On May 19, 1946, a baby boy named Andre Rene Roussimoff was born in a small village called Molien, France. His father and mother, Boris and Mariann Roussimoff, were immigrants in France – his father was Bulgarian and his mother was Polish. And they couldn’t have expected their baby to one day be known as Andre the Giant and become one of professional wrestling’s greatest icons. But, their 11-pound newborn displayed symptoms of gigantism early on. His nickname while growing up was ‘dede’, meaning giant.
By the age of 12, Andre was already measuring in at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 208 pounds. He would eventually grow to a height of 7 feet 4 inches tall and a weight of 520 pounds. This iconic man would later become the first wrestler to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1993. Keep reading to learn more about this “eighth wonder of the world.”
On May 19, 1946, a baby boy named Andre Rene Roussimoff was born in a small village called Molien, France. His father and mother, Boris and Mariann Roussimoff, were immigrants in France - his father was Bulgarian and his mother was Polish. And they couldn't have expected their baby to one day be known as Andre the Giant and become one of professional wrestling's greatest icons. But, their 11-pound newborn displayed symptoms of gigantism early on. His nickname while growing up was 'dede', meaning giant.
By the age of 12, Andre was already measuring in at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 208 pounds. He would eventually grow to a height of 7 feet 4 inches tall and a weight of 520 pounds. This iconic man would later become the first wrestler to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1993. Keep reading to learn more about this "eighth wonder of the world."
When you see a picture of Andre, you may think to yourself that you're looking at something which has been Photoshopped. Andre was so huge that it's hard to imagine that somebody of his size and stature actually exists. The following pictures will give you insight into how big Andre really was. In this picture, Andre succeeds in dwarfing 6 foot 2 inches tall Arnold Schwarzenegger with the late Wilt Chamberlain, a former NBA player who was 7 feet 1 inches tall. Even Wilt, a giant himself, looks significantly smaller than Andre.
Despite Andre's enormous size and strength, he was known for being a charming and gentle giant who was very outgoing. He had a huge heart for those he considered good friends. People were drawn to Andre throughout his entire life. However, Andre often found all the attention he got a violation of his privacy and at times he felt more like a circus show than a human being. One thing is for certain, though; you definitely didn't want to get on his bad side.
When Andre Met Bobby Chacon
Andre is seen here giving former boxer Bobby Chacon a brotherly tap on the head, although it looks more like Andre is squashing the two-time world champion.
Although Bobby Chacon wasn't so tall at 5'6, next to Andre he looks much shorter than he really was.
Andre Holds a Beer Can
Andre was once deemed the “greatest drunk on Earth.” He was known for his ability to drink large amounts of beer and there are numerous accounts of him drinking an obscene amount. On an episode of WWE's Legends of Wrestling, Mike Graham shared that Andre once drank 156 16-US-fluid-ounce beers in one shot, which was also confirmed by Dusty Rhodes. The Fabulous Moolah wrote in her autobiography that Andre drank 127 beers at a hotel bar in Reading, Pennsylvania and later passed out in the lobby. The hotel staff, unable to move him, had to leave him there until he woke up.
Andre drank so much that long-time wrestler, manager and road agent, Arnold Skaaland, was hired to keep Andre out of trouble and get him to the arena in time to wrestle. Skaaland shared that one time he watched Andre demolish a dozen quarts of beer as a warm-up before a match. Hulk Hogan was also a witness to Andre's drinking habits.
Andre Rides an ATV
Here is Andre the Giant riding around in a three-wheel ATV.
If you are in the market for a sturdy ATV, then you can be sure that this company's vehicle won't be breaking down under your weight any time soon, considering that it was able to support all of Andre's weight.
A Giant Since Birth
From the time Andre was a young boy, it was clear that he had a condition called “gigantism.” This condition is characterized by excessive growth and height well above average. It is caused by an overproduction of growth hormone in the body. The condition would later lead Andre to suffer from acromegaly in his adult years. The onset of acromegaly is slow, usually, the excessive growth of the hands, feet, forehead, and chin are clear signs of the disease. This was the reason for Andre's size and deep voice. Acromegaly is treatable and reversible.
However, if left untreated, it can greatly lower a person's life expectancy. Andre discovered he suffered from acromegaly when he was in Japan in the 1970s. He refused to get treated. According to a 1981 Sports Illustrated profile, André had grown so dramatically after leaving his home at age 18, that his parents did not recognize him when he knocked on their door a few years later. As André explained his career choice, they realized they had even seen him wrestle on television under his alias, Jean Ferré, without ever knowing they had been watching their own son.
Andre and Muhammad Ali
In 1975, Andre met one of the most important and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time, Mohammad Ali.
In the picture, Ali matches his hand against Andre’s massive palm and jokingly makes a distressed facial expression reveling in how much bigger Andre's hand is than his own. Andre makes the boxing champion Mohammad Ali look diminutive. The former boxer stood 6 foot 3 inches tall.
Andre Lifting Four Women
Throughout his entire life, Andre received attention. You could say that he was basically fulfilling any man's wildest dreams. Andre wasn't only huge, but he was also enormously strong. Here you can see him showing off his strength as he lifts four women at once, appearing as casual as you would be with a few grocery bags.
Andre's strength was evident from a young age. As a boy, he was a good student, especially in math. However, he dropped out of school after eighth grade because he didn't think that having a high school education was important for a farm laborer. He spent many years working on his father's farm. His brother, Jacques, said that Andre was able to perform the work of three men.
Andre Had a Strong Presence
Rejected from the French army for being too big, Andre then decided to move Paris when he was eighteen-years-old in order to pursue a professional wrestling career. He was trained by a local promoter who saw in Andre a big earning potential. In order to pay for his living expenses, Andre worked as a mover during the day and trained at night.
He quickly began to make a name for himself, wrestling in the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. He ended up becoming one of the most successful wrestlers of his time, and really, of all time. Here he's seen at the Olympic Auditorium Battle Royal in 1976.
Andre With Other Wrestlers
Andre debuted in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in 1973 where he defeated Buddy Wolfe. He was an instant hit with fans and quickly become one of professional wrestling's most beloved "babyfaces" throughout the 1970s and early 80s. For 15 years, he was undefeated in the WWF.
He helped sell out wrestling arenas all over the world alongside other iconic wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. As evident by the photo, next to Andre, even the most buff wrestler looked minuscule in size.
Standing With the Ladies
Here, Andre hovers over a front of a group of women at a Paris fashion exhibit in 1966. Even before his years in the spotlight, he attracted a great deal of attention for his size.
Although he was constantly in the public eye, Andre felt very isolated from others. Because of these feelings of loneliness, he resorted to alcohol to appease his mental as well as physical suffering.
Stopping a Cab
If there's one thing that was especially hard on Andre the Giant, it was traveling. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for him to sit in a car? Here, a disheveled-looking Andre is hailing a cab in New York. Apparently, he would often ride around cars without closing the door. The disease he suffered from caused intense pain in his knees, hips and lower back when he was stuck in a cramped position for too long.
From a young age, Andre loathed transportation. As a boy, he was too big to fit on the school bus. His neighbor, playwright Samuel Beckett regularly gave him a lift to school. Beckett, one of the most influential writers of all time and Noble Prize winner, lived in a cottage in Andre's home town to get away from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Andre's very own father was one of the people that helped build the cottage. Because Andre's dad was too poor for a car, Beckett used to give Andre a ride to school in the back of his truck.
Carrying a Woman
Andre holds a woman in the air at the beach. Many stories circulated surrounding how Andre dealt with his size while traveling.
One story holds that while on a trip to Japan, he used the bathtub in his hotel room as a toilet instead of the actual toilet, which was too small for him. Now that's something that most of us don't have to think about too often.
Andre Poses by a Car
You might think upon first glance that Andre is sitting up against a toy car, but nope, that's a real-sized car. The photo was taken on a New York City street. Actually, Andre was more fond of lifting cars than riding in them, due to the limits his size placed on him. His resistance training came in the form of moving his friends' cars around during nights he was out drinking with friends as a prank. And we're not talking about moving them by driving.
He also used this little foolery to get back at people harassing him. One night as he was drinking at a bar by himself, four patrons started to harass him. Andre chased the patrons out of the bar who fled to their car to hide. Andre reacted by flipping the car over. Everyone knows not to mess with a giant!
Andre Standing Next to a Child
A younger Andre meets a very young fan in the 1970s. It doesn't even look like these two are part of the same species. Andre later had a child of his own in 1979 with a woman named Jean. Jean and Andre had become friends through the wrestling business around 1972 or 1973.
Andre's child, Robin Christensen, had virtually no connection with her father and had seen him only a handful of times in her life. Her estranged relationship with him had led to several televised and printed news pieces on their relationship. Nowadays, Robin reportedly refuses to discuss her father.
Andre Was Insanely Strong
Andre, unfortunately, suffered from a number of health ailments later in life. His gigantism led him to develop acromegaly, a disorder of the pituitary gland that caused uninhibited growth hormone secretion. The disorder is very hard on the human body, especially a body which is exposed to professional wrestling for years.
There isn't a cure for acromegaly but treatment can help reduce growth hormone production to normal levels and reverse or lessen the symptoms of the disorder. Despite the health difficulties that Andre later faced, when he was young, he was known for being very strong and athletic.
On the Set of 'Conan the Destroyer'
Here is another photograph taken with Wilt and Arnold on the set of 'Conan the Destroyer' in 1984. Reportedly, the three had gone out for dinner together prior to taking this picture.
Upon discovering that Arnold paid for dinner, Andre picked him up out of his chair and put him on top of a car outside the restaurant. Although Arnold had a more toned physique than Andre, Andre's barrel chest proved to be quite intimidating in the ring.
Andre and Superfly
Andre looks down, literally, on Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka in the ring. The Fijian professional wrestler Snuka was billed at 5’10, 243 lbs. He wrestled for several promotions from the 70s to 2010s. He is best known for wrestling in the World Wrestling Federation in the 80s.
In September 2015, he was charged with third-degree murder in relation to the May 1983 death of his girlfriend. He pleaded not guilty but was found unfit to stand trial due to being diagnosed with dementia.
Andre Flies to Japan
Andre spent a lot of time on flights to Japan. This particular photo, taken in the eighties, shows how difficult flights must have been for him. Andre really despised flying, as no commercial airline could accommodate his needs without making use of the luggage compartment. Struggling to buckle his seat belts, it's a wonder that he didn't knock the plane completely off balance.
As a wrestling superstar, Andre had to cope with a crazy amount of travel. Often times, due to a tight schedule, a plane or car were his only options. So, he eased the discomfort by getting hammered, which you should already know took upwards of 100 beers.
Andre in Japan
As popular as Andre was in the U.S., he was an even bigger celebrity in Japan. He spent a few months out of every year, living like royalty and taking home big paychecks for a single night's work. Despite being treated like a living and breathing God, Andre wasn't exactly keen on Japan. Everything in Japan was too small for him. It was difficult for him to shower or go to the bathroom. He was known to rip the door off of his hotel bathroom in order to make room for his legs while on the toilet.
And the problems didn't end with the hotel room. Getting transported from show to show also came with its own set of barriers. Japanese promoters transported wrestlers by bus. In order to ease the discomfort of transportation on Andre, promoters removed several rows of seats from the back of the bus, which created enough space for him to stretch out comfortably. However, Andre used the space more as a spot to do his drinking rather than eating.
Andre and Michael Douglas
Here Andre is posing alongside actor Michael Douglas. Andre's hand looks like it's half the size of Douglas's body. We imagine that Douglas is probably straining under the weight of Andre’s huge arm.
Andre must have had a very difficult time going shopping for clothes. His single-armed black singlet was designed to hide the back brace he needed to wear.
Andre With Donald Trump and Hulk Hogan
Andre poses alongside Donald Trump and Hulk Hogan. Trump is a big fan of professional wrestling. He has even participated in a few matches himself, once having fought against Vince McMahon. At WrestleMania 23, ECW Champion Bobby Lashley (representing Trump) defeated Raw's Intercontinental Champion Umaga (representing McMahon).
One wrestling tale claims that Trump reportedly called McMahon to see if he was okay after a fake backstage segment in which McMahon’s car exploded.
Andre and Chuck Wepner
Andre and professional boxer Chuck Wepner compare fists. Wepner and Andre battled it out in the ring in 1976, in an unscripted boxer-versus-wrestler showcase. The wild fight was broadcast via telecast as part of the Muhammad Ali vs. Antonio Inoki fight.
It culminated in Andre throwing Wepner over the top rope and outside of the ring and Andre won via count-out. The fight was watched by an estimated 1.4 billion viewers worldwide.
Andre With Bill Shoemaker
Andre holds up famous jockey Bill Shoemaker in the air. Shoemaker held the world record for total professional jockey victories for 29 years.
In 1958, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1958. Jockeys are usually small and Shoemaker stood at 4’11, making it appear as though Andre is lifting up his young child.
Andre Chokes Jerry Lewis
Just your casual fun in the sun, as Andre and friends pretend to choke comedian Jerry Lewis at the beach. Jerry was a comedian, actor, singer and much more, whose career lasted for eight decades.
He was nicknamed "The King of Comedy" and was known for his collaboration with Dean Martin and the groundbreaking act of Martin and Lewis. Looks like this time the joke was on him!
Andre Walks Into the Ring
Fans reach out to touch a towering legend, AKA Andre the Giant, on his way to the wrestling ring. During his era, wrestlers got much closer to fans, and wrestling matches were carried out more like “real” sports events.
From the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, Andre was the highest-paid professional wrestler. He was a household name across the globe.
Andre Giving Headlocks
A massive and fearful-looking Andre the Giant places two wrestlers in headlocks.
In his later days, Andre was thought of as a slow-moving wrestler, however, earlier on, he was much quicker and limber.
Andre and Hulk Hogan
Andre and Hulk Hogan had one of the most famous and important fights in the history of professional wrestling. It ended in their iconic match at Wrestlemania III in 1987, which saw Hogan win by body-slamming Andre. The show brought the first million-dollar gate in wrestling history. It also set a pay-per-view record that wouldn't be beaten for a decade, and set the indoor attendance record for any live event ever. More than 78,000 people showed up to the Pontiac Silver Dome in Detroit. This surpassed the previous record set by the Rolling Stones. His rematch with Hogan two months later broadcast live on NBC and attracted 33 million viewers, making it the most-watched wrestling match ever.
Andre played a pivotal role in helping validate Hogan's wrestling career. He did this first when Hogan was a villain, and once again in 1984 when Hogan won the WWF title."That match was his idea," Dory Funk said. "It was Andre's creation. He went to Vince Jr. and they went to Hulk, and they set up the match. They built it up, but it was primarily Andre the Giant's program. He was a very giving guy. He was very proud of working with Hulk on that show."
Andre Yells at the Ref
I would not want to be in the shoes of that referee. I imagine that he not only got a face full of scream during Andre's match in Canada, but a face full of spit and sweat as well.
Although Andre's aggression was scripted, we still imagine we'd be frightened to death to stand that close to him.
Andre Steps Over the Ropes
One signature move of many huge wrestlers is to step over the top rope rather than climb under it while entering the ring.
Here, Andre enters the ring in 1987 as a guest referee for a Roddy Piper vs. Adrian Adonis match.
Andre is Bigfoot
Andre the Giant not only experienced great success as a wrestler. He also had a very prosperous acting career. In a 1976 two-part episode of The Six Million Dollar Man called "The Secret of Bigfoot," Andre played a Sasquatch (Bigfoot).
Andre appeared in other television shows, including 'B.J. and the Bear', 'The Greatest American Hero', 'Zorro' (1990) and 'The Fall Guy'. He made appearances in several films, like Conan the Destroyer, Micki & Maude, and made his most notable appearance as Fezzik in the 1987 film, The Princess Bride. The film and his performance still maintain a devout following. Andre is said to have been so proud of his performance, that he took a copy of the movie with him wherever he went.
Andre Carries Cheerleaders
Here, Andre carries two Unocal Racestoppers around at the American 500 in Rockingham, North Carolina in 1979.
As we said earlier, this guy fulfilled many men's wildest dreams. He was a true legend, in every sense of the word.
Andre and Vince McMahon
Andre towers over billionaire and professional wrestling extraordinaire, Vince McMahon. McMahon served as an announcer and professional wrestler in WWE. He is a two-time world champion who won the WWF Championship in 1999 and the ECW World Championship in 2007. The photo was taken during the era in which McMahon still sported a suit and played a prude announcer, instead of the wonderful “Mr. McMahon” heel character of the 1990s.
Andre first wrestled as Andre the Butcher, but it was Vincent J. McMahon Sr. who first coined his famous title “Andre the Giant.” Vincent J. McMahon wanted to keep Andre's act fresh. To do this, he promoted Andre as a touring attraction rather than a local star. Instead of moving to a new region every year or two, like most wrestlers did, Andre appeared on a rotating basis for every promoter that booked him, but only for a specific amount of time each year.
Andre and Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali often liked to joke with Andre in pictures. Here he makes Andre pretend to punch him in the face. Ali was one of the best heavyweight boxers of the 20th century. He is still the only three-time lineal champion. His records of beating 21 boxers for the world heavyweight title and winning 14 unified title bouts were unbeaten for 35 years. Both on the ring and off, he was known for trash-talking.
He was often known for free-styling with rhyme schemes and spoken word poetry. Outside the ring, Ali had success as a musician, where he received two Grammy nominations. He was also an actor and a writer. He retired from boxing in 1981 and instead focused on religion and charity. So in effect, you are looking at two legendary figures together in a picture.
Andre in the Hospital
Andre's drinking habits seemed to pay off when he went in for back surgery. The anesthesiologist, at a loss of how much morphine to give Andre, calculated the amount based on the number of bottles of vodka it took Andre to feel a buzz.
The number was around 2. When you're that big, you clearly have a much higher tolerance for alcohol.
Andre on David Letterman
Andre made a sole guest appearance on David Letterman in 1984. Apparently, he refused to lift up Letterman because another TV host sued him after he got injured from Andre lifting him off the ground. It's surprising that the chair didn't topple under all that weight.
Andre shared with Letterman his feelings on traveling to Japan "The worst is when I go to Japan, all those cars are so small over there.”
Andre vs. Antonio Inoki
Andre the Giant battled it out against Antonio Inoki, which they did often back in the day.
Andre looks absolutely terrifying, but Antonio seems to be having a grand time with him.
Andre Has a Drink
Andre was close friends with many bartenders, and all of them knew exactly what he meant when he asked for 'his usual' drink. As it turns out, his 'usual' was a drink that Andre called the 'American's', which basically consisted of a beer pitcher filled to the top with any hard liquor available at the bar that night.
Andre's drinking didn't only happen at bars, it was also the norm when he went out to dinner. Friends and acquaintances said that he'd often drink entire bottles of brandy before the food even arrived. This was followed by countless glasses of wine during the meal and some cognac for dessert.
Andre at Lunch
Andre, sitting down for lunch, probably attracting the stares of every single person in the restaurant. He was a legendary eater, as well as a legendary drinker.
He was easily able to walk into a restaurant and eat 12 steaks and 15 lobsters in one sitting. Referee and friend Tim White told WWE, “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.”
Andre and Bobby Roddy Piper
Andre towers over Bobby Heenan on a Piper’s Pit appearance. Piper, although you can't tell as he stands next to Andre, was 6’2 and 230 lbs.
There have been thousands of wrestlers over time. However, there is one who still carries a level of mystery, even after his death. Andre the Giant was a true legend, something which is very clear from all the stories and his career.