Professional wrestling has had more than its share of giants, but none stood taller in the eyes of wrestling fans than the legendary Andre The Giant. During the 70’s and 80’s, Andre was legitimately the biggest wrestling star in the entire world, and his fame expanded outside the squared circle, even into the realm of Hollywood. Tales of his exploits are numerous, as it seems that every wrestler from that era has a story about Andre, whether about his prodigious size and strength, his impressive capacity for alcohol, or his genial, friendly nature with nearly everyone he met. You could fill a very large book about the legend of Andre The Giant (and several already have been written), and only scratch the surface, but here are some of the most interesting facts we found about wrestling’s most unique Superstar.
10. Driven To School By Samuel Beckett
Any English major or theater buff worth their salt should recognize the name of playwright Samuel Beckett, who wrote dozens of plays and poems, including the famous Waiting For Godot, and received a Nobel Prize for his contributions to literature. That same Samuel Beckett also purchased a large plot of land in France, becoming neighbours and friends with Boris Roussimoff, the father of the man who would one day be known as Andre The Giant. Even at a young age, Andre’s acromegaly made him awkwardly large, to the point that he could not take the bus to school. Upon hearing of Andre’s troubles, Beckett offered to drive him to school in a truck, and the two bonded, apparently over a love of cricket. It’s possible that Beckett was at least partially responsible for Andre’s professed love of the theater, although he never went, because he was afraid that he would block the view of other patrons.
9. Drafted By The French Army
Andre’s massive size caused many incredible complications over his life, from being forced to modify his house to accommodate him, to purchasing multiple seats on airplanes, to being forced to use bathtubs and other fixtures for certain bodily functions when travelling around the world, due to toilets being far too small for him. His large size also managed to make him ineligible for the French army, which he was drafted into during peace time in 1965. When he arrived, however, it was discovered that he was too large to fit into any of the required uniforms, as well as the bunks. In fact, Andre’s size also made it impossible for him to fit inside trenches, which was still a large part of ground combat at the time. In the end, Andre was told to go home.
8. Appeared In Multiple Films/TV Shows
Everyone remembers Andre’s role as Fezzik in the film The Princess Bride, however, Andre actually had several roles in both film and TV that are less well-remembered. He appeared on several popular TV shows in minor roles, such as BJ and The Bear and The Greatest American Hero. He also found his way into more than one Hollywood film in addition to The Princess Bride, inlcuding an uncredited role as Dagoth in Conan The Barbarian, where he became friends with Arnold Schwarzeneggar. Ironically, in the original casting for The Princess Bride (the first attempt to make the movie fell through, before finally being made several years later), Schwarzeneggar was supposed to play Fezzik, because at the time, Andre was too big of a star to have time for filming a movie! After his death, Andre was also the inspiration for the movie My Giant, starring Billy Crystal, who had become good friends with Andre during the filming of The Princess Bride.
7. The Greatest Drunk On Earth
Andre’s love of alcoholic beverages was legendary, as he reportedly consumed over 7,000 calories worth of alcohol every day. Several confirmed stories exist of Andre drinking over a hundred beers or several bottles of wine in a single sitting, and he was given the unofficial title of the “Greatest Drunk on Earth”. In fact, an urban legend (which has never been confirmed) exists which claims that when Andre was having surgery, a problem arose when it came to determining how much anasthesia to use, due to his size, and the doctors allegedly used his level of alcohol tolerance in order determine a basis for the medication. Unfortunately, Andre’s fondness for drinking had a dark side to it, as Andre used it as a form of self-medication due to the massive amount of pain caused by his condition, and also to deal with how awkward his size made him feel in public.
6. The Highest-Paid Wrestler In The World
In 1974, Andre made his way into the Guiness Book of World Records, however, it wasn’t for the reason you might think. In fact, Andre was listed in the book as the highest-paid wrestler in the entire world, with an annual salary of roughly $400,000, which equates to about $2 million by modern standards. While he did make a lot of money (and made several wrestling promoters even more), much of Andre’s wealth went towards the expenses necessary to make him comfortable in a world that was far too small for him. He required custom-made clothing, furniture, and even his home in France had extensive modifications. Andre’s bar bills were also extensive, and the cost of travelling to wrestling events in other countries was prohibitive, given the challenges of finding planes and hotel rooms that could manage his bulk.
5. Andre Always Paid
While he was well-paid for his work, Andre was never selfish with his wealth. Multiple stories have been told about his generosity, especially when dining with friends. Whether he was invited to attend or taking friends out on the town, when you ate and drank with Andre, you never paid the bill. One of the most famous stories of Andre’s insistence on picking up the cheque came from Arnold Schwarzeneggar, who talked about trying to secretly pay for dinner while Andre was distracted. When Andre discovered what Arnold had done, he enacted a swift revenge on his friend, reportedly picking up the future Governor of California (who, let’s not forget, was not a small man) with the assistance of another friend, basketball star Wilt Chamberlain, and dropping the action star on the roof of his car.
4. Not The Tallest Wrestler Ever
Andre may have been a true giant, and the Eighth Wonder of the World, but in wrestling history, there have actually been several other wrestlers who stood taller than his 7’4″ height. Many are not that well-known, but among the names on the list is Giant Gonzalez, a former NBA player who spent time in both WCW and WWE, and was an amazing 7’7″. Gonzalez suffered from a similar condition as Andre, and passed away in 2010 due to diabetic complications resulting from it. Of course, much like The Big Show is now billed as the World’s Largest Athlete, height isn’t the only measurement of size, as Andre also weighed over 500 pounds by the end of his wrestling career. Andre was so large, that when he died, his cremated remains reportedly weighed over 17 pounds.
3. His Daughter
Andre never married, although he was reportedly quite the ladies man, and he did have one daughter, Robin Christensen Roussimoff, who was born in 1979. Andre’s daughter has said that her father’s stardom caused some problems in her life, making it nearly impossible to date. She maintains a professional relationship with WWE, mostly in terms of receiving royalties for use of her father’s likeness, but she also has spoken publicly about disliking the current WWE product, and Vince McMahon in particular, saying that Vince’s father was a far better man than him. She also reportedly wasn’t thrilled with the “OBEY” images of Andre, which were done without permission, although she has been receptive to anyone who wants to use Andre’s legacy for projects, as long as they ask ahead of time.
2. He Wasn’t Really Undefeated Before WrestleMania III
Despite what WWE continues to tell people, Andre was never undefeated for 15 years, and had lost or gone to draws several times in his career before losing to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. Hogan also was not the first man to bodyslam Andre, as that feat was accomplished over a dozen times in the years before WrestleMania III. In fact, Hogan himself bodyslammed Andre during Hogan’s first, unheralded run in WWE, when Hogan actually played a heel against the babyface Giant. However, in an age before the Internet and instantaneous access to information, it’s likely that very few people actually knew the truth. Besides, it did make for a better story, didn’t it?
1. First Inductee Into The WWE Hall of Fame
After Andre’s passing in 1993, WWE established their Hall of Fame, making him the very first and only inductee. At the time, there was no ceremony, and the induction didn’t even take place at WrestleMania. Instead, a video package announcing Andre’s induction was played on an episode of Monday Night Raw. Andre wouldn’t be alone for long, however, as WWE would induct three more classes of Hall of Famers from 1994-1996, before abandoning the concept. WWE would resurrect the Hall of Fame in 2004 for the twentieth edition of WrestleMania, turning it into the yearly ceremony full of spectacle that continues to this day. In 2014, as part of the promotion for the thirtieth edition of WrestleMania, WWE also created the Andre The Giant Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the winner of an annual battle royal at the Pay Per View.