The road to Wrestlemania is officially underway. I give my thoughts on this years Royal Rumble winners while also going over what was great about the show and what could have been better.
Andre Roussimoff better know as “Andre the Giant” has become a legend in the wrestling community. However, one of his biggest impacts has been on Hollywood.
Andre the Giant. Those three simple words conjure up the almost mythological legend that the professional wrestler has become in common folklore. It’s been over two decades since Andre Roussimoff passed away, but the stories about his life have become legends in their own right.
Many remember Andre putting professional wrestling on the map and kickstarting the WWF/WWE into what is now a billion dollar industry. There is no question about his impact of on the wrestling industry. He was the industry’s first bankable star and was the turning point for wrestling becoming local promotions to a billion dollar industry. During the 70’s and 80’s Andre was arguably the world’s most recognizable sports icon and had arguably the most seminal match in wrestling history at Wrestlemania 3 where he put over the sport’s biggest rising star, Hulk Hogan.
His feats of strength in the ring are second in legend only to the stories about his drinking. Andre is recognized as the greatest drinker of all-time with hundreds of stories about the man’s capacity for drink. Still, one thing that he isn’t recognized for is his impact on the current Hollywood landscape.
This past week Dwayne the Rock Johnson’s latest movie, Rampage, was number one at the box office. Today, Johnson is one of, if not the most recognized actor on the planet. His movies have brought in billions of dollars with Johnson consistently being one of the best movie draws of the past decade. Not to be outdone, John Cena has also been making an impact in multiple films in recent years and Dave Batista has played multiple roles in Hollywood and found a home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the character Drax.
With the Rock being one of the biggest stars of the planet and other wrestlers making their mark in the entertainment industry, it’s important to remember the Andre was the wrestler who allowed wrestlers to make the move to the big screen. True, Hulk Hogan did have a guest appearance in Rocky III but his role was a brief cameo that while enjoyable, wasn’t a huge part of the movie’s plot.
Andre was the first wrestler to appear in multiple movies starting in 1976 as he played the role of Sasquatch in The Six Million Dollar Man. In an age without special effects, he was the only person who could play the role. Many people don’t know is that for the next decade he would have multiple roles in both television and film. Even with all of these credits it wasn’t until the most pivotal for Andre as the giant Fezzik in The Princess Pride that he would truly open the door to acting for his fellow wrestlers.
Not only was this the first role in a major successful motion picture for a wrestler, and established that professional wrestlers could have pivotal roles in a movie. The film is one of the most beloved fairytale stories of all-time and has been inducted into the National Film Registry. In fact, the author of the Princess Bride Novel based the character of Fezzik on Andre the Giant. It was the perfect role for a real life gentle giant and even though Andre had trouble physically doing the movie due to chronic back problems, he was still able to pull of a memorable performance.
His pivotal role in the film as the gentle giant, not only cemented Andre in one of the most memorable movies, but more importantly proved that professional wrestlers had the ability with their entertainment background could have exceptional performances on the silver screen. One of the biggest what ifs would be what if he didn’t play the role in the movie? His back was so bad that he couldn’t hold Robin Wright’s character Buttercup in the film. In fact cables were used to help Andre in the scenes where he had to carry things and he had a stunt double in the famous fight scene when Cary Elwes jumps on the giant’s back. Despite these setbacks, he was able to complete the roll and more importantly open the doors for wrestlers in Hollywood.
Without his role in Princess Bride, professional wrestlers might not have gotten the opportunities to star in films. Can you imagine Hollywood today without Dwayne Johnson or the Marvel cinematic universe without Dave Batista as Drax?
Wrestlers have become invaluable assets in entertainment outside the ring. However, they might not have had this opportunity without Andre Roussimoff’s crucial early contributions and by his standout role in one of the most beloved movies in the past 40 years.
The XFL will return in 2020 and here are a few reasons why the league may look to put a franchise in Hartford, CT.
After 19 years the XFL will be returning in 2020. World Wrestling Entertainment founder Vince McMahon announced earlier this week that the football league that only last one season in 2001, would be returning without the gimmicks that the league was originally known for. Some of the initiatives the league will be to speed up the pace of play and also barring any player with a criminal record.
The full announcement was made on ESPN and can be viewed below.
The debate about whether this league will work is a good topic for another day. Instead let’s focus on an intriguing question that hasn’t been asked. Where will the eight teams play?
The original XFL had an Eastern and Western division with four teams in each division. The East featured teams in Birmingham, New York/New Jersey, Orlando, and Chicago with the West having Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, and San Francisco. With the XFL looking for potential sites there could be a new market that could be a dark horse for a franchise. That city would be Hartford.
Hartford, Connecticut? Surely you must be joking? However, the more you think about it the more it makes sense. First, McMahon has announced that he will be the owner for all eight teams. Think about that. Not only will he be the league commissioner but he will also have to keep track of every team’s day-to-day operation.
I can definitely see a franchise in the New York and New Jersey area, given it’s the largest television market in the country, but Hartford would make it easier to handle a franchise that is right in the WWE’s backyard. The company’s headquarters, and likely the XFL’s headquarters initially will be based out of Stamford, Connecticut. Having a franchise in Hartford along with one in New York would put two of the eight franchises in near to the company’s headquarters thus making day-to-day operations easier.
Now many of you will be saying that the market can’t support that. People forget that the New Haven and Hartford television market are one of the top thirty television markets in the country. In an area without a professional since 1997 when the Hartford Whalers moved out, this could be a market that would get behind a professional team.
Another encouraging statistic from Hartford Business was that the newly formed minor league ball club, the Hartford Yard Goats, set a minor league attendance record in their inaugural season drawing in over 395,000 fans.
Let’s also not forget that the original XFL played in smaller markets. Nielsen ratings in 2017 had the Hartford and New Haven as the 30th television market in the country. Of the original eight teams three of the teams were in smaller markets: Las Vegas (40), Birmingham, (45), and Memphis (51).
The next question I know you’re dying to ask but where will they play? It turns out that East Hartford has the perfect facility Pratt & Whitney Stadium, the home of the University of Connecticut football team. It’s a 40,000 seat stadium that was built-in 2001 specifically for football and hosted the UFL’s Hartford Colonials from 2009-2010.
For an expansion league, the XFL would be wise to avoid large NFL Stadiums for attendance reason. The first time the XFL averaged just over 20,000 fans a game. If they were able to get 30,000 fans for these games it would look better to have a smaller football or soccer stadium that they have the chance to fill as opposed to a massive 70,000 seat stadium.
While professional football in Connecticut can be viewed as a long shot, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. The state has the television market, provides a location close to the WWE Headquarters, is a market without a professional team, and has a football stadium that’s a perfect fit for the league’s specifications.
Even if Hartford isn’t one of the eight cities selected for a franchise initially, their qualifications and infrastructure would make the city a leading candidate if the league can grow and eventually expand.
It’s still a long way until the XFL kicks off in 2020, but if the league is looking for a new market when they start this league, one option could be McMahon putting a franchise in the same state where his wrestling conglomerate calls home.