DVD / Blu-Ray

Andre The Giant – DVD Review

Courtesy of WWE Home Video UK, Matthew Roberts reviews their latest release; the HBO/WWE documentary of Andre The Giant.

Courtesy of WWE Home Video UK, Matthew Roberts views their latest release; a HBO Sports documentary on one of wrestling’s most memorable acts. But is it worth a watch?

Even if for some reason you have found your way to this page knowing nothing about professional wrestling I am certain you will know Andre Roussimoff.  You may know him from his memorable performance in The Princess Bride; you may recognise his image thanks to Shepard Fairey’s street art campaign and the iconic representation.  But you will know the man who fans around the world knew as Andre The Giant. 

This new release from WWE Home Video is anchored by the HBO documentary “Andre The Giant” that aired on TV last year. Whilst it is definitely an HBO production, eschewing the normal WWE format for documentary presentations, there is the telltale acknowledgment in the opening credits that it is in association with the WWE.  So yes, there is the usual WWE “bias” to contend with but we’ll get to that. 

As such it’s the opening portions of the documentary that are perhaps the most interesting, even if they seem “less important” to the production than the WWE years.  Interviews with his brothers provide some context as to how this young man from a farming family made his way towards the world of professional wrestling.  Historians and other wrestling figures such as Jerry Lawler and Gene Okerlund are on hand to effectively portray how, in a world of wrestling territories, Andre could flit from city to city, never outstaying his welcome but being an imposing sight for fans who had only ever seen pictures of the Giant in magazines and never on television  Sure, you have to put up with Shane McMahon talking nonsense (his claims that, effectively, Andre was wrestling night after night in front of “thirty people, one hundred people, three hundred people” before hitting the big time of “New York” will make anyone who knows anything about territorial wrestling snort with derision) but that’s a small price to pay. 

Booked very much as a “special attraction” this meant that there was always a new territory for Andre to visit, or return to after a prolonged absence, but there is the sense that this nomadic lifestyle took its toll on a man who was already suffering general health problems and was never one likely to be living for a hundred years.  But, this is no downbeat tale on the whole; not one person has a bad word to say about Andre and the fact that lumanaries from the Princess Bride such as Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner turn up as talking heads alongside the wrestling cast does show what a well regarded figure he was.  That this allows us (and them) to reminisce about his tales of drinking wine by the case-load and his epic farting escapades with a smile on our faces rather than one of sadness says it all. 

Of course, as mentioned before, this is very much a WWE product.  So the main focus is around “the most famous wrestling match in history”, the WrestleMania III clash between Andre and Hulk Hogan.  That this becomes an opportunity to relive Vince McMahon’s crushing of the territories and WWE’s national takeover in the mid-1980s is no surprise, but it does take up quite a large portion of what is, after all, a documentary on Andre.  At times it becomes the Hulk Hogan show, but I suppose you can’t tell the story of Andre without dwelling on this match. Whether the long-told tales of there not being a finish planned until Andre consented to the slam and pin on the day of the show (or even during the match itself) are really true is probably lost to the sands of time. But perhaps it’s enough that those major players believe it to be true. 

There is a touch of genuine sadness to the tale; no matter how well Andre was loved by all the issues he faced when the camera’s were turned off can’t help but to be highlighted. The fact that his size was due to gigantism/acromegaly and that he chose not to avail himself of any treatment because it would have interfered with his career and image can’t help but be linked to his early death.  When his younger brother shows the huge chair that Andre’s mother had to make for him you get the sense of what everyday life must have been like for him; never being able to fit in a car/hotel bed/bathroom or plane seat without trouble and constantly being stared at wherever he went.  His final years suffering excruciating pain can’t have been much fun either. 

But if the sadness has to be a part of the documentary, it’s not the overwhelming part.  Andre was truly one of a kind and this production celebrates that.

The disc comes with some extras.  It’s safe to say that the in-ring part of his act was never a “strong point” and by the time he reached the WWE and it went national, he was a lumbering figure, far removed from the genuinely athletic performer he was years before.  So for that part, no-one will be expecting much from the matches on show.

A 2-on-1 handicap match from 1978 is typical Andre action from the time and an 1980 match with Hulk Hogan has historic curiosity value but again isn’t the kind of match that fans used to the fast-paced style of today can appreciate; neither is an 1983 Steel Cage Match with Big John Studd.  Matches from the first three WrestleMania’s are spectacles but again, have curiosity value only.

The extras round out with the February 1988 edition of Main Event match pitting Andre against Hogan once again.  The action may be rudimentary, but the heat is off the chart and the ending is one of complete and utter genius. The fact that 33 MILLION viewers tuned in for this match means it is the most watched Wrestling match on American television ever.  That is a record that will never be beaten. 

Format Reviewed; DVD

Photographs courtesy of Fetch and WWE

Thank you to our partners, WWEDVD.co.uk and Fetch for providing our review copy of Andre The Giant which is out Monday 6th May on DVD. You can buy your copy from WWEDVD.co.uk by clicking here.

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You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON.


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