Eighth Wonder of the World Andre the Giant Born Today – May 19th, 1946 – Today in Wrestling History
Born André René Roussimoff in the town of Coulommiers, Seine-et-Marne, France, you may know him better as Andre the Giant. In the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), now WWE, he was billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” among other names. His match against Hulk Hogan in 1987 at Wrestlemania III is unforgettable. His career is amazing, and his life was unbelievable.
Woodworking apprentice and the coming giant
Suffering from gigantism, Roussimoff would develop early. Standing about six feet tall at the age of 14 was just one sign he was going to be different than other kids. He would grow another seven inches by his next birthday.
Many fans do not know that Roussimoff completed an apprenticeship in woodworking. This accomplishment was completed during his teen years in France.
Roussimoff would wrestle in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Africa, and Japan in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He would make his United States debut with Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Alliance in 1971.
This was the beginnings of the “Andre the Giant” angle.
Enter Andre the Giant, Eighth Wonder of the World
Back before Vince McMahon Jr. took over the WWF, his father was running it as a regional outfit. McMahon Sr. was tapped for ideas on how to market the man that would become Andre the Giant. Up till this point, Roussimoff was working shows in one area and the novelty had worn off.
McMahon Sr.’s advice included not having Roussimoff do dropkicks, bill him as immovable, and have him travel. Travel was key as this kept the Andre the Giant character from becoming stale in any one area. It also opened him up to exposure to new fans.
Andre the Giant would make his World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) debut in early 1973. Much like most things in wrestling, each company had their own “reality” they adhered to. The WWWF, then WWF, billed Andre the Giant as being undefeated in for nearly 15 years. This was not true as during this period Roussimoff fell to various opponents, outside the WWF.
Wrestlemania III and the downfall of Andre the Giant
By the time Wrestlemania III happened, Roussimoff was in immense pain. Weighing over 500 pounds at the time of his iconic match with Hogan, Roussimoff was in a lot of pain.
The “slam heard around the world” was planned to go down as the closer to their match at Wrestlemania III. Thanks to the buildup, fans were invested in the match, and the following aftermath.
Andre the Giant was quickly falling from grace due to health issues. It was clear that his time in the ring was coming to an end. Allowing Hulk Hogan to slam him was a “passing of the torch” of sorts. Andre was the beast of wrestling currently, he was unstoppable. Could the red and yellow be the arrow through the heart of the giant?
Andre the Giant would become one-time WWF Champion on Saturday Night’s Main Event in February 1988. The official for the match was debuting referee, Earl Hebner.
Andre would team up with Bobby Heenan as a member of “The Heenan Family”. This was to protect the aging Roussimoff while allowing him to be in the ring. As time went Andre the Giant became more and more of a spectacle that was not seen very often. This made each appearance that much more important to fans.
Final wrestling appearances
In a twist that no one saw coming, Roussimoff’s final U.S. television appearance would not be for the WWF. It was for competitor World Championship Wrestling in late 1992. Who knows what event he was at?
Andre the Giant would continue to work with North American promotions throughout 1990 to 1992. He rarely worked in the ring and if he did, it was as part of a tag team. At the time Andre was coming up merchandise was scarce but there are some cool pieces with his likeness available.
Television and film were hard to ignore
Roussimoff would get the acting bug throughout his career. Starting in 1967 and lasting sporadically till 1994, he would star in movies and television shows. From B.J. and the Bear to The Fall Guy, guest appearances on the hot TV shows was common for Roussimoff. Movies include Conan the Barbarian and The Princess Bride, among others.
The world said goodbye to Roussimoff on January 27th, 1993. He was 46 years old. He passed due to congestive heart failure.
Rest in peace, André René Roussimoff, aka Andre the Giant. We here at Gravis Ludus Wrestling thank you for all the amazing memories you gave us.
This article was originally published on the Gravis Ludus Wrestling website.