Sep 19th 2017 10:53pm

Sign Up / Sign In|Help

 

Tampa-area wrestlers share their Andre the Giant stories ahead of HBO documentary

Tampa-area wrestlers share their Andre the Giant stories ahead of HBO documentary

Posted: Feb 16th 2017 By: Paul Guzzo

Two dozen years after his death, Andre the Giant remains one of the most memorable stars in the history of professional wrestling.

HBO, World Wrestling Entertainment and Bill Simmons will now add to this renown through a documentary on the oversized grappler that they announced this week will soon begin production.

If they need stories on the French man whose real name was Andre Rene Roussimoff, there are plenty to be found in the Tampa Bay area, which has long been a popular spot to live for professional wrestlers.

Tampa's Nicole Alonso, now 41, was 4 the first time she met the giant.

Her father, Michael Gossett, otherwise known as wrestler Mike Graham, oversaw the promotion Championship Wrestling from Florida and often hosted parties for the entertainers whenever they were working in Tampa.

Due to his size, Andre — billed at 7 feet 4 and more than 500 pounds — had to ride on the floor in the back of the full-sized van that took him to Gossett's home.

When he climbed out of the vehicle, his shoulders were even with top of it. A beer in his hand was hidden behind just two fingers.

And as he entered the home, Alonso ran screaming from what she thought was a real-life monster and hid under her bed until her mom coaxed her out.

"My mom said he was one of my dad's friends and was really a sweet man," Alonso said. "She was right."

A "gentle giant" is also how Indian Rocks resident and retired wrestler Lanny "The Genius" Poffo remembers Andre.

"He never physically took advantage of people, but he could have if he wanted to," said Poffo, 62, the recipient of one of the giant's head butts during a Battle Royal televised on NBC in 1987. It was a maneuver that could have severely injured Poffo had Andre not protected him properly.

"He was careful with everyone," Poffo said. "He didn't want to hurt people."

Of course, he laughed. To sell the effect of Andre's power, Poffo discretely sliced his own forehead open with a razor blade.

Among Poffo's favorite Andre tales occurred on Dec. 28, 1985.

They had a show in Buffalo and Andre forgot to bring a deck of cards to kill time in the locker room for the few hours before it started.

"Playing cards was his one of his favorite things to do in life," Poffo said.

So, Poffo asked a girl he knew to go buy a deck. When Poffo surprised Andre with the cards, a tear trickled down the cheek of the giant.

"He took his big hand, put it behind my neck and gave me a kiss on both cheeks," Poffo said. "From then on he called me 'boss man.' I was like the mouse that took the thorn out of his paw and we were friends for life."

The relationship between Poffo's brother Randy Poffo — ring name "Macho Man" Randy Savage — and Andre was not as good. The reason: Andre thought the "Macho Man" lathered his body in too much baby oil prior to every match.

"Andre hated baby oil," Poffo said. "But Randy wouldn't stop wearing it. He stubbornly said Andre's gimmick is being a giant and mine is baby oil. He never backed down from Andre and they never got along because of it."

Then there are Andre's legendary drinking exploits.

Brian Blair, 60 and a world-famous professional wrestler before turning to Hillsborough County politics, often travelled with the giant.

For a long car ride through Mississippi around 1980, Blair purchased for Andre "two of the biggest bottles of Crown Royal you could get" and a case of Budweiser plus a Styrofoam cooler to be used as a urinal so they wouldn't have to pull over for bathroom breaks.

In a fit of laughter in which he was rocking back and forth, shotgun-sitting Andre broke his seat. It crashed backward and knocked the nearly full cooler into the lap of back-seat passenger Virgil Riley Runnels, Jr., who in the wrestling world was known as Dusty Rhodes.

"Dusty was so mad," Blair said with a chuckle. "Andre just kept laughing."

 

Printable version Email to a friend

Supplemental Information

Latest News

1
GFW name nowhere to be seen on Bound For Glory press release

GFW name nowhere to be seen on Bound For Glory press release

One very obvious omission from the Bound For Glory pay-per-view press release was the Global Force Wrestling n... Read More

All News

Compound Pro Wrestling review (9-16-17)

Compound Pro Wrestling review (9-16-17)

Thank you to the competitors: Aaron Anders, Justin D’Air (aka: Neon Icon), Dimitri Alexandrov, Latrell Upton, Kirk ‘Cha-Cha’ Chalme... Read More

All Columns

GFW's Gail Kim On The Twilight Of Her Career, Sparking The Women's Wrestling Revolution

GFW's Gail Kim On The Twilight Of Her Career, Sparking The Women's Wrestling Revolution

Long before the term “women’s revolution” became fashionable, Gail Kim wa... Read More

All Interviews

1

Spotlight in History

  • 1979 Mike Sharpe, Jr. def. Mike George for the MSW Mississippi Champion
  • 1982 David Von Erich def. Bill Irwin for the WCCW Texas Heavyweight Champion
  • 1988 The Samoan SWAT Team (Samu & Fatu) def. Michael Hayes & Steve Cox for the WCCW World Tag Team Champion
  • 2014 Simply Irresistible (Matthew Palmer & James Johnson) def. The Dark Circle (Mace Malone & Apoc) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
  • 2015 Loaded Guns (Jon Cross & Brandon Walker) def. The Rising (Riker & Abel) for the UWE Tag Team Champions
  • 2015 Brian Breaker def. Clint Cassidy for the UWE United States Champion
  • 2015 Zakk Sinizter def. Anarchy 2nd for the UWE Heavyweight Champion
  • 2015 Jon Cross became the WFC Heavyweight Champion

Week of Sun 09-17 to Sat: 09-23

  • 09-17 1979 The Spoiler & Mark Lewin def. Kerry Von Erich & Bruiser Brody for the WCCW Texas Tag Team Champion
  • 09-17 2004 Bobby Dalton def. Shane Morbid for the SRPW Hardcore Champion
  • 09-17 2008 Michael Faith became the TCB Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-17 2008 High Society (Al Farat & Thomas Trump) became the TCB Dual Kombat Champion
  • 09-17 2008 Michael Faith became the TCBW Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-17 2008 High Society (Al Farat & Thomas Trump) became the TCBW Dual Kombat Champion
  • 09-17 2010 Dane Griffin def. Cody Jones for the NWA-OK Texoma Champion
  • 09-17 2010 Aerial Assault (Ky-ote Joe & Montego Seeka) became the NWA-OK Oklahoma Tag Team Champion
  • 09-17 2010 Michael Faith def. Dane Griffin for the NWA-OK Oklahoma Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-17 2016 Mr. Nasty def. Brian Breaker for the UWE Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-18 1967 Brute Bernard def. Bull Curry for the WCCW Texas Brass Knuckles Champion
  • 09-18 2005 Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch def. The Hurricane & Rosey for the WWE RAW World Tag Team Champion
  • 09-18 2005 Ric Flair def. Carlito for the WWE Intercontinental Champion
  • 09-18 2015 Sons of Texas (Moonshine Mantell & Killer McKenzie) def. The Imperialists (Charlie Haas & Griffin) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
  • 09-19 1979 Mike Sharpe, Jr. def. Mike George for the MSW Mississippi Champion
  • 09-19 1982 David Von Erich def. Bill Irwin for the WCCW Texas Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-19 1988 The Samoan SWAT Team (Samu & Fatu) def. Michael Hayes & Steve Cox for the WCCW World Tag Team Champion
  • 09-19 2014 Simply Irresistible (Matthew Palmer & James Johnson) def. The Dark Circle (Mace Malone & Apoc) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
  • 09-19 2015 Loaded Guns (Jon Cross & Brandon Walker) def. The Rising (Riker & Abel) for the UWE Tag Team Champions
  • 09-19 2015 Brian Breaker def. Clint Cassidy for the UWE United States Champion
  • 09-19 2015 Zakk Sinizter def. Anarchy 2nd for the UWE Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-19 2015 Jon Cross became the WFC Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-20 1978 Jose Lothario def. Assassin 1 for the TSW Louisiana Champion
  • 09-20 1985 The Von Erichs (Kerry Von Erich & Kevin Von Erich) def. The Dynamic Duo (Gino Hernandez & Chris Adams) for the WCCW American Tag Team Champion
  • 09-20 2008 Michael Barry def. Angel Williams for the IZW Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-20 2008 New Canada (The Canadian Red Devil & The Canadian Luchadore) became the ComPro Tag Team Champions
  • 09-20 2008 The Gentlemen Thugs (Cast-Iron Cothern & Shane Morbid) def. New Canada (The Canadian Red Devil & The Canadian Luchadore) for the ComPro Tag Team Champions
  • 09-20 2009 Jermaine Johnson def. Ky-ote Joe for the MSWA Oklahoma Champion
  • 09-20 2013 Mike Foxx def. Tim Storm for the NWA-TXO Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-20 2013 Genesis (Carrion Arcane & Kristopher Haiden) def. The Rock Star Mafia (Dane Griffin & Armani) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
  • 09-20 2013 The Rock Star Mafia (Dane Griffin & Armani) def. Genesis (Carrion Arcane & Kristopher Haiden) for the NWA-TXO Tag Team Champions
  • 09-20 2014 Kevin Morgan & became the IZW Tag Team Champions
  • 09-20 2014 Jordan Jacobs def. Drake Gallows for the IZW Impact Division Champion
  • 09-20 2014 Claudia def. Bree Ann for the NWA-TXO Rose Champion
  • 09-20 2014 The Brotherhood (Kyng Benjamin & Akuma Jones) def. A. C. Slaughter (Aaron Anders & Clint Cassidy) for the UWE Tag Team Champions
  • 09-20 2014 Fuel def. Tim Rockwell for the UWE Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-21 2002 Shadow of Death def. Terry Montana for the OCW Oklahoma Hardcore Champion
  • 09-21 2012 Tim Storm became the NWA-TXO Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-21 2012 Kyra Maya became the NWA-TXO Rose Champion
  • 09-21 2013 Nasty Swag (Robert Lee & Ace Archuleta) became the UWE Tag Team Champions
  • 09-22 2001 Justin Lee def. Dexter Hardaway for the OPW Oklahoma Light Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-22 2001 Jenna Love became the OPW Oklahoma Womens Champion
  • 09-22 2012 Crossfire Morrison def. Drake Gallows for the SWCW Hardcore Champion
  • 09-22 2012 Kareem Sadat def. Crossfire Morrison for the SWCW Hardcore Champion
  • 09-23 1974 Tex McKenzie & Johnny Valentine def. The Blackjacks (Blackjack Mulligan & Blackjack Lanza) for the WCCW American Tag Team Champion
  • 09-23 1975 Jose Lothario def. Billy Graham for the WCCW Texas Brass Knuckles Champion
  • 09-23 2000 Grenade def. Ichiban 2nd for the OPW Oklahoma Light Heavyweight Champion
  • 09-23 2016 Xavior became the MSWA Mid-South Cruiserweight Champion
  • 09-23 2016 Nikki Knight def. Skylar Slice for the MSWA Ladies Champion
  • 09-23 2016 Psycho Mike def. Brock Landers for the MSWA Oklahoma Champion
09-19
  • Jerry Brisco Sep 19th Today!
  • Adam Asher Sep 19th Today!
  • Kidd Riggs Sep 20th
  • Pepper Martin Sep 20th
  • Chuck Singer Sep 20th
  • Dustin Bozworth Sep 20th
  • Justin Lee Sep 20th
  • Ricky Morton Sep 21st
  • Jack Brisco Sep 21st
  • Harley D Sep 22nd
  • Doug Somers Sep 22nd
  • Cole Crittenden Sep 23rd
  • O'Malley Sep 23rd
  • Rocco Valentino Sep 23rd
  • Skyler Fayden Sep 24th
  • Jason Bruce Sep 24th
  • Tristan Thorne Sep 24th
  • Connor Crunk Sep 24th
  • Joe Jones Sep 24th
  • Jimmy Garvin Sep 25th
  • Angel [2nd] Sep 25th
  • Chief Mike Sep 25th
  • David Sammartino Sep 26th
  • Chris Matthews Sep 26th
  • Alec Bisogno Sep 27th
  • Angel Camacho Sep 27th
  • Scott Lee Sep 28th
  • Billy Ray [2nd] Sep 28th
  • Kamille Sep 28th
  • Skandar Akbar Sep 29th
  • Ann Casey Sep 29th
  • Raymon Downey Sep 30th
  • Seth Coburn Sep 30th
  • Lady Starwind Sep 30th
  • Dredd Sep 30th
  • Hector Guerrero Oct 1st
  • Waldo Von Erich Oct 2nd
  • Barbi Hayden Oct 2nd
  • Cold Blooded Chris Oct 2nd
  • Mike Foxx Oct 2nd

More Look Back In History