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The truth behind six Andre the Giant legends
By now, the stories have become part of sports-entertainment lore. Any competitor who bumped around the rings in the 1970s will tell you about the night they sat at a bar next to Andre the Giant and watched “The Eighth Wonder of the World” chug 200 beers without leaving his stool. Others will say they were there when four rowdy punks offended Andre in a restaurant and ended up getting their car flipped over by the giant — while they were inside it.
But where does the fable of Andre the Giant end and the reality of Andre Roussimoff begin? Discovering the true story of a man who was professionally mythologized from the age of 17 can be tricky. Even those that knew Andre seem drawn to hyperbole, preferring to keep the fantastic tales of the giant’s herculean strength and insatiable appetite alive and well. Undaunted, WWE Classics spoke with the giant’s close friend and former handler Tim White, veteran wresting journalist Bill Apter and WWE Hall of Famer Jerry “The King” Lawler to learn the truth behind six unbelievable Andre stories. ( NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN ANDRE PHOTOS | WATCH RARE MATCHES)
True or false? Hulk Hogan was the only competitor to bodyslam Andre the Giant.
The unforgettable sight of Hulk Hogan scooping up Andre the Giant and slamming him to the mat in front of more than 93,000 WWE fans at WrestleMania III has become one of WWE’s most enduring images. ( WATCH) And why not? In the two decades “The Eighth Wonder of the World” had been wrestling professionally, no man had ever been able to slam the 500-pound monster. At least that was the claim.
A simple Google search unravels this myth pretty quickly. Stan Hansen, Kamala and Harley Race can all lay claims to having slammed the giant before WWE’s iconic moment. Even Hogan himself dumped Andre when the two rivals battled in Shea Stadium in 1980. ( WATCH FULL MATCH) And he did it again later that same year in the Philadelphia Spectrum. Truth be told, the giant was larger than he had ever been when he faced The Hulkster in the Pontiac Silverdome, but it was certainly not the first time he left his feet in the ring.
Sorry, Hulkamaniacs, this legend is FALSE.
True or false? Andre the Giant was drafted by the Washington Redskins.
In 1975, with Andre the Giant’s celebrity reaching international renown and the Washington Redskins’ defensive line in desperate need of improvement, Tim Temerario, the team’s director of player personnel, had a bright idea. He’d offer a tryout to “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and either end up with a dominate linebacker or a few good headlines for the Redskins.
Whether Temerario was earnest in his offer is unclear, but a press conference was held in a Washington restaurant with both the giant and Mr. McMahon in attendance. But after fielding a few questions and posing for some photos, Andre and the budding executive moved on to the next WWE event and an official tryout never took place.
Much later, in Michael Krugman’s fascinating 2009 biography, “Andre the Giant: A Legendary Life,” Mr. McMahon admitted that the whole thing was a publicity stunt, but stories of “The Eighth Wonder of the World’s” would-be gridiron career persist to this day.
There’s a flag on the field for this legend. It’s FALSE.
True or false? Andre the Giant once drank 156 beers in one sitting.
During a segment on the WWE Classics on Demand series, “Legends of Wrestling,” the late Mike Graham said the giant once drank 156 beers in one sitting — an unbelievable boast that fellow panelists Dusty Rhodes and Michaels Hayes quickly backed up. Journalist Bill Apter relayed a similar story to WWE Classics about Andre downing more than 125 beers while drinking with Harley Race in New Orleans.
While it’s hard to substantiate any of the wild numbers that are thrown around, Andre's close friend Tim White confirmed that the giant was more than capable of putting down enough suds and grub to feed a frat house. Still, it wasn’t typical behavior for Andre.
“He could drink an airplane dry before it got to takeoff,” White told WWE Classics. “He’d go into a restaurant and eat 12 steaks and 15 lobsters. He didn’t do that often, but if he felt like putting on a show and having some laughs, he’d go ahead and do that.”
Be grateful you were never stuck with “The Eighth Wonder of the World’s” bar tab, because this legend is TRUE.
True or false? Jerry “The King” Lawler pinned Andre the Giant.
When Hulk Hogan defeated Andre the Giant in the main event of WrestleMania III, it was not only a spiritual passing of the torch, but also the end of “The Eighth Wonder of the World’s” epic 15-year undefeated streak. That is if you ignore the time that Jerry “The King” Lawler beat Andre in the mid-70s.
OK, so the WWE Hall of Famer actually won the bout by count-out, which wasn’t entirely uncommon for an Andre match, but the story of the contest got out of hand pretty quickly. Always on the hunt for publicity, Lawler sent photos of his showdown with Andre to his friend Bill Apter, the editor of influential magazines like Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Apter, noticing the amazing size different between “The King” and the giant came up with an idea that he knew would move magazines.
“It comes out with this big headline: ‘The night a midget beat Andre the Giant,’ ” Jerry “The King” Lawler remembered with a laugh. “At that time, nobody beat Andre the Giant, but the story made it look like I pinned Andre.”
The magazine caused such outrage in the sports-entertainment industry that Mr. McMahon’s father, Vincent J. McMahon, brought it up as a serious point of contention in that year’s National Wrestling Alliance convention. McMahon was so irate that both Apter and Lawler nearly lost the ability to promote Andre, but things got smoothed over in a future issue.
“To rectify things, we came out with another cover that said: ‘Andre the Giant: Wrestling’s Only Undefeated Superstar,’ ” Apter explained.
Although “The King” and Pro Wrestling Illustrated did their best to fix the situation, rumors of Lawler’s pinfall victory hang around to this day. But Jerry himself will tell you that the legend is FALSE.
True or false? Andre the Giant tipped over a car with four men inside it.
“If Andre liked you, he really liked you,” wrestling journalist Bill Apter told WWE Classics. “If Andre didn’t like you, you should have been the most terrified person in the world.”
Apter’s claim has long been the line on Andre — he was an affable sort as long as you didn’t cross him. If you did, you might end up like those four poor saps in Canada. Or was it New York City?
The location of the story changes depending on who’s telling it, but the basic gist of it is this: Andre was out on the town one evening when a group of unruly guys began to harass him. The giant ignored the jerks, but when they filed out the bar later in the night, Andre followed them into the parking lot and proceeded to flip their vehicle over with all the guys inside. Now Andre rarely, if ever, lifted a weight, but his natural strength was so staggering that even Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken about it with awe. But did the giant really upend a car full of dudes?
“He could do that,” Tim White told WWE Classics. “He didn’t know his own strength. But as big as he was, he was a gentle giant and the people that he loved he truly loved. He had a big heart.”
While Andre probably could’ve spiked a Fiat if he wanted to, this urban legend is most likely FALSE.
True or false? Andre the Giant’s final television appearance was for WCW.
It was in 1973 that Vincent J. McMahon took control of Andre the Giant’s career, changing his ring name from Jean Ferre and quickly turning him into sports-entertainment’s greatest attraction. McMahon’s plan for the behemoth was simple — he kept “The Eighth Wonder of the World” on the road, moving him from territory to territory so that the fans would never grow accustomed to Andre’s massive size. In the days before national television and social media, this was a lot easier to do.
During his career, the giant competed all over the globe, but WWE was always his home. But as Andre’s health began to decline in the early ’90s, he slowly faded from the spotlight, opting to spend much of his time on his expansive cattle ranch in Ellerbe, N.C. In one of his final WWE appearances, Andre used crutches to accompany The Bushwhackers to the ring for their bout against The Natural Disasters at SummerSlam 1991. ( WATCH) He was rarely seen in WWE after that.
The giant made one final television appearance before his death on Jan. 27, 1993, but it was not for WWE. Instead, Andre popped up on WCW’s Clash of the Champions XX broadcast as a part of a celebration in honor of 20 years of professional wrestling on TBS.
Andre’s cameo was brief — just a few short words in response to a question from “The Dean of Wrestling Announcers” Gordon Solie, but this legend is TRUE. And we have the video to prove it. ( WATCH)