Andre The Giant: Fierce In The Ring But Mr. Nice Guy In Real Life
Though his English was not good or intelligible, Andre the Giant, the pro wrestler, became a beloved entertainer for an American and global fan base. He was fierce in the ring, standing over 7 feet tall and weighing over 500 pounds, there was little doubt that he could cause pain and humiliation against men who seemed to be half his size. But Andre Rene Roussimoff projected a good-natured personality when not playing the vicious heel grappler -- it's a cliche, but he did seem to be a gentle giant. Andre the Giant was generous with the money he'd made from wrestling and acting; Andre the Giant liked to party, perhaps a little too much; and Andre the Giant had a posse (like the poster says) -- this charismatic beast of a man was well liked, and mourned by the wrestling community when he died at the age of 46.
All That Size Had To Be Good For Something
Andre the Giant 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.
Frank Valois was not just Andre the Giant’s trainer but also his bodyguard -- and yes, when you think 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 began 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 made his debut on the Japanese wrestling scene 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 joined the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), later known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF).
Wrestling Introduced Andre To America
Andre was an all-time fan favorite here in America. He went 15 years withour suffering an official defeat in WWF matches, although he did lose some bouts when he wrestled outside the WWF. 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.
A Big, Big -- Huge -- Star
Andre the Giant appeared in numerous TV series, including The Six Million Dollar Man and BJ And The Bear, and a handful of movies. By far, the role for which he will be remembered, is that of Fezzik in The Princess Bride (1987). The chemistry between the immense, deep-voiced Fezzik and his smaller, whiny companion Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) was one of the strengths of the film:
Vizzini: No more rhymes now, I mean it.
Fezzik: Anybody want a peanut?
Andre The Giant Liked To Party
Although Andre the Giant enjoyed epic celebrity status, there was an unseen side to the man who was a legend to many. 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 gigantism he suffered from, Andre was in constant pain. He self-medicated with alcohol. There were treatment options for the pain, but he wouldn’t consider them because he was afraid of what it might do to his career. He was afraid that treating his condition would alter his body and ruin his career.
The Lonely Life Of A Giant
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 inspired gawking and fear from those who didn't follow his wrestling exploits. 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.
Andre The Giant's Legacy
After his death in 1993 from congestive heart failure, some of Andre the Giant’s friends including Hulk Hogan, Vince McMahon and Nature Boy Ric Flair described what life was like for the gentle giant to give the world some insight.
Andre’s medical condition had numerous other effects 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 and good nature, he was unhappy.
Andre the Giant owned a ranch in North Carolina that was his escape; friends say that he was happiest there, living the quiet life and caring for his animals.
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