The world of wrestling and its fans have always liked watching people with superhuman strength and bodies. Although wrestlers also need to be able to act and carry out their acrobatic feats, the main tool they work with is undoubtedly their body.
This pushes wrestlers to keep pushing their physiological limits (with the help of a few products, you need to bear in mind), but some legends in this discipline have been able to take advantage of the superhuman bodies they were born with. Just like Maurice Tillet, the star wrestler during the first half of the twentieth century.
A complicated childhood
Ever since he was born, Maurice’s life had been like a film. He was born to French parents in the Ural Mountains in 1903 in the heart of the Russian Empire. His father was a railway engineer who died while his son was still a child, forcing his mother, who was a schoolteacher, to bring him up on her own.
But the Tillets were forced to leave Russia because of the revolution in 1917. They returned to Reims in France where Maurice immediately became popular with the other children thanks to his ‘angel face’. But everything turned upside down in 1923 when he was 20 years old and his feet, hands and head started to swell abnormally.
Doctors then diagnosed him with acromegaly, a rare condition caused by a benign tumor in the pituitary gland which causes your body tissues and bones to grow more quickly. Maurice was devastated, his plan to become a lawyer was no longer possible.
A serious condition that he used as his strength
He decided to serve in the merchant navy before then going into poetry and becoming an actor. Despite a few minor roles, Maurice quickly encountered ridicule from his peers and started to find his differences difficult to deal with. That’s when he met Karl Pojello in Singapore. This Lithuanian was a professional wrestler and persuaded Tillet to accompany him to the United States where he was convinced that his unusual physique would take the world by storm.
Bingo! Maurice was an immediate success over the Atlantic. Of course, he was noticed and discovered because of his unusual physique, but rather than being mocked, he experienced constant adoration from his numerous fans who attended his performances in the ring.
He became the heavyweight champion in the American Wrestling Association in 1940, a title that he would hold until 1942 before he took back the Boston belt in 1944. His new reputation allowed him to appear with lots of celebrities and his stage name ‘The French Angel’ was on the tip of all wrestling fan’s tongues.
The inspiration for the Shrek character?
Maurice Tillet died because of his condition on 4th September 1954 in Chicago after living a very full life. He was the forerunner to other famous wrestlers for their sheer size that America loved more than anything. Stars like André The Giant from France clearly became as popular as they did because of Tillet’s story, just like ‘The Great Khali’ from India.
‘The French Angel’ was also nicknamed ‘The freak ogre of the ring’ and he was said to have inspired the famous cartoon character, Shrek! Although DreamWorks never wanted to acknowledge the relationship between the two, the comparison between the hero and photos of Maurice Tillet is rather striking.