IN THE RING, it was like watching the Incredible Hulk himself, albeit without the green hue.
Huge, bulking chest, tight pants and a gargantuan strength that saw wrestler after wrestler flattened to the ground or flung over the top of ropes, each of them crying out for mercy as they tried – and invariably failed – to land him a blow.
Yes, in the days before The Rock, John Cena and Hulk Hogan, there was a wrestling superstar that towered above all his opponents and dominated the world of wrestling in a way that no one has quite achieved since – his name was André the Giant.
But a HBO documentary about his career softened even the hardest of hearts as it revealed the tortured side to the life of this legendary 7ft 4in, 520lb wrestling superstar, originally called André René Roussimoff.
Born on a farm in the small village of Molien in the French Alps, André started growing abnormally large at the age of 16, though he was never taken to a doctor, and decided to make use of his natural talents "to be something and make money."
At his size, a career in pro-wrestling was inevitable, and he was soon travelling the world as The Friendly French Giant, Jean Ferré, drawing crowds of up to 4,000 people at least three nights a week, everyone happy to pay to see this gigantic mammoth of a boy defeat his opposing wrestlers as a horse swats a flea.
Eventually he cracked North America and was dubbed by wrestling commentators as the "Eighth Wonder of the World" and "a God" and invited onto guest shows as André the Giant so people could marvel at his unique physical shape.
The vast hands that made a can of fizzy drink look like it was plucked from a children’s toy box, the size 24 boots that elicited innuendos about his sexual prowess and the strength that had him lifting 200lb weights without breaking into a sweat.
In the ring, he was just as awesome.
He’d famously throw 19 wrestlers over the top rope in a multi-competitor Battle Royal with the last wrestler trembling and begging for mercy.
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