The Getting Over series aims to detail the psychological rules that the world of pro wrestling has developed over the past 100 years.
Rule No. 1 - It's all about the money
Rule No. 2 - Fans will hate a heel more if he can make them respect him
Rule No. 3 - A baby face should be billed as a believable underdog
Andre the Giant was a man of legendary proportions. His hand could completely cover a can of beer. His fingers were so wide that he had to use a pencil tip to dial the rotary phones widely in use at that time. Multiple wrestlers tell stories of him breaking the front seats of their vehicles, either accidentally or on purpose. A famous 1981 Sports Illustrated article said Andre's wrist was roughly equivalent in size to that of an adult male western lowland gorilla.
It certainly wasn't necessary to embellish anything about Andre to make him look big and menacing, and yet, embellishment was a constant among those promoting Andre's matches throughout his career. They were following the next rule I'll focus on in the Getting Over series, which is:
Rule No. 4: Always exaggerate, even when the truth is impressive
Why it works
Pro wrestling promoters have long understood that fans want to suspend their disbelief and watch a world of larger-than-life characters. Facts are malleable in this type of environment, and thus can be (and in a promoter's mind, should be) stretched as a far as the suspension of disbelief will allow for.
There are many ways to apply this rule.
Andre's most memorable match was a battle with Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania III -- one of the most iconic showdowns in wrestling history. Late in that show, Mean Gene Okerlund announced to the crowd at the Pontiac Silverdome that they had set an indoor attendance record of 93,173 -- a mark that Jesse Ventura, who was on commentary for the show, claimed broke the record of The Rolling Stones, who drew over 87,000 for a show at the New Orleans Superdome in 1981.
According to wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, this was merely another instance in the long history of wrestling promoters bumping up the announced attendance figures. Meltzer said that Zane Bresloff, who was the local promoter for WrestleMania III, told him the actual attendance was 78,000.
That was still an extraordinary number, as it was one of the biggest crowds in pro wrestling history and a larger crowd than any that saw the Detroit Lions play in that building the previous season, but breaking the Stones' record made for a better story. Meltzer went on to note that all announced WrestleMania attendance totals are usually between 8,000-12,000 higher than the actual number of people in the building. He indicated the reason this is done is so the promotion can claim to have set a particular building's attendance record, even if that is only done in a 'worked' sense.
Two other worked elements of WrestleMania III were that Andre had never been beaten, and that he had never been body slammed.
Andre lost very few singles matches during the prime of his career, but the reality is that he did lose a singles match as early as January 1970. Those early 1970s losses occurred under the name of Monster Roussimoff, but he lost as early as 1974 under the Andre The Giant moniker, in a match where The Sheik used a fireball to get a countout win. These defeats were obviously not publicized, as promoters knew the value of keeping Andre "undefeated," but that doesn't change the fact that they occurred.
Getting a body slam on Andre was a rare event, as a giant should be very hard to lift, and Andre was careful about protecting his character. Having noted this, Andre was slammed so many times that there is an ever-growing video compilation of these moves. This set includes the multiple times that Hogan slammed Andre prior to WrestleMania III, and even shows Riki Choshu, a wrestler billed as being only six feet tall, getting a slam on The Giant.
Wahoo McDaniel had a notable pro football career, during which he racked up 105 career games and tallied 13 interceptions while playing for nearly the entire lifespan of the American Football League.
With a chance to make McDaniel look more formidable, the wrestling world exaggerated his achievements in telling the story of McDaniel racking up 23 tackles in a season-opening game against the Denver Broncos in 1964. To get an idea of just how awe-inspiring this number would be, consider that according to ESPN Stats & Information, only two players have tallied that many tackles in a game since the 2001 season (24, by David Harris in 2009 and Luke Kuechly in 2013).
Since Denver ran only 60 offensive plays in that game, and 15 of those plays resulted in an incompletion, it would have been necessary for McDaniel to post a tackle on over half of the Broncos plays where a tackle could be registered in order to reach that 23-tackle total. That type of performance in a season opener almost certainly would have placed McDaniel on an All-Pro or Pro Bowl team at season's end, but he never claimed either of those honors during his career.
A more likely result is the 10 tackles The New York Times reported that McDaniel tallied in that game in their 2002 obituary of McDaniel. Ten is a more than impressive number, especially given the volume of offensive plays, but 23 makes for a much better story; in a time where statistics were much harder to track, it was a tale that caught on and gained steam each time it was told and retold.
Sometimes embellishment can take the form of splitting hairs.
That is the case with The New Day. The combination of Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods were, for a long stretch during their 430-plus day (and counting) run, billed as the longest-reigning WWE tag team champions in history.
The reality is that they are only the longest reigning champions under the current WWE tag team championship lineage, a fact only recently acknowledged on WWE TV as The New Day approaches the true record-holders.
They do have the second-longest reign in WWE history but, as of late October, still have a hair under 50 days to go before breaking the record-setting 478-day WWE world tag team championship mark set by Demolition in 1988 and 89. If The New Day make it through the Dec. 12 edition of Monday Night Raw in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which would be Day 477, they would lock up the record with no asterisks and no qualifications.
The WWE probably figured that once The New Day had a reason to call themselves the longest-reigning champs in addition to the two-time WWE world tag team champions (insert hip gyrations here), why wait? They had a reason to celebrate then, and provided they do indeed break Demolition's record, they have reason to celebrate yet again. Given the positive reaction of fans to almost everything The New Day does, it's easy to see why promotions embrace exaggeration in cases like this.