Andre The Giant
I've never been a huge Andre The Giant fan or anything, but I don't think it can be overstated how important he was to the evolution of wrestling in the 70's and 80's. He was one of the few names in between the peaks of Sammartino and Hogan that could be considered a dependable sellout, no matter which territory he worked in.
The main reason? This guy was MASSIVE in an era where the hosses of today were rarities, and during his peak years, the guy could actually put on a decent show.
Unfortunately, too many people of today's generation (you crazy kids and your rock and roll music!) are going to remember The Eighth Wonder of the World as a hunched-over, immobile freak show with bizarre, out-of-control sideburns. Don't get me wrong; he was never a great worker by any stretch, but this particular DVD at least helps newer fans understand why Andre The Giant was a legend.
I should also point out that this DVD contains 100 % recycled material, meaning that it was actually released as a commercial videotape around 1985-86. Still, WWE has peppered a few of these re-releases in between some of their bigger projects over the last year or so, and so long as they're reasonably priced ($8.99 Canadian, BABY!), that's fine by me.
One last production note: When I say this is completely old footage, I'm not kidding. The introduction is done by Lord Alfred Hayes ("Promotional consideration paid for by the following") in front the old WWF Control Center (an editing bay and a bunch of television monitors), possibly in between filing his weekly WWF Magazine Updates. They even bleep out his lordship when he says "WWF". This is no-frills stuff all the way.
Match One: Andre The Giant vs. Moondog Rex
Folks, it just doesn't get any better than this. Gary Michael Capetta of WCW non-fame looks to be the ring announcer here. This epic encounter happened in August of 1981 from the Philadelphia Spectrum, and Andre is still sporting his afro-and-ill-fitting-trunks look that must have been all the rage back then.Lord Alfred uses the brief time in this bout to tell us about Andre's hobbies (drinking wine and raising horses), clothing preferences (those stylish plaid leisure suits he used to wear were custom-made in Japan; I guess Big & Tall wasn't around in the disco era) and his marital status (hey ladies, he's single!). After about ninety seconds, Andre delivers a big boot to Rex that misses by a mile and lands a big splash (that actually looks like it squashed Rex's head) for an easy three-count.
Rating: 1/5. This was even faster than a TV squash match back then. The fans in Philly must have loved paying good money to see Andre in such a brief appearance.
Match Two: 18-Man Battle Royal
This is one of the strangest mixtures of talent I've ever seen assembled in one ring. You've got current and future hall-of-famers Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan, Pat Patterson (who gets just a HUGE pop when he enters the ring; no joke), Paul Orndorff, Sgt. Slaughter, Mil Mascaras, The Iron Sheik, Tito Santana, Big John Studd and Jimmy Snuka; the then-tag team champions Adrian Adonis and Dick Murdoch; and noted jobbers Tiger Chung Lee, Les Thornton, Alexis Smirnoff, Salvatore Bellomo, The Hangman and Victor Rivera. Royal Rumble '92 this ain't.
Gorilla Monsoon and Hayes dub over the existing commentary. I guess the original announcers were under the quota of using tired clichés. This comes to us from East Rutherford, New Jersey. Amazingly, Hogan (at the time WWF champion, by the way) is eliminated mid-way through by Murdoch, Adonis and Studd, yet TIGER CHUNG LEE still remains. Same with this Smirnoff f*ck, whoever the hell he is. "America, what a country!" Oops, wrong guy.
Your final six are Andre, Murdoch, Smirnoff, Adonis, Tiger Chung Lee and Patterson. Patterson and Lee are quickly eliminated, leaving three heels against Andre. They work together to dump Andre out of the ring, but no dice. Andre atomic drops Yaakov Smirnoff out of the ring, then disposes of tag team champions Murdoch and Adonis in short order.
Rating: 2/5. Nothing special at all, but I'd never seen this particular battle royal before, so points for originality.
Match Three: Andre The Giant vs. Black Gordman and Great Goliath
This is from 1976, and Lord Alfred explains to us that the fans at ringside had to leave over fears that Andre would throw wrestlers out into the front row. Yeah, right. But sure enough, Andre tosses his opponents outside the ring several times, and they just happen to stumble into the front row seats. Often.
I'm not sure who the announcers are, but I don't think I've heard them before. Same with Gordman and Goliath; I think I may have read about them in PWI or something, but they are nothing overly special. Andre gets in all of his signature spots (the headbutt, the butt-bump, placing a wrestler on the top turnbuckle and then slapping them off) before the heels take control with a foreign object.Then, in what's truly a unique spot, Andre traps Gordman in a body scissors. Goliath tries to break it up, but Andre snapmares the guy and places BOTH MEN in a bodyscissors at once! Not only that, Andre looks fairly agile in doing it. His opponents escape and charge Andre, only to both get monkey-flipped at the same time! Not bad.For the finish, he throws one guy onto the other and sits on them both. Kind of like what Batista did with La Resistance recently, minus the whole flag-up-the-ass thing.
Rating: 3/5. The match was short and fun. You can't really ask for much more out of an Andre The Giant match.
Match Four: Andre The Giant Vs. Jack Evans, Johnny Rodz and Joe Butcher Nova
And the handicap matches continue! Rodz is only one of these three I know. Jack Evans is definitely NOT the same guy as from ROH, and Joe Butcher Nova is the lovechild of Abdullah The Butcher and Simon "Nova" Dean. Or maybe not.
We start the match off with the exact same double bodyscissor and monkey flip sequence I just saw FORTY-FIVE SECONDS earlier! Here I thought Bret Hart was repetitive. The three jobbers try to tackle Andre and pin him, but that doesn't quite work out.Commentator Vince McMahon refers to Andre as "Andre The Friendly Smiling Giant", a gimmick that probably didn't do wonders in the marketing department. "Bah gawd, King, it's the Friendly Smiling Giant!!!" Although that might make a good name for a children's book one day, such as Andre The Friendly Smiling Giant Saves Christmas.
Andre then beats up one guy at a time, successfully, until Rodz catches Andre in a sleeper. Two guys climb up the top turnbuckle to dish out punishment, and darned if they don't both get flipped to the ground. Then Rodz and one of the other guys attempt to attack Andre from either side of the ring, and Andre ducks with decent agility for a man his size (and I'm not being sarcastic) sending both guys headfirst into each other. Andre then piles all three opponents on top of each other, sitting on the top of the guys for the pinfall.
Rating: 3/5. This was fine and all, but it was almost identical to the last match I just watched.
Match Five: Andre The Giant vs. Gorilla Monsoon
Lord Alfred apologizes for the poor video quality, explaining that this footage was just TOO GOOD to pass up. This is actually a boxing match from Puerto Rico, date unknown. The Grand Wizard is in Monsoon's corner, while boxing great Jersey Joe Walcott is the special referee. This should be different, to say the least.
Monsoon has the distinction of being the only person to wrestle Muhammad Ali and box Andre, we're told. This isn't your traditional boxing match, but more a case of the wrestlers using boxing gloves instead of their hands, taking stiff shots to their legs, heads and backs. At one point, Andre does a version of the Earthquake splash on Monsoon, then quickly jumps to his feet. A little more boxing, before Monsoon starts kicking ass. He actually was quite a charismatic heel, if this piece of film is indication. Andre lands a blow to Monsoon's head that knocks him off his feet, and the referee counts him down from there.Post-match, Andre knocks Monsoon into a puddle outside the ring (there was a tropical rainstorm in the stadium shortly before the wrestling began) and threatens to do the same to Wizard, whom Hayes is calling "Hugo" for some reason.
Rating: 2/5. It was different; I'll give it that.
Next up, it's Bad Haircut Theater, featuring a locker-room promo with Andre (sporting a shoulder-length hippie hairstyle -- think his original LJN action figure if that helps), Jimmy Snuka (out-of-control curls) and Vince McMahon (with a greased-back head of hair that would make any 70's weatherman proud). Snuka cuts his usual coherent promo ("Look what I got next to me, my man"), but that's nothing compared to his tag team partner. I'll attempt to transcribe:
Andre: "Tonight will be the night of history, in the wrestling. We gonna do something those two (unintelligible; may be "Samoans") never seen in ("their life"?) before."
Match Six: Andre The Giant and Jimmy Superfly Snuka Vs. The Wild Samoans (Afa and Sika)
This is from February 1983, and you've got McMahon and Monsoon on commentary. The Samoans start off by double-teaming Snuka. Andre attempts to break up the double-team after a while and gets a huge pop upon entering the ring. Of course, you'd think by now a face would have caught on that entering the ring while your partner is in trouble NEVER, EVER WORKS, but Andre's certainly not an anomaly there. Afa nails quite an impressive leaping headbutt in the interim.
After several minutes, Snuka finally tags to Andre and the place goes berserk. Sorry… I mean "the fans here are literally hanging from the rafters!". Ahhh, Gorilla…Andre takes charge, double-avalanching his opponents not once but twice. He then sends Afa over with a decent-looking backdrop. Afa headbutts Andre and… there's no effect! OMG, IT'S THE BATTLE OF THE HEADBUTTS!!! Andre wins handily, even though he's not, technically, a Samoan.Sika is tagged in and gets a headbutt for his troubles. That'll teach him to eat an envelope at the Slammy Awards! Snuka is tagged in, and does his Superfly Splash… off of Andre's shoulders! I think I may have a trading card with that very picture on it somewhere… the leap looks quite amazing, even though it's only a couple of inches higher than the regular turnbuckle. After that, you can stick a fork in him. He's done. (Okay, Gorilla didn't say that this time, but you could tell he wanted to.)
Rating: 2/5. At almost 13 minutes, this went on far too long, even though the crowd was hot for the finish.
Match Seven: Andre The Giant Vs. Masked Superstar
Masked Superstar, or 'Star, as the ultra-hip Monsoon refers to him as, is Bill Eadie, better known in many circles as Demolition Ax. He would later appear as Super Machine, who was the tag team partner of Andre The Giant, who once starred in a film with… Kevin Bacon. There! I did it!
Andre uses some intimidation tactics on 'Star early on, such as picking him up in a headlock position and stomping on his hand. Superstar runs into Andre's… uh, well, ass and bails out of the ring. Okay, then.
Andre squashes Superstar in the turnbuckle and on the third go-round, gets met with a knee to his "lower lumbar region". Then 'Star whips Andre to the turnbuckles and the ring "moves eight inches". Literally. Someone should give serious thought to publishing an English-Monsoon, Monsoon-English dictionary. I'd buy one.
Superstar puts a cobra clutch on Andre while they're both on the ground. Andre's defense to this for actually pretty novel: he starts trying to tear off Superstar's mask. This breaks the hold and allows Andre to deliver an Earthquake splash for the three-count.Post-match, Andre tries again to pull off Superstar's mask. "The fans here really want to see what Masked Superstar looks like," spouts Monsoon. Yeah, right. Name one!
Rating: 1/5. Kinda boring. Nothing special at all.
Match Eight: Andre The Giant and S.D. Jones Vs. Big John Studd and Ken Patera
This is the legendary haircut match. It says so right on the DVD box, so it must be true. Actually, when Kurt Angle shaved Big Show's head last year, THIS is the match they should have shown footage of. I mean, what are the odds the same thing would have happened to the Son of Andre twenty years later?
Because this bout took place in December 1984, a good nine months before I watched my first wrestling match, I've often wondered why Andre would have chosen to team with "Special Delivery" in the first place. I mean, was Siva Afi busy that night? Even color commentator Bruno Sammartino disses S.D. in his own special kind of way.Andre and S.D. make a couple of quick tags beating up on Patera, but Jones is soon caught in the wrong part of town and double-teamed.
Hey, look - Hillbilly Jim is in the audience (that was his gimmick originally, I believe, just being a regular fan). Cool! Patera soon backdrops S.D. out of the ring where he hits his head on the guardrail and isn't heard from again.Andre is out for revenge, but Patera and Studd quickly take charge of the situation, delivering a double bodyslam on Andre that was seen at the starting of every Coliseum Home Video tape for years. The referee quickly loses control of the match and disqualifies the heels.
From here, Bobby Heenan pulls a pair of scissors from his pants and instructs the heels to cut Andre's hair. S.D. tries to interfere, but Heenan actually beats him up. Hey, Andre; here's a tip: If pudgy Bobby Heenan can beat up your partner, perhaps it's time to trade up. Hell, Tiger "King Of The Battle Royal" Chung Lee would have been an improvement. Afterwards, Patera and Studd celebrate with locks of Andre's hair.
Rating: 3/5. Not for the match itself, because this wasn't really a match. But the angle itself still holds up today, and unlike now, this was a really big deal back then.
Next, we're shown a clip from the Daytime Emmy award-winning talk show TNT, with Vince McMahon interviewing Andre. Vince inquires about how Andre has been able to put on so much weight lately. "Well, Vince, I've been on the gas, just like the rest of your boys." Okay; he didn't say that. Sadly, we're just told stories about how Lord Alfred met Andre when he was just seventeen.
Anyhoo… this segues into a clip of the next match…Match Nine: Andre The Giant Vs. Ken PateraThis is from Madison Square Garden just two months before the original WrestleMania. Andre is insanely over here. Heenan is in Patera's corner. Gorilla Monsoon and Mean Gene are your commentators here.A lot of stalling to begin by Heenan and Patera. The Olympian Patera finally gets into the ring and Andre just starts choking the shit out of his opponent. After yet some more stalling, Patera asks for a handshake. Andre pantomimes looking for a pair of scissors. Cute.Patera finally gets some offense in, but it's short-lived. Andre sends Patera over the top rope with a HUGE atomic drop, then starts choking Patera again on the apron. The action spills out to the floor, with Andre sending Patera into the guardrail. Andre gets back into the ring and Heenan has had enough. While The Giant argues with a referee, Heenan leaps from the top rope, sending both Andre and the ref down. This is vintage Bobby Heenan, laugh-out-loud funny stuff.Although there's a brief double-team by Patera and Heenan, Andre gains control quickly in time to see the referee come to and ring the bell. Patera is disqualified, but that doesn't stop Andre from gaining revenge, and the crowd is eating this up with a spoon.
Rating: 3/5. A fun revenge match. Put it this way, if you paid money to watch this back in the day, you probably went home happy.
We go back to TNT, and McMahon asks Andre if he'll put up anything against Studd's $15,000 for the upcoming WrestleMania bodyslam match. The following HILARIOUS dialogue transpires:
Andre: I would tell you, I put up my hair already. They cut my hair.
McMahon: No, I understand that, but…
Andre: They cut my hair. I gonna tell you one thing. I didn't come into the ring to be a loser.
McMahon: I understand that…Andre: (Unintelligible) in Madison Square Garden, (unintelligible) all over the world for this match. I didn't come in there to get pinned. I come in there to win.
McMahon: I understan…
Andre: I come to win. I not going to get slam.McMahon: (Trying to explain this more clearly) Alright… so they're going to put up $15,000. Heenan has said, I think a good point to some extent... They're putting up $15,000. Shouldn't Andre The Giant put up something? (This explanation goes on for some time, and then he asks the question to Andre again.)
Andre: Why should I put up something? They want to want to lose their money, I'll take their money.
McMahon: (Getting frustrated now) Alright, but Heenan says that if they're putting up $15,000 and they say you should do something like, if you can't bodyslam Big John Studd, you should retire from wrestling. What do you think about that?
Andre: (Lightbulb finally goes off in his head) Bobby Heenan said that?
McMahon: Yes, Bobby Heenan, Ken Patera, said that (repeats the concept over again and poses the question for a fourth time now). Don't you think you should put up something?
Andre: I don't think so.
McMahon: (Clearly thinking, "Will you just stick to the F*CKING SCRIPT?") Okay… but there are going to be people that are going to state there's a little bit of a yellow streak down your back if you don't put something up. They…Andre then LIFTS McMahon, by his tie, mind you, repeats what he's already said six times, drops McMahon in his chair and storms off the stage.
Hayes: I think you've upset him.
What a fabulous little segment, and I can't believe they let that stay on the tape.
Next up is the pre-match promo from WrestleMania with Mean Gene interviewing Heenan and Studd. There apparently is a stipulation now where Andre will retire if he loses. Hmmm… someone must have informed Andre afterwards. Heenan keeps snapping at Okerlund to keep his grubby hands off the money.
Match Ten: Andre The Giant Vs. Big John Studd (Bodyslam Challenge)I'll tell you right off the bat, this is one of my least-favorite WrestleMania matches of all time, INCLUDING Uncle Elmer Vs. Adrian Adonis. Michael Cole and Tazz are your commentators and… what the hell? Oh, I guess this isn't 100 percent recycled after all. Here's your new material. I'm guessing because Jesse Ventura was the original announcer here.Commentary aside, this was a booooooring match. Andre was clearly past his physical prime here, and what resulted was two guys engaging in bearhugs, punches and various rest holds for about ten minutes. Cole and Tazz try to pass it off as a "slower pace" that was used back in the day, but they're not fooling anyone. My washing machine shows better mobility than these two guys (although, to be fair, only when it's on Spin Cycle).
Andre eventually slams Studd, on his first try I might add, to the surprise of no one. Andre tries to throw out the money to the fans at MSG, but Heenan steals some of it back.
Rating: 1/5. And that's being generous.Final Analysis: Look, I'm not going to compare this to some of the awesome "Best Of" DVD's that WWE has compiled over the past three years, because it just doesn't hold up. But if you're looking to see what all the fuss was about, or just want a quick nostalgia fix (the whole disc is less than 90 minutes), you could do worse.This was more or less what I expected, and that's probably the closest thing to an endorsement I'm going to offer.