By Terry Todd
Watching him squeeze into a cab is an almost painful experience. Once, in New York City, he hailed a cab for himself and three friends, ushered them into the back and then somehow jammed himself into the front seat, only to be unable to close the door. The simplest things can present problems. He must use an object such as a pencil to dial a telephone, because his fingers won't fit into the holes in the dial. He must choose his chairs carefully. Going through a revolving door, he must bend and take tiny shuffling steps to make the door revolve. He is unable even to consider learning to play the piano because he would strike three white keys with one finger. Bathing in an average motel is an experience ranging from the unpleasant to the impossible. And, had he become Clark Kent, he definitely would have required a more commodious changing room.
In almost every facet of Andre's life he is hamstrung by his size, brought low by the Lilliputian world in which he must exist. Those few people in history who have been Andre's physical peers have usually been able to accommodate themselves to their fate because they could outfit their homes with special furniture and bathrooms, and they could arrange their work spaces to fit their special needs. Even those who traveled with fairs almost always had wagons or trailers custom-made to suit them. But Andre is, in a very real sense of the word, a jet-setter. He logs tens of thousands or miles each year by air and standard auto and he stays in a different hotel or motel almost every night of the year. He has a lovely home near Ellerbe, N.C., and it is quipped for his unique needs, but such a home provides little balm if you're there just a week or so each year.
It is only when Andre works the Northeast for Vince McMahon that he has access to a vehicle custom-made to ease the burdens of his travels. McMahon bought a heavy-duty van, had the ceiling raised about a foot and installed an oversized couch. Naturally, Andre loves it. After a match he can climb in through the side doors, ease back onto his plush couch, stretch his legs and begin his nightly assault on the beer stashed in his king-size cooler.
Recently, as he relaxed in the van after a match in New York City, he asked for a beer and then, as the can disappeared into his awesome fist, leaned back and talked about the related tribulations of size and travel. "Well, boss, it is sometimes a hard life," he said. "Many times I have to ride for several hundred miles in the front seat of a car and my back and neck always get so stiff. You have seen it, boss. I must bend my neck and hold my head between my shoulders to be able to ride in a car at all. I can't see out very well, of course, and I feel so squeezed together. And, you know, people never seem to realize that I might get tired of being asked how tall I am or how much I weigh. So many questions. That's why I go to restaurants in the middle of the afternoon or late at night. I want to be polite, and to make a nice impression, but sometimes it is hard. I would give much money to be able to spend one day per week as a man of regular size. I would shop, and I would go to the cinema, and drive around in a sports car and walk down Fifth Avenue and stare at the other people for a change. Another beer, please, boss."
Andre does love beer, and his love has a constancy seldom seen in romantic love. Stories about Andre and his beer are legion in the world of pro wrestling and have an appropriately Bunyanesque quality. Friends report that he often drinks several cases during the course of a day. One of his closest associates has sworn that, in 1969, in Mulhouse, France, he got through 117 bottles of German beer. Of course, given the amount of blood Andre's monumental body must contain, he should be able to, in the words of the Coneheads, consume mass quantities.
People who knew of my plans to travel with Andre warned me not to try to match him beer for beer. But was I not myself a large and robust man? Had I not once sat with the St. Louis Cardinals' interior linemen at Jackie Smith's place to celebrate the season's end by drinking gin and tonics our of quart Mason jars? Had I not knocked back successive tumblers of vodka with the previously mentioned Alexeyev to celebrate various of his victories? Was I not, by God, a fifth-generation Texan? Aware, of course, I probably couldn't stay with Andre in a true contest because of the 210-pound difference in our body weights, I nontheless felt that for a few hours after a match I would be able to keep up with him. To be honest, I actually looked forward to the opportunity to bellying up to the bar with the biggest professional athlete in the world and swapping tall tales of various kinds.
It was with this attitude that I went with him, after his bout that first night in Philadelphia, to a local motel, where I checked in and agreed to meet him in a few minutes in the lounge. I had been careful in our earlier talk not to mention his fondness and capacity for beer, lest he feel obliged to put on a show for me, and I was somewhat taken aback as I entered the lounge to notice four freshly opened bottles before him on the bar, one of them half gone. The other half disappeared as I walked up. "Come, boss," he said in his cavernous voice, "what will you have? The beer is cold."
Not wishing to seem competitive, I only ordered two, planning to drink them quickly and get two more and gradually catch up without him noticing. I drank and drank and we were joined in our drinking and talking by Arnold Skaaland, a former wrestler who is one of Vince McMahon's road managers. The talk was good and the beer went fast and I took a few notes as the evening passed, notes which seemed to me to become steadily more perceptive. I smiled often to myself as I continued to drink and talk and write on my yellow note pad. Finally the bar closed, although I have no clear recollection of going to my room, I know I did because I woke their the next morning, fully dressed and lying on top of the bedspread, my mouth feeling as if a cat had littered in it while I slept.
My first thought as my mind swam into hazy focus was of my note pad. Sitting up with a start, I saw it, resting securely on top of the dresser. Not even waiting to shower, I took the pad to the table, sat down and began to read. "Not bad," I thought to myself as I went through the first couple of pages, anticipating the material still to come. But the notes became increasingly unclear, at last achieving illegibility. *Caveat potator*. Do not match drinks with the Giant. This lesson learned, I spent the remainder of my time drinking *with* Andre, not against him, and I can report with confidence that his capacity for alcohol is extraordinary. During the week or so I was with him, his average daily consumption was a case or so of beer; a total of two bottles of wine, generally French, with his meals; six or eight shots of brandy, usually Courvoisier or Napoléon, though sometimes Calvados; half a dozen standard mixed drinks, such as Bloody Marys or Screwdrivers; and the odd glass of Pernod. He drinks as many Frenchman drink - throughout the day - and he takes genuine comfort in his drinking, seemingly in agreement with the line from Housman that "Malt does more than Milton can / To justify God's ways to man." But during the time I was with Andre, never once did I see him give any indication that the alcohol was affecting him. Several friends who have known him over the years say that on the rare occasion when he feels the need to tie one on he avoids beer or wine and goes quickly through three fifths of vodka.
Because he spends as much time as he does in various watering holes, many people wonder how Andre avoids being singled out by the supposedly ubiquitous drunk with a yen to take on the biggest guy in the house. Two things about that, the first being that it's one thign for a man to get well enough bagged to imagine himself the equal of a 6'3", 250-pound man, but 7'4" and 500 pounds? Come on. The difference is the same as that which allows an intoxicated and/or hot-headed man to drive his fist into, and possibly through, a wooden door but refrain from driving that same fist into a steel girder. However - and this brings up the second thing - Andre actually *has* had to fight a few times in bars. Skaaland was with him once in Quebec City when a big lumberjack got so full of both whiskey and himself that nothing would do but to try out *le géant*. "We were at this little bar after a match," Skaaland recalls, "and I noticed this guy kept staring at Andre. That's not unusual, except he looked like he was building up steam. And sure enough, he walked up to Andre, tapped him on the shoulder and cursed him and called him out.
"We were standing at the bar, and Andre turned around to face the guy and spoke to him softly. He told him he didn't want to fight, and he even offered to buy him a drink, but the guy cursed him again. The words barely got out of his mouth when Andre grabbed him by the neck and belt and drove him into the wall across the room. I think it broke the guy's ribs." Asked about this later, Andre shrugged and said, "I do what I can to avoid bad trouble, boss, but I have seen enough to know when a man can't be talked out of a fight. First I talk, but when I see the talk won't work, I want to make the first move and I want to make it a good one. Twice I have had knives pulled on me and I have had to use a barstool."
Like most people who drink because they enjoy it rather than because they have to, Andre isn't bothered overmuch by the occasional dry period. Last year, for example, after an extended trip to Japan and Australia, he found that his weight had reached the unacceptably high mark of 540 pounds, whereupon he put himself on a strict diet - no alcohol, and only one meal per day. In four weeks he dropped 80 pounds, which becomes less surprising with the realization that he consumes approximately 7,000 calories in alcohol a day.
As for his efforts at the table, Andre seems to eat less than might be expected, though, of course, far more than the average person. Four eggs, bacon, hash browns, four pieces of whole wheat toast, a pint of orange juice and two iced coffees suffice to break his nightly fast, and his evening meal, generally taken several hours before his match, will depend on where he is in the world, although the quantity will be about twice that consumed by your garden variety gourmand. Occasionally, however, he will hold back on the alcohol and give full play to his appetite. He recently recounted an evening spent in a small, second- rate restaurant. "I was tired, boss, and I only wanted to have a quick bite and go to bed, but this waitress, she kept pointing at me and talking about me to the other customers. Then she asked me in a loud voice if a cup of soup and a cracker would be enough. And she laughed. I told her no, that I was hungry, and wished the entire menu to be brought, one dish at a time. It took me four hours to eat it all."(to be continued...)
Copyright 1981 - Sports Illustrated
Jeremy Hartley: Well, and a classic example...1987, Wrestlemania III, you wrestled Randy Savage - and just the intensity level, from what I could tell - that had to have been the best match on the card even though the main event was Andre and Hogan - but if you talk about just straight wrestling and being able to tell a story - it was your match with Savage that made the card.
Ricky Steamboat Yeah, we got voted - first that was the best match of the night, then it was the best match of the year, the decade, you know, it was just a sixteen minute match. McMahon stressed to us - you know, Savega and I were wrestling around the country against each other, you know, building up for this Pay-Per-View. We would go out and have thirty - forty minute matches. McMahon said, "Hey look you guys, I know you've been putting in this time out on the road but the feature match is Andre vs. Hogan - don't you dare go out there and go thirty minutes and leave them with about four minutes!" So, we put together a match of sixteen minutes that had something like 22 false finishes - that was what made everything so different. Afterwards, that was at the Silverdome, and there was a big banquet dinner-party and I was sitting next at one tabe and Savage was sitting at another one - of course we still have to kayfabe each other... But everyone who was coming into the banquet room were coming up to Savage, coming up to me, oldtimers, marks, whoever, they said, "God Damn! What a match you two guys put on!" Nobody was going over to where Hogan was sitting, you know...for some strange rerason I feel like I got a little heat because of that match - maybe because it upstaged the dfeature match, you know? One publication wrote something like, "Hogan and Andre drew the show - Steamboat and Savage stole the show."
Jeremy Hartley: (laughs...)
Ricky Steamboat And I still get a lot of comments about that match. Also some of the classic matches I had with Flair in 1989. When we went back and forth for the Title. But you know something Jeremy? I've had had some great matches that I would consider even equal to Savage that nobody ever saw, other than maybe at a live show. You know, with Jake the Snake Roberts, even with Don Murracco with Fuji on the sidelines.
Jeremy Hartley: Who worked with you, besides Verne and those guys, to help you become the ring psychologist? Did you just pick up on what a lot of the guys were doing? Did anyone take you aside and say, "This is..."
Ricky Steamboat I'll throw a name at you.
Jeremy Hartley: Go ahead.
Ricky Steamboat It was when I was in Georgia for a year. I traveled with this guy everyday, or he rode with me or I rode with him. He worked the WWF and he also worked the NWA Georgia that one year when I was there. His name is Dean Ho - his real name is Dean Naguchi - he was Tag Team Champion of the WWF with ...uh...
Jeremy Hartley: Garrea wasn't it..?
Ricky Steamboat Tony Garrea (November 1973 to May 1974). Dean liked me, my mother's from Japan, his family's from Japan although he gre up in Hawaii. Actually, I had some martial arts background when I was a teenager and I was taking it when the Bruce Lee movies were really popular. I was about 13-14 years old, or whatever. But Dean was using it throughout his wrestling career and when I came to Georgia and he took a look at me when I was Ricky Steamboat, and he know Sam Steamboat (a famous Hawaiian wrestler - no relation) up in Hawaii, very well. He asked me, "Instead of using punches and all that why don't you use the martial arts..?" And I said, "Well, out of respect for you, because you do it - here I am a rookie and you've been around the business. I don't want to do anything that would..." And he said, "Well, I'm going to teach you." he said, "I want to show you how to do it, you know, when to do it, the times of the match and all that kind of thing." I would say that he had, probably the most influence on my early career that carried me through the rest of the years.
Jeremy Hartley is a longtime friend of Solie's and a regular contributer to the newsletter. His "EYE on Wrestling" columns can be found in the "Articles" section of the web site. His previous interviews with Bob Blackburn, Lou Thesz, Bob Ryder and Buddy Landel are currently to be found in the "Interviews" section. You can also hear any of these interviews in RealAudio by visiting Jeremy's web site, Up Close Wrestling
The program starts without preamble and we go right to the announcers, Mike Tenay and Legendary Larry. Then we cut to a camera inside the Macho Man's limo as he and the girls approach the arena in Syracuse, NY. Suddenly Savage tells the driver to stop, saying he sees Kevin Nash. He runs to a car where a large man with long hair is unpacking his trunk. He spins the man around and starts to pummel him then realizes it is Brian Adams. The two exchange words - my guess is we'll have a match tonight. Cut to commercial.
Buff Bagwell comes out to talk with Mean Gene. Okerlund tells Buff he has been signed to face...Disco Inferno at the PPV. Bagwell isn't very happy about that and lays the smack down on Roddy Piper for making that call. Ernest Miller strolls out in the midst of Bagwell's rant and starts ranting his own usual schtick. Buff interrupts his speech (thank God!) and challenges him to a match tonight. Cut to commercial.
Konnan/Konnan, Jr. vs. Psychosis/Villano - Tenay announces that the World Tag Team Titles have been stripped from Chris Benoit and Saturn because Saturn wasn't legally in the match (damn...that means I have to alter my Title Histories!) Misterio faces Psychosis in the opening moments of this match and succombs to the larger man's size advantage. But then Rey wiggles away and tags Konnan who cleans house with Rey coming back in to help him against both opponents. P&V bail out to regroup. Villano comes back in against Rey and hangs him up on the top rope so that his partner can lay in a legdrop. Rey is isolated for about a half minute then gets the tag. Konnan comes in and they are hitting on all eight with some pretty good team work. Rey springboards off of Konnan's back to get a Frankensteiner on Psychosis then pins him moments later. Cut to commercial.
Mean Gene welcomes Diamond Dallas Page and Kanyon to the ring for an interview. He asks DDP where Bam Bam Bigalow is. Page says, "Don't worry about triple B" and seems to imply that he can defend the Tag Team Titles with either Bigalow or Kanyon. He has some pithy things to say about Saturn and Benoit, and insults the fans while he is at it. He tells Benoit and Saturn to come to the PPV and challenge for the title again. Savage and company stroll the halls and run into Adams again. They exchange words and set up a match (told yuh so...) Cut to commercial.
Buff Bagwell vs. Ernest Miller (w/Sonny Oono) - Disco Inferno joins the broadcasters for this one. His story is that Buff's win on Nitro was a fluke. Miller gets in a kick to the gut on the first exchange and is all over his opponent from the get-go. Miller keeps stopping to jive the fans between shots. Eventually it costs him as Bagwell recovers and turns the tables. He is in the midst of his offensive flurry when the Cat hits a low blow then drops Bagwell onto the top rope. He falls out to the floor where Sonny Oono kicks him a time or two. Back in the ring, Bagwell is starting to recover so Miller goes for the eyes. It hardly slows Buff down as he delivers two atomic drops. In a flash, Oono gets the tire iron to Miller then distracts the referee. But Buff ducks the iron and downs Miller then picks up the weapon and uses it on Oono. The ref sees this and ends the match. Scott Norton runs in as Miller retreives the iron and swings...and misses him as well. Norton chops him out of his boots then ejects him from the ring. They split and meanwhile, Disco has snuck into the ring and hits the Last Dance on Bagwell. Cut to commercial.
Mean Gene calls Chris Benoit and Saturn to the ramp for an interview. They enters to Dean Malenko's old music again. Benoit is really pissed at the Nature Boy (gosh, I wonder why...) He vows to take the Tag Belts this Sunday night. I notice that Saturn has gotten rid of his dress but still wears the funny contact lenses. Okerlund is making a statement when Dean Malenko comes strolling to the top of the ramp and just looks at them, then splits. That may have been Malenko's best interview this year (just kidding...) The Iceman cometh..? Cut to commercial.
Randy Savage (w/the girls) vs Brian Adams (w/Vincent) - Randy Savage and Company make their entrance as we return. He taunts Kevin Nash suggesting that he just give up the title rather then face Savage at the PPV (oh yeah...that's going to happen.) The big questiln seems to be "who drove the Hummer?" I've heard a rumor that it was Elizabeth but I'll believe it when I see it. Right away the girls start distracting the referee at every turn - it doesn't look good for Adams. Savage starts laying in punches until Adams falls to the mat. But then Adams comes back with an overhead choke followed by a back breaker. He snap mares him then rakes the forehead with his boots. Savage comes back quickly and clotheslines him to the floor where Medusa distracts him with a kick to the back. Savage uses her cover to blindside his opponent then start runing him into the railing, the apron and the steps. Adams chops Savage's throst to come back then gets a head butt. He presses Savage ober his head that drops him on the rail then returns to the ring. Savage is helped back by his entourage and turns the tables as he returns to the ring. But then there is a whip and Adams gets another back breaker. Now Medusa comes in and plants another kick. Adams grabs her and presses her but now Savage is back and trips him. Vincent has a chair and is trying to get iinto the ring but the girls are holding him back. The referee is distracted as Savage throws his big elbow. He gets the pin then the B-Team troups swarm. Savage holds them off with the chair and with the assistance of his own distaff troups. GG is actually dragged across the mat as she clings to Horace's leg. MM dropkicks Horace off the top then Savage drops another elbow. The girls down the referee and whip him with a belt then pants him! Cut to commercial.
Fit Finley vs. Rick Steiner - TV Title match - Tenay mentions the Internet rumors about the identity of the driver in the Hummer incident - makes me think the Net might have it wrong... Steiner makes a threatening statement directed at Sting before the match gets underway. Steiner bulls his opponent into the corner but Finley gets an atomic drop then rebounds off the rops and runs right into a Steinerline. The match goes out to the floor where Steiiner maintains his advantage. Back in the ring, Finley makes a come-back but is stopped short when Steiner goes for the eyes. A big belly-to-belly gets Steiner a two-count. Finley comes bck with a suplex of his own then applies a jaw-breaker and a Samoan drop to get his own two-count. The match goes to the floor and Steiner turns the tables again. He pulls up the mat and bulldogs Finley on the concrete. Surprisingly, Finley comes right back and drags Steiner out of the ring then drops him onto the railing. Back in the ring and we are in see-saw mode until Finley runs his shoulder into the post. Steiner gets his bulldog off the top then applies a complicated submission hold to take the win. Cut to commercial.
Tenay talks to Kevin Nash on the phone. Nash says has some cracked ribs but also says even if he's not 100%, "...he can bring more then Savage can handle..." Nash says he has to worry about the "new player" on Savage's team and says the Internet rumors name Scott Hall as the driver - I haven't heard that one. He doesn't care if Savage wants to use the big elbow. Cut to commercial.
Kanyon vs. Saturn - grudge match - Saturn has reason for anger after what happened Monday night. He stalks purposefully to the ring with fire in his red eyes. Kanyon bails then has trouble getting back into the ring. Saturn nails his opponent as he tries to enter then goes out after him. Kanyon avoids the immediate contact by fleeing into the ring then out again. Saturn hits him with a suicide dive and they brawl on the outside and right up the ramp where Kanyon receives a snap suplex. They continue to fight towards the entryway as the referee follows them trying to get them turned around. Saturn finally comlies by throwing Kanyon bodily down the ramp to the floor. Kanyon runs into the ring and catches Saturn who enters right behind him. But Saturn turns the tables immediately and Kanyon is back on the recieving end. Saturn pounds down on him in the corner until Kanyon lifts him up and drops him on the top rope. Saturn ends up on the apron outside the ropes so Kanyon suplexes him back into the ring. Now Kanyon has the advantage but can't get the pin. The referee and Kanyon get into a little shoving match then he tries another pinfall without success. He gets a powerbomb then drops a leg on his opponent's midsection. He misses a clotheline and gets side kicked to the mat. Saturn keeps the advantage and gets a springboard body block then follows with a released belly-to-belly. He goes to the top and hits a big splash but hurts himself. Bot guys are down and being counted as we cut to commercial.
Kanyon has Saturn on the mat with a sleeper as we return. The latter powers back to his feet and escapes just as DDP hits the ring and attacks him. The match is thrown out. Benoit appears and wades in but he is outnumbered with Saturn out of it. Page and Kanyon start acting as a tag team - and the referee goes along with it! Its Benoit/Saturn vs. Page/Kanyon! Saturn is still in trouble and being isolated. Fans are throwing popcorn and drinks into the ring. Now Tenay is telling us this is a Title contest...right, Flair's going to stand for that... Saturn gets a suplex on Kanyon and manages to tag out. Benoit cleans house - here comes Malenko and Arn Anderson. They confer in the aisle then both head back. In the ring, Benoit hits Page with a diving headbutt and gets the pin. Apparently Benoit and Saturn are the Tag Champs again.
The program ends with a "Chimp Channel" takeoff on Mike Tenay and Larry Zbyszco - funny stuff.
I'll be back with the PPV report on Sunday. Until then...
At least that's the way I see it...
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
This page is a personal tribute and is in no way connected to any of the wrestling promotions mentioned on it. It is dedicated to the Dean of Wrestling announcers, Gordon Solie.
Copyright 1999 - Jump City Productions