Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deadspin's Dead Wrestler Of The Week: André The Giant

Most people who follow blogs have probably heard of Gawker media. They are the pinnacle of blog popularity. One of the websites under them is Deadspin, which claims to deliver sports "without access, favor or discretion." They absolutely come through on that claim as their targets have ranged from the likes of Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez to Sean Salisbury and Steve Phillips. Anyway, I visit Deadspin for the sheer lulz and their often humorous take on sports. Plus, they have some excellent writers like Drew Margarey and Will Leitch. Anyway, a few weeks ago they started a weekly tribute to dead wrestlers. These columns have been absolutely great as they combine passion for wrestling, emotional attachment to the wrestlers along with some excellent writing. This week, they did an absolutely fantastic column about Andre the Giant's life and career.

Here is Deadspin's own description of it.

Every week, the Masked Man, Deadspin's pro wrestling correspondent, honors the sport's fallen and examines their legacies — famous and obscure alike. Today: André the Giant, who died of a heart attack in 1993. He was 46.

I will just do a teaser of sorts on here, if you want to read the rest of it, you should click right here

"When Hulk Hogan and André the Giant met in what is still considered the biggest wrestling match of all time, exaggeration was in the air. According to various contemporary reports, there were 95,000 people on hand at WrestleMania III to see the 7-foot-5, 525-pound André square off against the goldenboy Hulk Hogan, who stood 6-foot-8 and weighed 320 pounds and whose biceps measured 24 inches around. Probably the only number in that last sentence that's unimpeachable is the III.

Pro wrestling is abundant with such embellishments (and misdirections, fabrications, and lies of omission), even within the context of the sport's carefully crafted unreality. But when André was involved, the mythologizing always hit fever pitch. It's a testament to his outsized greatness that reality — as impressive at it was — couldn't do him justice.

It should be said at this point that every detail of André's life is subject to fantastical reinterpretation, and failing that, normal human error. For every stated fact that follows, there is a contradictory fact somewhere out there. I am indebted to Michael Krugman's André the Giant: A Legendary Life for its "official" timeline of André's early life, but even with that aid, "truth" hereafter should be graded on a curve.

Born André René Roussimoff in 1946 at the foot of the French Alps, in a town called Grenoble, André was normal-sized at his birth, but with adolescence came an incredible growth spurt — details are hazy, of course, but various stories put him at 6 feet at the age of 12, 6-foot-7 at the age of 17, and 7-foot-4 by 19. (There is much dispute that he ever actually reached 7-foot-4.) He had an affliction called acromegaly, a syndrome wherein the pituitary gland overproduces growth hormone. (There are stories that his grandfather in Bulgaria had the same affliction, and grew to a height of 7-foot-8.) Legend has it that when he made the long walk to school as a child, he would sometimes hitch a ride from his neighbor, Samuel Beckett. In his teen years, André worked on a farm, in a factory, and as a woodworker before he was discovered (not by Lord Alfred Hayes, as some legend suggests, though Hayes did meet him early in his career) and introduced to the world of wrestling. He traveled widely almost from the start — throughout Europe, where he was known as "Monster Eiffel Tower," into Japan, where he was dubbed "Monster Roussimoff," and at home in France, where he called "The Butcher" or simply "Giant Roussimoff." Soon, though, he took on a new moniker: "Jean Ferre," a play on the name of Geant Ferre, sort of a French Paul Bunyan. At a time when a wrestler's name printed on a billboard had to sell tickets, it was obvious almost from the start that mythology was the only means of adequate articulation of André's presence."

I can only hope to achieve the kind of success this writer has achieved with his tribute to dead wrestlers.

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