Wrestling Heritage A-Z
(Andre the Giant)
To say that Jean Ferre’s physique brought gasps from the crowd may well be an exaggeration, but his size was certainly a surprise to fans seeing him for the first time. Those of us old enough probably need little reminding and have vivid recollections of the young French heavyweight who appeared in British rings during the Spring of 1969. André Rousimoff , a Franco Bulgarian, had wrestled in his native land under the French fairy tale character’s name Geant Frerre (The Iron Giant). Joint Promotions missed the point and mangled his name into the Jean Ferre form that took him around Britain on two late sixties tours. This Iron Giant was undeniably big. Standing almost seven feet tall and weighing around twenty-two stones, his physique did nothing for his performance as a wrestler. He was simply too big and cumbersome, but his strength and size did result in considerable success, both in terms of his record and a box office attraction. He honed his skills with winning and losing streaks against Britain’s best.
Fans throughout the country were introduced to the athletic Franco Bulgarian in a televised match against pocket hercules Jim Hussey celebrated on this site in Pocketing A Giant Investment. To his credit Ferre travelled far and wide during his British visits, in contrast to many Continental visitors who limited their appearances to the south of England. Twenty four hours before he knocked out Hussey in St Albans Ferre had overcome Wild Angus, albeit by a disqualification, some 400 miles away in the Town Hall at Paisley in Scotland. The following week he travelled around the south of England (including a defeat of Big Bruno Elrington at the Royal Albert Hall), before heading north again to face Jock Cameron and John lees in Yorkshire and then southwards again to knock out Wild Angus at the Colston Hall, Bristol. A rare defeat came his way when he ran into kendo Nagasaki at the Victoria Hall, Hanley, on Saturday 7th June, and on the following morning he flew to the Isle of Man to face Ian campbell at the Villa Marina, Douglas, on the Sunday evening.
No one could accuse Jean Ferre of taking it easy.
It was the same story when Ferre returned to Britain in the autumn of the same year. Intriguingly on his second visit Ferre and the promoters seem to have moved away from the careful crafting of an invincible giant. In the Spring the nationwide exposure of knocking out Hussey, swiftly followed by the defeat of Elrington at the Royal Albert Hall, swiftly established the giant as a near invincible force. During the autumn visit that sense of invincibility began to disintegrate with a series of disqualification losses against John Lees, Roy St Clair, Mike Marino, Tibor Szakacs, Gwyn Davies and Andy Robin. Jean Ferre's final appearance in Britain was on 17th December, 1969, when he partnered Britain's own giant, Gargantua, to lose to Albert Wall and Gwyn Davies.
John Shelvey recalled: “I didn't see Andre in the U.K. but I did see hm in Australia. When I saw him in the 80s he came out of the dressing rooms which were a long way from where I was sitting at ringside and even though people were standing between us, I could see him very clearly, as he appeared to be way 'above' everyone as he made his way to the ring. He looked his biggest when he wore his hair in the tall Afro hairstyle and it was said he also used built up heels on his shoes and 'lifts' inside them. He was still moving pretty well in those days and always looked comfortable when he beat Bruiser Brody and then won a Battle Royale that night.”
In the United States Ferre, now world known as Andre the Giant, ballooned and changed his name to Andre the Giant to become one of the World’s greatest, until his untimely death in 1993. Heritage members Ian Hall: “Andre The Giant's last showing was at a WWF show in London. He tripped up Earthquake from outside the ring allowing Davy Boy Smith to pin him. Andre was relying on a walking stick. A painful sight. I think this might have been the last ever bout he "participated" in. I was there.
Jean Ferre, born 19th May, 1946, died on 27th January, 1993. As he died in his sleep there is uncertainty about the precise date.
Page added 06/05/2021