André the Giant French professional wrestler and actor (1946-1993)

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André the Giant
André the Giant in the late '80s.jpg
André making his way to the ring, c. 1980s
Birth nameAndré René Roussimoff
Born(1946-05-19)May 19, 1946[1]
Coulommiers, Seine-et-Marne, France[2]
DiedJanuary 27, 1993(1993-01-27) (aged 46)
Paris, France
Cause of deathCongestive heart failure
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)André Roussimoff
André the Giant[3]
Géant Ferré[4]
Giant Machine[1]
Jean Ferré[4]
Monster Roussimoff[5]
Billed height7 ft 4 in (224 cm)[6][7][8][9][10]
Billed weight520 lb (236 kg)[6][10][11]
Billed from"Grenoble in the French Alps"
Trained byMichel Saulnier[12]
DebutJanuary 25, 1966[13]

André René Roussimoff (May 19, 1946 – January 27, 1993), best known as André the Giant, was a French professional wrestler and actor.[1]

Roussimoff stood at over seven feet tall, which was a result of gigantism caused by excess growth hormone, and later resulted in acromegaly. It also led to his being called "The Eighth Wonder of the World".[14][15] He found success as a fan favorite throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, appearing as an attraction for various professional wrestling promotions. During the 1980s wrestling boom, he was paired with the villainous manager Bobby Heenan and feuded with Hulk Hogan in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE). The two headlined WrestleMania III in 1987, and in 1988, he defeated Hogan to win the WWF World Heavyweight Championship, his sole world heavyweight championship, on the first episode of The Main Event. He also held the WWF Tag Team Championship before failing health forced him to retire in 1992.

Outside of wrestling, he was best known for appearing as Fezzik, the giant in The Princess Bride.[3] After his death in 1993, he became the inaugural inductee into the newly created WWF Hall of Fame. He was later a charter member of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame; the latter describes him as being "one of the most recognizable figures in the world both as a professional wrestler and as a pop culture icon."[16][17][18]

Early life

André René Roussimoff (French: [ɑ̃dʁe ʁəne ʁusimɔf]) was born in Coulommiers of Bulgarian heritage, the third of five children, to Boris and Marianne Roussimoff Stoeff. His parents were immigrants to France; his father was Bulgarian and his mother was Polish.[19] His nickname growing up was Dédé (/ˈdd/, French: [dede]). At birth André weighed 13 pounds (6 kg) and as a child he displayed symptoms of gigantism very early, noted as being "a good head taller than other the kids" and with abnormally long hands.[20] By the time he was age 12, André stood 191 cm (6 ft 3 in).

Roussimoff was an average student, particularly in mathematics, but after finishing school at 14, since he did not think higher education was necessary for a farm labourer, he instead joined the workforce (contrary to popular legend, André did not drop out, as compulsory education in France at the time ended at 14).[21] He spent years working on his father's farm in Molien, where, according to his brother Jacques, he could perform the work of three men. He also completed an apprenticeship in woodworking, and next worked in a factory that manufactured engines for hay balers. None of these occupations, however, brought him any satisfaction.[22]

While growing up in the 1950s, the Irish playwright and Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, Samuel Beckett was one of several adults who sometimes drove local children to school, including André and his siblings.[23] The Irishman and Bulgarian-descended French boy had a surprising common ground, their love of cricket, with André recalling that the two rarely talked about anything else.[24]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1964–1973)

André the Giant in the early 1970s

At the age of 18, Roussimoff moved to Paris and was taught professional wrestling by a local promoter, Robert Lageat, who recognized the earning potential of Roussimoff's size. He trained at night and worked as a mover during the day to pay living expenses.[22] Roussimoff was billed as "Géant Ferré", a name based on the Picardian folk hero Grand Ferré,[4] and began wrestling in Paris and nearby areas. Canadian promoter and wrestler Frank Valois met Roussimoff in 1966, years later to become his business manager and adviser. Roussimoff began making a name for himself wrestling in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa.[4][5][22]

He made his Japanese debut in 1970, billed as "Monster Roussimoff", wrestling for the International Wrestling Enterprise. Wrestling as both a singles and tag-team competitor, he quickly was made the company's tag-team champion alongside Michael Nador.[5][25] During his time in Japan, doctors first informed Roussimoff that he suffered from acromegaly.[5][22]

Roussimoff next moved to Montreal, Canada in 1971, where he became an immediate success, regularly selling out the Montreal Forum.[26] However, promoters eventually ran out of plausible opponents for him and, as the novelty of his size wore off, the gate receipts dwindled.[22] Roussimoff was defeated by Adnan Al-Kaissie in Baghdad in 1971,[27] and wrestled numerous times in 1971 for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA) as a special attraction until Valois appealed to Vince McMahon Sr., founder of the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), for advice.[28] McMahon suggested several changes. He felt Roussimoff should be portrayed as a large, immovable monster, and to enhance the perception of his size, McMahon discouraged Roussimoff from performing maneuvers such as dropkicks (although he was capable of performing such agile maneuvers before his health deteriorated in later life). He also began billing Roussimoff as "André the Giant" and set up a travel-intensive schedule, lending him to wrestling associations around the world,[17][29][30] to keep him from becoming overexposed in any area.[22] Promoters had to guarantee Roussimoff a certain amount of money as well as pay McMahon's WWF booking fee.[31]

World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation

Undefeated streak (1973–1986)
Roussimoff wrestling a "local competitor" in June 1973

On March 24, 1973, Roussimoff debuted in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (later World Wrestling Federation) as a fan favorite, defeating Frank Valois and Bull Pometti in a handicap match in Philadelphia. Two days later he made his debut in New York's Madison Square Garden, defeating Buddy Wolfe.[3][17][32]

Roussimoff was one of professional wrestling's most beloved "babyfaces" throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. As such, Gorilla Monsoon often stated that Roussimoff had not been defeated in 15 years by pinfall or submission prior to WrestleMania III; however, he had lost in matches outside of the WWF: pinfall losses to Don Leo Jonathan in Montreal in 1972,[33] Ronnie Garvin in Knoxville in 1978,[34] and Canek in Mexico in 1984 and submission losses in Japan to Strong Kobayashi in 1972[35] and Antonio Inoki in 1986.[36][37] He also had sixty-minute time-limit draws with the two major world champions of the day, Harley Race and Nick Bockwinkel.

In 1976, Roussimoff fought professional boxer Chuck Wepner in an unscripted boxer-versus-wrestler fight. The wild fight was shown via telecast as part of the undercard of the Muhammad Ali versus Antonio Inoki fight and ended when he threw Wepner over the top rope and outside the ring and won via count-out.

In 1980, he feuded with Hulk Hogan, when, unlike their more famous matches in the late 1980s, Hogan was the villain and Roussimoff was the hero, wrestling him at Shea Stadium's Showdown at Shea and in Pennsylvania, where after Roussimoff pinned Hogan to win the match, Hogan bodyslammed him much like their legendary WrestleMania III match in 1987. The feud continued in Japan in 1982 and 1983 with their roles reversed and with Antonio Inoki also involved.

In 1982, Vince McMahon Sr. sold the World Wide Wrestling Federation to his son, Vince McMahon Jr.[38] As McMahon began to expand his newly acquired promotion to the national level, he required his wrestlers to appear exclusively for him. McMahon signed Roussimoff to these terms in 1984, although he still allowed him to work in Japan for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW).[39]

One of Roussimoff's feuds pitted him against the "Mongolian Giant" Killer Khan. According to the storyline, Khan had snapped Roussimoff's ankle during a match on May 2, 1981, in Rochester, New York, by leaping off the top rope and crashing down upon it with his knee-drop.[40] In reality, he had broken his ankle getting out of bed the morning before the match.[22][41] The injury and subsequent rehabilitation was worked into the existing Roussimoff/Khan storyline. After a stay at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Roussimoff returned with payback on his mind. The two battled on July 20, 1981, at Madison Square Garden in a match that resulted in a double disqualification.[42] Their feud continued as fans filled arenas up and down the east coast to witness their matches. On November 14, 1981, at the Philadelphia Spectrum, he decisively defeated Khan in what was billed as a "Mongolian stretcher match", in which the loser must be taken to the dressing room on a stretcher.[43] The same type of match was also held in Toronto. In early 1982 the two also fought in a series of matches in Japan with Arnold Skaaland in Roussimoff's corner.

Roussimoff feuded with Big John Studd (left) in the build towards WrestleMania I, and later with King Kong Bundy (second from left)

Another feud involved a man who considered himself to be the "true giant" of wrestling: Big John Studd.[40] Throughout the early to mid-1980s, Roussimoff and Studd fought all over the world, battling to try to determine who the real giant of wrestling was. In 1984, Studd took the feud to a new level when he and partner Ken Patera knocked out Roussimoff during a televised tag-team match and proceeded to cut off his hair.[40] After gaining revenge on Patera, Roussimoff met Studd in a "body slam challenge" at the first WrestleMania, held March 31, 1985, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.[44] Roussimoff slammed Studd to win the match and collect the $15,000 prize, then proceeded to throw cash to the fans before having the bag taken from him by Studd's manager, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan.[45]

The following year at WrestleMania 2 on April 7, 1986, Roussimoff continued to display his dominance by winning a twenty-man battle royal which featured top National Football League stars and wrestlers.[46] He last eliminated Bret Hart to win the contest.[47]

After WrestleMania 2, Roussimoff continued his feud with Studd and King Kong Bundy. Around this time, Roussimoff requested a leave of absence to tend to his health, effects from his acromegaly that were beginning to take their toll, as well as tour Japan. He had also been cast in the film The Princess Bride. To explain his absence, a storyline was developed in which Heenan—suggesting that Roussimoff was secretly afraid of Studd and Bundy, whom Heenan bragged were unbeatable—challenged Roussimoff and a partner of his choosing to wrestle Studd and Bundy in a televised tag-team match. When Roussimoff failed to show, WWF president Jack Tunney indefinitely suspended him.[48] Later in the summer of 1986, upon Roussimoff's return to the United States, he began wearing a mask and competing as the "Giant Machine" in a stable known as the Machines. (Big Machine and Super Machine were the other members, (Hulk Hogan (as "Hulk Machine") and Roddy Piper (as "Piper Machine") were also one-time members). The WWF's television announcers sold the Machines—a gimmick that was copied from the New Japan Pro Wrestling character "Super Strong Machine", played by Japanese wrestler Junji Hirata,[49] —as "a new tag-team from Japan" and claimed not to know the identities of the wrestlers, even though it was obvious to fans that it was Roussimoff competing as the Giant Machine. Heenan, Studd, and Bundy complained to Tunney, who eventually told Heenan that if it could be proven that Roussimoff and the Giant Machine were the same person, Roussimoff would be fired. Roussimoff thwarted Heenan, Studd, and Bundy at every turn. Then, in late 1986, the Giant Machine "disappeared," and Roussimoff was reinstated. Foreshadowing Roussimoff's heel turn, Heenan expressed his approval of the reinstatement but did not explain why.

WWF Champion and various rivalries (1987–1989)
Roussimoff (right) was managed by Bobby Heenan (foreground) during parts of his feud with Hulk Hogan.

Roussimoff agreed to turn heel in early 1987 to be the counter to the biggest "babyface" in professional wrestling at that time, Hulk Hogan.[50] On an edition of Piper's Pit in 1987, Hogan was presented a trophy for being the WWF World Heavyweight Champion for three years; Roussimoff came out to congratulate him, shaking Hogan's hand with a strong grip, which surprised the Hulkster.[51] On the following week's Piper's Pit, Roussimoff was presented a slightly smaller trophy for being "the only undefeated wrestler in wrestling history." Although he had suffered a handful of countout and disqualification losses in WWF, he had never been pinned or forced to submit in a WWF ring. Hogan came out to congratulate him and ended up being the focal point of the interview. Apparently annoyed, he walked out in the midst of Hogan's speech.[52][53] A discussion between Roussimoff and Hogan was scheduled, and on a Piper's Pit that aired February 7, 1987, the two met.[54] Hogan was introduced first, followed by Roussimoff, who was led by longtime rival Bobby Heenan.

Speaking on behalf of his new protégé, Heenan accused Hogan of being Roussimoff's friend only so he would not have to defend his title against him. Hogan tried to reason with Roussimoff, but his pleas were ignored as he challenged Hogan to a match for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania III. Hogan was still seemingly in disbelief as to what Roussimoff was doing, prompting Heenan to say "You can't believe it, maybe you'll believe this, Hogan" before Roussimoff ripped off the T-shirt and crucifix from Hogan, with the crucifix scratching Hogan's chest, causing him to bleed.[55]

Following Hogan's acceptance of his challenge on a later edition of Piper's Pit, the two were part of a 20-man over-the-top-rope battle-royal on March 14 edition of Saturday Night's Main Event X at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.[56] Although the battle royal was won by Hercules, Roussimoff claimed to have gained a psychological advantage over Hogan when he threw the WWF World Heavyweight Champion over the top rope. The match, which was actually taped on February 21, 1987,[56] aired only two weeks before WrestleMania III to make it seem like Hogan had met his match in André the Giant.[57]

At WrestleMania III, he was billed at 240 kg (520 lb),[6] and the stress of such immense weight on his bones and joints resulted in constant pain.[22] After recent back surgery, he was also wearing a brace underneath his wrestling singlet.[58] In front of a record crowd, Hogan won the match after body-slamming Roussimoff (later dubbed "the bodyslam heard around the world"), followed by Hogan's running leg drop finisher.[6] Years later, Hogan claimed that Roussimoff was so heavy, he felt more like 320 kg (700 lb), and that he tore his latissimus dorsi muscle when slamming him.

Another myth about the match is that no one, not even WWF owner Vince McMahon, knew until the day of the event whether Roussimoff would lose the match. In reality, he had agreed to lose the match sometime before, mostly for health reasons. Contrary to popular belief, it was not the first time that Hogan had successfully body-slammed him in a WWF match. A then-heel Hogan had slammed a then-face Roussimoff following their match at the Showdown at Shea on August 9, 1980, though Roussimoff was somewhat lighter (around 210 kg (470 lb)) and more athletic at the time (Hogan also slammed him in a match in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, a month later).[59] This took place in the territorial days of American wrestling three years before WWF began national expansion, so many of those who watched WrestleMania III had never seen the Giant slammed (Roussimoff had also previously allowed Harley Race, El Canek and Stan Hansen, among others, to slam him).[60][61]

By the time of WrestleMania III, the WWF had gone national, giving more meaning to the Roussimoff–Hogan match that took place then. The feud between Roussimoff and Hogan simmered during the summer of 1987, as Roussimoff's health declined. The feud began heating up again when wrestlers were named the captains of rival teams at the inaugural Survivor Series event. During their approximately one minute of battling each other during the match, Hogan dominated Roussimoff and was on the brink of knocking him from the ring, but was tripped up by his partners, Bundy and One Man Gang, and would be counted out. Roussimoff went on to be the sole survivor of the match, pinning Bam Bam Bigelow[62] before Hogan returned to the ring to attack André and knock him out of the ring. Roussimoff later got revenge when, after Hogan won a match against Bundy on Saturday Night's Main Event, he snuck up from behind and began choking Hogan to the brink of unconsciousness, not letting go even after an army of seven face-aligned wrestlers ran to the ring to try to pull him away; it took Hacksaw Jim Duggan breaking a piece of wood over his back (which he no-sold) for him to let go, after which Hogan was pulled to safety. As was the case with the SNME battle royal a year earlier, the series of events was one of the pieces that helped build interest in a possible one-on-one rematch between Hogan and Roussimoff, and to make it seem that Roussimoff was certain to win easily when they did meet.

In the meantime, the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase failed to persuade Hogan to sell him the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. After failing to defeat Hogan in a subsequent series of matches, DiBiase turned to Roussimoff to win it for him.[63] He and DiBiase had teamed several times in the past, including in Japan and in the WWF in the late 1970s and early 1980s when both were faces, but this was not acknowledged during this new storyline. The earlier attack and DiBiase's insertion into the feud set up the Hogan-Roussimoff rematch on The Main Event, to air February 5, 1988, on a live broadcast on NBC. Acting as his hired gun, Roussimoff won the WWF World Heavyweight Championship from Hogan (his first singles title) in a match where it was later revealed that appointed referee Dave Hebner was "detained backstage", and a replacement (whom Hogan afterwards initially accused of having been paid by DiBiase to get plastic surgery to look like Dave,[64] but was revealed to have been his evil twin brother, Earl Hebner),[65] made a three count on Hogan while his shoulders were off the mat.

After winning, Roussimoff "sold" the title to DiBiase; the transaction was declared invalid by then-WWF president Jack Tunney and the title was declared vacant.[66] This was shown on WWF's NBC program The Main Event. At WrestleMania IV, Roussimoff and Hulk Hogan fought to a double disqualification in a WWF title tournament match (with the idea in the storyline saying that Roussimoff was again working on DiBiase's behalf in giving DiBiase a clearer path in the tournament). Afterward, Roussimoff and Hogan's feud died down after a steel cage match held at WrestleFest on July 31, 1988, in Milwaukee.

At the inaugural SummerSlam pay-per-view held at Madison Square Garden, Roussimoff and DiBiase (billed as The Mega Bucks) faced Hogan and WWF World Heavyweight Champion "Macho Man" Randy Savage (known as The Mega Powers) in the main event, with Jesse "The Body" Ventura as the special guest referee.[67] During the match, the Mega Powers' manager, Miss Elizabeth, distracted the Mega Bucks and Ventura when she climbed up on the ring apron, removed her yellow skirt and walked around in a pair of red panties. This allowed Hogan and Savage time to recover and eventually win the match with Hogan pinning DiBiase. Savage forced Ventura's hand down for the final three-count, due to Ventura's character historically being at odds with Hogan, and his unwillingness to count the fall.

Concurrent with the developing feud with the Mega Powers, Roussimoff was placed in a feud with Jim Duggan, which began after Duggan knocked out Roussimoff with a two-by-four board during a television taping. Despite Duggan's popularity with fans, Roussimoff regularly got the upper hand in the feud.

Roussimoff's feud with Jake Roberts derived from Roussimoff's fear of snakes.

Roussimoff's next major feud was against Jake "The Snake" Roberts. In this storyline, it was said Roussimoff was afraid of snakes, something Roberts exposed on Saturday Night's Main Event when he threw his snake, Damien, on the frightened Roussimoff; as a result, he suffered a kayfabe mild heart attack and vowed revenge. During the next few weeks, Roberts frequently walked to ringside carrying his snake in its bag during Roussimoff's matches, causing the latter to run from the ring in fright. Throughout their feud (which culminated at WrestleMania V), Roberts constantly used Damien to gain a psychological edge over the much larger and stronger Roussimoff.

In 1989, Roussimoff and the returning Big John Studd briefly reprised their feud, beginning at WrestleMania V, when Studd was the referee in the match with Roberts, this time with Studd as a face and Roussimoff as the heel. During the late summer and Autumn of 1989, he engaged in a brief feud, consisting almost entirely of house shows (non-televised events), with then-Intercontinental Champion The Ultimate Warrior. The younger Warrior, WWF's rising star, regularly squashed the aging Roussimoff in an attempt to showcase his star quality and promote him as the "next big thing".[68][69]

The Colossal Connection (1989–1990)

In late 1989, Roussimoff was joined with fellow Heenan Family member Haku to form a new tag team called the Colossal Connection, in part to fill a void left by the departure of Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson (the Brain Busters, who were also members of Heenan's stable) from the WWF, and also to continue to keep the aging Roussimoff in the main event spotlight. The Colossal Connection immediately targeted WWF Tag Team Champions Demolition (who had recently won the belts from the Brain Busters). At a television taping on December 13, 1989, the Colossal Connection defeated Demolition to win the titles.[70] Roussimoff and Haku successfully defended their title, mostly against Demolition, until WrestleMania VI on April 1, 1990, when Demolition took advantage of a mistimed move by the champions to regain the belts.[71] After the match, a furious Heenan blamed Roussimoff for the title loss and after shouting at him, slapped him in the face; an angry Roussimoff responded with a slap of his own that sent Heenan staggering from the ring.[72] Roussimoff also caught Haku's kick attempt, sending him reeling from the ring as well, prompting support for Roussimoff and turning him face for the first time since 1987. Due to his ongoing health issues, Roussimoff was not able to wrestle at the time of Wrestlemania VI and Haku actually wrestled the entire match against Demolition without tagging him in.

On weekend television shows following WrestleMania VI, Bobby Heenan vowed to spit in Roussimoff's face when he came crawling back to the Heenan Family. However Roussimoff would wrestle one more time with Haku, teaming up to face Demolition on a house show in Honolulu, HI, on April 10, Roussimoff was knocked out of the ring and The Colossal Connection lost via count-out. After the match, Roussimoff and Haku would fight each other, marking the end of the team. His final match of 1990 came at a combined WWF/All Japan/New Japan show on April 13 in Tokyo, Japan when he teamed with Giant Baba to defeat Demolition in a non-title match. Roussimoff would win by gaining the pinfall on Smash.[73]

Sporadic appearances (1990–1991)

Roussimoff returned in the winter of 1990, but it was not to the World Wrestling Federation. Instead, Roussimoff made an interview appearance for Herb Abrams' fledgling Universal Wrestling Federation on October 11 in Reseda, California.[74] (the segment aired in 1991). He appeared in an interview segment with Captain Lou Albano and put over the UWF.[75] The following month on November 30 at a house show in Miami, Florida, the World Wrestling Federation announced his return as a participant in the 1991 Royal Rumble (to be held in Miami, FL two months later). Roussimoff was also mentioned as a participant on television but would ultimately back out due to a leg injury.[76]

His on-air return finally took place at the WWF's Super-Stars & Stripes Forever USA Network special on March 17, 1991, when he came out to shake the hand of The Big Boss Man after an altercation with Mr. Perfect.[77] The following week at WrestleMania VII, he came to the aid of the Boss Man in his match against Mr. Perfect.[78] Roussimoff finally returned to action on April 26, 1991, in a six-man tag-team matchup when he teamed with the Rockers in a winning effort against Mr. Fuji and the Orient Express at a house show in Belfast, Northern Ireland.[79] On May 10 he participated in a 17-man battle-royal at a house show in Detroit, which was won by Kerry Von Erich.[79] This was Andre's final WWF match, although he was involved in several subsequent storylines. His last major WWF storyline following WrestleMania VII had the major heel managers (Bobby Heenan, Sensational Sherri, Slick, and Mr. Fuji) trying to recruit Roussimoff one-by-one, only to be turned down in various humiliating ways (e.g. Heenan had his hand crushed, Sherri received a spanking, Slick got locked in the trunk of the car he was offering to Roussimoff and Mr. Fuji got a pie in his face). Finally, Jimmy Hart appeared live on WWF Superstars to announce that he had successfully signed Roussimoff to tag-team with Earthquake. However, when asked to confirm this by Gene Okerlund, Roussimoff denied the claims. This led to Earthquake's attacking Roussimoff from behind (injuring his knee).[80] Jimmy Hart would later get revenge for the humiliation by secretly signing Tugboat and forming the Natural Disasters.[81] This led to Roussimoff's final major WWF appearance at SummerSlam '91, where he seconded the Bushwhackers in their match against the Disasters.[82] Roussimoff was on crutches at ringside, and after the Disasters won the match, they set out to attack him, but the Legion of Doom made their way to ringside and got in between them and the Giant, who was preparing to defend himself with one of his crutches. The Disasters left the ringside area as they were outnumbered by the Legion of Doom, the Bushwhackers and Roussimoff, who struck both Earthquake and Typhoon (the former Tugboat) with the crutch as they left. His final WWF appearance came at a house show in Paris, France, on October 9. He was in Davey Boy Smith's corner as the Bulldog faced Earthquake. Davey Boy hit Earthquake with Roussimoff's crutch, allowing Smith to win.

World Championship Wrestling (1992)

His last U.S. television appearance was in a brief interview on World Championship Wrestling's (WCW) Clash of the Champions XX special that aired on TBS on September 2, 1992.[83]

All Japan Pro Wrestling and Universal Wrestling Association (1990–1992)

After WrestleMania VI, Roussimoff spent the rest of his in-ring career in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) and Mexico's Universal Wrestling Association (UWA), where he performed under the name "André el Gigante." He toured with AJPW three times per year, from 1990 to 1992, usually teaming with Giant Baba in tag-team matches.[84] He also made a couple of guest appearances for Herb Abrams' Universal Wrestling Federation, in 1991, feuding with Big John Studd, though he never had a match in the promotion. He did his final tour of Mexico in 1992 in a selection of six-man tag matches alongside Bam Bam Bigelow and a variety of Lucha Libre stars facing among others Bad News Allen and future WWF Champions Mick Foley & Yokozuna.[85] Roussimoff wrestled his final match for AJPW in 1992, after which he retired from professional wrestling.

Acting career

Roussimoff branched out into acting again in the 1970s and 1980s, after a 1967 French boxing film, making his USA acting debut playing a Sasquatch ("Bigfoot") in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on the television series The Six Million Dollar Man.[86] He appeared in other television shows, including The Greatest American Hero, B. J. and the Bear, The Fall Guy and 1990's Zorro.

Towards the end of his career, Roussimoff starred in several films. He had an uncredited appearance in the 1984 film Conan the Destroyer as Dagoth,[87] the resurrected horned giant god who is killed by Conan (Arnold Schwarzenegger). That same year, he also made an appearance in Micki & Maude (billed as André Rousimmoff). He appeared most notably as Fezzik, his own favorite role,[3] in the 1987 film The Princess Bride. The fact that Roussimoff found that no one stared at him on set during production was a novel and particularly gratifying experience.[88] Both the film and his performance retain a devoted following. In a shoot interview with Lanny Poffo, he stated that the movie meant so much to Andre that he made his wrestling pals watch an advanced copy of the VHS with him over and over again while supplying dinner, drinks, and sweetly asking each time, "Did you like my performance?".[89]

In his last film, he appeared in a cameo role as a circus giant in the comedy Trading Mom, which was released in 1994, a year after his death.


Personal life

Roussimoff was mentioned in the 1974 Guinness Book of World Records as the highest-paid wrestler in history at that time. He had earned US$400,000 in one year during the early 1970s.[90]

Robin Christensen is Roussimoff's only child. Her mother Jean Christensen(who died in 2008) became acquainted with her father through the wrestling business around 1972 or 1973. Christensen had almost no connection with her father and saw him only five times in her life, despite occasional televised and printed news pieces criticizing his absentee fatherhood. While she gave some interviews about the subject in her childhood, Christensen is reportedly reluctant to discuss her father publicly today.[91]

Roussimoff has been unofficially crowned "the greatest drunk on Earth"[92] for once consuming 119 12-US-fluid-ounce (350 ml) beers (in total, over 41 litres (72 imp pt)) in six hours.[93] On an episode of WWE's Legends of Wrestling, Mike Graham said Roussimoff once drank 156 16-US-fluid-ounce (470 ml) beers (over 73 litres (128 imp pt)) in one sitting, which was confirmed by Dusty Rhodes. The Fabulous Moolah wrote in her autobiography that Roussimoff drank 127 beers in a Reading, Pennsylvania, hotel bar and later passed out in the lobby. The staff could not move him and had to leave him there until he awoke.[94] In a shoot interview, Ken Patera recalled an occasion where Roussimoff was challenged by Dick Murdoch to a beer drinking contest. After nine or so hours, Roussimoff had drunk 116 beers.[95] A tale recounted by Cary Elwes in his book about the making of The Princess Bride has Roussimoff falling on top of somebody while drunk, after which the NYPD sent an undercover officer to follow Roussimoff around whenever he went out drinking in their city to make sure he did not fall on anyone again.[96] Another story also says prior to his famous WrestleMania III match, Roussimoff drank 14 bottles of wine.[97]

An urban legend exists surrounding Roussimoff's 1987 surgery in which his size made it impossible for the anesthesiologist to estimate a dosage via standard methods; consequently, his alcohol tolerance was used as a guideline instead.[98]

Roussimoff was arrested in 1989 by the sheriff of Linn County, Iowa; and charged with assault after he allegedly attacked a local television cameraman.[99][100]

William Goldman, the author of the novel and the screenplay of The Princess Bride, wrote in his nonfiction work Which Lie Did I Tell? that Roussimoff was one of the gentlest and most generous people he ever knew. Whenever Roussimoff ate with someone in a restaurant, he would pay, but he would also insist on paying when he was a guest. On one occasion, after Roussimoff attended a dinner with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wilt Chamberlain, Schwarzenegger had quietly moved to the cashier to pay before Roussimoff could, but then found himself being physically lifted, carried from his table and deposited on top of his car by Roussimoff and Chamberlain.[101]

Roussimoff owned a ranch in Ellerbe, North Carolina, looked after by two of his close friends. When he was not on the road, he loved spending time at the ranch tending to his cattle, playing with his dogs and entertaining company. While there were custom-made chairs and a few other modifications in his home to account for his size, tales that everything in his home was custom-made for a large man are said to be exaggerated. Since Roussimoff could not easily go shopping due to his fame and size, he was known to spend hours watching QVC and made frequent purchases from the shopping channel.[102] Roussimoff had a passion for card games, mainly cribbage.[103]


Roussimoff died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on the night of January 26, 1993, but was discovered on the morning of January 27. He passed away in a Paris hotel room. He was found by his chauffeur.[3][104] He was in Paris to attend his father's funeral.[105] While there, Roussimoff decided to stay in France longer to be with his mother on her birthday. He spent the day before his death visiting and playing cards with some of his oldest friends in Molien.[102]

In his will, Roussimoff specified that his remains be cremated and "disposed of". Upon his death in Paris, his family in France held a funeral for him, intending to bury him near his father. When they learned of his wish to be cremated, his body was flown to the United States, where he was cremated according to his wishes.[102] His ashes were scattered at his ranch ( ) in Ellerbe, North Carolina.[22][106] In addition, in accordance with his will, he left his estate to his sole beneficiary: his daughter Robin.[107]

Other media

Roussimoff made numerous appearances as himself in video games, starting with WWF WrestleMania. He also appears posthumously in Virtual Pro Wrestling 64, WWF No Mercy, Legends of Wrestling, Legends of Wrestling II, Showdown: Legends of Wrestling, WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw, WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2006, WWE Legends of WrestleMania, WWE All Stars, WWE 2K14, WWE 2K15, WWE 2K16, WWE 2K17, WWE 2K18, WWE 2K19,[108] WWE 2K20 and many others.

In January 2005, WWE released André The Giant, a DVD focusing on the life and career of Roussimoff. The DVD is a reissue of the out-of-print André The Giant VHS made by Coliseum Video in 1985, with commentary by Michael Cole and Tazz replacing Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura's commentary on his WrestleMania match with Big John Studd. The video is hosted by Lord Alfred Hayes. Later matches, including his battles against Hulk Hogan while a heel, are not included on this VHS.


Big Show – a wrestler often compared with Roussimoff due to his size – was the winner of the 2015 "André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal" at WrestleMania 31, and is posing alongside the André the Giant Memorial Trophy, which goes to the winner of the annual match.
  • In 1993, when the then-World Wrestling Federation created the WWF Hall of Fame, André the Giant was the inaugural and sole inductee in the class of 1993.[16]
  • Roussimoff was the inspiration for the 1998 film My Giant, written by his friend Billy Crystal, whom he had met during the filming of The Princess Bride.
  • Paul Wight, better known as Big Show, is more similar in body structure to Roussimoff than any other wrestler since Roussimoff's death. He was originally billed as the son of André during his stint in WCW (when he was known as simply "the Giant") despite there being no biological relationship.[109] While also suffering from acromegaly, unlike Roussimoff, Wight did get surgery on his pituitary gland in the early 1990s, which successfully halted the progress of his condition. The former wrestler Giant González suffered from problems similar to those that Roussimoff had near the end of his life and died in 2010 due to diabetes complications.
  • In 1999, he was the subject of an episode of A&E Biography, titled André the Giant: Larger Than Life. The documentary covered his childhood and early life in France, as well as the beginning of his wrestling career, his struggles with acromegaly, his personal life, and his final years. His brother, Jacques Roussimoff, was interviewed for the documentary, as were fellow wrestling personalities Gorilla Monsoon, Tim White, Arnold Skaaland, Vince McMahon, Freddie Blassie, Killer Kowalski, Rene Goulet, and Frenchy Bernard, as well as wrestling historian Sheldon Goldberg. Several of his longtime hometown friends were interviewed as well. The documentary described Roussimoff as pro wrestling's "first and only international attraction" and that "on his broad shoulders, wrestling rose from its status as a questionable sport to become big business, and some might argue, performance art."
  • The Obey brand icon originated from wheatpaste posters that artist Shepard Fairey created based upon a photo of André the Giant that he had found in a newspaper.[110]
  • Capcom's video game character Hugo, from the Street Fighter series (known as Andore in the Final Fight series) is based on him.
  • The 2014 graphic novel André The Giant: The Life and The Legend (First Second Books), written and drawn by Box Brown, tells the story of his life and career. Research for the book included interviews with his fellow wrestlers and actors such as Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin and others.
  • In 2017, Showtime released Waiting for Andre, a semi-fictional movie about the friendship between playwright Samuel Beckett and Roussimoff during the time Beckett lived in Ussy-sur-Marne, outside of Paris. A novel of the movie was published the following year by Steffan Piper (ISBN 9781980756217 / 198075621X from Amazon print on demand).
  • On the March 10, 2014, episode of Raw, WrestleMania XXX host Hulk Hogan announced that in honor of Roussimoff's legacy, WWE was establishing the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, that would take place at the event, with the winner receiving the André the Giant Memorial Trophy (made in the likeness of Roussimoff).[111] On April 6, 2014, at WrestleMania XXX, Cesaro won the match after eliminating Big Show using a body slam similar to the body slam Hulk Hogan used on Roussimoff at WrestleMania III.[112]


On May 9, 2016, it was announced that a movie based on the 2015 authorized graphic novel biography André the Giant: Closer to Heaven was in the plans made by Lion Forge Comics along with producers Scott Steindorff, Dylan Russell and consulted by Roussimoff's daughter, Robin Christensen-Roussimoff.[113]

On April 10, 2018, HBO aired a documentary film called André the Giant.

Championships and accomplishments

See also


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Further reading

External links

Preceded by
Antonio Inoki & Bob Backlund
MSG Tag League winner
With: René Goulet
Succeeded by
Antonio Inoki & Hulk Hogan
Preceded by
Antonio Inoki
MSG League winner
Succeeded by
Hulk Hogan (IWGP League)
Preceded by
Antonio Inoki
International Wrestling Grand Prix winner
Succeeded by
Antonio Inoki
Original content from Wikipedia, shared with licence Creative Commons By-Sa - André the Giant