Monday, February 19, 2007

Impressions of Andre the Giant

Up until this class, I viewed Andre the Giant as a sluggish wrestler who was more of a side show. He seemed out of place in the few matches I saw him wrestle in, specifically against Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. I remember that my view of Andre as an intimidator diminished once I saw him get bodyslammed by both Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. I would often compare him to The Big Show, a present day supersized wrestler, and wonder what all the fuss surrounding Andre was about, especially since The Big Show is taller, weighs as much, and is much more athletic than the Giant.

After reading about and watching an early match of Andre the Giant, I have a new appreciation for him. He was really one of the largest athletes of his time and ours. Even though he did start out appearing in sideshow matches, he soon became a serious contender and gained the respect and love of the wrestling community. With all the myth-like stories surrounding Andre the Giant, it was hard not to be in awe of such a spectacle. I didn't realize that his wrestling career lasted almost 30 years. By the time I saw matches of Andre, he was already was past his prime and was in very bad health. In the match we watched in class, he appeared very athletic for his size and I was told he was even known for doing an occasional dropkick.

Looking back on my first impression of Andre the Giant, I feel as if I didn't give him the credit he deserves. It's a shame that so few of his early matches are not available and that the impression I possessed as well as many others was due to his later matches. Even though there have been many large athletes since Andre, including the Big Show who I mentioned earlier, when someone refers to the Giant, there will be no mistake who they are talking about.


X P said...

I never really saw too many of Andre the Giant's matches when I was growing up, but somehow I always knew who he was. I guess he was a legend and even if you didn't follow wrestling, you would eventually come upon his name. I think the first match that I saw of him that I could remember was his match with Hulk Hogan.
When I saw Hulk Hogan power slam Andre the Giant, the first thought I had was "Wow, Hulk Hogan is really strong!!!!" I mean to be able to lift up Andre the Giant, that's crazy.. I think Hulk Hogan became my first wrestling hero after that match..
Isma I didn't know Ultimate Warrior actually power slammed Andre the Giant too... I guess he was really strong too, haha..
After watching some of Andre the Giant's earlier matches I too noticed athleticism and agility that I had not noticed before. This reminds me of Shaquille O'Neil. In his early years he was really agile and quick, but now he is slow and old. Yet he is still one of the most frightening players to play against. I guess this is what Andre the Giant was to the wrestling world..

Sam Ford said...

Reminds me of the comments made about Terry Funk as well, and it's probably one of the reasons WWE is making so much old footage available--so people can figure out WHY Dusty Rhodes or Andre or Terry Funk or all these other characters are considered legends.

Andre played a great heel from an intimidation standpoint in the 80s, but it means much less if you hadn't seen him first as a face for all those years. The headbutts and chokeholds, which is about all Andre could do by the end, pales in comparison at how athletic Andre was in his prime.

I've read that Big Show has often been frustrated beause of Andre's legacy, particularly because Big Show was a top star for about 12 years or so and will never have the status Andre would. Of course, it's a different era, and their charisma was much different. Big Show has ccharisma as well, but there was something about the Gentle Giant and then, after being gentle for so long, turning heel in WWE, that made Andre really seem like a giant in a way that Big Show couldn't. Also, in booking Andre was always protected in a way Big Show sometimes wasn't, it seems.

Alex Maki said...

A lot of the Giants in professional wrestling, who I've looked up to over the years, have only had a short span of actually being in their prime. Andre was very good in his prime, but once he became known to most people, when he wrestled Hogan at WMIII, he was past his prime and was way out of shape and badly injured. People think of Andre in these days. But, thanks to the internet, I've been able to catch up on past Andre matches and appreciate him as a performer. A match I still have on my favorites online is his match against Stan Hansen, it's a good one.

Another giant to come along the way that was only good for awhile was El Gigante (Giant Gonzalez)...he was very good in WCW, but once he donned that very ugly, hairy, body suit as named himself Giant Gonzalez, he was past his prime.

Giants are great in this business and I applaud The Big Show for as long as he has been going, but he, too, soon will fall.

Alex Maki said...


katejames said...

Andre was my favorite wrestler when I was a kid... I was trying to remember why I liked him so much, because by the time I was watching wrestling I think he was pretty beat up and didn't move around the ring a whole lot, relying on holds throwing opponents around on the ropes. I never saw him do a drop kick (though Melzer refers to the fact that he used to do them, before he slowed down). So it's strange that Andre was my favorite wrestler-- I usually like the guys that really move around and do acrobatics.

I guess it was the 'ever-smiling' persona that I liked so much. The character of gentle giant is one that people easily attach to; Andre's charisma and ability to maintain decorum until it was absolutely impoassible not to. I rooted for him in the Battle Royal matches: I remember seeing him stomp around the ring with several annoying smaller heels hanging off him. He was always outnumbered (I didn't know they did handicapped 2 vs 3 or 1 vs 2 matches).
Anyway, even when he was less mobile and more beat-up in the 80s, I think Andre was still such a dynamic character. I wish he wouldn't always be compared to other giant wrestlers, since he really did become more than a novelty and was a serious contender and wrestler of considerable skill once-upon-a-time. (and I think he could have kicked the Ultimate Warrior's ass if they wrestled in both of their primes).

Rob said...

Like a lot of the younger people commenting here, I didn't know (or think all that much of) Andre the giant before either. Actually, I think I knew of him primarily through seeing The Princess Bride, in which he seemed like a nice fellow and a decent actor, but that was about it.

However, when watching his earlier work in class, I found something about him absolutely magnetic.

I'm not sure exactly what it is, but there's something incredible about him that seems a bit different from the other wrestlers. You might say it is just charisma, though something about Andre's character feels very different to me than the charisma we've seen in other significant wrestlers.

And aside from just his personality, there's something about the way he moves and wrestles that's amazing in a way that I think transcends his athleticism and simple amazement of his size.

It almost feels like there's a sort of natural sense of comfort in the ring for him that I don't get from the other wrestlers.

Anyways, every time Andre gets brought up in something I find myself instantly paying much closer attention. I just can't think of anything comparable to what he exudes anywhere, and I'm struggling to figure out what it is!

Sam Ford said...

I think that is the sense of frustration other wrestlers, like The Big Show, has shown. There are plenty of other big guys in wrestling, and some big guys who have been just as or perhaps more athletic than Andre was, but there is some intangible that just isn't as easy to copy.