Andre the Giant is known across the world as one of the most famous wrestlers of all time. He travelled the world as the menacing giant, as people looked in shock and awe and the terrifying size of the Frenchman. His legacy is one that cannot be beaten, and he has been honored by every Hall of Fame in wrestling history.
However, it was not all smooth sailing for the former WWF Champion (a very, very brief reign). His life was hard due to his condition making him one of the largest men alive, with the constant travel due to wrestling bringing him excruciating pain, especially when travelling by plan. He was said to rent out the entire row just to be able to sit comfortably. His pain stayed with him until his death and he turned to alcohol to help numb the pain.
Luckily, he had many friends in the business who took care of him. He was well respected and beloved by everyone he met, and everyone knew if you got on Andre’s good side, then you had a friend for life. He was treated well by the Hart family in Calgary, and regularly wrestled for Stampede wrestling in Canada, where Bret Hart and his family cut their teeth as wrestlers.
Bret Hart and Andre the Giant and two of the most respected men in professional wrestling. Andre was a giant gentle, loved by everyone who met him, and was loyal to the friends who trusted him. Hart was a supreme worker in the ring, and a straight shooter out of it. He has had classic matches with people all over the world.
Bret Hart and Andre Nearly Died In A Car Crash
After a show in Bret Hart’s fathers “Stampede Wrestling” in Calgary, Andre the Giant was due to fly out of the country that day. But his flight was cancelled. He would have been stuck in the country for a few days, which was “fine with Andre”, according to Hart. But Hart’s brother (one of seven) Smith Hart managed to find Andre a flight to Montana. That was where the wrestlers would be heading next. However, the flight was due to take off in 22 minutes.
Andre was a 40 minute drive away.
It seemed impossible, but Smith Hart took that as a personal challenge. Even when Andre protested, Smith took him up on the challenge.
“We’ll never make it boss” Andre protested. Andre called everybody boss, from the people selling tickets to the millionaire promoters. It was a sign of familiarity with Andre, and not an indication of stature.
“We can still give it a try” Smith retorted, and the pair, with Bret Hart lumped into the passenger seat, set off for the airport.
Whilst the airport was a 40-minute drive away following the speed limit, if you ignored them then you had a chance. Smith Hart did just that. Smith weaved and dodged through city traffic “Like an absolute lunatic at speeds in excess of a hundred miles per hour”. In the back seat Andre looked terrified. He felt sure that they were going to die that day.
That fear became all too real as they reached the airport. Approaching at immense speed, Smith only just managed to slow the car to a stop. As they reached the airport departure ramp, they screeched to a halt. The car was dangling over the edge on two wheels, with the 400 pound Andre the Giant the ballast at the rear keeping them from the 40 foot drop below.
Andre roared in the back of the car, fearing for his life before they actually stopped. Smith, seeing nothing wrong with his actions, simply marched Andre into the airport terminal, ready to catch his flight.It looked like they might just have made it.
As Bret Hart was thanking any God he knew for his safety, he heard a shout coming from outside the car.
“Put your hands above your head, you crazy son of a bitch!”
The Mountie (Not that one)
From outside the window he could see a gun, pointed towards him by a very irate Mountie (A Mountie is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
Bret Hart explained how his brother has tried to get Andre the Giant to the airport in time. He explained how this was the first time his father, Stu, had entrusted Smith with being in charge of some shows. The officer nodded. He wasn’t sure he really believed him, until he saw Smith Hart and the 7 foot giant walking out of the airport.
Andre the giant simply walked towards Bret Hart and The Mountie, and held out his hands to be cuffed. His stared right through Bret and Smith, the horrors of the drive replaying through his mind over and over.
“On account of what your brother just told me, I’m going to let you off, but so help me God, if I ever …” The Mountie said. He let the three of them go. However, Andre missed his flight, and later on in his career, Andre would refuse to talk to Bret in the locker room.
“Thanks Smith” Bret thought to himself that day.
Bret Hart wrestled Andre the Giant on many occasions after that. Check out below their match for the WWE in Milan, Italy, or click here to read about Andre the Giant and The Big Show.
This was not the only story Bret Hart told in his book. He also spoke about a time when Bret Hart and Ultimate Warrior were backstage when Warrior did something unforgivable to a make-a-wish child.
Click here to learn more about Bret Hart and Ultimate Warrior