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HBO’s ‘André the Giant’ documentary shows the man behind the legend

Andre+being+interviewed+by+Vince+McMahon%0Aimage+from+hbo.com
Andre being interviewed by Vince McMahon image from hbo.com

Before The Rock and John Cena, even before Hulk Hogan, there was one man who transcended the world of professional wrestling and became larger than life. André Roussimoff “André the Giant” was a walking, living myth. HBO’s documentary does a great job of showing what André’s persona as a wrestler was like while also driving home the pain that he through.

The presentation in this documentary is expertly done. There’s a good mix of old wrestling footage, sit-down interviews and shots that show places where André grew up and lived. The pacing in the first half is great as it moves from André’s early life into the start and peak of his wrestling career. People who have never seen a second of pro wrestling can get a good idea of the type of attraction that André was just by watching this.

The tone takes a turn when people start talking about the trials and pain that André went through. The life of a pro wrestler takes a hard toll on your body and it’s worse for larger performers. André’s condition meant that he wasn’t going to live long without treatment, but when he had the option of taking time off, he chose to stay in the ring. Listening to André’s family and friends describe his suffering makes you feel a lot of sympathy for him. These scenes are a good contrast with the earlier shots that showed crowds cheering as AndréAndre man-handled his opponents with a smile on his face.

The last quarter of the documentary goes into detail about the main event of Wrestlemania III which showed André the Giant versus Hogan. Pro wrestling has a long list of inside terms and phrases and while most of the documentary does a good job of explaining them I could easily see how some viewers could get confused in later parts. Wrestling fans know that the match between André and Hogan was a big deal and since this one of André’s last big matches it’s worth going over in the documentary. That being said, it’s these scenes that feel more like they’re about wrestling becoming popular and less about André’s life. There are also slight inaccuracies and contradictions about how the match went down that are a bit distracting.

HBO has done a fantastic job of showing the life of a legend from multiple perspectives. The love that André received from fans and friends comes through well. The pain and suffering that he endured comes through even better. Someone who has never seen any professional wrestling can watch this and be moved by André’s story. The shift in focus towards the end is going to be the biggest barrier for people who aren’t fans of pro wrestling an, unfortunately, brings it down to four stars.

[Final Score: 4/5]

Ulises Duenas can be reached at [email protected] or @OrionUlisesD on Twitter.

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