700 pounds: Telling Facts and Fictions around WrestleMania III by Andrew Cartwright

700 pounds: Telling Facts and Fictions around WrestleMania III

Hulk Hogan says there were 93,000 screaming fans inside Detroit’s Pontiac Silverdome on March 29, 1987 when he slammed a 700-pound Andre the Giant.

These are the parts of the previous sentence that are certainly true: Detroit; Pontiac Silverdome; March 29, 1987. The rest—the aliases, the half-truths or outright fabrications—is somewhat more difficult to pin down.

Perhaps the most contentious aspect of that initial statement is the number 93,000. On video of WrestleMania III, the crowd isn’t very well illuminated, so it is difficult to see how well they fill the expanse of the Silverdome; in the sections that are shown on film, nearly every visible inch is covered with thronging bodies. The din when Hogan walks down the long entrance ramp to the ring, and throughout the match whenever the tide turns in Hogan’s favor is constant and deafening.

The Silverdome itself looks massive to say the least. As the camera pulls back toward the top of the stadium, the ring is a tiny, bright white square in a sea of shadows. One would think that the WWF would not want to diminish the size of their own ring, the immense stage on which their immortals are showcased. But then, even in the midst of the broadcast, WrestleMania III was already being celebrated by the WWF as the largest indoor sporting event ever, with an “official” attendance figure of 93,173.

All of this is to say that it seems feasible, if not entirely possible, that there could have been over 93,000 people packed inside that stadium to watch this spectacle of spectacles. WWE still proudly touts that figure as fact. But in the over-exaggerated representation of life that is professional wrestling, facts and figures are always up for debate.[1]

 

Here are some other statements about WrestleMania III that are considered relatively unimpeachable: by its third birthday in 1987, WrestleMania had become a widespread cultural phenomenon with a rapt national audience. The final match that night—the “main event”—pitted the unbeatable WWF champion Hulk Hogan against the unbeaten challenger, Andre the Giant. In 1987, 33-year-old Hulk Hogan was the most popular wrestler in America, if not the world, garnering the adoration of a legion of young followers, his “Hulkamaniacs.” By 1987, 40-year-old Andre had been a must-see attraction in the wrestling world—literally, from Europe to North America to Asia—for over two decades. Andre had played a large role in introducing professional wrestling into the American zeitgeist; Hogan had helped send it into the pop culture stratosphere. On the night of WrestleMania III, Hulk Hogan pinned Andre the Giant to retain his championship.

This much is not true, however: though the match was touted as the monumental first meeting between the two megastars, Andre had wrestled Hogan in a WWF ring in August of 1980 during Hogan’s initial brief run with the company. In that earlier match, their roles were reversed: Andre was the beloved, fan-favorite “babyface” and Hogan the preening, egotistical “heel.” But, in the ever-shifting world of pro wrestling, especially in an era when matches were not widely televised, seven years might as well have been a lifetime. This small bit of historical revision by the WWF made for a much better story anyway.

 

For his part, Andre never seemed to have much to say about controversial WrestleMania III claims of first-time matches and astronomical attendance figures. Over the course of his career, Andre the Giant was never known as much of a talker. He had a thick accent and a deep, slow voice, but then again, he didn’t need to talk: he was a giant—THE Giant—and what comes out of a giant’s mouth is far less important than the sheer statement of his bodily presence. Better to let smaller, silver-tongued speakers fill in the details for him.

Though a massive man in his own right, Hogan was always given free rein to speak and speak he always has, especially in his twilight years, about Andre and WrestleMania III and the deafening roar of 93,000 Hulkamaniacs. In a March 2015 video interview, for example, Hogan and Bill Simmons—journalist, creator of Grantland, life-long wrestling fan—were watching a clip of WrestleMania III’s final moments. “So, you’ve got 80,000 people right now—” Simmons started to say before Hogan cut him off. “Let me correct you,” Hogan said, “it was 94,000.”[2]

Some say Hogan is a liar (though most say much worse nowadays); others say that in a scripted-but-never-fake “sport” where mythologizing is the strongest engine, Hogan is merely a lifelong storyteller telling his own life story in a more interesting way. Hogan himself seems to sincerely believe what he’s saying. And to be honest, it’s impossible to know the truth either way: almost all of his claims are unverifiable now, so long after the fact.

 

Still, on at least one subject, it is clear Hogan was, in fact, verifiably lying. During his segment on the popular MTV reality show, Cribs, from March 29, 2005—18 years to the day after WrestleMania III—Hogan invited viewers into his massive vanity closet and picked up a pair of shiny yellow wrestling boots. “These boots right here are the most famous boots of all time,” Hogan said. “I wrestled Andre the Giant with these boots on and then a couple days later, he passed on. These are my favorite pair of boots.”

 

André died on January 27, 1993—almost 6 years after WrestleMania III.[3]

Of course, some might say Andre actually died in 1989, when he received the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s two most ignominious “awards” for “Worst Wrestler” and “Worst Feud of the Year,” thus clearly marking the point in time when Andre the Giant’s mystique began to vanish, his production entering into its final sharp decline.[4]

Of course, some say Andre the Giant never died. Some say Andre the Giant will never die.

People say a lot of different things about André, but for the most part, André never said too much.

So maybe it’s better to say that André Roussimoff died in 1993; he passed away in a Paris hotel room only days after attending his father’s funeral in his birthplace of Molien, France; the cause of death was listed simply as “heart attack,” but more complexly, it was likely a complication of his lifelong battle with the disease acromegaly.

Acromegaly is a pituitary condition, caused by a benign tumorous growth, that can lead to unchecked growth if it manifests in childhood, and leads to bone thickening and enlargement—especially in the hands, feet, jaw and forehead—in adults.[5] This is why André looked like he did—prominent brow, thick fingers—as he grew older. But when doctors in Japan discovered and diagnosed André’s acromegaly, André was only 23 years old. The doctors told him he’d likely last only 17 years more, wouldn’t make it past 40. Acromegaly is treatable if discovered early enough, but in 1971, for reasons unknown to anyone but himself, André chose to do nothing about the diagnosis.

Then again, some might say André Roussimoff really died in 1981, the year Andre the Giant was born.

Regardless of any of this, it should be clear that André did not, in fact, die in 1987. Which means Hogan was telling his stories again that day to MTV. This fact also means that, fortunately—or unfortunately?—for him, André never lived to see his friend/rival Hogan sitting in court talking about his penis…

 

Here’s what he missed: on March 7, 2016, the case of Bollea v. Gawker was brought to trial in front of a Florida judge and jury in St. Petersburg, FL.[6] Some other things it may be important to know here: “Bollea” is short for Terry Bollea, which is Hulk Hogan’s real-world alter ego, or one supposes, his real name. “Gawker” was the name of the online media company that, at the time, owned such popular blogs and websites as Jezebel, Deadspin, Kotaku, and of course, Gawker.com. Some people say Gawker was the scum of the earth, publishing garbage in the guise of “journalism.” Some say Gawker fought for our most important freedoms. In this case, Gawker fought for the freedom to post on their website 41 seconds of Hulk Hogan having sex, which some would argue is not a freedom worth fighting for.[7] Bollea sued Gawker for $100 million in damages.[8] Finally, it should soon be clear that there were no actual good guys—no obviously heroic “babyfaces”—in this battle.

The sex tape showed Hogan engaged in sexual relations with Heather Clem, the wife of Hogan’s then-best friend, Todd “Bubba The Love Sponge” Clem, a shocking radio disc jockey—or “shock-jock”—from Hogan’s home state of Florida. “Bubba” secretly taped the intimate encounter, without getting Hogan’s permission.

For his part, Hogan claimed that he was going through a deep depression after a tumultuous divorce from wife, Linda. He claimed that he was vulnerable and desperate for companionship. He also claimed he got permission to have the aforementioned sex with Bubba’s wife—one hopes first from Heather herself, though it is clear from listening to Hogan’s interview with national radio shock jock, Howard Stern, not too long after the act, that the “permission” he most sought was from the “Love Sponge.”

It is unclear whether Hogan slept with Heather as Hulk Hogan or as Terry Bollea, a distinction that matters, as will soon be seen. It is also unclear what exactly a Love Sponge is, especially when one does not really want to find out.

 

On Day 2 of the Gawker trial, Bollea sat in the witness stand, wearing a black bandanna—a more serious, court-appropriate variant of his omnipresent, signature headwear—by permission of the judge. The judge, jury, Hogan and everyone else in attendance had just heard a jovial radio interview between Hogan and “Love Sponge” in which this exchange occurred:

“So, Hogan, you’re claiming, you’re claiming to maybe have a 10-inch cock?”

“I’m not claiming. Those are the facts, Jack!”

As the tape ended, the Gawker lawyer got up to question Bollea’s accuracy, eventually getting down to business and asking, “Do you have any doubt, as you sit in that witness stand today, that you were discussing the length of your penis on Bubba’s radio program?”

Bollea replied: “Well, it’s not mine, because mine isn’t that size, but we were discussing the length of Hulk Hogan’s.”

“Seriously?” The lawyer asked, speaking for everyone with this reply.

“No, seriously, I do not have a 10-inch penis. No, I do not. Seriously. Believe that. Seriously.”[9]

 

Bollea didn’t even crack a smile when he said that; for all intents and purposes, he seemed as serious as he repeatedly said he was—though it has been claimed that some members of the jury did laugh quitely. André, no stranger to off-color, scatological humor, would have laughed for sure, boomed out a barrel gut laugh right there in the courtroom. To wit: once during a match, Andre was sitting on a prone Jake “The Snake” Roberts when Roberts felt something funny. Andre was supposed to be the bad guy here—the “heel”—but suddenly he began to laugh out loud which heels weren’t really supposed to do. Andre told the concerned referee that he was farting. “This went on for like 30 seconds,” Roberts said. “Giants fart for extremely long periods of time.”[10]

By all accounts, André had a well-developed sense of humor—he had a deep reservoir of funny to draw from as shown by his pitch-perfect turn as Fezzik in The Princess BrideEVERYBODY MOVE!!! It’s also said he liked to tell jokes backstage—though in truth his jokes weren’t always so funny, especially the racist ones that got André into hot water with judo masters—but that story is best saved for later.[11]

For better or (rarely) for worse, André was known for his deep, infectious laugh. Bret Hart—the straight-laced champion from Canada whose character had been known to accuse his fellow wrestlers of being “degenerates”—used to draw racy pictures on the blackboard backstage just to bring out that laugh. Hart would illustrate “these massive orgies” starring fellow wrestlers in compromising positions, and “when Andre would look at the board, he’d laugh so much he’d have tears in his eyes.”

“And that’s why I did it,” Hart said. “I did it for Andre.”[12]

 

Though there may have been a time when more fans truly believed, it is perhaps a surprise to no one nowadays that wrestlers were different backstage than in the ring—that they were in fact actors. Yes, a special breed of actors who risked life and limb every day between the ropes, but actors playing characters nonetheless

It’s often unclear just how much of a character Andre the Giant was, it seemed well established that André Roussimoff was often a player in the bedroom, a true Casanova. None other than Vince McMahon, the owner and chairman of the WWE, once said: “Andre had lots of girlfriends. Andre had a girlfriend in every town. And when he came back to that town, he could have a different girlfriend.”[13]

Here’s more evidence: At André’s funeral in North Carolina, his friend, Jackie McCauley stumbled onto a unique gathering in the ladies’ room: twenty or so of André’s former girlfriends—two of whom had been his fiancés—swapping tales and comparing notes amongst themselves. “It just blew my mind,” McAuley said, “and they didn’t know each other’s names. It was like, ‘Oh, Minneapolis, right?! I’m Texas. Well, I’m California! Well, I’m New York!’”[14]

Fortunately—or unfortunately?—even with André’s apparently far-ranging, widespread reach, there are no readily available accounts of Andre’s penis. If one felt compelled to type “Andre the Giant penis” into Google, one might find such titles as “How big was Andre the Giants penis?” from reddit—the “NoStupidQuestions” subreddit, in fact. Or, “In Which Virgil Tells The Filthiest Andre The Giant Story Of All Time” from Deadspin. One is not brave enough to actually click on any of the links one finds.

In retrospect, with his apparently prolifically promiscuous love life, it is probably for the best that André largely missed the era of handheld personal video recorders.

But here’s a question to ponder: if someone had somehow secretly recorded the man mid-coitus, would the tape have captured Andre the Giant in action, or André Roussimoff?

 

André’s public and private life were necessarily blurred due to his size. It’s not like he could go out wearing a hat and be disguised—though at one point in 1986 he did successfully wear a mask to the ring as the “new” wrestler Giant Machine, a reverse Clark Kent of colossal proportions. Nefarious heel manager Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who had tried tirelessly for months to get Andre fired using every underhanded trick in the book and had finally succeeded (in storyline), was the only person able to see through the spandex; he seethed and ranted for justice with a strong but crooked conviction, a squealing weasel in a sequin jacket apoplectically pleading for revelation. Everyone else was happy to play along with Andre’s scheme.

A year later, though, right before WrestleMania III, Andre the Giant embraced the evil inherent in his mythological namesake and did the unthinkable: he took on Heenan as his manager, thus ineffaceably marking of his heel turn. Heenan was there on Piper’s Pit—the regular talk show segment of most irregular wrestler, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper—when a jealous Andre ripped the shirt and crucifix off babyface champion Hulk Hogan’s chest—Hey, brother! Only Hogan gets to rip Hogan’s shirt, Jack!—after which Andre demanded a title match.

Because André was usually a man of few words, Heenan became Andre’s mouthpiece during the feud. “You want to talk to Andre the Giant, you talk to me,” the Brain once said to “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. “Another thing, I’m sick of you and everybody else out here calling me names, calling me ‘weasel.’ Saying I poisoned this man’s mind. I haven’t done a thing but awoke him to the fact that people like you, Hulk Hogan, they used him. They laughed at him. They stabbed him in the back. Well, now it’s time for us to do a little stabbing.” Heenan said all of this and more, while Andre stood in the foreground, clinching his fists and looking menacing down at Piper who tried hard not to notice.

 

Hulk Hogan, on the other hand, always cut his own promos.[15] If he could have, he would have cut everyone’s promos. Hulk Hogan was the ultimate up-stager, a fiery natural in front of the camera. In the promos before his monumental bout with the Giant, Hogan talked big to Andre through the camera, but not directly to Andre’s face. It is said that “to his face” is the worst place to speak to André if you were saying something he didn’t want to hear. His WrestleMania I opponent, Big John Studd, claimed in promos to be “the only giant in wrestling” and called Andre “Andrea,” which was okay because it was only a promo.[16] But, it’s been rumored that backstage Studd once called André a “freak,” a faux pas from which Studd never truly recovered. “Studd called him a circus freak one time,” Jake “The Snake” has said. “Andre beat the living crap out of him every time they got in the ring.”[17]

It has been said, correctly, that André was freakishly tall—“officially” billed at 7’4”—but as with most wrestling stats, some have questioned its accuracy. This is partially because what wrestling lovers love more than wrestling is arguing with each other about wrestling—as is the case within virtually any modern fandom—especially in regards to things that can never actually be verified. Today, fans are often vocal in their disbelief about how tall André might have been, but it’s telling that they’ve waited until now to say anything. Just as telling is the fact that most contemporary sources seem to have just gone along with whatever he said.[18] No one wanted to question André to his face.

 

Here’s one reason why: according to a story by Andre’s friend and traveling partner, Arnold Skaaland, Andre was drinking at a bar when four drunk men began taunting him about his size and his “fake” chosen profession. Wanting to avoid a public confrontation, Andre attempted to mollify them with more drinks, but the men pressed on with their derision until Andre could not take anymore. He got up and chased them out to their car, into which they had all fled. In the end, Skaaland says, “He got so mad, he reached down and grabbed the car, and he turned it upside down on the sidewalk with the four guys in it.”[19]

 

On a separate occasion, another braver man got up in André’s face, but this man’s bravery was bolstered by a strong conviction and backed up by ass-kicking judo skills.[20] In this case, André most certainly deserved to be called out, and “Bad News” Brown was just the man to do it. The way Brown has told it, he was dozing on a tour bus full of other wrestlers in Japan when he heard André say “Nigger” in a joke. In groggy disbelief, Brown rose up to confront André, saying, “Giant, André! Watch your mouth. I don’t like what you’re saying. That’s an insult to me.” At first, André didn’t respond, but then Brown heard, “Uh, ‘Bad News,’ go fuck yourself.” “Bad News” was so mad that he told the bus driver to pull over, and once outside, he shouted to André, “You come on off this bus and you tell me that to my face.” But André didn’t budge. Eventually, “Bad News” got back on the bus, still fuming but tired, and rode the rest of the way to the hotel in silence. He confronted André in person the next day, got André outside and said, “If you feel that way, that’s your business. I don’t have to listen to that nonsense. Don’t let me ever hear you say that again.” He said André apologized right then, and though there was tension between them for some years after, eventually they found a way to “bury the hatchet.”

Since camera phones didn’t exist yet—since what passed in that time as a “portable” recording device was anything but—one has to take Brown and other eyewitnesses at their word. Enough anecdotal evidence exists of Andre’s monumental temper and stubbornness, of his constant discomfort and frustration living within the boundaries of a too-small world, that it is not hard to imagine his culpable role in such an incident.

None of this is meant to excuse Andre’s apparent faults, or to call Brown’s personal account into question, but there are also dissenting accounts that dispute the veracity of the events as described. When “The Voice” Michael Schiavello asked Hogan about this incident in a 2011 interview, Hogan—who had been on the bus at the time—Hogan denied that it had ever happened. “Not true at all,” Hogan said. “Andre was telling a joke with the N-word. And ‘Bad News’ Brown was sitting in front of me, and ‘Bad News’ Brown mumbled something under his voice, ‘That’s not too damn funny, Andre’… But, the bus was never stopped; he never called him out. But, I’ve heard so many versions of the story, but I was sitting there between them. I was on the bus. I was on the seat between them. That’s all there is to the story.”

The haze of the past, clouded by counterviews, has blurred the story of Andre’s intolerance, the post-bygones oral retelling rendering it softer and less damning than, say, a first-hand recording, capturing the words coming directly out of his mouth, would allow for.

 

And so, it was much harder for Hogan to deny his own racially intolerant sentiments and statements when more footage from his sex tape was released in July 2015, revealing an incriminating post-coital conversation with his best friend’s wife. Once again a video camera would lead to Hogan’s downfall: in speaking about his daughter Brooke’s possible sexual involvement with a black man, Hogan is recorded as saying, “I mean, I am a racist, to a point, fucking niggers. But then when it comes to nice people and shit, and whatever…I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck some nigger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall nigger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player! I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking nigger.”[21]

Now, if it’s true that this was recorded without Hogan’s consent—no, maybe this was Bollea speaking so Hogan is in the—no, let’s be honest…there is simply no excuse.

The WWE felt the same way, which led to Hogan being fired from his job as a WWE “brand ambassador.” They also removed any mention of him from their website and erased his name and image from the WWE Hall of Fame.

 

For his part, André was the very first member of that same Hall of Fame—which is thought to have been created in the first place mainly as a hasty reaction to the news of André’s passing. André was inducted alone in the first year of its existence because, the general thought goes, “There ain’t room on the ballot for anybody else when André is on there.”[22] Nowadays, there is a gala ceremony to honor Hall of Fame inductees on the day before WrestleMania each year, but Andre didn’t get a ceremony; instead he got a video package and an announcement on WWF’s flagship show RAW with very limited fanfare.

André’s visage is still prominently displayed all over the WWE domain, so though Hogan’s removal from the system made it harder, for a time, to search on the WWE Network for the matches they had together, fans could always count on “Andre” to lead them there.[23]

 

Still, their most famous match is—and always will be—more about Hogan than it was about Andre. WrestleMania III saw Andre—the most popular wrestler in the world during the 70s and early 80s—passing the torch to the younger generation embodied in the emergent megastar figure of Hogan and his contingent of rabid young Hulkamaniacs.

Hogan claims that when he slammed Andre to effectively end the main event at WrestleMania III—there was a leg drop and a pin right after to actually end the match—the crowd roar was the loudest he had ever heard. As he told Bill Simmons, “The 93,000 people, when they were going, ‘Hogan!’ it was almost like a sea wave that was uncoordinated, there were so many people. It was deafening in there.”

He also told Bill Simmons that he tore both biceps when he finally slammed Andre. He had previously told “The Voice” Michael Schiavello that he tore his back, his bicep, and his delt in three places, and he told Get in the Game TV that he ripped his whole back out up to the armpit, and ripped both of his biceps. There’s no reason to believe any of this other than because Hogan said so.[24]

 

One possible reason for Hogan’s discrepancy here—his lesser claim with Simmons, focusing only on the biceps—is that, unlike more obsequious interviewers, Simmons was subtly calling Hogan out throughout the interview. For example, Hulk tried at first to slip in the notion that André was “6-700 pounds,” but then thought better of it, quickly walking it back to “like 650 something, you know.” When Simmons still went bug-eyed like a cartoon wolf and exclaimed, “650?!”, Hulk equivocated and went over-general with it all, saying, “Yeah…He was big. He’d just had back surgery and he was heavy. His weight varied. It’d be like you gaining 20 or 30 pounds. Andre may gain 100, it’s no big deal.” Still, Simmons kept toying with this figure—“So, now you have to pick him up and you’re saying he weighed 600 pounds?”—over the course of the interview, as if trying catch Hogan off guard.

In the Schiavello interview, “The Voice” said that André was “pushing near 600 pounds.” When Hogan came back with, “He was actually closer to seven, he was around 685, 690,” a star-struck Schiavello didn’t even blink, so Hogan didn’t backtrack then.

 

However, with a wilier, more incredulous interviewer like Simmons, Hogan’s most adamant claim was that he tore his biceps. When Simmons questioned even this, exclaiming, “You tore your biceps?!” and leaning in to see, Hogan tried to point out just where they’d torn, pushing his finger into his skin and saying, “See that hole, here. I tore my biceps, picking him up.” And Hogan was sure to point out that whereas most wrestlers nowadays would “get cut and put in a sling for six months” after such an injury, he overcame the pain with pure will, and in fact “split the next day and went to Japan for eight or nine days” to wrestle.

“But, you know,” Hogan said, “that’s just the way it was back then.”

 

It’s unclear just how much pain Hogan was actually in after the match—even if André did actually only weigh the 520-525 pounds he was billed at—that is still a lot of weight for one person to pick up all at once. Still, André picked up that much weight every day, not simply once but every time he stood up, and by this point in his career, his body had seriously begun to fall. He had come into the match almost directly after a major back surgery. He was 40 years old, downright elderly for a giant.

 

He made it to 44 years old, thus proving that he did not die, as Hogan once claimed, soon after this match. He did, however, die soon after his last match in December 1992, a tag team match in Japan in which he mostly stood on the apron cheering, exuding presence rather than exerting energy.

Some say that, in the end, Andre died because he knew that his wrestling days were finally over and it broke his heart.[25] In truth, the official cause of death was congenital heart failure, caused by his acromegaly. In the end, the tumor on his brain has caused his bones to grow too thick and heavy, his unimpeded body too large to maintain, his organs too overtaxed to sustain the functions of living.

 

Hogan ended his final WrestleMania III pre-match promo with this line: “What are they gonna think, when the giant hits the ground, he feels the wrath of Hulkamania, and the whole world shakes at my feet?” Little did he know that 18 years and 4 months later, Andre would be long dead and Hogan himself would be sitting at the feet of a world wrathfully-shaking back at him over revolting racial comments. Little did he know that the same infectious voice that had once caught up a generation of young fans in its fiery flow of catchphrases and platitudes would become the vile source of his public disgrace and downfall. Or did he know? Could he have known then? It’s not as if intolerance like his develops abruptly. And if the hate was there in Terry Bollea all along, did the Hulkster feel it too, deep down, even as he spouted off about prayers and vitamins? Do the sins of Terry tarnish the image and legacy of Hulk Hogan? Or was Hulk simply the polished public face of a bigot all along? And in the end, was the untouchable champ surprised at how easily he was dragged down and made mortal?

 

This much is tellingly true: these days—despite his flaws—André’s name is spoken almost exclusively with either a sort of hushed reverie or beaming respect; the name “Hogan” also sometimes receives a hushed utterance, tinged with embarrassment, but more often it is spat out with downright derision.

In comparison, the situation on that one Wrestlemania night in Detroit in 1987 couldn’t have been more different: as Hogan, with his thin hair sweat-molded to his head, cried and pointed and waved his hand beside his ear, Andre and Bobby Heenan rode slowly away on a motorized platform. Heenan, in his bright white bedazzled tux and tails, ducked down and cowered in Andre’s shadow as what must have seemed like 93,000 fans chucked garbage at them all the way up the aisle. But André stood tall—probably somewhere between 6’10” and 7’4” tall, if one had to guess—yes, André stood tall until the end, angrily and defiantly booming curses back toward Hogan, who at that moment was too busy shaking his ass in the ring to notice. By the time the video cameras went dark that night, he must have flexed those busted biceps at least a dozen times.

 


[1] WWE stands for World Wrestling Entertainment, a company formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), which itself was formerly known as the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), which also had its acronymic predecessors. The attendance “debate” can be pretty easily found online. As a counterpoint to the official WWE number, Wrestling Observer guru, Dave Meltzer, a man who prides himself on knowing things, puts the attendance figure somewhere around 78,000.

[2] From Simmons’ B.S. Report interview with Hogan. It should be noted that the program was always called the B.S. Report—Bill Simmons = B.S., get it?—even when Hogan was not the person being interviewed.

[3] His New York Times obituary—filed under “Andre the Giant, 46, Professional Wrestler”—does not list this date of death; it lists a publication date of January 31,1993 and a dateline of January 30, 1993, with the phrase “died this week” in the actual obituary text.

[4] The Wrestling Observer Newsletter is Dave Meltzer’s long-time wrestling publication, in which he provides match ratings, breaking news and insider scoops, records and awards. The WON is a premium publication, sitting behind a paywall, so unfortunately, the main source for free WON information is Wiki pages.

[5] Information about acromegaly can be found through many sources around the Internet. I found the one at Hormone.org to be both thorough and readable.

[6] The information in this section has been widely reported by several major news outlets. The New York Times, for one, published a brief, but thorough outline of the main highlights of the case; that particular article provides the most direct information for my own brief, but wildly selective outline here. On a side note, the Times article chooses to gloss the most titillating scenes in the courtroom, in favor of the more highbrow “fascinating—and even important—issues of privacy, free speech and the very nature of news in the Internet era,” all of which sounds incredibly educational and intellectual. In the interest of full disclosure, it must be said that this particular essay here is more often interested in the lowbrow titillation.

[7] The tape length of :41 came from an article on CNN.

[8] SPOILER ALERT: In this initial trial the jury actually ended up awarding Bollea $140 million, which as CNN points out “equates to approximately $3.4 million per second” of the short clip that was posted by the media company. In June 2016, Gawker filed Chapter 11. They were sold to Univision, who shuttered their main site, for $135 million in August 2016. Then, in November 2016, Gawker reached a settlement with Bollea for $31 million, only about $756,000 per second.

[9] Seriously. Believe that. Seriously” – This brief snapshot of amazing deposition was published as a video on the New York Post website. One’s mind boggles to think that these words were uttered in an actual U.S. courtroom. Perhaps this has devolved enough to where one could make a bad joke here about how hilarious it is to see such a dick on trial…but one won’t.

[10] A quote from Denny Burkholder’s fair, complex portrait of André called “Being Andre the Giant” on the CBS Sports website.

[11] The Princess Bride is a classic movie that shouldn’t need a citation. Anyone who has never seen it needs to find it immediately and watch it right now…this essay can wait. “Judo master” refers to a widely circulated story involving Andre and wrestler Bad News Brown, which will be covered in more detail later in the essay.

[12] This quote is from a Keith Elliot Greenburg article on Bleacher Report called “Remembering Andre the Giant’s Larger Than Life Career and Complexities”.

[13] Mr. McMahon made this statement on a WWE-released Biography documentary called Andre the Giant: Larger than Life.

[14] Another quote from Burkholder. It might be noted here that despite his promiscuity, which seemed more common among athletes of his day—see Wilt Chamberlain’s claim of sleeping with 20,000 women—André did not leave behind a string of children all around the country. Acromegaly often causes sterility in its sufferers. André only had one child—a daughter—though due to his disorder, he refused initially to believe that she was his.

[15] Promo” is a wrestling term for basically any type of staged interview or monologue, perhaps in reference to the way in which such interviews “promote” the upcoming fight.

[16] The transcript for this promo can be found in to Michael Krugman’s WWE-sanctioned biography, André the Giant: A Legendary Life. In that book, Krugman transcribes a majority of André’s matches, interviews and promos. The “biography” is fairly light on analysis, but the transcriptions provide a detailed career overview as well as an invaluable reference point for subsequent researchers looking to save some time.

[17] Yet another quote from Burkholder’s article.

[18] Examples of folks questioning André’s height abound on the Internet. For some examples of contemporary sources that go with the flow, see André’s interview with David Letterman from 1984; or, read Terry Todd’s in-depth profile of André for Sports Illustrated, “To the Giant Among Us”.

[19] Recounted by Skaaland on Biography’s Larger than Life documentary about Andre.

[20] Bad News Brown recounts this story in a published ”Shoot” interview, an excerpt of which has been uploaded to YouTube.

[21] This transcript can be found on a lot of pretty unsavory sites, but I used one from ProWrestling.com which looked okay.

[22] This quote is from a Yahoo article, so is more reflective of popular thought rather than proof of WWE’s specific intention. Still, it’s a nice quote.

[23] The WWE Network is the pro wrestling company’s premium streaming service. It offers original programming as well as access to every WWF/E pay-per-view in history. It’s a key resource for any pro wrestling researcher worth their salt. Perhaps hoping the worst has passed and wanting to streamline the search process again, WWE has since restored the ability to search for Hogan on the WWE Network—he was a part of a massive number of important matches, after all, but he is still completely absent from WWE.com. So, half-yay, for half sticking to their guns? (No.) It’s not that people aren’t ever allowed to make terrible mistakes in their lives, it’s that hate speech, whether a “mistake” or not, should have real consequences.

[24] By the way, Hogan also told Get in the Game TV that, early in the match at WrestleMania III, Andre landed on top of him and “cut this big fart.” Andre laughed really hard afterward. As such a thing is well-corroborated by an outside source in a separate incident, this anecdote would seem to be the easiest to believe out of all of the “facts” in this paragraph

[25] A paraphrase from the Larger than Life documentary narration.

 


Andrew Cartwright is an Indiana man now living in Virginia—after long stops in Ukraine and Denver. He writes and studies creative nonfiction in the MFA program at George Mason University, where he also works for the journals, Phoebe and So To Speak. His work has appeared in Esquire Ukraine and Word Riot.

 

Photo credit: noticeofmeowery via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: noticeofmeowery via Foter.com / CC BY-SA