The SmarK Rant for WWE Network Collection: ANDRE THE GIANT (Part 1)
Well, in honor of the HBO doc tonight (or last night, I guess), this seems like an appropriate time to review this set of matches on the Network. It’s under “Shows” and then “Collections” in case you’d like to watch it, by the way.
Andre the Giant v. Ernie Ladd (04.26.76)
Ladd is someone who I really wish had more footage out there because he seems like he’s really underappreciated. This is from the WWF in 1976, and Vince notes that Andre is “still a growing boy”. That’s scary. Ladd stalls for as long as possible and then Andre immediately pounds him down and goes to a nerve pinch to hold him down. He whips Ladd around the ring and actually moves the ring in the process, and that’s a pretty cool visual. Bearhug, but Ladd goes the eyes, which Andre cheerfully ignores and goes right back to hugging again. Ladd gets some more shots in the corner, but Andre fires back with chops and Ladd goes flying, selling like he’s been shot. Andre goes to work on the leg and then destroys him in the corner with a headbutt, pulls him up, and fires off ANOTHER headbutt. Finally Ernie has no choice but to cheat, loading up his taped thumb with something to gain the advantage. He’s facing a literal giant! You can’t even blame him! Ladd fires away with the thumb, but finally Andre has had enough of that shit and grabs his hand, hitting Ladd with his own loaded thumb! Tremendous. Backdrop follows, but the big splash misses and Ladd decides that discretion is the better part of valor on this night, and walks out at 12:20. Well, Andre got the moral victory there. 1 for 1.
Bruiser Brody & The Executioners v. Andre the Giant, Chief Jay Strongbow & Billy White Wolf
Also from the WWF in 1976, and this is best 3/5 falls. So I believe one of the Executioners is young John “Studd” Minton, but I’m not sure who the other one is. A quick search reveals that it is in fact Killer Kowalski. Continuing the theme of interesting repackagings, the “native American” star Billy White Wolf would go on to much greater fame as Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie, aka General Adnan. White Wolf immediately gets trapped in the heel corner and worked over, but gets Strongbow in there and Brody bearhugs him for a while. Jay escapes and tags in Andre, and he cleans house for his useless partners and puts the squeeze on Brody. The Executioners break it up, so Andre goes and wallops them off the apron and then goes back to beating on Bruiser in the corner. Finally the heels take advantage of referee incompetence and clip Andre’s knee, working it over on the mat. Andre reaches for the tag, basically from the other corner, and White Wolf comes in and slams #1 for two. That should be worth $10,000! #2 comes in and drops a knee on White Wolf and that’s the first fall at 8:57.
Second fall and the heels continue beating up White Wolf in their corner, but Brody misses a kneedrop and it’s hot tag Strongbow. White Wolf chops #2 down and pins him at 11:36 to even things up. I should note that Brody looks a lot thicker here, as I’m assuming this was before he switched to an all-tuna diet like in later years. Seriously, he apparently used to eat nothing but canned tuna for protein every day.
Third fall and the Executioners try to switch out, but the ref catches them and makes #2 start as intended. The faces triple team him in the corner and everyone comes in the ring as the referee completely loses control and throws out the match, then changes his mind and awards the fall to the babyfaces by DQ at 16:00. This is some shoddy refereeing from Dick Kroll. Even Vince thinks it’s questionable judgment, since all six guys were fighting.
Fourth fall and Strongbow gets caught in the heel corner and choked out with the tag rope, and they work him over while he does his shitty selling. Seriously, how did someone as terrible as Strongbow stay in such a high position on the card for so long? He barely even sells for the heels, and it’s back to Andre to again clean up the mess that his idiot partners have left. Big boot and splash for #1 finishes the match at 20:59. They better buy Andre 105 beers or whatever his usual amount was for bailing them out on that one. 1 for 2.
Andre’s Feats of Strength (1976)
In a Festivus miracle, Andre wins a tug of war with ten men! 1 for 3.
Cheap Tactics (1979)
Vince interviews Andre on All Star Wrestling, still trying to use his Howard Cosell cadence at that point. He talks up Andre’s undefeated streak and notes that someday, someone will beat him. This brings out Freddie Blassie and his young punk Hulk Hogan. So apparently they’ll wrestle next week. Like anyone would want to see that match. So the next week, they actually do the match and Andre overpowers him, but Hogan SLAMS him with ease to take over. So there’s another myth shot down completely. Andre comes back with his own slam and hits a big boot, but misses a splash and Blassie loads up Hogan’s elbow pad. Andre makes the comeback, but Hogan lays him out with the Axe Bomber and Andre is busted open. Hogan and Blassie just decide to leave at that point and declare victory at 4:00. Andre is PISSED and screams at them on the way out. 2 for 4.
Hulk Hogan v. Andre the Giant
From Showdown at Shea in 1980, and they’re using the WWE 24/7 version with Cole and Foley on commentary here. Hulk starts with the headlock and Andre casually lifts him off the mat, then applies his own headlock. Hulk is unable to overpower him, and Andre surfboards him and throws headbutts, and Hulk can’t wrestle out of it so he forearms out of it instead. That just annoys Andre, and he headbutts Hulk into the corner, but Hulk comes back with a bearhug while Foley gets fixated on Hulk’s hairy back. Andre headbutts out and Hulk bails for some advice from Freddie Blassie. It apparently doesn’t help, as Andre suplexes him back in, but he misses the splash. Hulk pounds away, but Andre hammerlocks him and follows with a slam. Well Hogan would get his receipt 7 years later. The ref gets bumped off that and Hulk jumps Andre from behind and gets his own slam, but Andre splashes him for the shady pin at 7:45, as Hogan clearly kicked out at 2. So in fact both times Andre pinned Hogan, he actually kicked out at two. Weird. Anyway, there you go: Andre was definitely slammed before Wrestlemania III, for those of you still holding onto your childhood memories of the buildup, and we’ve just seen it TWICE on this collection. 3 for 5.
The Big Picture
Vince shows us the famous picture of Andre holding up 4 women on his shoulders, and we go to an interview on WWF TV that is also famous because Andre is suddenly two feet taller than Vince because he’s standing on a milk crate to increase the illusion. Vince is a smart guy. And then he signed Big Show years later and completely ignored every lesson he learned with Andre. 4 for 6.
Mongolian Stretcher Match: Andre the Giant v. Killer Khan (11.14.81)
OH YEAH. Another famous match, as Khan broke Andre’s ankle and now he’s going to pay. In fact, Andre broke his ankle getting out of bed and they came up with this story to cover it up and struck gold. Khan attacks to start, and Andre is like…yeah…no. Andre beats him down and splashes him, then calls for the stretcher already, but Khan escapes it. Khan of course goes for the ankle and ties up Andre’s foot in the ropes and beats on it. Trainers try to put Andre on the stretcher, but he makes a terrifying comeback and hurls the stretcher at Khan. Well OK then. Andre continues the abuse and tries to put him on the stretcher with no luck, and then chokes him on the bottom rope until the ref calls for the stretcher. Andre then throws the stretcher away because HE’S NOT DONE, FUCKER, and just destroys Khan with butt splashes. Khan stupidly continues the fight and won’t let go of the ropes, so Andre is like “It’s your funeral” and absolutely beats the hell out of him with a suplex and more splashes until Khan is no longer getting up at 9:45. The lesson: DO NOT ANGER THE GIANT. 5 for 7.
Blackjack Mulligan v. Andre the Giant (1982)
Mulligan attacks before the bell and that goes very badly for him, as he tries the claw and Andre just catches his hand like he’s a child and tries to twist it off. Andre with a bearhug and Mulligan tries to use the claw to escape, so Andre chastises him again and grabs the hand, then beats him down with a headbutt. Really, what’s Blackjack gonna do if he gets that claw? Have you SEEN Andre’s head? He’s like a dog chasing a car. Blackjack keeps going for the claw and Andre continues beating him up, but he misses a splash and now Mulligan is like “Aha! It’s claw time!” And then Andre grabs the hand again and this time rams it into the turnbuckle bolt. This guy never learns. Andre beats on him in the corner, but finally Mulligan goes with a nerve pinch variant of the claw. Andre fights out, but Mulligan finally gets the proper claw, and they tumble out to the floor for the double countout at 8:36. Andre gets cut open by the loaded clawhold and he’s FURIOUS, and throws chairs into the ring to express his outrage. Mulligan wisely runs away at this point. The ending almost pushed it over the top, but there was just not enough there to warrant a point. 5 for 8. THE BOUT HAS BEEN DECLARED A DRAW according to the graphics.
A Big Florida Man (1981)
Andre shows up in Florida, as indicated by the title, and we get some 8mm video of Andre hanging out backstage with Dusty Rhodes, and then highlights of a tag match against what appears to be Bob Roop and someone I don’t immediately recognize without commentary. Seems like an exciting match, though. 6 for 9.
Dreams Come True (1982)
This is from the Mid-South show I just reviewed a couple of weeks back.
DREAM MATCH: Andre the Giant & Junkyard Dog & Dusty Rhodes v. Ernie Ladd & The Wild Samoans
JYD and Dusty double-team Sika to start and Dog gets two, and then Andre comes in and just whomps on the Samoans by himself, even ramming their heads together and making them sell! Ladd comes in and Andre just manhandles him, sending him flying with a chop before taking him down with a headlock. Ernie looked like he didn’t wanna go down, but if Andre says go down, you go down. Unfortunately, the Giant gets caught in the heel corner and finally three of them at once slow him down, but Andre literally walks out of the corner with a Samoan on his back, dragging him over to the babyface corner to bring in Dusty. What a great spot. Dusty goes to work on Ladd’s leg and Ernie runs away, but Afa comes in and Andre just puts him down with a big boot for two. Finally the heels triple-team Andre again and it’s BREAKING LOOSE IN TULSA as Dusty and Dog double-backdrop Ladd, and then Andre hits him with a running splash to finish at 6:46. This felt like six big stars having a fun match. 7 for 10.
And we’ll stop there for now and pick it up tomorrow in the early 80s again. Hell of a collection so far.