You’ve seen us cover news of the Andre the Giant documentary from HBO Films and Bill Simmons since it was first announced, from all the trailers and updates, to our own official review of the doc from last week. The film debuts on HBO on Tuesday night, first airing at 10 p.m. ET.
Now, get ready for some of our personal fond memories of Andre’s career. Here are our eight favorite moments from the public life of the Eighth Wonder of the World.
The Depth and Soul Of His Poetry
A lot of people don’t know this, but for as good as William Goldman’s screenplay from his own book was, all of Andre the Giant’s lines in The Princess Bride were improvised. It’s true! (it is absolutely not true) There was no moment where Andre’s beautiful off-the-cuff inspiration (again, this is totally not true) was more evident than (again, not true in the slightest) in this perfectly composed in the moment (guys, I’m making this up) eloquently baroque sonnet (last time, 100% making this up. Not even sure I used those last three words correctly.)
Bob Eucker Gonna Die
We will never truly ever be able to fathom the actual extent of Andre’s influence on the world as seen here where the Giant invents the bobblehead while simultaneously re-enacting his audition for Pizza The Hutt in Spaceballs.
What’s actually amazing here is how well so many disparate elements come together. Slapstick and Vanna White references should rarely age well, yet here we are.
Andre’s First Title
That video above is from 1968, and I have never seen it before now. It is incredible. Not only was Andre in his 20th year in the business when he was shaking Eucker into Leslie Nielsen, but he was winning belts that entire time as well.
There is so much to like about that 1968 French Championship match. The woman who shakes hands with Andre and his opponent and then bails. Then the man in the suit who shakes hands with Andre and his opponent and then bails. Then the second man in the suit who shakes hands and then bails. I wish every match was like this. Just a lot of very respectful greetings between super nice bespoked people and giant men in their underwear. Honestly, how would this not improv a Corbin vs. English match by a million percent?
It’s so crazy to see a young, strangely lithe Andre doing lock-ups, headlocks and groundwork. The backbreaker into the body slam into the pin where Franz Van Buyten is trying to kick out but just … can’t is so, so great. I legitimately laughed out loud when they tried to put the belt on Andre and were like, “Oh, right … ” I guess it would have given away the finish if Franz came to the ring wearing a belt the size of a hula hoop.
Feats of Strength
I LOVE this type of Wide World of Sports meets late night infomercial style of wrestling vignettes. How I would have killed for ESPN to have The World’s Strongest Man Contest airing at 3am back when Andre Rene Roussimoff was in his prime.
On second thought, to hell with that! I wish The Mountain had been played by Andre. Watching him crush the Red Viper’s skull (played by George Hamilton, natch) in 1983 would have been the jam.
Love At First Sight
It’s always fun to remember that the first time these two men not only had their roles reversed it also serves as a reminder of how big a deal it was when Andre turned heel. It’s really fun watching Heel Hulk let Classy Freddie Blassie put him over with great one liners like, “My man will snuff him up one nostril and blow him out the other! Undefeated? Undefeated for what?!?”
That’s just solid shit talking right there. The “I want it!”/”I accept that challenge!” multiple back-and-forth is so old school wrestling, I just became Gene Anderson and had to lay down for a minute. I hope the WWE goes back, watches this match and then realize that it’s totally okay for Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns to be buddy-buddy for a year and a half.
The match is great for several reasons but mostly because he’s still being introduced as “The Incredible Hulk Hogan,” Andre blading from the foreign object in the elbow pad and the match never really actually ending; it just sort of stops.
Oh, and I double-checked my notes here, but it appears that Hulk body slams Andre in this match but it is not the finish. Huh. Weird.
And to think, at one point, these two were the best of friends.
Between Two Ferns with Roddy Piper
Everyone knows the famous stuff about Andre and the documentary will cover that amply but I don’t think Andre ever truly gets the credit he’s due for being, you know, just really good at the art of wrestling. That live segment above has it all and Andre’s timing on the mic is flawless. You can’t go one on one with one of the greatest talkers in the history of the business if you’re a chump. In two minutes, they cover all the bases beautifully and the folks are screaming at the end.
Bonus points for Piper’s “You do not throw rocks at a man who’s got a machine gun!” He’s talking about Andre The Giant and Piper’s claiming he’s got more weapons. Hilarious.
Listen to how jazzed everyone is for this match! Andre is tossing Piper into the ring while homeboy is still saying his name!
Here’s the Rowdy one weighing in on working, and dealing with, the 8th Wonder of the World.
You Just Made The List
It is incredible to me not only how dedicated and smart Andre was about the business of professional wrestling but also how f’ing ballsy some guys were in pissing off a dude who could decide in an instant to be a less honorable man and wreck your shit.
Kudos to you, Big John Studd and Iron Sheik. You’re both maniacs.
Snatching Hogan’s Chain
After I made a point about that body slam up top, you all knew this was going to be Number One. At one point, there are five Hall of Famers at the height of their powers in the frame of that shot and that is why we all have the fond memories that we do of this era.
Everyone was on fire. Heenan is working a semi-shoot. Hogan is doing the best acting of his life. Roddy is showing why he’s always been the better actor than Hulk because of the great sympathetic turn he takes at the end. Jesse Ventura is bouncing around in the background and giving support work like his name is Craig Cackowski.
And the whole time there is Andre the Giant. Using his size and strength to portray the menace the business needed at the time it needed it most. Without this moment, by Andre’s grace, WrestleMania III doesn’t exist the way we remember and the business wouldn’t become what it is now.
The cross. The shirt. The blood. The slam. The Giant. Forever and ever.
Enjoy the show.