DVD Review: Derek Burgan Reviews Andre The Giant.
In the year 2005 WWE did many dumb things: the terrorist angle, the Eddy Guerrero low rider angle, the mole gimmick, the Simon
system's Gymini, but one thing they did right was in their DVD department by taking advantage of their enormous archive to
create some kick ass DVDs. This Andre the Giant DVD is part of WWE's digital remaking of old Coliseum tapes. The biggest draws
of these DVDs are the great, cheap, price along with the chance to look back at how remarkably different the company used
to be run.
I was looking forward to this disc because I always loved Andre the Giant and distinctly remember a WWE house show way back in the day in my very own Manchester, New Hampshire, in which I was convinced Andre was at least 10 feet tall. I don’t care how bad the angles look in retrospect, I was glued to my TV back when Andre showed up on Piper’s Pit and demanded a match with Hulk Hogan. When Andre ripped off Hogan's cross necklace it was the equivalent of the Tommy Dreamer "chairshot heard 'round the world" on Raven. For God’s sake, I was such a mark that I desperately wanted to see a house show that had The Machines on it after reading about that goofy angle in the Apter mags. Does anyone remember that? Where there would be a masked "Super Machine" and "Giant Machine," which for some reason had me marking out. I know at a Boston house show there was a "Piper Machine" and "Hulk Machine" and I always wanted to see that.
The disc has ten matches that take place at various times in Andre’s career. It is always crazy watching old WWE matches and seeing how insanely loose the ropes were compared to today. It's that jarring. There’s also commentary from Lord Alfred Hayes. For those of you who still think Michael Cole sucks ass, I implore you to listen to Hayes and understand how bad wrestling commentary can really be. I can only imagine that wrestling in Hell has play by play by Hayes and Stagger Lee Marshall with color commentary by Steve "Mongo" McMichael. Hayes is also our host for the evening, a role that goof Todd Grisham plays today. Throwing tidbits throughout the DVD, at one point Hayes said that in the mid ‘60s he was asked by a promoter in France to pick up Andre for his second pro match. Can you imagine seeing that odd couple step out of a car?
1) Andre the Giant vs. Moondog Rex. (08/01/81) During the match Hayes said that all of Andre’s ring gear was custom made in France. Shockingly, a 6’10” 400 pound man can’t buy off the rack at JC Penney? Really quick match, although Hayes said most of Andre’s matches were fast, that ended with Rex taking a big splash.
2) 18-Man Battle Royal including Andre the Giant, Sgt. Slaughter, Big John Studd, Jimmy Snuka, Pat Patterson, Hollywood Hogan, Adrian Adonis, Dick Murdoch, Paul Orndorff, Hulk Hogan, Mil Mascaras (WTF?!), The Iron Sheik & Tito Santana. Thanks to Marvel Comics pulling the copyright, Hulk Hogan is billed as “Hollywood” Hogan on the DVD box. I believe that lawsuit has been settled now with WWE winning. I thought this was absolutely fantastic, seeing all the guys I grew up watching on shows like All American Wrestling in one battle royal. Look at that list of names! The quality of the ring work will leave a to be desired for those of us growing up getting to watch the Royal Rumble with world class workers like Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle, and Ric Flair, but the sheer spectacle of seeing all of those wrestling legends overrides that. Andre wins after a finish that came down to him, Murdoch and Adonis (the East/West Connection). I'd almost have to recommend this DVD based on this battle royal alone as it is such an incredible glimpse in time where you get to see everything that was hot in the WWF during the early '80s in the same ring.
3) Andre the Giant vs. Black Gordman & Great Goliath in a 2 man handicap match. (01/12/76) Gorman and Goliath are stereotypical WWE jobbers. You'd think with a name like "Goliath" he'd be a giant. He ain't. Taking place in the '70s, this match has Andre looking quite youthful. The entire front row of chairs on every side of the ring of this match were empty. Weird. Hayes said it was because the promoters didn't want fans to be hit when Andre tossed his opponents out of the ring. That can't possibly be true, but I've heard weirder things. Andre won after sitting on both guys at once. Yes, sitting on them.
4) Andre the Giant vs. Jack Evans & Johnny Rodz, & Joe Butcher Nova. Sadly, this is not Ring of Honor’s Jack Evans in the match. That is however the UNPREDICTABLE Johnny Rodz, a guy I have read about forever – including Mick Foley's book, as Rodz is the trainer of most of the east coast – and finally get a chance to see. The commentary for the match is done by none other than a youthful Vince McMahon. This might come as a surprise to some, but Andre pulled out a victory.
5) Andre the Giant vs. Gorilla Monsoon (w/the Grand Wizard). Monsoon, like Alfred Hayes, is just a guy I couldn’t picture as a wrestler because I only saw him as an announcer. It is weird reading issues of the Observer with Dave talking about how back in the day these two were big time heels. Hayes apologized for the quality of the video, because it is absolutely horrible, and said this is “exclusive” to the tape. This was in Roberto Clemente stadium, in Puerto Rico, after a rain storm. Monsoon was wearing boxing gloves as this took place during that period when Muhammad Ali was about to face Antonio Inoki in Japan in '77. Ali actually faced Monsoon as a warm up match. Very interesting to see this footage.
***Interview with Andre the Giant and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka by a very young and deceptively small – muscle wise - Vince McMahon. This must have been before Vinnie Mac discovered the power of IcoPro.
6) Andre the Giant & Jimmy Snuka vs. the Wild Samoans (w/Captain Lou Albano). (02/18/83) Commentary by Vince McMahon and Gorilla Monsoon, who were THE voices of the WWE when I was growing up. Samoans had control of the match until Andre tagged in and whipped ass. Finish came when Snuka did a splash off of Andre's shoulders. Fun match to watch.
7) Andre the Giant vs. the Masked Superstar. (02/20/84) The announcers for this match are Gorilla Monsoon and Pat Patterson. You can’t put a price on Patterson’s commentary and the way he talks. I would pay good money to listen to Patterson and Dusty Rhodes to do commentary on a DVD. I'd also need English subtitles to know what the hell they were saying. Superstar was of course, years later, part of the Machines with Andre. As with many Superstar matches, a lot of the heat built towards Andre trying to rip off the mask, which of course never happens. It was actually a match between Masked Superstar versus Sgt. Slaughter that got me hooked on wrestling and I remember being shocked, SHOCKED, to find out he was also Demolition Ax. Andre wins the match, but Superstar got in more offense than anyone else on the DVD to this point.
8) Andre the Giant & S.D. Jones vs. Big John Studd & Ken Patera (w/Bobby Heenan). (12/15/84) Hayes says this has become known as the legendary “haircut match.” Oh god, Bruno Sammartino is on color commentary. Holy cow! I just marked out as Hillbilly Jim was in the audience as a "fan." They really don't do many slow build angles like that anymore. After the okay match, Patera and Studd cut Andre’s hair, or as Vince McMahon put it, “raped the dignity of Andre the Giant!” What a line that only Vinnie Mac could say with a straight face. I’ve read people bury this DVD and they are officially insane as this is a lot of fun.
***Andre the Giant visits with Lord Alfred Hayes and Vince McMahon on Tuesday Night Titans. I can’t believe what my eyes are seeing. The old Vince McMahon talk show with a studio audience made up of Titan employees forced to suffer through hours of a bizarre kayfabe'd storylines and shockingly unfunny jokes.
9) Andre the Giant vs. Ken Patera (w/Bobby "The Brain" Heenan). (01/21/85) This was a revenge match for Andre after the rape of his dignity and the production values were noticeably improving for the WWE. Mean Gene Okerlund and Gorilla Monsoon were on commentary. Heenan showed why he is probably the greatest manager ever in this match with his shenanigans during and after the match. Andre wins to set-up the big money match at WrestleMania with Studd.
***Another segment with Andre on Tuesday Night Titans. This was to set up Andre’s match at WrestleMania I – the granddaddy of them all - against Big John Studd. All I can think of when watching McMahon is how much this looks like one of those Kevin Trudeau scam infomercials where he tries to sell pills that can beat cancer. Done like a cheesy late night talk show, McMahon tried to goad Andre to put up his career against John Studd's $15,000 at WrestleMania. That doesn't seem like such a good deal to me. Andre no sells McMahon's taunts, so McMahon takes it up a notch by saying fans might think Andre was "yellow." This just pissed The Giant off, and Andre grabbed a stunned Vince McMahon by his tie before storming off the set. Unless Vince McMahon was the greatest actor in the world, I think Andre went way off the script throughout the entire segment.
10) Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd. (03/31/85) WrestleMania I, the $15,000 slam match. Michael Cole and Tazz do the announcing here. This is because Jesse Ventura's voice is on the original commentary and McMahon wasn't going to give him any royalties from this disc. You can listen to Ventura's calling of this match on the new
WrestleMania Anthology though, as McMahon agreed to give Ventura a cut of those DVD sales. You should all know the story. Andre slammed Studd and threw the money into the crowd before Bobby Heenan took the bag o’ money away and ran like hell. I didn’t remember the WWE experimenting with picture in picture way back then, so that was neat to see.
Overall Thoughts: This is an outright steal at the price. Sure, it’s not Ultimate Andre the Giant Collection Volume One but it is a damn good piece of nostalgia. I was ready to completely tear apart this disc, since most Coliseum releases are horrible, but instead am giving it a big thumbs up. Andre the Giant is a true icon of wrestling and it is almost impossible to find footage of him. Here's hoping one day we get a fully loaded DVD that will rival the sets made for Bret Hart, Jake "the Snake" Roberts and Hulk Hogan. You can buy this DVD by clicking HERE!
Derek Burgan can be seen wasting
everyone's time with wrestling DVD and comic book reviews over at Wrestling Observer and the world famous
Wrestling Enjoyment Index at Figure Four Weekly online~! Don't forget about his
Opinion Pieces at World Wrestling
Insanity and goofiness
at WrestleCrap as well. Whew! Derek can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Derek Burgan can be seen wasting everyone's time with wrestling DVD and comic book reviews over at Wrestling Observer and the world famous Wrestling Enjoyment Index at Figure Four Weekly online~! Don't forget about his Opinion Pieces at World Wrestling Insanity and goofiness at WrestleCrap as well. Whew! Derek can be reached at: email@example.com
THE TWF "MENTAL WELLNESS TEST!"
With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).