WWE has issued another re-release from its archives, this time featuring Andre the Giant.
The compilation, originally released in the 1980s, is a look at Andre's early WWF work, dating back to the pre-WrestleMania days of the Fed.
Lord Alfred Hayes, who is an appropriate choice since he was with Andre in Europe in the big man's early years, hosts the DVD. Throughout the compilation, Hayes gives little factoids about the big man, which is a very nice touch.
In all, there are 11 matches on this DVD, making it as big, selection wise, as many recordings WWE does today and much larger than previous re-releases. Here's a quick look at each match.
- Andre the Giant/Chief Jay Strongbow vs. Black Jack Lanza/Stan Stasiak -- a clipped match to introduce the DVD, Andre is tagged in by Strongbow and takes over quickly. Not much to say here.
- Andre vs. Moondog Rex -- A match completely dominated by Andre, Rex is no match for the Giant. Hayes, on commentary, isn't entirely bad, but could be better. Andre wins with a Big Splash.
- 18-man Battle Royal -- This is actually a very interesting inclusion, as the top WWF stars in the early 1980s are in this match. Combatants in the Battle include Sgt. Slaughter, Adrian Adonis, Dick Murdoch, Big John Studd, Jimmy Snuka, Andre, Pat Patterson, Hulk Hogan, Salvitore Balomo, Paul Orndorff, Tiger Chun Lee, The Iron Sheik, Alexis Smirnoff, Mil Mascaras and Tito Santana (those being the wrestlers that were named pre-match. The other three include The Hangman, Victor Rivera, and one un-named wrestler). This bout is definitely worth a look.
- Andre vs. Black Gordman/Great Goliath -- This is from the mid-'70s, and Andre is looking very young. Hayes relates how the first row would be emptied to avoid fans being hit when Andre tosses his opponents out. Indeed, that happens a couple times during the match. Andre, at one point, gets a double Hot Seat on the two men. A good look at just how intimidating Andre is, but is not as good as ...
- Andre vs. Jack Evans/Johnny Rodz/Joe Butcher Nova -- Andre handles all three men in this bout, with some manoeuvres repeated from the previous match. The bout is voiced by Vince McMahon in a rare solo effort. Andre wins easily again, with some fun moments in the bout.
- Andre vs. Gorilla Monsoon (boxing match) -- Monsoon is accompanied by The Grand Wizard for a match from Roberto Clemente Stadium in Puerto Rico. The quality isn't great here, but the men can be easily identified. The bout is not quite the level of Bart Gunn/Butterbean, but it's still a fun match to watch. There are some strong shots by Gorilla here in a surprisingly even and entertaining bout. After the match, there's some action outside on a rain-soaked tarp.
- Andre/Jimmy Snuka vs. The Wild Samoans -- McMahon, looking extremely young and tiny next to Andre, interviews the faces pre-match. Vince and Monsoon are commentating on this match, which is dominated by the Samoans until Andre tags in. Even then, the Samoans get some offence, but not enough. Superfly gets the pin after a Swan Dive from atop Andre's shoulders. Definitely one of the top three matches on the DVD.
- Andre vs. The Masked Superstar -- Monsoon and Patterson commentate here. The Masked Superstar, I believe, was Bill Eadie, better known as Demolition member Ax. Superstar gets some strong work in on Andre, but Andre wins the bout, though he is unable to unmask Superstar.
- Andre/SD Jones vs. Ken Patera/Big John Studd -- This, of course, is the infamous match where Andre's hair was cut. The bout isn't much to see in terms of action, but historically is an interesting contest to watch.
- Andre vs. Ken Patera -- This segment starts with Andre on Prime Time Wrestling's interview segment with McMahon and Hayes. Gene Okerlund calls this match with Monsoon, which shows a very dominant Andre handling one of the two haircut artists, then gets his hands on Bobby Heenan post-match.
The historic part of this segment, though, is after the match is done, when we head back to the Prime Time set. McMahon tries to get Andre to put his career on the line in the upcoming WrestleMania $15,000 match. Andre refuses, even against McMahon's taunts of people calling the Giant yellow. Andre at one point gets so mad that he picks Vince up by his tie and walks off the set. McMahon is visibly upset, and you can tell this was not a planned part of the show. Very intriguing watch.
- Andre vs. Big John Studd (Body Slam Match) -- This is the WrestleMania I $15,000 challenge match. Since Jesse Ventura's commentary cannot be used, Michael Cole and Tazz voice over, and do a good job telling some stories and giving historical perspective. Andre, of course, wins the bout.
Overall, Andre the Giant is a very good luck back at one of wrestling's biggest superstars. The timeframe of the recording means that the video quality is a couple notches below the level we're used to seeing from WWE Home Video, but the visuals do not hurt what is a great recording.
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Jon Waldman has been with SLAM! since 2000.