André the Giant is a true legend. Anyone who followed the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) in the 1980s would know what I am talking about. The Goliath of wrestling, André René Roussimoff, brought a generation of fans in front of the TV screen, famously celebrating his magnanimous stature, believing that if André the Giant wanted, he could be the biggest man in show business — literally.
But André was a quiet man, remarkable for an athlete of his caliber, always keen to remain on the sidelines, which is perhaps one reason why he never won major world titles (except for his one-minute reign as WWF Champion on that fateful night in 1988). He was a wrestler — body and soul — and never intended to be anything else.
Despite leaving behind a legion of followers who always refer to André whenever wrestling is brought upon in alcohol-induced conversations, André has been greatly misunderstood. The last years of his life, as a report in Uproxx, showed he was misrepresented by those insistent on making money on his name even during his last days.
Now, 22 years after his death, it is time to revisit his last years and, in the process, dispel some myths about the man. So here are five facts you probably did not know about André the Giant.
André did not die soon after his 1988 epic Wrestlemania III match with Hulk Hogan
One of the biggest lies perpetuated by Hulk Hogan, who has rarely shied away from making provocative, dirty, and often shameful comments about his fellow wrestling stars, was that André the Giant died soon after their epic Wrestlemania III showdown. That was not the case at all. In fact, on February 4, 1988, André won his only WWF World Championship from Hulk Hogan on the NBC network TV special, The Main Event. Although the win was a tainted one, according to Yahoo News, it did draw a whopping 33 million viewers to their TV screens, in the process becoming the most-watched match in the history of pro-wrestling.
And although André’s health continued to deteriorate in the years after his match with Hogan, he continued to wrestle and continued to make appearances for WWF specials, before parting ways and joining WCW.
André continued to wrestle in Japan and Mexico after retiring from wrestling in America
André the Giant was ever the wrestler, and even in the last years of his life when his health did not permit him to fight, the French giant continued to get into the ring. After finishing his time in America, André landed in Japan to wrestle in All Japan Pro Wrestling, alongside fellow wrestling Goliath Giant Baba.
It is believed that he often had to spend entire days without moving after a fight even though as you can see from his penultimate match below, André the Giant did not involve himself actively in the ring for more than two minutes during a match.
Having said that, he gave everything to the audiences even when the Giant’s flailing body did not him permit him to do so.
André did not eat like a beast
One of the major misconceptions attached to André the Giant’s life was that he ate and drank like a beast. While the latter is true, especially during his last days, Andre was not the glutton he is often shown to be.
In fact, according to his longtime friend and handler Tim White, the Giant would always insist restaurants give him the exact same portions White got. Also, he began drinking a lot during the end to suppress the pain inflicted by his acromegaly, the progressive syndrome caused by the excess growth hormone in his system.
The WWF Hall of Fame was created solely as a tribute to André the Giant
When André passed away in 1993, WWF knew it had to do something special to pay tribute to one of its most famous stars. So what did it do? WWF hastily established a Hall of Fame, and André the Giant was its first inductee. André never got the opportunity to give a farewell speech, but if he did, this is probably what he would have said.
“I have had good fortune. I am grateful for my life. If I were to die tomorrow, I know I have eaten more good food, drunk more beer and fine wine, had more friends and seen more of the world than most men ever will.”
André the Giant left his entire fortune to his daughter
Even though André wasn’t on the greatest of terms with his daughter, Robin Christensen Roussimoff, he tried amending their fractured relationship during his last years. When he died, he left everything — his money, his possessions, the rights to his name and likeness — to Robin. André could not be a proper father to his daughter when alive, but in death, he left her a truly lasting legacy.
André the Giant might have departed from this world 22 years ago, but his memories remain fresh in the minds of every wrestling fan in the world. Damn boss, you lived large!
[Image via Ethan/Flickr | Cropped and Resized | CC BY-SA 2.0]