Andre the Giant's 7 Best Matches, Moments That Made Him a WWE Icon
Of the many illustrious legends who have been enshrined in the hallowed halls of the WWE Hall of Fame, Andre the Giant was the very first to be inducted—and deservedly so.
Standing at over seven feet tall, he lived up to his famed nickname as The Eighth Wonder of the World. Andre was a true world-renowned pop culture phenomenon thanks to his careers in wrestling and acting, which included a role in The Princess Bride in 1987.
The larger-than-life competitor was already an attraction long before arriving in WWE in the early 1980s, but joining the growing wrestling empire only added to his legacy. It was there that he went unpinned for several years and embarked on one of the most impressive undefeated streaks in company history.
Although he started out as a fan favorite, it was his heel turn and subsequent feud with Hulk Hogan that cemented his status as an all-time great. Andre was responsible for many more memories both inside and outside of the ring in the years that followed prior to his death in 1993.
In light of what would have been his 76th birthday, let's look back at the matches and moments that made Andre the Giant a bona fide WWE icon.
Honorable Mentions from Japan
Andre vs. Antonio Inoki (December 15, 1974)
At Andre's physical prime, he was an untouchable, unbeatable beast of a competitor. Inoki, who was a major star in Japan throughout the 1970s and beyond, posed more of a threat to his dominance than anyone. They had a hard-hitting, enjoyable bout that fully showcased what Andre was capable of at that time of his career.
Andre vs. Stan Hansen (NJPW Bloody Fight Series: September 25, 1981)
Speaking of sheer physicality, few wrestlers in history have embodied that style better than Hansen. He managed to take Andre off his feet on more than one occasion in their match, resulting in rare bumping from the giant. The restart was also uncommon for that period, but they had the crowd invested in the action every step of the way.
Andre vs. Killer Khan (Mongolian Stretcher match: November 14, 1981)
Stretcher matches tend to be hit or miss, but this was one of the earliest ones and it delivered. Andre was a big dude to be putting on a stretcher, but that didn't stop Khan from targeting his injured ankle and evening the playing field that way. These two had many matches together during their lengthy feud, but this was easily the most intense.
Andre and Giant Baba vs. Demolition (Wrestling Summit, Tokyo, April 13, 1990)
This marked Andre's final match for WWF before leaving the promotion at the end of the year, and it was the highest note he could have gone out on. Demolition are widely known as one of the greatest tag teams ever and that was evident here as they brought the best out of their opponents and had a fun hoss battle.
Andre vs. Big John Studd in a $15,000 Body Slam Challenge (WrestleMania 1)
Two years before headlining WrestleMania with Hulk Hogan for the top title, Andre was still in the midst of proving himself as the biggest and baddest giant in WWE. The show itself was as unproven as he was at that time, and there were no guarantees it would be a success.
Next to the tag team main event featuring Hogan and Mr. T taking on Roddy Piper and Paul Orndorff, one of the other biggest attractions on the card saw Andre battle John Studd. This was a renewal of their rivalry from outside of the company, and now they had a chance to blow it off on a major stage.
It was during their long-running rivalry that Andre had his hair cut by Ken Patera (at the behest of Studd). There was a ton of personal animosity heading into this heated encounter at the inaugural installment of The Show of Shows.
To make matters more interesting, Andre vs. Studd was not contested for a championship. Rather, the winner would earn $15,000 from body-slamming their opponent, which was a tall task for both men.
Andre fought valiantly and used the support of the audience to slam the seemingly unslammable Studd down to the mat in emphatic fashion. He then proceeded to throw the money out into the crowd for good measure.
Andre vs. King Kong Bundy (The Colossal Jostle, Sept. 23, 1985)
In his quest to earn the unofficial title of WWE's grandest giant, Andre turned his focus from John Studd to King Kong Bundy in the latter half of 1985.
This is often a forgotten feud ahead of Andre's involvement in the WWE Championship picture and WrestleMania run-in with Hulk Hogan, but it did help establish him as even more of an unstoppable force than he already was.
Billed as "The Colossal Jostle," it was only fitting that these two headlined in the world's most famous arena: Madison Square Garden. Despite both men being behemoths and Andre's limited move set by this stage of his career, they had quality chemistry together and it felt like a huge happening whenever they came in contact.
Interestingly, this match was more about Bundy than it was Andre. Bundy was a few months away from challenging Hogan for the title at WrestleMania 2, but Andre was so over as a babyface that he was the perfect person for him to be working with.
This was a fairly slow-paced bout, but they made each moment matter and it was a nice feather in Andre's cap to score a disqualification win over someone the company was clearly preparing for a main event run.
Andre vs. Hulk Hogan (WrestleMania 3)
Needless to say, this is not only the biggest bout of Andre's career but also one of the most monumental matches of all time, especially for what it meant for WWE and wrestling on the whole.
He had spent virtually his entire career up to this point as a babyface, but with Hogan being the beloved babyface champion, he had to turn his back on the people in order for their WrestleMania match to make sense.
It was essentially Andre's undefeated streak against Hogan's WWE Championship, not to mention they were friends before the giant paired up with Bobby Heenan. Those high stakes gave this colossal clash a big-fight feel and filled the Silver Dome with nearly 90,000 people.
You'll never watch this match and think it was a five-star mat classic, but it was all about the atmosphere and the simple story being told. It was brilliant, and the electric audience in the building that night badly wanted Hogan to be the one to slay the beast.
They built to Hogan slamming Andre and teased it the entire match. When they finally executed the spot, it was almost as if time stood still before Hogan pinned Andre for the three-count to a thunderous ovation.
This became the measuring stick for all "WrestleMania moments" that would follow.
Sole Survivor (Survivor Series 1987)
Following his hard-fought loss to Hogan at WrestleMania 3, Andre's bad blood with his former friend was far from over.
The two continued to feud heading into the inaugural installment of Survivor Series in November 1987, when they put together teams of five to clash in tag team elimination action. Of course, it would later become known as a classic Survivor Series tag team match.
Andre recruited the likes of King Kong Bundy, Rick Rude, Butch Reed and One Man Gang while Hogan linked up with Paul Orndorff, Ken Patera, Don Muraco and Bam Bam Bigelow. It was a star-studded main event that could have gone either way.
This had a strong layout and the heels especially shined. Perhaps more shocking than anything else was the fact that Hogan was not only eliminated (albeit by count-out) but also that it happened midway through the match.
That left Bigelow as Hogan's remaining representative, and although he battled back and eliminated two people from Andre's squad, it was The Eighth Wonder in the World who ultimately reigned supreme.
Andre became the first-ever sole survivor that night and rode the momentum into his eventual rematch with Hogan for the prestigious prize.
Andre Captures the WWE Championship (The Main Event, Feb. 5, 1988)
Andre made it known through his various attacks on Hogan in late 1987 and early 1988 that his pursuit of the WWE Championship wouldn't end until he had the gold in his grasp.
That led to The Main Event, a major Friday night special that served as spinoff to Saturday Night's Main Event. The main event was touted as Hogan vs. Andre for the WWE title in a WrestleMania rematch, and the vibe going in was that it was going to be a big night.
The whopping 33 million viewers the event garnered was a record for WWE and spawned several sequels to The Main Event in the years that followed.
While the match itself didn't come close to capturing the same magic as their original encounter from a year earlier, it had an entirely different sense of suspense around it. Hogan had the odds stacked against him more than usual, and he wasn't able to overcome all of the obstacles put in front of him.
Hogan clearly kicked out before the referee's hand hit the mat for the three-count, but Andre was awarded the WWE Championship, anyway. A confused crowd looked on as Andre almost immediately passed the title off to Ted DiBiase while Hogan slowly started to realize he had been duped by twin referees.
It was an excellently executed angle that ended a record-setting reign for Hogan at over four years. It was a brief run for Andre, but at least he had his moment and can be forever recognized as having held the title.
Andre vs. Randy Savage (Saturday Night's Main Event XVIII – Nov. 26, 1988)
Although his stint as WWE champion was short-lived, Andre remained in the main event mix for the remainder of 1988. He wrapped up his rivalry with Hogan that summer before shifting his focus back on the belt he was never actually beaten for.
By the fall, Randy Savage was the reigning champ and was defending the title against all comers. He certainly didn't back down from Andre, who was undoubtedly his biggest challenge up to that point.
The two collided on the 18th installment of Saturday Night's Main Event in November 1988 and had a better-than-expected outing. Andre was extremely limited with what he could do at this point, but Savage played to his strengths and made him look better than he actually was.
This followed the fun David vs. Goliath blueprint and was well on its way to having a hot closing stretch before the double disqualification finish, which was disappointing. This was in the midst of Andre's feud with Jake Roberts, so they went at it afterward before Roberts' signature snake scared Andre off.
It's a shame Andre and Savage didn't have more of a full-fledged feud over the top title, but this was enjoyable and arguably his last above-average performance prior to his departure from the company.
Andre Turns on Bobby Heenan (WrestleMania 6)
Before leaving WWE later in 1990, Andre had one final special moment on screen at WrestleMania 6 in Toronto.
Andre and Haku had been teaming as The Colossal Connection for months under the guidance of Bobby Heenan, but The Brain and Andre hadn't been on the same page for quite a while. Heenan was more of a hindrance to Andre's career than a help toward the end (in storyline), so it was merely a matter of time before tensions boiled over between the two.
There was no better time for the split to happen than on The Grandest Stage of Them All in front of a capacity crowd that desperately wanted to see Andre return to his roots as a babyface.
After Andre and Haku fell short of winning the tag titles from Demolition, Heenan chewed out Andre for his latest failure. That was enough for the soon-to-be Hall of Famer to reach breaking point and lay out Heenan with a massive right hand to a raucous reaction followed by Haku when he attempted to ambush Andre.
That was perhaps the perfect swan song for Andre the Giant as he began winding down his career as a full-time competitor. The legacy he leaves behind is immense—both literally and figuratively—and is still felt by fans and wrestlers alike to this day.