The Day The Giant Died: 25 Years Ago, Andre The Giant Passed

Andre The Giant

In a Paris hotel room on January 27, 1993, Andre Roussimoff, known the world over as The 8th Wonder of the World, Andre the Giant, was found dead at the age of 46. Congestive heart failure finally did what so many men had failed to do in nearly 30 years as a professional wrestler – bring the Giant down.

Andre the Giant was born in Grenoble, France and developed gigantism early. By the age of 12, he was already 6’3″ and over 200 lbs. As a child, he had trouble fitting in and had to walk to school – his large frame made it impossible to share the school bus with his classmates. Luckily, his next door neighbour was Nobel Prize winning author Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot) who drove Andre to school most mornings, as the two bonded over their love for the sport of cricket.

Andre The Giant
Andre at 19 was already 7’4″

At the age of 17, he moved to Paris where he began his professional wrestling career. He was spotted by French-Canadian promoter Frank Valois, who became his trainer and adviser. He began his career known as Géant Ferré, working around mainland Europe, the United Kingdom, before heading to Japan in 1970. The following year, Valois brought him over to his native Canada, where he began to work with Maple Leaf Wrestling in Toronto, as well as in the US with Verne Gagne‘s AWA in the US.

Photo: Tony Lanza

Throughout the 1970s, he would become the most famous wrestler in the world, on a level never again seen until Hulkamania would take hold in 1983-84. His stature and size made him a “must see” spectacle – rarely did men as large as Andre possess the athleticism he displayed early in his career, or the raw power he possessed. Giants were more often larger in the girth, like Haystacks Calhoun or Gorilla Monsoon, that gigantic in height. Andre truly became the 8th Wonder of the World.

Andre The Giant
Photo: Dr. Mike Lano

Throughout the 1970s, Andre the Giant was one of the most in-demand freelance wrestlers in the world – he worked runs with promotions like the WWWF, NWA, NJPW, AWA, Stampede Wrestling, as well as in the vibrant Montreal wrestling scene. He began to call Montreal his second home (he even owned one of Montreal’s major promotions during the early 80s). But it was Vince McMahon Sr. in the WWWF who began to turn Andre the Giant into the monster he’s best remembered as today – McMahon Sr. changed his name to Andre the Giant and began to suggest changes to his character, such as removing the more athletic spots and focusing on his power moves.

In 1976, while the world was getting ready to watch boxing icon Muhammad Ali face NJPW’s Antonio Inoki, Andre the Giant faced boxer Chuck Wepner in the main event of the WWWF sponsored live event in New York that showed the Ali-Inoki match at the event’s closure on closed circuit television. It was Andre and Chuck’s match that would inspire Sylvester Stallone to add the Rocky vs Thunderlips, “boxer vs. wrestler” match into Rocky III.

Andre The Giant
Photo: WWE

When Vince McMahon Jr. took over the WWWF from his father in 1982 and rebranded it to the WWF, he worked to lock down Andre the Giant to an exclusive WWF only deal (although it still took several years – Andre worked with NWA territories and NJPW up until 1986). A perennial face for the majority of his previous two decade run, McMahon pulled the trigger on Andre’s first major heel turn in 1987 to set up one of the most important feuds in pro wrestling history – to go opposite WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan.

Photo: WWE

The main event of WrestleMania III, WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, on March 29, 1987, gained worldwide mainstream press coverage and made the WWF the undisputed “world wide leader in sports entertainment”. Hogan’s defeat of Andre was the ultimate passing of the torch to most viewers, as the greatest wrestling attraction of the 1970s was defeated by the next generation’s leader.

Photo: WWE

Andre rarely wore singles gold in his career. He had occasional runs in a tag team championship tandem, but Andre’s mystique was too great to have him win a title and then have to lose it without hurting his monstrous aura. In 1985, he won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship (although at the time, it was still an annual tournament instead of a belt), and in 1988, he would finally win his first singles championship, by defeating Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. But he would almost immediately vacate the belt and sell it to his benefactor at the time, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase – it was declared vacant shortly after. His health, however, was deteriorating quicker than ever, as his position as the WWF’s top heel shone. The gigantism never stopped and his body continued to fight increasing health problems as his body continue to grow and was failing to maintain the mass he was carrying.

Andre The Giant
Photo: WWE

He was put into the tag team division once again, in hopes to limit his ring work further – winning WWF World Tag Team gold with Haku in 1989 – but the travel and work was becoming more and more cumbersome for a man his size and with his health issues. His final WWF match was one that he usually always conquered – a battle royal at a House Show. But that night, on May 10, 1991, he failed to win, and Kerry Von Erich won the #1 Contendership to Mr. Perfect’s Intercontinental Championship. He would make sporadic appearances for the WWF, but his final appearance for Vince McMahon Jr. would be in British Bulldog‘s corner at a House Show in Paris, France that October. With Ted Turner now in control of several NWA territories amalgamated into WCW, he looked to add Andre the Giant to his roster, but he was limited to just appearances. His final TV appearance was being interviewed at a WCW special pre-Clash of Champions XX in 1992.

In early 1993, he travelled to Paris to attend his father’s funeral and decided to extend his stay in order to stay for his mother’s birthday. Unfortunately, Andre the Giant’s giant heart could take more, and he passed away in his sleep. And the world of professional wrestling lost one of it’s most beloved icons.

The anniversary of his death comes just days after the trailer for HBO‘s new documentary chronicling his life, Andre the Giant, hitting the internet.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network.  Looking to talk wrestling, pro football, or any number of sports? Head on over to the LWOS Boards to engage in conversation with fellow fans!

7 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Back in the day about 1969 or 1970 I was selling autographed pictures for a lot of the stars of Stampede Wrestling at the Auditoruim in Regina. Andre was wrestling one night and the othere wrestlers metioned me regarding selling Andre’s pictures as well. I was making a nickel on every picture that I sold. Anyway with Andre being the main event and who he was I had sold out his pictures very quickly. I was 12 or 13 at the time but when I met him. When Andre was informed that I had sold all his autographed pictures I was allowed backstage to meet him. He shook my hand and then put me on his shoulders. Man that was one of my highlights growing up. 41 years later and whenever I hear the name Andre The Giant I get flashbacks to that great night a long time ago.

  2. re: NEED TO LEGALLY CREDIT My Andre Battle Royal Shot here that I took and own all rights to. Pls confirm this is going to be done. It doesn’t need to be taken down if you’ll properly either put a watermark credit over it with my name, email or write alongside it: Photo by [email protected](Dr Mike Lano). I shot that at our annual 22 man battle royal show as our territories long-time ringside photographer for our program. I can help since I know the other photographers including that 1972 Andre photo shot by Tony Lanza in Andre’s 1st territory of Montreal/Grand Prix/Vachon. There are other shots I’ve taken and own uncredited on this website all over, and I can work with you on getting these credited too but today out of the blue, several friends pointed this Andre shot of mine out angrily. Saying I needed to contact U guys but Michale Kovacs should provide a direct, easy email address to do so.

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