‘Big’ John Studd was literally and figuratively one of the biggest heels the World Wrestling Federation had in the 1980’s. He stood over 6 feet 10 inches tall (although the WWF claimed he was over 7 feet tall) and weighed 365 pounds. Studd challenged the likes of Bob Backlund and then later Hulk Hogan for the WWF world title. Of course, Studd’s biggest rivalry was against the beloved ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ Andre the Giant. The two behemoths battled it out through the 80’s to prove who was the true giant in professional wrestling.
By the time 1986 rolled around, Studd began having dissension with his equally big tag team partner King Kong Bundy. It looked as if the team would split up and begin a feud with one another when Studd abruptly retired from the business. According to his friend Billy Graham, Studd retired to bulk up and get bigger than he already was. Graham says Studd allegedly began taking steroids and human growth hormones. Studd had apparently became obsessed with proving he was legitimately the one, true giant in wrestling.
The rivalry between John Studd and Andre was a legitimate one. Studd wanted to truly be considered a larger star than Andre and Andre reportedly resented him for that. After a two year absence from wrestling, Big John Studd reemerged in the WWF in December of 1988. Studd was a guest on the Brother Love Show where Studd was greeted by his long time manager Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan. During Studd’s retirement, Heenan aligned with Studd’s greatest foe Andre the Giant who had turned heel.
While Heenan wanted to greet Studd back to the Heenan Family with opened arms….Studd wanted nothing to do with the manager who joined forces with his enemy. Studd broke away from Bobby Heenan that sparked a feud between Stdd and the Heenan Family. On house shows, Studd began wrestling the likes of Haku and it was clear that Studd had lost a few steps during his retirement. While the ultimate plan was to rekindle the Studd/Andre feud…Vince McMahon realized that both competitors were not the same as they were just a couple of years prior. Andre’s health was rapidly deteriorating and Studd himself wasn’t as mobile.
John Studd got perhaps one of the biggest accolades of his career when he won the 1989 Royal Rumble. This was the first year the Rumble was aired on pay per view. It came down to Studd and The Million Dollar Man as the two finalists. Dibiase offered Studd money to eliminate himself from the Rumble so he could be declared the winner. It appeared as if Studd was going to accept the offer, but instead threw Dibiase out of the ring and became the 1989 Royal Rumble winner.
After his Rumble victory, Studd began wrestling Akeem on the house show circuit. The attendance for Studd as the main event didn’t draw very well and fans watching his matches started chanting ‘boring.’ At Wrestlemania V, instead of having a match…Studd was booked as the special guest referee in the Andre versus Jake the Snake Roberts match. Andre taunted Studd the entire match and it ultimately led to Andre attacking Studd causing a disqualification. Their feud never went much further after that.
Just two months later, Studd disappeared again and this time it was for good. He reportedly got into an argument with Vince McMahon over money and decided he had had enough and quit the company. Rumors were that Jim Herd of WCW wanted to sign Studd after he walked away from the WWF and the two may have had discussions. In the end however, John Studd was tiring of the constant travel of being a pro wrestler and had enough money saved to retire comfortably.
He would still wrestle occasionally, but it was always on his own terms. Sadly, John Studd passed away in 1995 after battling both liver cancer and Hodgkin lymphoma. He was just 47 years old. Unfortunately, his WWF babyface run in 1989 was not as successful as had been hoped for. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.