Rene Rousimoff was born in 1946 to Boris and Marian Rouismoff,
who were both over 6 feet tall. He suffered from acromegaly, also
known as gigantism. Andre's large size was not uncommon to his
family, as his Bulgarian grandfather topped out at 7' 8"
Andre left home at the age of 14, already standing
over 6' 3" and weighing more than 200 pounds. He moved to
Paris where he worked at a furniture store and developed his skills
as a rugby player. When he was 17, he was discovered by wrestlers
while working out in a gym. They showed him some of their moves,
and shortly after he was asked to fill in for an injured wrestler.
He immediately took to the profession of wrestling, and under
the name Jean Ferré he honed his skills around the world.
By his mid twenties, Andre was already standing
over 7 feet tall and weighing over 350 pounds. He continued wrestling
throughout Europe and Africa until 1971, when he first came to
North America. He continued wrestling under the name Jean Ferré
in Quebec, Canada, but after initial strong crowd reaction, the
crowds dwindled. Realizing a change was in order, he arranged
for a meeting with Vince McMahon, Sr., owner of the World Wrestling
Federation (WWF) and professional wrestling's premier promoter.
McMahon quickly realized the potential of Andre
if promoted properly, and began booking Andre not only in the
U.S. but all over the world. They key to the success of the giant,
he figured, was to limit his exposure in areas, so that every
time and place that Andre went it was special. He also realized
that the name Jean Ferré would do nothing in America, and
rather than rename him with an extravagant "wrestling name,"
McMahon gave him the straightforward name of Andre the Giant.
Andre the Giant quickly became a household name
as he became one of the most popular wrestlers ever and one of
the most recognizable professional athletes in the world. In the
ring, Andre was unbeatable, both figuratively and literally. The
WWF touted him as being an unbeatable giant, and in fact in the
ring, if Andre didn't want to lose, he didn't.
Andre continued as the cornerstone of the WWF
in the 1980's, even after Vince McMahon, Jr. took over the company
and took it nationwide. Despite his numerous years in the federation
as a fan favorite, Andre never had held the WWF Heavyweight title.
It wasn't until 1988, after Andre became a rule breaker, that
he finally won the title from Hulk Hogan.
By then, Andre's health had started to fade, and
in their much hyped WrestleMania III match in front of 90,000+
at the Silverdome, Andre "passed the torch" on to Hogan
as the most popular wrestler. There was some concern on both McMahon
and Hogan's part before the match as to whether or not Andre would
actually let Hogan win, but Andre saw that his wrestling career
was fading, and even allowed Hogan to become the first person
to body slam his 500+ pound body. Andre did continue to wrestle
on occasion for most of the rest of his life, although he was
limited to mostly tag team duty as his health continued to worsen.
Andre had many other pastimes in addition to wrestling,
including raising horses and livestock on his ranch in North Carolina,
and acting on television and in movies. Andre had plans to start
acting even more after his wrestling career was totally finished.
size also allowed him to drink more than virtually anyone else,
and stories of his alcohol consumption are almost legendary. He
would on average consume a case of beer throughout the day, and
usually at least a bottle of French wine with each meal. He once
was reported to have consumed 117 bottles of German beer in a
day. He also used his great size and strength for practical jokes,
often single-handedly moving friends' cars while they were in
Andre's health continued to worsen, until 1993
when he passed away while in France to attend his father's funeral.
His ashes were spread across his ranch in North Carolina. Andre
did have a small family, with one daughter, and countless friends
from his long career. The WWF started its own wrestling Hall of
Fame in 1993, and made Andre the lone original inductee.