Hearing the words “Andre the Giant” and “shortest” in the same sentence just sounds wrong.
Andre had never been the shortest anything from the day he was born to the day he passed away. The Frenchman was born at 13 lbs, and died at over 7 feet tall and close to 600lb. He had to be transported to the US in a cargo plane after his death, because there was no incinerator large enough to cremate his gargantuan body.
He remains to this day the greatest ever giant in the history of professional wrestling, inspiring some of the most iconic names in the business, like the Big Show and even Vince McMahon.
However, Andre The Giant does hold the most unwanted record in pro-wrestling. While Bruno Sammartino boasts the longest WWE Championship reign (holding the coveted title for over 11 years), the equally legendary Andre The Giant can claim only a slightly shorter run with the belt – at under two minutes.
On the night of Feb. 5, 1988, Hulk Hogan defended his WWE Championship against Andre The Giant on “The Main Event”. This was the most watched wrestling match in US wrestling history, with 33 million people tuning in to see the two top stars in the company battling it out for the biggest prize in sports.
With the money of Ted Dibiase behind him, Andre The Giant cheated his way into winning the WWE Championship.
The Million Dollar Man paid off the referee to count the pin, even though Hogan’s shoulders were clearly off the mat. No amount of Hulking Up would save his blushes, and the result was confirmed – Andre The Giant was the new WWE Champion.
However, this whole thing was a set-up for Dibiase to finally achieve his true goal of becoming a world heavyweight champion. Andre was on his books, being paid a handsome fee to do his bidding. This became clear at exactly 1 minuted and 48 seconds after he won the belt, he handed it to Dibiase and declared him the new WWE Champion.
Andre The Giant held the WWE Championship for 1 minute and 48 seconds in 1988 in the shortest WWE Championship reign of all time.
By the time he had handed the belt over to his manager, he had broken the record which has yet to be beaten even 35 years later. His closest competitor is Seth Rollins, who spent two minutes as champion at Money in the Bank 2016 before Dean Ambrose cashed in his money in the bank contract to win his first and only WWE title.
While Andre The Giant did surrender his championship to Ted Dibiase, his title run is dubious. While The Million Dollar Man did defend the belt on multiple occasions on house shows, the WWE refuse to recognise his as a legitimate reign. According to the record books, he never held the belt and it was vacated 1 minute and 48 seconds after Andre pinned Hogan.
WWE gave Andre The Giant the run with the WWE Championship as a sort of “thank you” for his incredible career so far. Andre had been perhaps the most popular star in wrestling during his career, travelling all over the country as the friendly giant to help boost ticket sales in all the towns.
Andre was a key component to Vince McMahon Sr’s (the current WWE Chairman’s father) growth as the head of the WWE. Without the French Giant, there would likely not be a WWE today, so Vince McMahon has a lot to thank the gentle giant for.
As he had never won the world championship in his career, Vince McMahon wanted to give him the accolade as a thank-you. He had turned Andre heel to feud with Hulk Hogan – something the Frenchman hated, but did out of loyalty and his friendship to Vince’s mother – and created one of the biggest matches ever at WrestleMania III.
Logically, it made no sense to have Andre beat Hogan for the belt, only to then vacate the belt – especially because Hogan continued to wrestle full-time for a number of years, even facing Andre at WrestleMania just a few months later!
Andre would go on to wrestle for another 6-years, both for the WWE and in Japan (as well as making a sole appearance in WCW). While WWE have claimed Hulk Hogan is his last opponent, Andre The Giant wrestled in Mexico and Japan before dying on 28 January 1993 in his hotel in Paris, France.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.