Continuing with our series on the greatest WWE wrestlers of all time, here’s No. 8 on our list.
André René Roussimoff, born in a French town called Grenoble, holds the unique distinction of being the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1993. He was WWF Champion as well as a WWF World Tag team champion, and is widely regarded as one of the best wrestlers of all time.
Just like any other wrestler, André had to work his way to the top. Right from his childhood André suffered from Acromegaly, a syndrome where the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone. As a result, when André was 12, he stood at over 6 ft! Eventually, the Frenchman went on to reach a (disputed) 7 foot 4 inches, and at one point, weighed more than 500 pounds! But André the Giant was a proud man. He did not let the illness affect his way of life. After having worked on a farm as a wood-worker, the giant slowly entered the world of wrestling, from where he never looked back.
André, with the guidance of Canadian promoter Frank Valois, began to tour various countries such as Germany, England, Africa and Japan and started to make a name for himself. Soon, the giant caught the eye of the McMahon family and their WWF empire (then known as WWWF). In 1973, Vince McMahon Sr hired André and went on to promote him as ‘André the Giant.’ Slowly, he became the most popular wrestler in the company, and due to his gigantic appearance and the respect he commanded from his peers, he was nicknamed the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.
During his time with the WWF, André the Giant took on a host of legendary wrestlers and held a record undefeated streak till Wrestlemania III in 1987, when he was finally defeated by the legendary Hulk Hogan in one of the most defining moments in the history of sports entertainment.
From Killer Khan and Harley Race to King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd, André had faced them all during his tenure at the company. However, he was most known for that epic Wrestlemania moment he shared with Hogan when the 500 pound giant was scoop-slammed onto the mat by Hogan to deafening applause from the 93,000 odd spectators in Pontiac, Michigan. But this wasn’t the first time these two legendary wrestlers faced each other in the ring.
André first met the Hulkster in 1980, when the legend of Hulkamania was unheard of. André was the face (popular) wrestler during that period, and if it weren’t for him, Hulk Hogan would have not been a household name. André commanded so much respect in the wrestling fraternity that he had the power to make or break a wrestler’s career. As Jerry ‘the King’ Lawler put it,
“He’d let you do anything you wanted in a match. Other than beat him… But if he didn’t like you, he’d make you look like crap, and there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it.”
Of course, it took Hogan a case of fine French wine to please the giant, who was a notorious drinker (notorious is an understatement – I’ll get to that in a moment). André began to realize that Hogan shared the same passion he had for wrestling, and ultimately decided to pass the torch to the Hulkster.
When it comes to drinking, André the Giant was a demi-god – an out and out drunkard! The giant wasn’t known as the ‘Eight wonder of the world’ just for his enormous appearance and wrestling ability; it was also for his incredible capacity for alcohol. He was sometimes called the ‘Mount Everest of Inebriation’. André was known to take in 7000 calories of pure alcohol everyday! He could down 16 bottles of wine and still return to the ring to compete in a 20-man battle royale. His peers, such as the legendary Dusty Rhodes, were witness to the giant’s enormous drinking capacity – it is said that on one occasion, Andre finished 119 bottles of beer in one sitting!
Although he acted in a few Hollywood movies, André dedicated his entire life to wrestling. And one of the more commendable aspects of his career is his popularity, both among the spectators and his peers. It’s almost impossible to find a wrestler who disliked the talented giant – he was that well-respected.
Towards his last few years in wrestling, Andre’s illness began to take a toll on him. In 1993, the giant succumbed to heart failure and died in his sleep.
André the Giant did not win a lot of titles in his magnificent career, but what stood out was his undying passion towards his craft and the willingness to let a new generation of wrestlers steal the limelight. What was good for the business was good for Andre! There will never be another wrestler like him. André the Giant was truly, one of a kind!
Here’s a look at a rare video of a special boxing match featuring André the Giant and his opponent Gorilla Monsoon. Enjoy!
Here are the other players who have made it so far:
No. 10 – John Cena
No. 9 – Triple H
Read the detailed write-ups on all the players in this list here: