Witnessing History: Andre the Giant’s 12 Best Matches

During WrestleMania 3, an aging and nearly immobile Andre the Giant broke box office records facing arch-rival Hulk Hogan. But how did he stack up in his matches before then?

In the prime of Andre the Giant's career, Evan Ginzburg from Pro Wrestling Stories had the privilege of witnessing some of his most memorable matches. Below are twelve of his finest performances!
In the prime of Andre the Giant’s career, Evan Ginzburg from Pro Wrestling Stories had the privilege of witnessing some of his most memorable matches. Below are twelve of his finest performances!

The Very Best Matches of Andre the Giant

For those who discovered pro wrestling during the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era, you didn’t see the legendary Andre the Giant at the peak of his powers.

These are the dozen best Andre matches this long-time fan caught live.

12. Andre the Giant vs Big John Studd (Madison Square Garden, April 25th, 1983)

Andre the Giant faces off against Big John Studd in a "Bodyslam Challenge" at Madison Square Garden, on April 25th, 1983.
Andre the Giant faces off against Big John Studd in a “Bodyslam Challenge” at Madison Square Garden on April 25th, 1983. Photo Credit: WWE.

The buildup to one of Andre the Giant’s biggest feuds was so simple that it was a work of Art.

Big John Studd, former WWWF Tag Team Champion Executioner #2, issued a "Bodyslam Challenge" offering $15,000 to any grappler who could slam him. However, he insisted he could not be slammed.

Andre begged to differ and got clobbered by Studd and manager Classy Freddie Blassie during his attempt.

The heat was off the charts, Andre won by countout, and they met time and time again around the circuit culminating at WrestleMania 1.

Studd became one of his greatest rivals in what proved to be an all-time memorable, successful, and long-running feud.

Sadly, Studd died from Cancer at a mere 47 years old in 1995.

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11. Andre the Giant vs Blackjack Lanza (Nassau Coliseum, September 15th, 1975)

At a menacing 6’5,” 253 pounds, Blackjack Lanza was a huge man for that era, so what better opponent than the massive Andre the Giant?

Andre the Giant had a memorable match against Blackjack Lanza at Nassau Coliseum, on September 15th, 1975.
Andre the Giant had a memorable match against Blackjack Lanza at Nassau Coliseum, on September 15th, 1975. Photo Credit: WWE.

As one-half of the WWWF Tag Champs with the equally immense Blackjack Mulligan, Lanza also had credibility to spare, and the see-saw battle kept Lanza’s heat.

In that era, it wasn’t unusual for Andre to pummel an opponent almost in a comical fashion. Many of his tag team and six-man matches saw Andre have his way with opponents, sitting on them or squashing entire teams against the turnbuckle with his massive weight.

This was not the case here, and Lanza lost via count out rather than taking a pinfall to the "unbeaten" Andre.

Interestingly, this co-main event shared the bill with Bruno Sammartino versus the fierce Waldo Von Erich, yet many of the advertisements for the event featured Andre rather than the champ, such was his appeal and draw at the time.

That all four of these all-time great gladiators are now gone is hard to wrap one’s head around.

10. Andre the Giant vs Sgt Slaughter (Madison Square Garden, March 16th, 1981)

Andre the Giant and Sgt. Slaughter face off in a captivating match at Madison Square Garden, on March 16th, 1981.
Andre the Giant and Sgt. Slaughter face off in a captivating match at Madison Square Garden, on March 16th, 1981. Photo Credit: WWE.

Sgt. Slaughter was not only a tremendous brawler who could wrestle but a perennial headliner who was equally great face or heel.

During that era, the man was on fire. And at 6’6,” 305 pounds, he was a big enough opponent to be a fitting challenge for one Andre the Giant.

The crowd was captivated by this one. Slaughter sold and bumped as if his life depended on it, and there was some good back-and-forth action, but the match ended abruptly with a ref bump at only 7:58.

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9. Superstar Billy Graham vs Andre the Giant (Nassau Coliseum, November 17th, 1978)

Even after his WWWF World Heavyweight Championship loss, Superstar Billy Graham was still headlining many of the WWWF arenas, and this one proved memorable.

And bigger was better when Andre the Giant took on the man with the 22-inch arms.

Superstar Billy Graham raises a chair to attack Andre the Giant during an earlier match of theirs from 1975.
Superstar Billy Graham raises a chair to attack Andre the Giant during an earlier match of theirs from 1975. Photo Credit: midatlanticwrestling.net.

It was a battle of two all-time legends, and the fans popped for everything they did; a younger, quicker, thinner 1970s version of Andre impressed.

Andre the Giant, who was being pushed as “undefeated” by Vince Sr., defeated the Superstar via count-out at 13:47.

8. Andre the Giant vs Hulk Hogan (Shea Stadium, August 9th, 1980)

Seven years before their historic WrestleMania III main event, it was a totally different scenario as face Andre the Giant and heel Hulk Hogan went one-on-one at the “Showdown at Shea” at Shea Stadium on the undercard of Bruno Sammartino versus Larry Zbyszko.

Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant - Their 8-Year Real-Life Rivalry
Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant square off for the first time at Shea Stadium. Photo Credit: WWE.

Vince McMahon Sr. loved his heels big, and the bleached blonde Hogan, replete with a giant cape, certainly fit the bill.

While the bout itself was slow, there was a big match feel to it, and the large Shea Stadium crowd made it at least feel more meaningful than it probably was at the time.

Andre-Hogan worked the circuit together long before a heel Andre versus Hogan was a twinkle in future boss Vince McMahon’s eye.

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7. Andre the Giant vs Butcher Paul Vachon (Nassau Coliseum, February 10th, 1975)

Butcher and Mad Dog Vachon were among the greatest tag teams ever to grace the sport.

And when Paul "The Butcher" Vachon made his way to the WWWF, he first got a star push and this marquee match against his young friend for whom he had helped make inroads in the business.

Andre the Giant and “Butcher” Paul Vachon face off in a later match of theirs in 1984. Photo Credit: WWE.

Fans were unaware that the 280-pound Butcher was on that elite list of wrestlers who had previously slammed the mighty Andre.

However, on this memorable night in 1975, Andre, rather than the massive Butcher, performed that feat of strength. He handily picked up and slammed Vachon, making a resounding "BOOM!" that still echoes in my mind today.

It was quite the matchup, memory, and Andre’s victory.

6. Andre the Giant vs Blackjack Mulligan (Madison Square Garden, June 5th, 1982)

Andre the Giant vs. Blackjack Mulligan at Madison Square Garden, June 5th, 1982. Photo Credit: WWE.
Andre the Giant vs. Blackjack Mulligan at Madison Square Garden, June 5th, 1982. Photo Credit: WWE.

Speaking of the mighty Blackjacks, Blackjack Mulligan, too, was a legit main-eventer with credibility to spare.

Having faced champs Bruno Sammartino, Pedro Morales, and Bob Backlund in various huge arenas throughout the East Coast WWWF circuit over the past decade and headlining around the world, the fans knew the rough and rugged Mulligan was not to be underestimated.

And the man could draw heat. On one notorious night, a crazed fan ran into the ring and stabbed Mulligan, who needed months to recover.

Billed at 6’9,” 300 pounds, Mulligan’s menacing black glove and signature claw hold, hyped as unbreakable, made him that much more of a fearsome foe.

In their match at Madison Square Garden on June 5th, 1982, Andre sold the claw with a look of fear when Mulligan tried to render it on him. He threw the cowboy and himself over the top to the floor to break the hold, leading to some more wild brawling.

While the double countout may not have satisfied, the match certainly did.

5. Andre the Giant vs Chuck Wepner (Shea Stadium, June 25th, 1976)

Boxer Chuck Wepner A.K.A. "The Bayonne Bleeder" is forever immortalized for knocking down Muhammad Ali and inspiring Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky.

So following Wepner’s loss to Ali, a mixed match between a boxer and pro wrestler was booked on the undercard of the bizarre Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki closed-circuit encounter at Showdown at Shea.

Boxer versus Wrestler: Chuck Wepner faces off against Andre the Giant at Shea Stadium, June 25th, 1976. Photo Credit: WWE.

Thirty-two thousand were in attendance for the "Showdown At Shea" card, featuring Bruno Sammartino returning from a broken neck to batter Stan Hansen, who had unintentionally done the damage in a move gone awry earlier that year.

After a colorful brawl where the fearless, tough guy boxer didn’t back down, Andre head-butted Chuck and unceremoniously dumped the 6’5,” 230-pounder over the top rope, where Wepner was counted out in the third round.

Years later, Wepner admitted it was a work, stating, "Of course, it was show business, so nobody was going to get seriously hurt."

It still paid off dividends for years to come as Rocky III’s Thunderlips versus Rocky Balboa battle was inspired by this and helped propel Hogan to superstardom.

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4. Andre the Giant vs Killer Kowalski (Madison Square Garden, August 26th, 1974)

If there was any one match that showcased a prime Andre the Giant, it was when he took on Top 10 all-time great heel Killer Kowalski at Madison Square Garden, the mecca of professional wrestling.

At 6’7,” 280 pounds, Andre didn’t exactly tower over the Killer, so this was an actual battle of the giants. And Kowalski was a wrestling machine with virtually limitless cardio who kept coming at the French favorite.

Andre the Giant and Killer Kowalski meet in the ring two years earlier in Montreal, on December 18th, 1972.
Andre the Giant and Killer Kowalski meet in the ring two years earlier in Montreal, on December 18th, 1972. Photo Credit: CWA Memphis on YouTube.

Although the result was anti-climactic, with Andre winning on a count out, Andre was still relatively new and exciting in that era; to see two all-time legends tangle was a thrill for the throngs in attendance.

3. Andre the Giant vs "King" Ernie Ladd (Madison Square Garden, April 26th, 1976)

The co-feature on the notorious night that Stan Hansen accidentally broke Bruno’s neck; the match may have gotten lost in the shuffle, but it was another true "Battle of the Giants."

With Andre’s 7’4" height a worked figure, the 6’9" 320-pound Ladd was almost eye to eye with the French superman.

Andre the Giant vs "King" Ernie Ladd at Madison Square Garden on April 26th, 1976. Photo Credit: WWE.

The former NFL great and future WWE Hall of Famer and perennial main-eventer went toe to toe with the Frenchman, which wasn’t always the case with many of Andre’s opponents.

Andre won via count out at 12:28 when Ladd walked out on the bout after avoiding Andre’s finisher splash.

2. Andre the Giant vs Killer Khan (Madison Square Garden, July 20th, 1981)

Young Andre the Giant was often portrayed as an amiable giant. With a big smile, he’d have a Cheshire Cat grin as he toyed with his opponents before his inevitable victory.

But this MSG bout with "The Mongolian Giant" Killer Khan had a different feel. You see, this time, Andre was out for revenge and blood.

Andre the Giant pummelling Killer Khan during their landmark feud in '81.
Andre the Giant pummelling Killer Khan during their landmark feud in ’81. Photo Credit: WWE.

Poor Andre had broken his ankle getting out of bed one morning, but the storyline injury told a far different and more dramatic tale. Killer Khan had snapped Andre’s ankle in a match, and after a legit rehab, Andre was seeking payback.

So now we had a scowling, seething Andre at MSG in a back-and-forth battle with Khan, who was billed at 6’5,” 311 pounds, and a suitable opponent if there ever was one.

Going to a bruising double disqualification, it kept Khan strong.

The feud would continue throughout the territory that year, drawing large houses whenever they met. It was one of Andre’s greatest rivalries.

1. Andre the Giant and Jimmy Snuka vs Roddy Piper and “Doctor D” David Shultz (Madison Square Garden, March 25th, 1984)

Jimmy Snuka takes a 'giant' leap off the shoulders of his tag partner, Andre the Giant.
Jimmy Snuka takes a ‘giant’ leap off the shoulders of his tag partner, Andre the Giant. Photo Credit: WWE.

Yes, my favorite live Andre the Giant match is a tag bout.

And all four of these greats (Andre, Jimmy Snuka, Roddy Piper, and David Schultz) were at the top of their game this night.

Imagine a packed Madison Square Garden with an in-his-prime heel, Piper, relentlessly coming at the much bigger Andre and busting him open.

And the icing on the cake was Andre being stretchered out, an occurrence as rare as Haley’s Comet.

The bout was declared a handicap match, and the 6’6,” 267-pound daunting “Doctor D” and the crazed Piper began pounding on Jimmy, and all seemed lost for the Superfly.

But suddenly, there was an unforgettable sight.

Andre, his head covered in sloppily wrapped bloody bandages, charged the ring with fire in his eyes like an enraged rhino.

The packed MSG crowd let out a primeval roar.

Andre dramatically "cleaned house," as they used to say, but was met with a disqualification at the 21:42 mark.

It was quite a spectacle and an exceedingly rare and shocking Andre loss in that era.

It was greatness times four as the stars aligned for this unforgettable tag war.

Andre the Giant’s Legacy

Andre the Giant has left a lasting legacy in and out of the wrestling ring.
Andre the Giant has left a lasting legacy in and out of the wrestling ring. Photo Credit: WWE.

Andre the Giant faced them all in a career spanning thirty or so years.

Many of his WWWF matches were forgettable six-man bouts- easy appearances for the well-traveled star. And the late career shell of Andre being squashed nightly in seconds by the Ultimate Warrior throughout the WWF was tragic and bordered on consumer fraud.

It is a shame that so many didn’t see him at his greatest. But, oh, that young, agile, in-shape Andre, indeed, was something truly extraordinary.

On these dozen occasions, he lived up to his billing as "The Eighth Wonder of the World."

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Evan Ginzburg is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories and a contributing writer since 2017. He's a published author and was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie "The Wrestler" and acclaimed wrestling documentary "350 Days." He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring.