Andre the Giant is one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time. A global sports star before the term applied to his profession, the living mountain left a legendary mark on the world while he was alive. Stories of how much beer he could drink and steak he could eat in one sitting have become mythical. The people closest to him remember Andre as a prankster with a love for partying.
The real story of Andre the Giant is filled with humor, sadness, and incredible heart. His legacy is so extraordinary that he was the first and only inductee of the inaugural WWE Hall of Fame class!
He Scared Guard Dogs
Maxing out at over seven feet tall and 500 pounds, not many people have been more intimidating than Andre the Giant. Roger Sembazzia remembers one occasion when his trained guard dogs ran for cover at the sight of Andre.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Andre laughed, “these two dogs were supposed to be so mean… the dog got one look at me and ran the other way as fast as could go.” A towering inferno of a man, it’s not hard to blame the dogs. Andre wasn’t a threat in real life, though, he was a legendary drinker.
The School Bus Was Too Small
At 12-years-old, Andre Rousimoff was 6’3″ and over 240 pounds. Taking the bus to school was not an option. He never fit. The only kind of vehicle he did fit in was a pick-up truck. Luckily enough his neighbor, Samuel Beckett, had just what he needed and was friends with his dad.
Beckett, no stranger to fame himself, was a renowned playwright. His most famous work is Waiting for Godot. On the car rides to school, however, Beckett and Roussimoff didn’t talk about the stage or the ring. They conversed about cricket, their one common interest. The experience was so strange for Beckett he ended up writing a play about it!
Andre Would Move Friends’ Cars As A Prank
Always a jokester, one of Andre the Giant’s favorite pranks was to move friends’ cars when they weren’t looking. He was not getting in the car and driving away. Andre would pick up the vehicle and carry it to a new location. It was his way of getting back at friends who owned cars he could never fit it.
Where exactly would Andre the Giant leave the cars? It depended on how much fun he wanted to have. Sometimes he would only turn the vehicle around. Other more devious times he would place the car in small spaces between lamp posts and buildings.
He Was Too Large To Enlist In The Army
At 19-years-old Andre was given a draft notice by the French Peace Time Army but was unable to enlist. Fate had other plans for the Giant and the army did not have any shoes that would fit him. He was also too long to fit in French bunks and too large to hide in trenches.
Andre’s failure to enlist allowed him to focus on wrestling. He trained in Paris at night and worked as a mover during the day. In 1963 he made his debut as a professional in the United Kingdom. Ten-years-later he made his WWE debut. Before coming to America he even wrestled in Japan!
He Discovered His Growth Disorder In Japan
In 1970 Andre Roussimoff left the United Kingdom to wrestle in Japan for International Wrestling Enterprise. It was here he learned of his acromegaly. The adult form of gigantism, acromegaly affects the size of a person’s hands, feet, and face as human growth hormone is overproduced. The affliction caused Andre great bodily pain, but also gave him a massive advantage in the ring. Because of this, he refused to get corrective surgery.
Fighting in tag team and individual tournaments, “Monster Roussimoff” was one of the best. Soon after his debut, he was named tag team champion alongside Michael Nador. Three years later the “Monster” would become the “Giant” in the United States.
Andre Had A Literal Miracle Child
Suffering from acromegaly meant Andre the Giant should have been sterile. Living to defy the odds, Andre had a daughter in 1979. When he died, Robin Christensen Rousimoff inherited his entire estate. When he was alive, Andre never got to know his daughter since he committed to living a life on the road.
The one time Robin was supposed to spend time with her father she backed out. Just 10-years-old, she was invited to meet Andre on his ranch in North Carolina. Wary about hanging out with a literal giant she didn’t know, Robin never ended up going. It was the last chance she would have to get to know him.
QVC Was His Not-So-Secret Addiction
One of Andre the Giant’s greatest pleasures in life was buying stuff from QVC. Spending more time in North Carolina near the end of his life, Andre developed an addiction to the television shopping network. Shopping at home, Andre never had to worry about causing a scene in public, which he loathed.
He would reportedly spend hours in his custom-made recliners buying useless things from QVC. There was nothing he loved more than spending money, especially on family and friends. He always made it a point to pay for every dinner bill.
Andre Picked Up The Terminator For Buying Him A Meal
Always preferring to give rather than take, Andre the Giant became upset after dinner with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Wilt Chamberlain. Late in the evening Arnold snuck off and paid for the meal. Walking back to their cars after, Andre decided to get revenge outside.
When they got to Arnold’s car, Andre picked Arnold up off the ground and placed him on his car. Towering more than a foot over Arnold, Andre had no problem pulling this move off! There is no report of whether he said, “I’ll be back” as he walked away.
Soon, we’ll learn the reason Andre the Giant drank so much
His WWE Title Didn’t Count
In 1988 Andre the Giant fought Hulk Hogan for the World Championship title and won. Unfortunately, the fight was rigged by “evil” rev Earn Hebner. Andre was forced to give the title belt back after just one minute. The title was left vacated and Andre never had another fair shot at it.
The circus that was Wrestlemania III, however, did attract the largest audience in the history of the sport. Bolstered by Andre’s gimmicky title match, 33 million people tuned into NBC on February 4 to watch in shock and awe.
He Was The First Member Of The WWE Hall Of Fame
After his death in 1993, the WWE honored the life of Andre the Giant by creating the WWE Hall of Fame. Andre was the league’s only inductee that inaugural year and no ceremony was held. His induction took place posthumously on an episode of Monday Night Raw.
The next year WWE held their first induction ceremony. During the event, the commentator discussed Andre the Giant’s induction. Never intended to air on television, a condensed version was produced in 2015 for the WWE Network. It features plenty of footage of Andre’s signature Sitdown Splash and Double Underhook Suplex.
Returning Home At 19 Andre’s Parents Didn’t Recognize Him
When Andre Rousinmoff returned home at 19-years-old after five years away his parents didn’t recognize him. Because of his acromegaly, Andre grew to over seven feet tall and looked nothing like his former self. His parents admitted after they had seen him wrestle on TV as Jean Ferre without realizing it was their son.
The reunion, as told by Sports Illustrated in 1981, depicted Andre as lighthearted about the situation. Knowing his parents wouldn’t recognize him, he asked them a number of questions about his Rolls Royce until his father finally saw his son’s “twinkling eyes.”
Still to come: the real reason behind Andre’s drinking
Farting On Opponents Made Him Happy
Andre the Giant, like most men, loved a good fart joke while he was alive. In one match against Jake “the Snake” Roberts, the Giants sat on the Snake’s face and let it rip. Roberts said after that the wind didn’t break for at least 30 seconds, adding, “Giant’s farts are for extremely long periods of time.”
Farting in the ring wasn’t the only way Andre would mess with his opponents. He enjoyed stepping on their hair if it was long. His greatest trick, though, was to wring the sweat from his singlet onto their face.
Andre And Randy Savage Feuded Over Baby Oil
Randy “Macho Man” Savage would bathe himself in baby oil before fights. Andre the Giant hated baby oil so much his opponents wouldn’t use it during matches. Except for Randy Savage, who said, “Andre’s gimmick is being a giant and mine is baby oil.”
Savage’s refusal to give up baby oil affected the pair’s relationship outside the ring. Andre the Giant had very few real-life enemies, and Randy Savage was one of his biggest. The feud was immature, to say the least, but made for extra special sparks when the two met in the ring.
He Could Drink More Than 7,000 Calories In A Day
Olympic powerlifter Terry Todd used to drink with Andre the Giant. According to his story, he learned early on not to match drinks with the famed wrestler. Todd witnessed the Giant regularly consume more than 7,000 calories of alcohol each day.
In 1981, Todd recalled that on a typical day Andre the Giant would drink an entire case of beer. He would wash that down with two full bottles of wine. For dessert, Andre would throw back up to eight shots of brandy. Once the time came for his second dessert, the Giant would consume at least six mixed drinks.
Coming up: the heartbreaking reason Andre drank so much.
After Passing Out Drunk A Hotel Put A Velvet Rope Around Him
After the first script read-through of The Princess Bride, Andre the Giant had too much drink and passed out in his hotel lobby. The story, recounted by co-star Cary Elwes, turned out to be the actors first of many drinking adventures with Andre.
Elwes says Andre the Giant’s drink of choice was “the American.” The cocktail is various liquors mixed in a pitcher. Andre would consume a number of these in one sitting. The night in question, he had a few too many and passed out. Unable to move the 550-pound star the hotel staff surrounded him with a velvet rope so other patrons wouldn’t trip over him.
Andre The Giant Wasn’t An Alcoholic, He Was In Severe Pain
Suffering from acromegaly didn’t give Andre the Giant the luxury of living his life without pain. His body never stopped growing. Carrying so much extra weight on his back, Andre was always in incredible pain. Doctors performed several surgeries but never knew what pain medication to prescribe because of his size.
To deal with the pain, Andre the Giant drank. A lot. It was the only way he could feel comfortable. Incredibly, he rarely actually got drunk. On the set of The Princess Bride, he was never late, never slurred his speech, and never missed a line. Wait until you hear about his school bus adventures…
His Signature Black Singlet Hid A Back Brace
Destroyed physically by acromegaly and years of wrestling, Andre the Giant underwent spinal surgery in 1986. To keep wrestling he needed to wear a back brace to support his figure. He hid the extra support under his iconic black singlet, which severely limited his mobility in the ring.
Ironically, some of Andre’s most famous fights were during this late-career period. His Title winning match against Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III is the most famous. If you watch the match closely you can see how limited Andre was in his movement and how much he relied on basic fighting moves instead of the flashier ones from his younger days.
In 1989 He Was Named “Most Embarrassing Wrestler”
By the end of his WWE career, Andre the Giant had gained just about every achievement possible. His awards shelf was finally complete in 1989 when Wrestling Observers Newsletter named him the “Most Embarrassing Wrestler.” The award wasn’t given for anything embarrassing the Giant did. He received the honor for how he embarrassed his opponents.
One of his biggest embarrassments came against Demon. Before a match, Andre was signing autographs ringside for children. Demon attacked him out of nowhere. Andre grabbed him by the mask and threw him across the ring. Demon frantically grabbed a towel to cover his face and ran off.
The Giant’s Pocketbook Was Just As Big
In 1974 the Guinness Book of World Records listed Andre the Giant as the highest-paid wrestler ever. At his peak in the 70’s. Andre was making $400,000 a year. Another million was added from outside sources such as sponsorships and television appearances.
Worth two million dollars, Andre the Giant lived a lavish lifestyle. He traveled in a customized van and always flew first class. And his 7,000 calories of alcohol a day was all high-end beer, wine, and spirits. For all the luxury in his life, there was just as much pain, so it’s comforting to know that Andre died peacefully in his sleep when it his time to leave the world.
Andre Died In Paris After Attending His Father’s Funeral
In 1993, Andre the Giant received a call from Paris informing him about his father’s declining health. At the time, Andre’s health was declining just as rapidly. Shortly after attending his father’s funeral, Andre the Giant went to sleep in his hotel bed and never woke up. He was 46-years-old.
The official cause of death was congestive heart failure. After years of unbearable pain and heavy drinking, the Giant’s heart gave out on him. Choosing to be cremated after death, Andre’s ashes were just as big he was. His final weigh in, for the record, was 17 pounds.
Final Resting Place
Although Andre’s family had planned to bury him in Paris, near his recently-deceased father. However, the wrestler’s final will explicitly stated that he wanted to be cremated. According to some accounts, it took the family two weeks to find a cremation facility large enough to manage his size. Although they held a funeral for Andre in Paris, his family respected these wishes and returned his ashes to the United States.
He is buried in a garden at his former home in Ellerbe, North Carolina. His one beneficiary was daughter Robin.
Too Large For The World
Many of the people closest to Andre say that despite his gargantuan size and stage persona, he was very emotionally sensitive. In HBO’s documentary André the Giant, Hulk Hogan describes incidents where his sheer size caused embarrassing problems, including having to urinate into buckets on flights when he couldn’t get out of his seat to reach the restroom.
In the same documentary, Andre revealed that “It’s difficult everywhere I go. They don’t have anything for big people. They’ve got everything for blind people, for crippled people, for some other people but not for big people. So, we have to fit in there and it’s not too easy all the time.”
He Almost Drowned Two Men
Andre the Giant director Jason Hehir shared with TheWrap a shocking story that had to be cut from the movie for time. Ric Flair, Andre, Dusty Rhodes and Blackjack Mulligan were together at a southern beach town. During an evening of drinking, Mulligan punched Andre in the face.
The giant grabbed Mulligan and Rhodes, dragged them both outside, and began to drown them both in the surf. Luckily for the two men, Ric Flair came to their rescue and convinced Andre to return inside. He did and started drinking again as if nothing had happened.
Trash Can-Sized Appetite For Booze
As mentioned, Andre had a supernatural talent for consuming massive quantities of booze. During Andre’s tour of Amarillo, Texas, in the 70s, young wrestler Ted DiBiase was tasked with keeping the giant happy. They went out to a bar for drinks.
DiBiase later told CBS Sports that a waitress approached their table and asked what they’d like. “Andre asked her if she had a big trash can,” DiBiase recalled. “She said ‘Yeah, we got a bunch of ’em.’ He said ‘Empty a trash can and fill it with beer and ice.’ And she looked at me like, ‘He can’t be serious.'” She did it anyway, bringing two or three cases of beer in a trash can.
A Life Story Perfect For Comic Books
The public’s interest in Andre the Giant hasn’t waned in the years since his death. His incredible life inspired at least two graphic novels. Andre The Giant: Closer To Heaven, by Brandon Easton, was released in 2016. And Andre the Giant: Life and Legend (Box Brown) was first published in 2014.
Box Brown wrote that a graphic novel was a wonderful vehicle for a story as unusual as Andre’s: “When working on Andre’s story I was really trying to be careful. I tried to put myself in Andre’s shoes, which is difficult given the extraordinary nature of his life.”
Last WWF Appearances
Because his health had deteriorated so much, Andre limited grueling wrestling appearances during the final years of his life. His last pay-per-view appearance for WWF was at SummerSlam ’91. The event was at Madison Square Garden and many fans remember it because Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth were “married” on camera.
Later that year, Andre toured England with WWF. For the 1992 Survivor Series, Andre returned to the ring for the final time.He was dead by the end of January of 1993.
The Redskins Wanted Him
The Washington Redskins were having a tough time with their defensive line in 1975, so they turned to one of the largest athletes in the world: Andre. The wrestler was offered a chance to try out for the team!
The team even called the World Wide Wrestling Federation’s offices to get permission and held a press conference in Washington, D.C. Although Andre and Vincent McMahon both attended the conference, the wrestler never did try out for the team. Instead, Andre clinched the WWE Championship that year.
How The Princess Bride Was Cast
An entire generation of non-wrestling fans adores Andre the Giant for his previously mentioned work in the cult classic 1987 film The Princess Bride. He played the lovable giant Fezzik in the movie. But initially, the film’s producers believed they should look for a basketball player to fit the role.
In TheWrap, casting director Jane Jenkins disclosed the following about the scouting process: “So this Fezzik character, this giant, what are we talking about? Am I looking for a basketball player?” She asked the original book’s author. “Oh no, I want a giant like André the Giant,” was the answer she received.
Who Else Could Have Filled Those Shoes?
While trying to locate a good giant in The Princess Bride, casting director Jane Jenkins says that she scoped out every tall person she passed while on the streets in Los Angeles. She thought to herself that anyone who could fit through a doorway was well too short.
There were several other contenders, but producers really wanted Andre. Unfortunately, he was booked for a multi-million dollar wrestling match in Japan while they were holding rehearsals. Fate intervened, however; his match was canceled and Andre made it to meet Jenkins and the other casting staff in Paris.
As mentioned previously, Andre the Giant loved to fart. This hobby carried over from his wrestling days and appeared during his acting career as well. On the 30th anniversary reunion for the surviving cast of The Princess Bride, co-star Cary Elwes had this story to share with fans via ABC:
On the first day of filming, the cast was so comfortable together already that Andre “let out a 16 second fart and brought production to a standstill. It could be heard three counties away. “Nobody said anything except Rob [Reiner], who said ‘Are you OK, André?’ and André replied, ‘I am now boss.’ He was comfortable enough to do that!”
OBEY THE GIANT
Andre the Giant is the focus of a street art campaign, started by activist/artist Shepard Fairey in Rhode Island in the late 1990s. Stickering featuring the late, great wrestler’s stylized image began appearing across the world, with the phrase “Andre the Giant has a Posse.” The wording says simply “OBEY” at times.
Fairey explained to Format magazine how the meme started. “The Andre the Giant sticker was just a spontaneous, happy accident. I was teaching a friend how to make stencils in the summer of 1989, and I looked for a picture to use in the newspaper, and there just happened to be an ad for wrestling with André the Giant and I told him that he should make a stencil of it…. I thought it was funny so I made the stencil and I made a few stickers and the group of guys I was hanging out with always called each other The Posse, so it said Andre the Giant Has a Posse, and it was sort of appropriated from hip-hop slang – Public Enemy, N.W.A and Ice-T were all using the word.”
No Love Lost With Kamala
The legendary wrestler Kamala fought against Andre in the 1980s, and the two had a rivalry during much of the decade. Kamala wrestled wearing a loincloth, bare feet, and full face paint, calling himself a “headhunter.”
Kamala has come out in recent times about the racist and sexist culture of wrestling, and specifically mentioned Andre: “Andre wasn’t the friendly guy that he appeared to be. He was real temperamental and had a nasty attitude. When I first started working with him, he called me a (derogatory) name in the ring and I beat him up. After that, I never had another problem with him. A lot of (top guys had problems with Andre too). He would just go out and mop the floor with people. He treated (wrestlers) nasty, and the fans too.” There are even reports of Andre and Kamala getting into fistfights outside the ring.
Bad News Allen
There was also beef between Andre and another wrestler, Bad News Allen. Allen had similar complaints that Kamala did against Andre, stemming from some offensive remarks allegedly made by the giant during a tour the two wrestlers took together in Mexico in 1992. Andre was already in bad health at this point.
In this situation, Andre had a stomach virus and had been consuming tequila steadily. When a match between Andre and Allen began, hell broke loose in the giant’s digestive system. He started to perform his famous “butt bump” move to Allen’s face, but instead completely lost control of his bowels. Allen was nicknamed “Bad News Brown” by many after the disgusting accident.
Andre And Ric Flair Drained A Plane Of Its Vodka Stock
Andre’s wrestling associates have some colorful, and seemingly endless, tales of his drinking habits. In his autobiography To Be the Man, Ric Flair wrote about a time the two traveled to Japan from Chicago.
As Flair recounts the story, “I was with him one night at the Downtowner in Charlotte. In 1975, he drank 106 beers. And Frank Valois, his manager at that time, drank 56….. Hey, I’ve been on a plane, on a 747 with him going to Tokyo out of Chicago, on No. 4 on Northwest. We drank every bottle of vodka on the plane.”
He Always Wanted To See A Play
Out of all the things that Andre got to do in his life, there was nothing that he never actually got to do. Believe it or not, Andre had always wanted to see a play on Broadway.
The reason that he never did was that he was a considerate person. He didn’t want to block anybody else’s view from seeing the show because of his size. That shows what a friendly and thoughtful person he was if he wasn’t able to convenience anyone to check something off of his bucket list.
Relationship With The Rock
How is Andre the Giant related to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? This photo, shared on Twitter by The Rock, seems to claim so. The caption reads “At 5, I never knew why people got so excited to see him.. to me he was just “Uncle Andre”;) #MissU #TBTpic.twitter.com.”
Based on this, many fans might believe that Andre was indeed The Rock’s uncle. However, the two weren’t blood-related. Johnson’s dad, Rocky Johnson, was a professional wrestler and their families were close. This led little Rock to call Andre his uncle.
You Might Guess That He Had Enormous Fingers
Of course, Andre needed fingers to match the giant body he grew into. His were supposedly so large that playing piano was out of the question, as they would each have spanned three keys.
Andre’s rings were so huge that entire silver dollars could fit into the holes where his fingers would go. And he was known to use his large fingers against his opponents in the ring. According to a 2011 interview with Hulk Hogan, Andre would sometimes insert one of those big thumbs into a rival’s bum during a match.
He Was A Bad Influence On Co-Workers
According to some reports, Andre’s heavy drinking tended to rub off on his colleagues, especially the ones he worked with on the set of The Princess Bride. Apparently, co-stars Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin were drinking buddies of his during filming, but just couldn’t keep up.
UpRoxx claims that this led to many of the film’s stars showing up for work hungover. Considering that Andre supposedly had a $40,000 bar tab at the London Hyatt while The Princess Bride was in filming, it’s not surprising that mere mortals couldn’t match him drink for drink.
More Problems, Size-Wise
Image credit: PROTANAKA Juuyoh /Flickr
When you’re as large as Andre the Giant, you tend to run into a lot of problems doing the things that “regular” sized people are able to do. For Andre, as we’ve already seen, bathroom functions were included in this category.
Not only were standard toilets out of the question for Andre in many locations but in Japan, the situation was even more uncomfortable. According to Hulk Hogan’s autobiography, Andre was not even able to fit into the facilities when he was in Japan. Instead, he draped the bed with newspapers and made the best of a really awkward situation.
Honeycomb Is Big, Big, Big!
What else is as big as the huge taste of Honeycomb Cereal? Andre the Giant! In the 1980s Andre served as a fitting spokesperson for the honey-flavored children’s cereal. In a widely-aired television promo, he’s seen popping in on two kids who are hanging out in their treehouse.
Andre was perfect for the part, as the cereal company’s theme song waa: “Honeycomb’s big…yeah yeah yeah! It’s not small…no no no! Honeycomb’s got…a big big bite! Big big (taste/crunch) in a big big bite!”