ANDRE THE GIANT DVD PROVES TO BE A COLOSSAL
Andre the Giant
Review by Mike Rickard II, Williamsville, New York
"…For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away"
- The Epistle of James Chapter 4 Verse 14
In an industry where everything was portrayed as larger than life, Andre Rousimoff was the real deal. The close to seven foot tall four hundred plus pound wrestler dwarfed his opponents in the ring and made an unforgettable impression in the world of professional wrestling during his 28 year career. During the 1970’s, Andre was the highest paid wrestler in the business and he made a fortune for promoters as he toured territory after territory. Fans clamored to see the real-life giant who could use power moves and high-flying moves equally well. As Andre’s legend grew, he eventually became known as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”.
However, Andre’s tremendous size was both his blessing and his curse. Although Andre’s unusual growth has been attributed to acromegaly (a medical condition in which the body overproduces growth hormone), his actual medical condition was childhood pituitary gigantism (Simply put, both conditions are similar but acromegaly occurs during adult age whereas childhood pituitary obviously begins sometime during childhood). Semantics aside, the end result was that Andre’s body was the proverbial ticking time bomb. When his body stopped growing in height, it continued to grow internally, wreaking havoc on his internal organs. While the matter is now treatable with surgery and drug therapy (as Paul “Big Show” Wight can attest), Andre did not have that option and he lived his life to the fullest, knowing that his time was limited. The stories of Andre’s eating and drinking exploits are legendary with one tale mentioning that he once dined at a restaurant and ordered every item on the menu. Another story has Andre drinking over one hundred beers in one sitting before passing out. While these stories may be tall tales (no pun intended), they reflect Andre’s lust for life. In the end, Andre the Giant’s approach to life was exemplified by Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw who wrote: Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations.
In the ring, Andre was a true spectacle. Promoters typically put him in handicap matches or battle royals where he astounded fans with his unbelievable size and even more incredible agility (dropkicks and aerial moves were not uncommon during Andre’s early years as a wrestler). However Andre also engaged in memorable one on one battles with other big men of the sport such as Hulk Hogan, Bruiser Brody, Blackjack Mulligan, and Ernie Ladd.
Andre was a guaranteed draw but promoters did not want the Giant’s novelty to wear off on fans. As a result, promoters limited his appearances. This was no problem for Andre. He could appear once or twice in one territory and rest assured that dozens of promoters were waiting to book him in their region. This continued for many years until Vince McMahon’s national expansion during the 1980’s when he cut all cooperation with promoters and restricted Andre’s appearances to the World Wrestling Federation and an occasional appearance in Japan.
By the 1980’s, Andre’s body was feeling the effects of his glandular disease. He had trouble navigating the ring and unknown to the fans, often relied on a wheelchair backstage. However this didn’t stop Andre from participating in some of the most memorable matches of the 1980’s including his Wrestlemania III match with Hulk Hogan where he helped set a live attendance and pay-per-view record. Near the end of his career, Andre wrestled in constant pain. Doctors were amazed that Andre was still alive as most people with his condition were lucky to make it to age forty. Andre defied the odds before passing away at the age of 46.
The Andre the Giant DVD was announced last year to much fanfare. After recent DVD packages celebrating the careers of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, Fans were eager to see what type of package the WWE’s highly regarded video production department would put together to honor the first inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame. Given Andre’s storied career and feuds with superstars such as Big John Studd, King Kong Bundy, Killer Khan, Hulk Hogan, Blackjack Mulligan, and Jake “the Snake” Roberts, Andre’s WWE appearances alone would be enough to fill up a two or three disc set.
Sadly, the WWE has failed to deliver anything even close to that. Andre the Giant is actual a re-release from a Coliseum Home Video produced during the 1980’s. This DVD features ten matches with Andre the Giant and while there are some interesting matches, the DVD is hardly a showcase of Andre’s legendary career. A quick look at the matches featured in this collection should assure you of that:
Andre vs. Moondog Rex- Rex provides the same defense offered by most of Andre’s opponents which is to say none.
18 man Battle Royal- Andre was often featured in battle royals and this one has some of the top WWF stars of the early 80’s such as Sgt. Slaughter, “Big” John Studd, the Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana, Adrian Adonis, Dick Murdock, Paul Orndorff, Pat Patterson, and others.
Handicap match vs. Black Gorman & the Great Goliath (who is neither great nor a goliath)-This match was typical of Andre’s typical matches on WWF television.
Handicap match vs. Jack Evans, Johnny Rodz, and Joe Butcher Nova-another handicap match made interesting by the fact that Andre pins three men at once.
Andre vs. Gorilla Monsoon (boxing match)- this match provides fans a look at a novelty match as well as a chance to see Gorilla Monsoon in action.
Andre the Giant and Jimmy Snuka vs. the Wild Samoans- Andre’s tag matches offered his partner a chance to sell offense for most of the match until they made the eventual tag to Andre who would pave the road to victory. This match gives fans a chance to see Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and the often underrated team of the Wild Samoans in action.
Andre vs. the Masked Superstar- Superstar would later team with Andre as part of the Machines and eventually form one half of Demolition. That’s about the best that can be said about this match.
Andre the Giant and S.D. “Special Delivery” Jones vs. “Big” John Studd and Ken Patera (the infamous haircut match where Bobby “the Brain” Heenan’s henchmen Studd and Patera cut Andre’s hair and set up a great feud that led to the inaugural Wrestlemania).
Andre vs. Ken Patera- a follow-up to the haircut match where Andre seeks revenge on one of the man who raped him of his dignity (as the haircut angle was frequently described).
Andre vs. Big John Studd in a Bodyslam Challenge Match (Wrestlemania I)- the payoff match for the haircut angle where Andre put up his career versus $15,000.00 put up by Studd. Michael Cole and Tazz provide commentary in what appears to be yet another WWE effort to deprive Jesse Ventura of royalties for commentary.
The match also features Andre appearing on the old Tuesday Night Titans show where he interacts with a young Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
There are two ways to look at this DVD. As a showcase of Andre’s career, the DVD fails miserably. The matches presented here are appetizers at best, with perhaps two matches that would be considered keys in Andre’s career (the haircut match and the bodyslam challenge from Wrestlemania I). However, given the DVD’s low price (it lists at under ten dollars), it offers fans a cheap way to not only check out Andre’s career during the early 1980’s but an idea of what the WWF was like before Wrestlemania. If you don’t have WWE 24/7, this DVD offers ninety minutes of old school WWF action you’re not going to see elsewhere (at least off the black market).
I like to take some time to address Derek “the Dean’s” scathing attack on the former wrestler and WWF commentator who provides much of the commentary on this disc, none other than Lord Alfred Hayes. True, Lord Alfred Hayes was one of many former wrestlers who polluted the WWF airwaves at the time with less than stellar commentary (No one exemplified this better than Pat Patterson whose broadcasting efforts seemed more appropriate for an oral exam at an English as a Second Language class than anything else). And while Hayes’ foppish manner and outrageously cheesy tuxedos made him a legitimate laughing stock, he is still head and shoulders above Michael Cole when it comes to class and commentary skills.
Watching this DVD, I couldn’t help but laugh at the constant presence of Lord Alfred Hayes. Hayes exemplifies the white trash trying to fit into high society mindset of Vince McMahon. Vince McMahon seemed to be of the same mindset as soap opera writers at the time who thought an English or Australian accent equated itself with sophistication. In McMahon’s mind, Lord Hayes could make a discourse on a colostomy bag seem classy by means of delivering it with an English accent. During the 1980’s, Hayes was omnipresent in the WWF. Lord Alfred was the original stooge for Vince McMahon, serving as Ed McMahon to Vince’s Johnny Carson on Tuesday Night Titans. He provided commentary on B shows, hosted “Update” on WWF Superstars (a brief news segment where he would advance storylines), and was a convenient target whenever there was an airborne pie or pastry.
Unlike Michael Cole, Lord Alfred Hayes was never on the receiving end of poetry or Heinreichesque love. In fact, this anecdote from “Rowdy” Roddy Piper confirms Hayes’ supremacy over Cole:
A few days later, Lord Alfred Hayes, who is hung like a horse comes up to me as I’m getting out of the shower. He’s naked and starts running after me, swinging his dick and yelling “Roddy, Roddy”. He’s twirling that thing around like Roy Rogers trying to lasso Dale Evans
-- Roddy Piper, In the Pit with Piper. New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 2002 p14.
To quote Stan “the Man” Lee: Nuff said!
Copyright © 2005 Derek Burgan. All rights reserved.