The John Report: Andre The Giant HBO Documentary Review

A new wrestling documentary premiered this past Tuesday on HBO and it was all about the first ever WWE Hall of Famer, Andre the Giant. The documentary ran about 90 minutes with some incredible unseen footage that showed Andre as a kid, as a teen getting used to his big body, the early days of his wrestling career, his success as a massive draw in America leading to his WWE run, his health issues, plenty of discussion about WrestleMania 3 and they wrapped it up talking about his death in 1993 in a Paris hotel when he was 46 years old.

The documentary featured comments from people in the wrestling business like Vince McMahon, Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Ric Flair, Shane McMahon, Pat Patterson, Mean Gene Okerlund and Tim White. Celebrities like Rob Reiner, Billy Crystal, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Wright and Cary Elwes also spoke. They also utilized wrestling historians like the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer, Pat Laprade and David Shoemaker, who works for The Ringer and for Bill Simmons, who helped produce the documentary. Shoemaker likely spoke more than anybody on the documentary. I’ve known David for many years although we don’t interact that much anymore and I’m very happy for him.

I’m not going to summarize the whole documentary. I recommend that you watch it because it’s very good. I’m just going to give you some of my opinions on the documentary point-form style.

– I really liked the insight provided by Andre’s two brothers, his sister in law, the woman that was part of the family that he lived with in North Carolina and also his daughter, who was left with most of his estate when he died. They were able to share some unseen Andre pictures from his youth and also when he was an adult on his farm. One of his brothers showed the massive wooden chair that his mom had custom made for Andre because of how big he was.

– There were plenty of funny moments when they talked about Andre’s drinking habits where Mean Gene pointed out that he would drink a case of wine when he would go to a wrestling show and it barely affected him. Others talked about drinking too, which is part of the reason he’s so interesting. They even talked about how smelly his farts were. This is proof that farts will always be funny.

– Vince McMahon was featured heavily, of course. Shane McMahon spoke a bit too, but Vince was on a lot. You could tell how close Vince was with Andre towards the end of the documentary when talking about Andre’s death because Andre was bitter towards Vince in the last few years of Andre’s life. During Andre’s journey to the top of the wrestling business, Andre was really close with Vince Sr. (Vincent Kennedy McMahon is a junior in case you don’t know) and Vince Sr. handled a lot of Andre’s bookings while taking care of him.

– Tim White was one of my favorite people in the documentary. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he was a former WWE employee that had a lot of roles behind the scenes and also worked as a referee. White was also Andre’s travel partner for most of his WWE run. You could tell how close they were since White told a few funny stories and then how emotional he got when discussing Andre’s death and how he wishes he was there with him.

– Hulk Hogan spoke a lot, which was great because he knew Andre well. It was funny to hear him talking about how Andre didn’t like the bravado shown by The Iron Sheik and Andre hated working with Randy Savage because the Macho Man liked putting on baby oil that made him slippery. The documentary built up to the biggest match of Andre’s career, which was WrestleMania 3 against Hulk Hogan. The clip below is about the WrestleMania 3 match with Hulk Hogan telling his version of the story.

– My feeling is what Hogan says about the WM3 match is mostly bullshit and he knows it, but Hogan is a known bullshitter that wants to put over the mystique of Andre. There were comments from Vince McMahon and Pat Patterson that Andre was mostly teasing Hogan about the match because Andre was known to do that. Hogan talked about how he wrote out the match with Andre, gave him a paper and he didn’t know if Andre even read it, but when they got in the ring, Andre followed along. Andre called for the iconic body slam and the big boot. The way Hogan told it, he was surprised that it happened, but anybody that knows wrestling is aware that the heel is supposed to call the spots in that kind of setting, so Andre was just doing the job the way he was taught. The way Hogan tells it, he wasn’t sure that Andre would put him over at WrestleMania 3. However, I really doubt that Vince McMahon or others in WWE were that concerned about it because the whole story was about Andre passing the torch to Hogan and that’s exactly what happened. Hogan is a storyteller and this story is his favorite story to tell no matter how true it actually is. I respect what Hogan did in his wrestling career, but the man tends to fabricate the truth a lot.

– The last few years of his life were very difficult on Andre. The end of his WWE run saw him trotted out there with crutches because he was unable to walk regularly. He was miserable and didn’t know what to do.

– The message of the story ended up being about Andre’s love for the life he had, the wrestling business that he loved and being admired for people. As they said in the documentary, Andre understood what “sports entertainment” was before any of the others ever did and that’s why he was one of the biggest draws in the history of the wrestling business. I’m glad they were able to tell his story the right way and let the younger fans know how important Andre was to the wrestling business.

I’ll rate this documentary a very good 8 out of 10. It’s worth your time if you are a wrestling fan and if you are reading this website, I assume you are. Thanks for reading, by the way.

You can watch the documentary on HBO on Demand.