We asked our loyal readers what it was like to have met André The Giant, and you sure didn’t disappoint! These stories show a whole different side of the gentle giant.
There is perhaps no other wrestler or performer of the squared circle that has historically commanded such attention as André Roussimof, better known worldwide as The Eighth Wonder of the World: André The Giant. Even today, more than 25 years after his passing, anecdotes and funny stories of him remain very popular amongst wrestling fans. With a height reportedly of at least 7 feet tall, but billed at 7’4” and hovering around the 450 lbs mark (or more) for a good portion of his career, André was a sight to behold! Tremendously gifted athletically for such a huge man, he tragically began to lose mobility as his body began to break down due to declining health and as back and knee surgeries piled up. Nonetheless, the sheer awe of meeting him was an experience few could ever forget.
Meeting André The Giant, “An Unforgettable Encounter”
Reader Timothy Rand remembers seeing André the Giant during the ’80s as a young child. “I met him when he was with the AWA when they used to go to small, little northwest Wisconsin towns in the early to mid-’80s.” He adds, “I got a chance to meet him and a lot of other future WWF stars, and I was no older than five years old, I’m sure. I got an autograph and a high five.”
Darren Drader recalls, “When I was ten years old, my dad and I were attending a live AWA show at the Ottawa Civic Centre when André took on Bobby Duncum. After the match, I ran from my 3rd row ringside seat to the aisle where the wrestlers came to and from the ring, and I reached out to shake his sweaty, gigantic sized hand. The sight of standing in front of a 7’4”, 400 lbs giant of a man is something I will remember until my last day.” He adds, “Thank you, André, for that brief but memorable encounter.”
“The sight of standing in front of a 7’4”, 400 lbs giant of a man is something I will remember until my last day.”
According to a reader going by the name of “Grumpy Buck,” “In the ’80s I saw him enter the car of another wrestler in Quebec City, a Chrysler K. Poor André! LOL”
Did you know that André played board games? Well, reader Kim Moore remembers that back in the ’70s, André used to stay with some of his relatives between matches, and says that André’s cousin was her best friend. She recalls, “My cousin spent many hours with him playing Monopoly. He had a great sense of humor and was a really gentle man… a real gentle giant among men.”
Who wouldn’t want to see a photo of André playing Monopoly? We wonder which of the eight Monopoly pieces was his favorite. Could you even see it in his massive hands? And did he get mad when he was sent directly to jail without passing GO! and not collecting $200? All things to ponder…
“I will never forget the handshake; his hand was GINORMOUS.”
It was sometimes very lonely being André the Giant, as Jason Sullivan recounts after his surprise encounter at a car rental facility in 1990. “I met him at Budget Rent-a-Car in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was outside on a bench, waiting for his people inside to rent him a car (probably a large van LOL). Absolutely no one was talking to him. My stepdad pointed him out, and I was completely shocked. So I went over and introduced myself and talked to him for a few minutes.”
Any doubt about André’s height was very quickly debunked, as Sullivan explains. “Sitting on the bench, he was as tall as me if not taller. I’m almost 5’9.”
He continues, “He was super cool. Very friendly. I will never forget the handshake. His hand was GINORMOUS. He was tired from traveling and just wanted to go to his hotel room. Within 10 or 15 minutes of talking to him, a small crowd gathered. He gave me a funny look as I told him I was sorry to draw attention to him and left him with the crowd. André was a very humble guy, very nice, very HUGE.”
“That little kid that was in tears, André the Giant made his day…”
Reader Shane Ellis tells an amazing story that illustrates the big heart overflowing with compassion commonly exhibited by one of the largest men that ever graced the square circle. “Back in the WWF days at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, British Columbia, I was about 14-years-old, and there were maybe six kids out back waiting to meet some of the wrestlers. Dynamite Kid came out with his carry bag, and this 10-year-old boy was so excited to see him that he ran up to him, asking for his autograph.
“To everyone’s shock, [Dynamite Kid] pushed the child away and told him to ‘fuck off’ and kept moving. Only six kids in total were outside. The poor kid was in tears. About 5 minutes later, a car pulls up, and a fellow with a big cowboy hat gets out and asks how everyone was doing. The boy’s dad told him what happened, and then we were all told to stay put and that he’d be back. It turns out he came back with André. He was so nice. He signed autographs, took pictures, and talked with all of us and didn’t care about the time. That little kid that was in tears, André made his day. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met.”
Reader Anthony Christaldi has an anecdote for the ages as a 14-year-old in Atlantic City the night before WrestleMania IV. He vividly recalls, “I had my father drive me to Trump Plaza. I assumed [wrestlers] would be staying there since WrestleMania was at the hall attached to it. I walked around for a while, met Jake “The Snake” Roberts, but saw André at the lobby bar. It was an open-air bar next to the escalator, so as you went up and down, you could see in. I rode the elevator for a half hour just to see him. He was sitting alone, and whenever the waitress was next to him, she just looked like a child standing there.”
This was undoubtedly a story Anthony will never forget, thank you for sharing it with everyone.
Our reader, Frank Mancuso’s father (whom he was named after), was a former Major League catcher for the St. Louis Browns that won the American League pennant in 1944. He was also a Houston City Council member for 30 years from 1963-1993 and friends with area promoter Paul Boesch who often invited them to the matches on Friday nights. On one unforgettable evening, Frank was able to go back to the dressing room, meet some of the wrestlers, including André The Giant. He shared some wonderful pictures as proof of that momentous evening!
Reader Joshua Morales is another reader fortunate enough to have seen André. In the summer of 1991, The Giant was seconding the Bushwackers and not in his prime anymore, as he sadly observes. “I got to pat his sweaty shoulder as he went down the aisle on his crutches. I was surprised at how hunched he was.” He further estimates that the once giant of a man was now a “mere” 6’4” which is often blamed on the surgeries to his back, knees and deteriorating health in his final years.
Many stories contradict the real height of André The Giant, but our reader David Poirier was undoubtedly in awe after meeting him. “I saw him in Baton Rouge in the early ’80s, and he was certainly the biggest person I’d been around. He put his left hand on my right shoulder right after I took his picture. His hand covered it, and I would’ve been crippled if he’d decided to really squeeze hard. He was not very mobile then, but I remember watching some of his matches from the ’70s when he was in much better condition.”
Poirier adds, “In 1972, Robert Parish [future Center and NBA star for the Boston Celtics] was one of the first seven-footers I ever met. There were a few LSU basketball players who were also over seven feet tall, but none looked as intimidating as ‘The Chief’ Robert Parish or André.”
Encounters With André The Giant, From Our Readers Who Were Also Wrestlers
The readers of Pro Wrestling Stories come from all walks of life and professions, including current and former professional wrestlers who also wanted to share their stories about meeting André.
First, we have Ken “Dazzler” Dunlop, who was a 12-time Australian tag titles champion with Wayne “Lofty” Pickford, where they teamed up from 1981-1996 and were briefly an incarnation of the Kangaroos in 1988 trying to work in Canada. “Dazzler” shares with us that he had toured with André in 1984, and in 1985 he also worked with stars such as The Cuban Assassin, Mark and Jay Youngblood, Spiros Arion, and Cyclone Negro. He fondly remembers André by saying, “I had the pleasure of meeting André and working on shows with him on several occasions. I found him to be a very nice man, great sense of humor. He watched my matches and complimented me on them, which made me feel great.”
Rick Bauer was a former wrestler in the National Wrestling Federation (NWF) in the mid to late ’80s but also an editor, videographer, writer, and producer for ESPN and Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia. For several years now, he’s tried to present his Bobby Champion TV series to the fans — a story about a collegiate wrestler who forgoes his wrestling scholarship when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant. Instead, he takes a different route and tries his hand in the world of pro wrestling to support his family, where he acquires fame and fortune but also suffers the pitfalls that come with it.
Bauer vividly remembers his encounter with André at the Philadelphia Spectrum in 1984. “André was nice, in a bit of a hurry. No time to say hello or anything like that, but he gave me a head nod and acknowledged me.” He continues, “While sitting in the media room where wrestlers like Eddie Gilbert, Brian Blair, and The Iron Sheik gathered to watch the matches on TV, André’s handler invited me to go with him to get ANDRÉ’S limo! I got to sit in his limo and took a short ride in it to move it closer to the locker rooms.”
Chaz Taylor, son of Tugboat Taylor, is a current wrestler, actor, and stuntman who wrestled under the name Chaz most notably for the Global Wrestling Federation in the early ’90s. He recalls, “One time [André] asked me where I put his vest in the locker room. I pointed to where I folded it and put on top of his gear bag. He walked over to his bag, looked at me, and smiled. He walked over to me smiling, put his hand on my head, and said, ‘I like you kid,’ as he handed me $10.”
Well, there you have it! This special piece was about André The Giant, but was thanks to you, our loyal readers! We hope you enjoyed learning about a different side of the gentle giant!
The comprehensive biography that promises to answer all the burning questions, “The Eighth Wonder of the World: The True Story of André The Giant,” is scheduled for an April 28th, 2020 release and can be pre-ordered here.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss these recommended articles on our site:
- Andre the Giant Documentary – 12 Things Learned (And Facts Left Out!)
- ANDRE THE GIANT: Revealed! – His Very Best Stories
- Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant – Their 8-Year Rivalry On and Off-Camera
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