Maurice Vachon

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Maurice Vachon
Ring name(s) Mad Dog Vachon
Billed weight 230 lb (100 kg)[1]
Born (1929-09-14)September 14, 1929
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died November 21, 2013(2013-11-21) (aged 84)
Omaha, Nebraska, United States
Billed from Montreal, Quebec, Canada[1]
Debut 1950
Retired 1986[1]
Maurice Vachon
Medal record
Men's Freestyle wrestling
British Empire Games
Gold 1950 Auckland Middleweight

Maurice Vachon (September 1, 1929 − November 21, 2013) was a Canadian professional wrestler, best known by his ring name "Mad Dog" Vachon. He was the brother of wrestlers Paul and Vivian Vachon, and the uncle of wrestler Luna Vachon.

Vachon started his career as an amateur wrestler, participating in the 1948 Summer Olympics and winning a gold medal at the 1950 British Empire Games. He made the switch to professional wrestling and spent time in various promotions in the United States while occasionally teaming with his brother Paul. In Portland, Oregon, he received the name "Mad Dog" Vachon. In the early 1960s, Vachon became a main eventer in the American Wrestling Association. He was one of the promotion's all-time great heels, known for his wild style and intense interviews. He was a five-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion. Starting in the '70s, Vachon became a fan favourite, particularly in his home province of Quebec.

After a stint in the World Wrestling Federation, Vachon retired from the business in 1986. The following year, he was struck by a hit-and-run driver, resulting in the amputation of one of his legs. Vachon was highly influential, especially in Canada, and was inducted into numerous professional wrestling Halls of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Maurice Vachon was born on September 1, 1929. He was christened on September 4; the godfather was Maurice Picard, his uncle and the god mother was Victoria Ouellet, his maternal grandmother; he was the second child of 13 children of Montreal policeman Ferdinand Vachon and Marguerite Picard.[2] He grew up in the district of Ville-Émard, a working-class borough southwest of Montreal.[3] As a child, he regularly attended wrestling shows at the nearby Montreal Forum, where he grew up idolizing local ring legend Yvon Robert; and at just 12 years old, he had already begun grappling at the area's YMCA. At the YMCA he was coached by Frank Saxton, a former coach of the Canadian amateur team.[2] Vachon entered a wrestling course advertised at the back of a comic book, and he began training under Chief Jim Crowley. He trained hard and even worked in the docks and on the canal to build up his muscle. By age 14, Vachon eventually established himself among Canada’s premier amateur grapplers.

At the age of 18, he competed in the 1948 Olympic Games in London, where he pinned the Indian champion in 58 seconds. Vachon ultimately finished in seventh place at 174 pounds after losing to eventual silver medalist Adil Candemir of Turkey.[2] Moreover, it was at the 1948 Olympics where Vachon first encountered an American Greco-Roman competitor named Verne Gagne. He rebounded to win the gold medal at the 1950 British Empire Games in New Zealand. He then spent several years working as a bouncer at a Montreal nightclub, where he gained a reputation of being willing to fight anyone, before he was encouraged to join the pro wrestling circuit in 1951.[3]

Professional wrestling career[edit]

Wrestling debut[edit]

Vachon initially debuted as a junior heavyweight for Ontario booker Larry Kasaboski; and during his first year as a pro, he won a tournament in Sudbury to claim the North American Junior Heavyweight Title. However, Vachon soon encountered a roadblock when powerful Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn was hesitant to use him for fear that Vachon would dethrone Yvon Robert, who was still his top drawing card.[2] Consequently, Vachon then took to the road; and in April 1955, he teamed with Pierre LaSalle to capture the NWA Texas Tag Team Titles.

"Mad Dog" Vachon[edit]

Despite his exceptional grappling ability, Maurice Vachon nonetheless struggled to distinguish himself from the myriad of image-less grapplers during his early years. As a result, he soon took radical measures to differentiate his persona, bulking up to a more plausible 225 pounds while also shaving his head bald and growing a long goatee.[2] In addition, Vachon would frequently buy local TV time prior to a weekend event, which he then used to boldly proclaim his supremacy while also deprecating his opponent. Such acts of bravado were considered revolutionary at the time, though it was successful in that it attracted attention to Vachon’s new character as well as drawing additional fans to the arena. As a result, Vachon subsequently established himself as a major heel while also portraying a wrestling beast inside the ring who would freely stomp, bite, and pound his opponent into submission. According to Vachon, the name "Mad Dog" was given to him in 1962 by Portland promoter Don Owen after a particularly violent match. "During the match I went outside the ring and started to turn everything upside down. A policeman tried to stop me and I hit him too," said Vachon. Afterwards Owen told him, "You just looked like a real mad dog out there."[2]

Before long, "Mad Dog" Vachon consequently developed a reputation as perhaps the most feared rulebreaker in all of wrestling. Furthermore, Maurice's younger brother Paul - ultimately known as "The Butcher" - soon also made his debut and on February 17, 1959 the Vachon brothers teamed to defeat Chico Garcia and Chet Wallick for the NWA Canadian Tag Team Titles. Vachon's tendency to hurt his opponents with foreign objects, filed fingernails and teeth, and the multiple use of his signature finishing move, the Piledriver, to end matches made him notorious in the business and caused him to be banned in three U.S. states. But it also made his popularity soar among the fans.[4]

He also met his future wife Kathie Joe at a wrestling event, after spitting a shoe string he had used for choking his opponent at her, as she was sitting in the audience.

AWA World Heavyweight Champion[edit]

In the early 1960s, Mad Dog Vachon was then recruited to the Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association by his old Olympics acquaintance Verne Gagne, who had replaced Tony Stecher as the region’s chief promoter in 1960 and who also served as its centerpiece champion. Upon debuting, Vachon immediately established himself among the promotion’s top box-office draws as fans despised his vicious, mauling tactics; and he thus made the perfect opponent for the All-American Gagne, as the two rivals soon commenced an ongoing battle that would persist on for nearly 20 years. On May 2, 1964, Vachon stunned audiences when he upset Gagne for the AWA World Heavyweight Title, and although Gagne regained the belt just two weeks later, Mad Dog again recaptured the title when he defeated Gagne on October 20 in Minneapolis. Between 1964-67, Mad Dog Vachon would ultimately hold five reigns as the AWA World Champion while taking on all comers within the promotion’s massive territory, including Gagne, Mighty Igor Vodic, as well as the legendary powerhouse duo of Crusher Lisowski & Dick the Bruiser.[2]

Mad Dog Vachon’s final AWA title reign came to an end on February 26, 1967, at the hands of his nemesis Verne Gagne; and he then briefly left the promotion in order to return to his native Montreal territory, where he captured two reigns as the IWA International Heavyweight Champion while feuding against Johnny Rougeau and Hans Schmidt. Moreover, Vachon would also leverage his close friendship with Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau to convince the authorities of the Montreal Forum to grant him a promoting license (despite the protests of Johnny Rougeau and Bob Langevin, who had taken over the region from Eddie Quinn during the mid-1960s). Nevertheless, Vachon would soon return to the AWA, where he resumed his fierce battles with The Crusher and Dick the Bruiser, regarded by some as the greatest tag team of all-time, while forming a highly successful and dangerous tandem with his brother Paul “Butcher” Vachon. On August 30, 1969, the Vachons defeated Crusher & Bruiser for the AWA World Tag Team Titles; and the following year, the two battled again in a famous steel cage match at Chicago’s Comiskey Park (where the Vachons again emerged victorious), as their violent fights ultimately served as the precursor for a new brand of sadistic and vicious brawling that would spawn future mayhem stars like Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody, Stan Hansen, and others.

On July 14, 1973, Vachon had a match with Killer Kowalski for Grand Prix Wrestling at Montreal's Jarry Park. The match drew a crowd of 29,127, which is the largest wrestling crowd in Quebec history.[5] Prior to the match, Vachon had vowed to commit suicide if he didn't win. Following Vachon's victory, the headline of a Montreal newspaper read "Vachon triumphs in front of 30,000 people and gives up on suicide!"[2]

Later career[edit]

The Vachon family became prominent in the AWA with sister Vivian dominating the women’s scene, while Maurice and Paul ruled the men's division. In the early 1970s he even appeared alongside Vivian in the motion picture Wrestling Queen. After two decades as one the wrestling's most evil characters, the fans began to rally behind the "Mad Dog" in the late 1970s when he formed an unexpected and odd friendship with ex-archrival Verne Gagne. The unlikely partners made for an impressive tag team, and on June 6, 1979, they beat Pat Patterson & Ray Stevens to capture the AWA tag titles, which they held for over a year before losing to Jesse Ventura & Adrian Adonis.[2] When the AWA began looking to younger stars like Rick Martel and Curt Hennig, Vachon jumped to the World Wrestling Federation in 1984. While his age and lack of size did not make for a good mix in the emerging "Hulkamania" era, the now-face (fan favorite) Vachon was usually included at WWF house shows (wrestling cards) in the Midwest and Quebec.

In 1985, he appeared as cornerman for AWA World Champion Rick Martel when Martel was challenged by Boris Zhukov in several title bouts in Canada, getting involved in one match on September 19, 1985 in Winnipeg and fighting off Zhukov and his manager, Chris Markoff, after Markoff interfered and helped Zhukov attack Martel,[6] while in a later rematch between Martel and Zhukov held in a steel cage on November 14, 1985 in the same city, Markoff was neutralized by being handcuffed to Vachon.[7][8] Vachon received a retirement show in his native Montreal in September 1986, and he left the sport as one its most beloved fan favorites after spending almost his entire career as a sadistic villain. His innovative portrayal of a snarling, bloodthirsty monster would inspire a myriad of future "psychotic" wrestlers. According to the WWE, "In later years, Mad Dog's legacy was carried on by his niece, the memorably twisted Luna Vachon, and notable brawlers who adopted Vachon's wild ring style like Bruiser Brody and George "The Animal" Steele."[9]

Influence[edit]

Vachon was known for his wild personality and uncontrollable character, as well as his unique interview style. "He was the first wrestler to understand the power of television. He was the first wrestler to speak to the camera. That was never done before." said Yves Theriault, who directed a documentary on Vachon in 2009.[10] Vachon was also very influential in his home province of Quebec. Pat LaPrade, author of the Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs, a book on Quebec wrestling history, considers Vachon one of the two most important Quebec wrestlers along with Yvon Robert. He added, "[Vachon is] the best-known Quebec wrestler outside of Quebec. A legend."[5]

In the book The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians, author Greg Oliver ranks Vachon fourth amongst Canadian wrestlers, behind Whipper Billy Watson, Yvon Robert and Killer Kowalski.[11] Vachon was also included in Oliver's book on villainous wrestlers and was ranked fourth.[4]

Retirement and personal life[edit]

Upon retiring, Vachon settled in Carter Lake, Iowa with his third wife Kathy Joe. Tragedy struck in 1987 when Vachon was struck by a hit-and-run driver, resulting in the amputation of one of his legs. It was later revealed that he had been struck by a developmentally challenged male driving the country roads looking for cans to recycle while Vachon was out for a morning jog. The man apparently had no insurance and was never charged.[1] The Vachons moved to Omaha shortly thereafter.[4] He later turned to acting in beer commercials and was a restaurant critic for a Quebec City television station. He said, "I've eaten in almost every gas station restaurant and roadside diner in North America, I'm one Mad Dog who knows his chow."

He appeared at the WWF pay-per-view In Your House 7, that was held in Omaha. He was sitting in the front row near ringside, when his artificial leg was ripped off by wrestler Diesel and used as a weapon[1] by Shawn Michaels. In addition, he and longtime rival The Crusher made an appearance at the 1998 Over the Edge pay-per-view, in a segment where the two legends were mocked by Jerry "The King" Lawler, including Lawler trying to steal the artificial leg. Crusher and Mad Dog then punched Lawler out of the ring. He had knee surgery in 2008, which, according to his brother, Paul, was successful.[citation needed] On March 27, 2010, he was inducted into the 2010 WWE Hall of Fame.[1]

Vachon died in his sleep on November 21, 2013, at the age of 84.[12][13] He had six children, seven grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[3][14]

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • Quebec Sports Hall of Fame
    • inducted in 2009[16]
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
  • Other Titles*

References[edit]

  • CBC Program: The Journal, Broadcast Date: Dec. 29, 1987 Reporter: Allen Abel Guests: Réjean Tremblay, Diane Vachon, Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon
  • Laprade, Pat; Hebert, Bertrand (2013). Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-77041-094-7. 
  • Oliver, Greg (2003). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 1-55022-531-6. 
  • Oliver, Greg; Johnson, Stevem (2007). The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels. Toronto: ECW Press. ISBN 978-1-55022-759-8. 
Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Laprade, pp. 60–67
  3. ^ a b c "Mad Dog Vachon has his day on Comedy Network". SlamWrestling.com. 1999-05-17. Retrieved 2009-01-19. 
  4. ^ a b c Oliver, 2007, pp. 33–36
  5. ^ a b "Quebec wrestler Maurice 'Mad Dog' Vachon dies at 84". CBC News. 2013-11-22. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  6. ^ Rick Martel vs. Boris Zhukov - September 19, 1985, Winnipeg at YouTube
  7. ^ Rick Martel vs. Boris Zhukov Cage Match Part 1 - November 14, 1985, Winnipeg at YouTube
  8. ^ Rick Martel vs. Boris Zhukov Cage Match Part 2 - November 14, 1985, Winnipeg at YouTube
  9. ^ "Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon". WWE. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  10. ^ Wyatt, Nelson (2013-11-22). "Maurice (Mad Dog) Vachon dies at the age of 84". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  11. ^ Oliver, 2003, pp. 16–21
  12. ^ "Maurice 'Mad Dog' Vachon passes away". WWE. Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  13. ^ The Associated Press (2013-11-23). "Mad Dog Vachon, Pro Wrestler, Dies at 84". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  14. ^ Wyatt, Nelson (2013-11-22). "Maurice (Mad Dog) Vachon, Montreal-born Hall of Fame wrestler, dies at age 84". National Post. Canadian Press. Retrieved 2013-11-23. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Mad Dog Vachon's titles, from WrestlingData.com
  16. ^ Oliver, Greg (2013-11-21). "Mad Dog Vachon dead at 84". slam.canoe.ca. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 

External links[edit]