Hello, everybody here at Wrestle Royalty! My name is Sam, better known to everybody here in the Wrestle Royalty Community as S.A.M., and I am here to share my thoughts of the Andre the Giant documentary that recently aired on HBO. First, I will say I am not a professional wrestling writer and a lot of this will be my view of it as a fan of wrestling. I have been a fan of pro wrestling for most of my life and my favorite wrestler of all time is Bret Hart. Now with that out of the way, let us get into this review of the HBO documentary André the Giant.
The documentary starts off in Molien, France, where Andre was born and raised. It is a quaint village but Andre always aspired to do more than just live in that small town on his family’s farm. Andre is asked to participate in a wrestling event even though he had no training for it. They said that they had seen Andre in the gym and that he would be good and for him to give it a go. They were right because Andre ended up being one of the greatest of all time.
The documentary shifts to showing a young Andre training in France and he was slimmer and apparently only 6′ 10″ at the time. He was still massive but his slimmer figure did make him look smaller. He was first known as Jean Ferre, a lumberjack who was discovered in the woods. The way wrestling builds its wrestlers gimmicks is always something to behold. In Japan, he becomes Monster Roussimoff and when he wrestles in Chicago, that would be the first time he would be booked at Andre the Giant. Gene Okerlund mentioned how Andre would wrestle a territory for 6-7 weeks, sell out, and then move on to the next one right after. Someone told Vince McMahon Sr. to book Andre immediately because of how big of a draw and attraction he was. That’s something that Vince McMahon, Jr. does to this very day when you look at how many indy talents have been signed to WWE over the last few years.
Gene Okerland: “He was not the most articulate man in the world. He spoke in other ways” After Mean Gene says those things, clips from Andre’s various matches are played. I must say that I agree with Gene on this one. He spoke through his actions and body language like few others. His promos, from what they showed, were short and to the point with no fluff.
Now all this said, Andre hated “tough guys” that were in the business to not entertain. Hulk Hogan mentions how Andre didn’t like Randy Savage and Andre would “beat the hell out of him.” Andre really was a locker room leader, it seems, and was making sure to keep people in check. He then mentions how Iron Sheik got on his nerves and just took it out on him in the ring. Andre really did sort out the guys who thought they were tough. John Studd was another one that Andre would take it to in the ring because he did not feel respect towards him. Andre really was the locker room leader because he used his size to control how people acted. It seems to have been a good thing from what people are saying in this documentary.
They spend some time talking about when Vince McMahon, Jr. bought out his father’s stake in the company and slowly started taking over the territories and with them, the workers as well. Roddy Piper, Junkyard Dog, Bobby Heenan, and Hulk Hogan were a few that were swallowed up by Vince’s expansion. We all know the impact he had on the wrestling landscape with Hulkamania during the 1980s.
It then cuts to the filming of The Princess Bride. Full disclosure: that movie is one of my all-time favorites and Andre is really good in it. The cast and director, Rob Reiner, speak about how Andre was in pain during filming and it was noticeable. That was the reason he would drink so much: to numb the pain.
We then shift to showing the build and story behind the legendary match he had with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 3. The importance of this match is something we all know too well. Vince McMahon, Jr. was able to talk Andre into having back surgery so that he would be able to do the match. Hogan says how he was worried about if Andre was going to put him over. Hogan wrote down how the match would go on a yellow legal pad, move by move. He left the finish open for Andre to see and seems like he did it as a way to have Andre call the finish as a sign of respect. Hogan also says that he did not remember Vince telling him if he was going over or not. When the match starts, Hogan’s script is followed, move by move. Andre calls the slam and leg drop from the ring as the finish. That match is one of the most legendary in WrestleMania history and to see the backstory behind it was truly something special.
The documentary closes out on a sad note as expected. It shows Andre after the Hogan match and the amount of pain and bad health he is in. Andre goes to see his father in France who is sick and is there for his father’s death. In Andre’s hotel room, he suffers a heart attack and dies at the age of 46. The interviewer asks how this death compared to others that Vince had to go through and Vince tears up thinking back to it. I teared up as well – hard not to when you see someone who had a passion for life have his life cut short.
This was an amazing documentary and I fully recommend it to anyone whether you are a wrestling fan or not. I hope to see more of these documentaries from HBO about wrestlers or people in the wrestling business in the future if they decide to do more.
Also, would like to say thank you to Queen Kendra for giving me this opportunity to write this review for Wrestle Royalty. I never thought in a million years I would do something like this and I am thankful for the opportunity. I am S.A.M. and I will see you around.