,” “Jean Ferre,” among others. Diagnosed with acromegaly, André’s body produced an abnormal amount of growth hormones, which resulted in his incredible size. As his many names would suggest, André’s legend soon became even larger than his looming stature. André was well known for taking personal feelings into the ring, and especially dominating those whom he did not favor. André never tried to tarnish an opponent’s reputation, or make a fool of him during a match, unless he held a grudge against him. This legend became one synonymous to one of a god. He was unpredictable, all-powerful, and feared by everyone who knew him.
André’s fame stretched far beyond the borders of the wrestling ring, holding a Guinness World Record for the highest paid wrestler, and also appeared on The Six Million Dollar Man, Conan the Destroyer, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, and The Princess Bride. André was even invited to try out for the Washington Redskins. He was mostly portrayed as a giant or an ancient god, which parallels his reputation in the wrestling world. André was an invincible giant with godly powers in the ring.
Aside from his very public life, André led a self-destructive lifestyle. He was known to finish absurd amounts of liquor and beer in one sitting, even once saying, “It usually takes two liters of vodka just to make me feel warm inside.” He was subjected to surgeries and rehab, but his habits never fully left his lifestyle. Eventually, this behavior began to take a toll on his wrestling career. He was soon publicized not only for his invincibility in the ring, but also for his ability to consume alcohol. Whether these stories are accurate or not, André had lost his reputation of a clean, moral celebrity. No longer was André the Giant seen as invincible, but some of his opponents realized his new weaknesses and were ready to upstage his fame.
WrestleMania III came with a backstory of animosity between André and his opponent Hogan. At this point in André’s career, he was no longer known as the morally sound giant, but now was regarded as a sort of fallen god. Publicized as “the biggest match in the history of professional wrestling,” André had everything to lose, and Hogan had everything to gain. André was pinned for Hogan’s victory, and the world was mesmerized by the fact that André had been defeated for the first time in history, however false that headline may have been. The next big match of André’s career, however, was a match for pure revenge. He challenged Hogan to a televised rematch in 1988, and beat him in a visibly rigged arena. After word got out about this injustice, André became known as a cheater, and was forever portrayed as the “bad guy” in his wrestling matches.
Throughout the latter part of his career, André continued his self-destructive behavior, turning to alcohol for relief from his depression. He died at age 46 from a heart attack, but his legacy remained. He was one of the final big wrestlers of the era before television and Internet. His fame was brought about because of the fact that the myths of his size and stories of his wrestling were able to flourish into godly proportions. Wrestling today differs greatly from wrestling of André’s time, but the legend of this French giant will always be remembered.
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