This week’s debate: Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant

andre-the-giant-alistud

I can list the handful of writers who have truly inspired me throughout my career in journalism. Steve Buckley. Rick Telander. Steve Rushin. Dick Schaap. Dave Anderson. Mike Freeman. A couple of others. None, however, have had the impact of Greg Orlando, my former co-worker at the University of Delaware student newspaper and one of the best scribes I’ve ever seen.

Greg has worked for a handful of publications, primarily dealing with video games. He conducted the funniest Jason Giambi interview of all time (Question (feeling Giambi’s uniform): Is this thing velvet?), and once wrote an essay, “The Answer Man,” that continues to blow me away. Most important, he’s a good friend, and he’s agreed to contribute to jeffpearlman.com by taking one side in our weekly debate session. Today’s topic (selected by Jef): Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant.

JEFF: Big John Studd is not a wrestling legend. He is not a cinematic legend. I’m guessing, based on the fact that he has only one son, that he was not even a stud (in the literal sense).

But Studd, unlike Andre the Giant, was a man who represented the frailties we all suffer from. During his lengthy (and largely successful) career as an oafish grappler, Studd (aka John Minton) loaded up his body on Human Growth Hormones. He apparently took the drugs over and over and over again until, on March 20, 1995, he died of liver cancer and Hodgkin’s disease attributed to the decades of bodily abuse.

Although I hurt for Andre the Giant, who passed too soon, I hurt even more for Studd, whose life was … what? One lengthy bus trip to smoky arenas in Tulsa and Tupelo, Rochester and Rosemont? Unlike the Giant, who was cheered by millions of adoring fans, Studd didn’t have adulation to feed off of. He did the job because, simply, there was a job to do. People rarely came for the sole purpose of seeing him perform (they could watch Mark Eaton on TV and get the same general thrill), but they didn’t leave disappointed.

He was Big.

He was John.

He was Studd.

And he was my father.

•••

GREG: Andre was gigantic.

It is regrettable, eminently regrettable, but we do not live in an age of giants. This is a small world inhabited by many small people. Everywhere we turn it’s alchemists spinning straw and tinkering with lead, and flim-flam men pushing their bunkum on the masses. At every cubicle, there is a telemarketer. Behind every desk sits a shyster.

We need not cite Andre the Giant’s incredible won-loss record. As a grappler for Vince McMahon Sr.’s World Wrestling Federation, the Giant was unbeatable. He fought Mongolians and Hulks and Kongs and Studds. He beat them all. You could not defeat a giant. Not in those salad days.

Andre had his appetites, of course, and the stories of his excesses need not be retold here. But he was a man you could look up to: tall in stature, humongous of heart, and a juggernaut in the face of evil. Even as his own body began to crumble under its gigantic weight, Andre remained defiant. He would bend, but never stoop.

At the end, the Giant realized his time was up. As his days began to wane, Andre showed his size in a wholly different way. When it came time to pass the torch, to lie down and go gentle, Andre lost to Hulk Hogan, allowed himself to be bodyslammed and pinned to the mat. There are some things more important than the win-loss record. There is honor, and courage, and concern for your fellow man.

In truth, it did not matter whether Andre was playing the hero or the villain, whether he was the king of the goon squad or simple comedic relief. In all things, in every way, the man was, simply…enormous.

And now, as we have become a nation of litigious, mealy-mouthed finger-pointers who want our hands held and backsides powdered, we can see just what we’ve been missing.

May we never forget; Once upon a time giants walked among us.

3 thoughts on “This week’s debate: Big John Studd vs. Andre the Giant”

  1. I would’ve liked to have seen a comparison of wrestling garb here. Surely, Studd takes that cake with his white spandex pants adorned with blue stars.

Leave a Reply