Andre The Giant – The Real Guy
CANADA - FEBRUARY 27: Hot hype: Andre The Giant spews vitriol at the referee as fans put in their two cents' worth. (Photo by Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Andre Rene Roussimoff, better known to the world as, Andre the Giant, had American wrestling fans in the palm of his hand… and that literally could have been the case! Andre hailed from France where he began his wrestling career at the age of 18. He was trained by a man named, Frank Valois, a former French wrestler, himself. Andre’s enormous body was a sight to behold. Quite simply put, Andre was a GIANT, so the name just fit him to a tee.
Frank Valois was not just Andre the Giant’s trainer but also his bodyguard.
When thinking about Andre’s mammoth stature, it is almost comical that he needed a bodyguard. Andre stood 7 feet, 4 inches tall and weighed 520 pounds. He debuted his pro wrestling career in 1966 and didn’t take long to make a name and following for himself. His first stop was Paris where his talent was quickly realized. Andre debuted in Japan in 1970 where he was billed as, Monster Roussimoff. Eventually, he made his way to the United States where he was met with open arms. He put on quite a show.
Andre the Giant was the first international wrestling great and was introduced to American wrestling fans when he was inducted into the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), later known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
WrestleMania was just one of Andre the Giant’s claims to fame.
Andre was an all-time fan favorite here in America. He went for some time without being defeated in the ring. He was not only a good showman but also a giant… a gentle giant. Andre was such a crowd pleaser that he was the first person to ever be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame (class of 1993).
Andre, the Giant’s size was a result of a condition called gigantism.
Gigantism is a condition that is caused by the body having excess growth hormones. This condition catapulted Andre the Giant to the top of the wrestling world. He was so large that he was referred to as, “the eighth wonder of the world.”
Andre the Giant was featured in the 1974 Guinness Book Of World Records being named the highest paid wrestler in history to date at that time.
Although Andre the Giant enjoyed epic celebrity status, there was an unseen side to the man who was a legend to many.
Andre the Giant was unarguably a legend in his own time. That, however, didn’t mean he wasn’t without his demons. Andre was also referred to as, “the greatest drunk on Earth.” This was a title that he wasn’t proud of. He actually had people secretly follow him around on his “off” time to make sure there wasn’t a recurrence of the time he reportedly got so drunk that he fell on someone severely injuring them.
Due to the giantism he suffered from, Andre was in constant pain. He self-medicated with alcohol. There were treatment options for the pain, but he wouldn’t humor them because he was afraid of what it might do to his career. By treating his condition, he was afraid that it would alter his body and ruin his career.
In addition to Andre’s medical condition and alcoholism, he also faced many other issues.
Being known as a giant was awesome for Andre’s career but not so much for his personal life. Because of his size, he stood out in any crowd and realized as much criticism as he did celebrity status. He didn’t “fit in” anywhere but in the wrestling ring. The world just isn’t built for a 7 foot, 4-inch man. Outside the ring, he was less a wrestling great and more of an oddity to be gawked at. Everything he wore, bought or used had to be custom made to accommodate his massive body size.
After his death in 1993, some of Andre the Giant’s friends including Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon and Nature Boy Ric Flair describe what life was like for the gentle giant to give the world some insight.
Andre’s medical condition caused many other incidentals in his life. He suffered terrible emotional struggles. He was living in a world that wasn’t able to accommodate his size. Everything from buying clothes to transportation posed a problem for Andre. Even as a child, he was too large to ride the school bus and had to be driven to school each day. Underneath all of his success was a very unhappy man.
In addition to being a wrestler, Andre the Giant was also an actor, a ranch owner, a father, and a friend; but mostly he was just a guy with real struggles just like the rest of us.
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