Review for Andre The Giant
Andre the Giant is one of the most recognisable wrestlers of all time. There are probably only two or three wrestlers who are as renowned as he is. This documentary created by HBO and not by WWE looks at the career of Andre Roussimoff who spent much of his life in the spotlight as one of the true giants of wrestling business.
This documentary charts his life before, during and after his time in the wrestling business. It was amazing to see him when he was younger and not the huge overweight barrel-chested giant everyone remembers. He was so much more agile then and this was surprising. Along the way we hear a lot of stories from the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and Tim White who during his time acted almost like Andre’s (for want of a better word) handler. White has some fascinating stories about being around Andre and to be honest I am surprised that he hasn’t written a book about all his adventures with the Giant.
Through all these stories you can hear about all the highs and lows of being the size that he is and the infamous stories of how much he could drink. Of course they cover his movie career which leads to the wonderful performance in The Princess Bride. Interviews with co-star Billy Crystal and Director Rob Reiner are lovely to hear and it is clear they all had a genuine love of working with him.
One of the stories that does chill me slightly is Vince McMahon talking about how he persuaded Andre to get some back surgeries in order to not retire and instead work the match with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania III. Now, I understand that Vince’s intention was to give Andre his spotlight moment, but when you hear just how much pain he was in and the thing that made it worse was this match was not the going out on high which Vince promised and Andre stumbled around matches for the next few years, buoyed by the immense success of that match. It is so sad to see him later on in life, especially on crutches which for someone known for his power just looked sad and wrong.
The documentary is a wonderful account of his life and definitely a highlight for those who like in depth studies of people. My knowledge of Andre was limited and so this filled in a lot of the gaps, plus gave beginners to the wrestling world a concise explanation of how the wrestling business worked and advanced from the territory days.
The set comes with a number of matches and I think we can all agree that as great as Andre’s charisma was, he sucked just as much in the ring. I hate to say this as he was such a pioneer and true Hall of Famer, but watching him in these matches is brutal at times. It is odd to compare him to someone like The Big Show who was around the same size due to the same condition, but was so much more athletic and agile.
Of the seven matches only one is worth watching. The rare match from All-Star Wrestling is a Handicap Match between Andre the Giant against Jose Estrada and Tony Russo. This was really just a way to show how dominant he was, but the match is nothing much. The Showdown at Shea was an early match between Andre the Giant and the original Heel Hulk Hogan which is a spectacle, but again just a lumbering mess.
Two matches are included against Big John Studd. A rare Steel Cage Match which is fine in general and their Wrestlemania $15,000 Body Slam Match which is mostly memorable for the ending rather than anything else. There is the horrendously booked Wrestlemania 2 WWE and NFL Battle Royal.
Finally, we have two matches against Hulk Hogan. The infamous Wrestlemania 3 match for the WWE Championship Match which is generally considered to be his best match. This is ironic considering it was voted Worst Match of the Year by Dave Meltzer’s Wrestling Observer. Apart from Mankind coming off the Hell in a Cell or Stone Cold with the Beer Truck it would be hard to find a more iconic moment than Andre being slammed by Hogan in this match.
His match against Hogan from The Main Event was a pointless setup for the boring Wrestlemania IV tournament and not really worth watching. Personally, I would have preferred them to have included the Wrestlemania VI match with him tagging with Haku against Demolition. Worth it for the ending alone.
It is a shame that someone who is such an icon of the wrestling business doesn’t have much in regards to classic wrestling matches. His charisma and the general persona of him being this genuine giant is generally why he is considered one of the greatest. This documentary certainly shows this and was a great thing to watch. I would recommend this to everyone, not just wrestling fans and I hope that WWE collaborate with HBO on future documentaries as this is one of the best I have seen.