There are no small roles–especially for Giant actors
As a kid, I loved it when my worlds collided–like Darth Vader, Kojak, Spider-Man and Frankenstein wrestling in Memphis, “Handsome” Jimmy Valiant recording a rock song, the group Kiss getting their own Marvel Comic Book, and The Fonz showing up on the season finale of “Laverne & Shirley.”
In today’s terms, think of The Onion meets Kentucky Fried Rasslin’–like last week’s fictional story on Donald Trump and Jerry Lawler buying the Mid-South Coliseum, a joke that fooled a lot of people. Channel 13 in Memphis actually called the King for a quote on “the story.” I apologize for any confusion; however, I did graduate from the Bill Apter School of Wrestling Journalism.
So, anyway, I was thrilled when wrestler Andre the Giant appeared as “The Sasquatch Beast” (Bionic Bigfoot) in a two-part episode of “The Six-Million Dollar Man,” my favorite TV show in 1976. (As a chubby kid, I longed to be better, stronger, faster.) It was the ultimate dream match to a little boy, in the same vein as Andre vs. Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III. And really, the fight-scene clip posted from YouTube below has wayyyy better action–look at Andre move! Then again, Hogan and Andre didn’t have the benefit of those awesomely cool bionic sound effects and dramatic slow-motion shots. If you have to question how much of a bad ass the Six-Million Dollar Man is, look at how he rips apart the Giant with a mere armdrag.
It would be the greatest size challenge Steve Austin would face…until Stone Cold wrestled the Big Show on WWE Monday Night RAW in 1999. The best part of casting Andre is that not only did he have the perfect size for the role, but little makeup was required as well.
Usually, when you think of Andre in Hollywood, you think of “Princess Bride,” especially if you’re Terry Funk, who claims to have watched it dozens of times at the big man’s request when the two were traveling together.
I hadn’t thought about Andre’s prime-time network TV debut with Lee Majors in years, until I stumbled across this gem of an ad below over at Plaid Stallions. (Hmmm…I’ll bet the Giant didn’t see a dime of royalties.)
Still, Andre must’ve done something right, as he also appeared as pro wrestler “Killer Typhoon,” on Majors’ “The Fall Guy” in 1982. (I love how the episode sort of protects the business when they say “the championship matches” aren’t fixed. )
Knowing how Memphis loved pop-culture gimmicks, I’d bet that Bionic Bigfoot vs. Lawler might have been a bigger draw than Andre the Giant in the late ’70s.