Earlier this month, a Bleacher Report website ran an article by Dean Dixon that talked about the best 10 competitors at WrestleMania.
Andre the Giant was not on the list, although guys like Edge and John Cena were, and I argued in the comments section that Andre played a more important role in Mania than Edge did.
Let’s look at Andre’s contributions to the early Manias in the 1980s:
- WrestleMania I – Andre defeated Big John Studd in the $15,000 bodyslam challenge. I remember the build for this match as a kid, including a great moment on Tuesday Night Titans in which Andre went off on Vince McMahon. This match had people’s interest and was probably the second biggest draw on the card behind the main event.
- WrestleMania 2 – Andre won the battle royal in Rosemont, IL. The battle royal was interesting because several current and former NFL players competed, but overall the match (and the event, for that matter) was a dud.
- WrestleMania III – This was the crowning moment in Andre’s career, headlining against Hulk Hogan in what many people (including me) think was the biggest WWE match of all time. As Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer noted in my podcast interview with him, Andre and Hogan worked well because both guys had not lost by pinfall in years, so the bout meant something.
- WrestleMania IV – Not many people remember that the real draw for this Mania was a rematch with Hogan and Andre, particularly since Andre has just beaten Hogan for the WWF Heavyweight Championship on NBC before being stripped of the title (thus the tournament at Mania that year). Hogan and Andre got a bye into the second round and were both eliminated after a double disqualification, which saw them beat on each other with chairs.
- WrestleMania V – Andre fought Jake “The Snake” Roberts, with Studd (this time as the babyface) as the ref. It was a forgettable match.
Andre’s only other Mania appearance was at WrestleMania VI, where he and Haku lost the WWF Tag Team Titles back to Demolition. After the match, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan berated Andre (with Heenan’s great line, “I’m the fucking boss!”), which led to Andre turning back babyface.
So, where does this leave Andre’s legacy at Mania?
Would the first WrestleMania have been successful without him? Probably. But WrestleManias III and IV could not have happened without Andre, at least as we remember those shows. After three years straight as champion, no one else could have really challenged Hogan for the WWF belt in a believable way except Andre.
He and Hogan are synonymous with WrestleMania in the 1980s, and fans will remember their match at WrestleMania III as long as the WWE is in existence. Not many other wrestlers can say that.