Andre the Giant: The Man and The Myth
by Bertrand Hebert
Every legend or mythology finds its origin rooted in reality. Dracula, as we know him from the cinema and Bram Stroker’s original novel, never existed. However, there was a Vlad III Dracula known as Vlad the Impaler who helped inspire the novel that was first published in 1897! Before that book, the rare but very real blood disease, porphyria is believed to be responsible for the creation of the vampire legends as people suffering from it become very pale and photosensitive (literally blistering under sunlight) and blood transfusions were the only possible treatments when the first stories took shape in the collective imaginations.
So, was André the Giant real? Did he walk the earth at 7 foot 4 inches and 520 pounds, the uncontested eighth wonder of the world?
He was as real as any other character from mythology, cinema, comic books or any other form of entertainment. He was even more real than most of them because he was played 24 hours a day and seven days a week for over 25 years in real life not just in entertainment.
Almost everything in his legend is based on at least one true story. Maybe that one story became 25 different stories through the years. Isn’t that how legends are born? The constant retelling of a true story that becomes so colorful through the different versions that it captures the imagination?
That doesn’t mean that a few of these stories were not completely fabricated through the years when it felt right to promote him.
André Roussimoff was that character to the point that it often relegated the man who played the part to an observer role in his own life. André Roussimoff might have been 7 feet tall at the height of his physical peak and much lighter than 520 pounds for most of his glory years. Andre The Giant was 7 feet 4 and as heavy as the promoter wanted him to be.
It’s no surprise that his exploits have become legendary. The WWE has done a wonderful job in making the WrestleMania III match between him and Hulk Hogan the centrepiece of their own mythology. It has made André even bigger and more important to wrestling history if such a thing was even possible. The legend is safe for years to come. Future generations will remember André the Giant after a long list of others will be forgotten.
André Roussimoff’s impact on professional wrestling can’t be accurately measured. It goes beyond his ring skills and his matches. In 2021, every WWE show still opens with a clip of him in action. He passed away in 1993!
We are still writing about him today. He still fascinates people who were fortunate enough to have seen him perform live. At the same time, he is now a mythical figure to those who have only seen him on television. The biggest movie star in the world just made him a character on his television project on NBC television about his childhood growing up to become the person we know as The Rock. André was the star of a major documentary on HBO a few years ago and was the feature on a new two hours special on A&E again this year.
Can you wrap your head around that? He is still relevant today.
Even after writing the literal book on his life, The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André the Giant, it still feels surreal to me.
The character of André the Giant is very much alive today. I have to let my imagination run wild in thinking of all the possibilities our modern world may bring to us in the future. In all cases, I am sure we have not seen the last of him.
André deserved every recognition and accolade, like this induction into the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He transcended the business, only bringing honour and spotlight to the sport we all love. He sacrificed his life for wrestling.
He is the link between the glory days of the territories system and the amazing growth of the worldwide expansion of the WWE. He is the one person who made everything possible for wrestling. It made him indeed larger than life.
The man who played André The Giant might not have been everything we were told about the character, but he made us believe he was. That’s why, much like the characters Batman, Superman or Dracula, he has become immortal.