Wrestling legend Andre the Giant, who stood 7’4″ (224 cm) and weighed in at 525 lbs (238 kg) was one of the highest-paid performers during the 1970s and early ’80s. Often regarded as “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” Andre the Giant was a WWF (now known as WWE) Champion and a WWF World Tag Team Champion.
Andre Rene Roussimoff was born on May 19, 1946, in Grenoble, France, to Boris and Mariann Roussimoff, a couple of Bulgarian and Polish ancestry. All members of his family were of average size and he was normal-sized at his birth, so nobody assumed anything out of the ordinary.
However, Andre suffered from gigantism, later resulting in acromegaly, a disorder that results from excess growth hormone, that caused him to reach a height of 191 cm (6 ft 3 in) and a weight of 94 kg (208 lb) by the age of 12.
Twelve-year-old Andre was too huge to take the regular bus to school and his father could not afford to buy a car that would be big enough to fit his 12-year-old son. However, the author of Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett, who was his father’s friend and his neighbor, offered to bring Andre to school each day in his truck.
The famed playwright and Nobel Prize winner (literature) bought a plot of land 60 km (40 mi) northeast of Paris back in 1953 and built a cottage for himself with the help of Andre’s father, Boris Rousimoff. When Beckett learned that Boris’ son was too big to take the regular bus to school, he offered to be Andre’s chauffeur.
The Irishman and Andre became close friends and when Andre recounted the drives with Beckett, he revealed that they rarely talked about anything besides cricket.
Andre was an excellent mathematician and he was doing pretty good in school but decided to drop out after the eighth grade and started working on his father’s farm.
It seemed inevitable that Andre would excel in the wrestling world and when he was 17-years-old he moved to Paris where he was taught professional wrestling. It didn’t take long before French wrestling champion Frank Valois saw Andre’s potential and became his manager and adviser.
He started wrestling in Montreal under the name of Jean Ferre and wrestled for the International Wrestling Enterprise in Japan in 1970, where he became a smash hit. However, his life changed forever after he debuted at Madison Square Garden as “Andre the Giant,” and became one of the world’s most famous professional athletes.
In 1987, Andre was part of one of the most famous WrestleMania matches in history and the “biggest main event in sports entertainment.” In front of 90,000 fans in Detroit, Michigan, Andre wrestled fellow legend Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania III.
His height and weight were also noticed by Hollywood and he appeared in many films and television shows, including Rob Reiner’s classic The Princess Bride.
He continued to wrestle, besides the fact that he faced serious health issues due to his size. This was eventually to prove too much for his heart and he died of heart attack in January 1993, after attending a WCW reunion.