I remember being in grade school one day in the early 2000s and arguing wrestling-related hypotheticals with my friends at recess. Though I can’t remember all of the surely profound subjects being debated, I do remember one in particular, one that I still often think about to this day. “Who would win?” Followed by the two biggest dudes I can think of. For example, “who would win? Andre The Giant or The Big Show?” The cool thing about wrestling is that you don’t need to wait and ponder who would win between Jason and Freddy before a film depicting the battles releases in theatres. The medium itself is the battles! But fantasy booking is called fantasy booking for a reason, and nothing seemed cooler to me as a young wrestling fan than a large and intimidating stature on a professional wrestler. I was fascinated by The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Mark Henry and Abyss. Those guys were my favourites. That’s why when my friend that day told me that there was once a wrestler bigger than Andre The Giant (who I had understood to be the biggest wrestler in history), my seven-year old brain exploded with dopamine. I needed to know who this “Giant Gonzalez” guy was.
Photo credit: WWE
Eight feet tall is fucking massive. So massive in fact that I can almost guarantee you’ve never seen anyone come close to that height in person. You can imagine why network executives wanted this guy on TV. After a lackluster run as part of the Atlanta Hawks (and being the first ever Argentine player signed to the NBA), alongside a career-threatening knee injury, Gonzalez found his way to the squared circle. Ted Turner, owner of WCW (and the Hawks) brought Gonzalez in as “El Gigante.” He was an attraction because of his size, yet his in ring abilities were far from anything spectacular. It’s for that reason he was often put in matches with guys who were incredibly skilled, able to sell for him and make him look strong in the process. His best matches in WCW were against Ric Flair, one of WCW’s hottest commodities and one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time.
Around this time, health issues plagued Gonzalez, as being that large comes with a price. Alongside limited mobility, Gonzalez suffered from diabetes, and in turn, had some pretty major heart problems. It’s his declining health that saw his exit from World Championship Wrestling and venture into the World Wrestling Federation.
During the 1993 Royal Rumble, a massive bearded man wearing a poorly airbrushed suit garnished with fake pubic and shoulder hair entered the ring and attacked The Undertaker. This was “Giant Gonzalez.” It was so ridiculous. You know those shitty mall kiosks that airbrush shit like “Zack Attack” on t-shirts for kids? That’s what Giant Gonzalez looked like he was wearing. Were the fans supposed to think those were his real muscles? He was clearly supposed to look like this terrifying feral giant, but the attire alone really ruined any kind of allure he had.
The attack on The Undertaker set up a match between the two at Wrestlemania IX, an event so poorly received, with this match often being cited as one of the reasons. It was a slow-paced, clunky mess that ended in Gonzalez knocking The Undertaker out by forcing him to inhale a chloroform-filled rag. That’s right, The Undertaker didn’t actually defeat every opponent during his 21-year Wrestlemania winning streak. The only reason The Undertaker won this match was that Gonzalez had disqualified himself. It’s no surprise that WWE doesn’t bring this match up very often when revisiting the Deadman’s streak.
Gonzalez would later turn babyface after turning on his manager, Harvey Whippleman, after being tired of taking his berating and abuse. Think of Andre turning on Heenan, just to a much lesser extent and a way quieter crowd response. He would have a few more matches in the company before his contract expired in October 1993. He wrestled in Japan for about two years before his declining health forced him into an early retirement.
His health would only deteriorate as the years went on, and by 2009, Gonzalez was practically immobile. In 2010, Gonzalez died due to complications brought on by diabetes. From his retirement up until his death, Gonzalez lived in his hometown of Argentina and in a somewhat wholesome twist to his story, the whole time, he and his family were being financially supported by his former WWF manager, Harvey Whippleman.
If any other wrestler took Gonzalez’s position, he wouldn’t be as well remembered. The lackluster matches, silly gimmick, and poor Wrestlemania showing would be enough grounds for fans to forget about the guy entirely. But fans haven’t forgotten about Gonzalez. He’s a name fans don’t shy away from, but instead tend to look back on as an important part of early 90s professional wrestling. He’s already in the history books as the tallest wrestler to ever step foot in WWF. His size alone is enough to frighten any viewers, let alone any opponent of his. That’s why Gonzalez is remembered, and fondly remembered at that. He was truly a once-in-a-lifetime attraction in the world of wrestling..