Tag Archives: wrestler

hurricane-1Stand back! There’s a Hurricane comin’ through!

Dominated by massive, unruly brutes, what could the WWF have needed more than its own superhero to restore order? The Hurricane was first spotted in 2001 and, despite being a heel and the character’s infancy having all the hallmarks of a throwaway comedy gimmick, the audience warmed to him. This was thanks in no small part to his zany tales of heroism and endearing fearlessness in confronting far larger opposition, who would often pay a hefty price for their cocky underestimations… I mean, it is a superhero we’re dealing with here! The Hurricane became supremely popular –  at one point even acquiring a legendary sidekick in ‘Mighty Molly’ Holly – and would wrestle for a half-decade under the mask, notching up several high-profile title runs. He even beat The Rock.

Some note similarities to ‘Sugar’ Shane Helms, a grappler from the age of sixteen who wrestled in WCW in the years prior, indeed making a couple of appearances in the WWF immediately before The Hurricane showed up. Who could possibly know…?

It was coming toward the tail-end of my time following the show when Hurricane was rising fast; when interest was flagging, he was a guaranteed draw, even down to the luscious lime green attire. Of course I also have great admiration for The Hurricane’s natural ring skills, and the enduring value and humour he brought to his role. He didn’t need a cape to fly high! Apparently he returned in 2009 – might we see The Hurricane whirl once more? Keep those eyes peeled!

bambam-1aBlazing into the ring for our next collision is Bam Bam Bigelow. By all accounts a nice, fun guy, but at six-feet-five and almost four hundred pounds, he isn’t one you’d wish to test.

The Bam Bam experience was one quite different to that of any other big man. Many wrestlers of his build are in fact little more than lumbering giants, wading around the ring choking and slamming and really being dependent on the opposition to carry the big moments. Bigelow, however, was extremely impressive in that he had that familiar ample frame but possessed the talent and agility to keep up with the quickest of his colleagues. He would roll and cartwheel around the ring just to rub it in to the slowpokes. It was something to see, adding a great deal of unpredictability to his matches, and really sold him as a major player. Indeed when he arrived in the WWF in 1987, he was propelled to the heights of Hulk Hogan, the very epitome of ‘major player’, teaming with him against André and various others.

Then, of course, there’s that whole look – moreover, those fascinating tattoos on his arms, and, yes, covering most of his head. Hmm! Well, it worked for him; certainly it made Bam Bam instantly recognisable, and if the funky attire weren’t flamey enough, well, now you’ve got some extra. It was curious how it really worked to sell him as fun-crazy when he was a good guy, and terrifying-crazy as a bad guy, really feeding into his natural presence and charisma.

He is probably better remembered as terrifying-crazy in terms of his WWF tenure; a return in 1992 as a villain saw him put on some great matches with the likes of Bret Hart, further testament to his versatility, and engaging in a highly-entertaining ‘relationship’ with the equally crazy Luna Vachon. However, it’s perhaps telling of his sore luck that his most famous turn is his WrestleMania XI headline bout against Lawrence Taylor. A footballer. A footballer who beat Bigelow. Hard though it must have been, Bam Bam put on a great show and seemed at home at the top of the bill. He would leave the WWF soon after, feeling that he wasn’t being used effectively and issues with troublesome cliques backstage were hindering his career.

His diverse skills meant that he was able to adapt to the rapidly changing face of wrestling as the nineties rolled on; a move to ECW saw Bam Bam bring out his rougher side, engaging in the most hardcore competition – the ‘in’ thing at the time – and going on to be Heavyweight Champion. He would later have a run in WCW and was still under contract when WWF bought the company out, though he didn’t return.

Bam Bam was still making sporadic appearances in independent promotions when died in 2007, aged only forty-five. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a ‘big man’ as entertaining as he. He took that concept and spun it on his head. A performer so wholly distinctive, juggling grace and grit with such brilliance, shouldn’t be easily forgotten!

andre1988-1The nature of wrestling doesn’t so much encourage exaggeration as demand it. Even so, it’s hard to argue that the colossal stature of ‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’ André the Giant is anything but just. I forget where I first saw the gargantuan Frenchman – it might have been in a video game or perhaps on some old video tapes. But his impact was instantaneous. His size seemed immediately so appropriate for who he was. He was captivating, and very quickly became my favourite wrestler.

In his prime André was well over seven feet tall, and after moving from France to America in the early seventies, it didn’t take long for him to become one of the most recognised celebrities, not just there but all over the world. While professional wrestling was still restricted to small regional territories, André was a global star, the charasmatic saviour to all those wanting their local heel to get his comeuppance, and doubtless instrumental in the astronomical ascension that would come in the ensuing fifteen years.

Indeed André was at the centre of its crescendo in 1987, turning evil and going for Hulk Hogan’s World Championship at WrestleMania III.  A reported figure of 93,173 packed the Pontiac Silverdome to see Hogan best André in what is seen by many as The Giant’s swansong, generously giving back to the business and handing over to the new torch-bearer. Hogan may have already been huge for years by this point, but it was André who elevated him to the next level.

Like many giants, André had acromegaly, a condition which triggers overproduction of the growth hormone. He didn’t stop growing. Of course, this put perpetual strain on his body. Once an agile athlete, by the mid-eighties André could scarcely move, putting the aforementioned matches with Hogan into serious jeopardy. He had not long returned from back surgery in an attempt to relieve excruciating pain. It did seem especially cruel that, just as the industry was reaching this monstrous boom, his body was doing all it could to stop him from being a part of it. But André was old school – medicated by unimaginable quantities of wine and sheer determination, he still went out and performed, putting on a spectacle that will likely never be matched.

His interviews were also something to witness, thanks in no small part to that booming French accent.

Spectacle was not confined to the ring ropes, either; he’s fondly remembered by another audience for his role as Fezzik in The Princess Bride, which came toward the end of a long list of film and TV outings for André. A menacing-looking mountain of a man, with simple, sporting principles, and possessing a certain penchant for rhyming games at the least appropriate moments – “Anybody want a peanut?” – the character of Fezzik proved perfect for a man known for many years as ‘The Gentle Giant’. Given the apparent pain André was in during the shooting – a man of untested strength was unable to carry Buttercup (Robin Wright) without supporting cables – he still moved with such purity, possessing the same mystique and charisma that he brought to the wrestling arena, only here, he was allowed to express that in an entirely different manner. He was a performer – a performer with wicked sideburns, too!

There’s a rather touching feature on André from fellow Princess Bride cast and crew, here. It’s clear that he was as warmly greeted by his fellows as he was by the public; he received great praise for his performance, and the film was one of his proudest accolades, though the extent and nature of his pride is not known for sure. Some of his WWF buddies claimed that André exhibited private, subtle modesty about the role, acknowledging but neglecting to talk at length about it, while others have alleged that he made his fellow grapplers watch the flick while on the road over and over again – let’s be honest, this could well be true. I mean, seriously, would you argue with André the Giant over the remote control?

After filming Bride and putting Hogan over, André continued to work for the WWF but his skills were so diminished by this point that, entertaining though his feuds were, they are hard to watch, especially so when being made to lose to the likes of The Ultimate Warrior. He needed a manager to rest his arm on walking to the ring, and only took part in tag team matches so that his time grappling could be minimised. After a brief run as a Tag Team Champion with Haku, he officially retired in 1990, but continued to work sporadically in Mexico and Japan until December 1992. He refused to stop wrestling. It seems torturous and dangerous on one hand, but understandable on another; I think he saw retirement as waving the white flag, which wasn’t how he operated. It was what he loved doing, and he was evidently very determined to keep going. That can’t go without admiration.

André passed away peacefully in January 1993, aged forty-six, remembered forever as an example of how beauty comes in many forms and a reminder of just how diverse we really are. I don’t follow wrestling anymore, and haven’t for a decade, but I’m aware that André is as revered and respected today as he ever was, perhaps even more. Rightly so. Without him, things would have been very different indeed. There will never be another André the Giant!


Anybody want a peanut?

The Saturday spin is here again – it’s especially early this time around, isn’t it? This week, the Wheel of Time gave me 20 MINUTES to knock out a drawing. This was a space I’d been looking forward to tackling, with it being the halfway house between the 15 MINUTES and 30 MINUTES exercises, whose results saw quite a difference in quality.

I’m skipping the Reddit bit this week, as I didn’t find a spooky-goofy Halloween one that took my fancy, which was a bit of a shame – I expect they’ll appear in flood-loads now that I’ve done something else. I did actually do one of a chap in goggles and surgical mask covered in blood, but indeed thought that a little too gruesome to post. So, I just went to the scariest guy I could think of: André the Giant, of course, looking most unhappy, and clearly coming for you. I’ve sketched André countless times over the years. I love to do so, as I find him a captivating subject for obvious reasons, however, I’ve never tried this swiftly before, so it was sure to be interesting.

I used the same brush that I used on Mini Me – I wish I could say through design, but actually it was just because I forgot to switch back before starting to draw. The colour overlay doesn’t make it darker as I hoped it would, but it makes the image as a whole look better than it probably deserves, softening the variation in skin tone and thus appearing smoother, though visibly there are strokes which stick out like a sore thumb – I’m not entirely sure what’s going on around the clavicle, but it was over too quickly to fret about such things. I was going like a madman on this, to be honest, partly because of the time limit, and equally just because of the time! I’m quite chuffed with the face, though – it has a markedly different feel to my normal plan of attack, and that’s pleasing!

Well, that’s time up for another week – back to Reddit victims next week!