Rick Martel

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Rick Martel
Rick "The Model" Martel.jpg
Birth name Richard Vigneault
Born (1956-03-18) March 18, 1956 (age 60)[1]
Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
Spouse(s) Johanne Vigneault (m. 1983)
Children 1
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Rick Martel[1]
Gus Griffin
Billed height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)[1]
Billed weight 226 lb (103 kg)[1]
Billed from Montreal, Quebec
Cocoa Beach, Florida (as The Model)
Quebec City, Quebec (WCW)
Trained by Pierre Martel
Debut June 7, 1972[1]
Retired July 13, 1998

Richard "Rick" Vigneault (born March 18, 1956) is a Canadian retired professional wrestler, best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation between 1980 and 1995 under the ring name Rick Martel. He is also known for his 595-day reign as AWA World Heavyweight Champion, the championship's third longest.


Early years (1972–1980)[edit]

Martel is from a family of wrestlers, and made his professional debut at age sixteen when his brother Michel, a wrestler, asked him to replace an injured wrestler. Martel was already a skilled amateur wrestler, and quickly adapted to professional wrestling.

Martel wrestled throughout the world, winning titles in Canada (in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling and Vancouver-based NWA All Star Wrestling), New Zealand and Puerto Rico. His first real success in America came in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)'s Portland affiliate, Pacific Northwest Wrestling, where he became a top talent, holding the Canadian and PNW tag team titles simultaneously. He left PNW on August 16, 1980, when he lost a Loser Leaves Town match to Buddy Rose. Martel also served a stint as a booker for a wrestling territory in Hawaii, where he would help the promotion set up matches and construct the storylines that would play out inside and outside of the ring.

World Wrestling Federation (1980–1982)[edit]

Martel debuted in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in July 1980. That fall, he formed a tag team with Tony Garea. On November 8, they defeated The Wild Samoans to capture the WWF Tag Team Championship.[2] They successfully defended the title until dropping the belts to The Moondogs on March 17, 1981.[2] They regained the title from The Moondogs on July 21.[2] Their second reign came to an end on October 13, when they lost to Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito.[2] Though they would challenge the champions numerous times, Martel and Garea were unable to recapture the belts, and Martel left the WWF in April 1982.

American Wrestling Association (1982–1986)[edit]

Martel signed with the AWA in 1982 and quickly ascended through the ranks, defeating Jumbo Tsuruta to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on May 13, 1984.[3] His reign as champion lasted nearly nineteen months (the third-longest title reign and the longest title reign of the 1980s), during which time he wrestled several matches with NWA World Champion Ric Flair, as well as with Jimmy Garvin, Nick Bockwinkel and King Tonga. His finishing move alternated between the slingshot splash and the combination atomic drop/back suplex. On December 29, 1985, Martel lost the title to Stan Hansen, who forced him to submit to the "Brazos Valley Backbreaker" (Hansen's version of the Boston crab).

Return to WWF[edit]

The Can-Am Connection (1986-1987)[edit]

Main article: The Can-Am Connection

In 1986, Martel returned to the WWF, with his tag team partner Tom Zenk. They were billed as The Can-Am Connection. The Can-Am Connection had been formed by Martel in the Montreal-based Lutte Internationale in 1986. Zenk was the boyfriend of Martel's sister-in-law, and had been introduced to Martel in the AWA by Curt Hennig. The Can-Am Connection quickly garnered the affection of fans, and they looked likely to win the WWF Tag Team Title in the near future. At WrestleMania III, The Cam-Am connection defeated Bob Orton, Jr. and Don Muraco in the opening match, when Zenk pinned Muraco. They split shortly afterward; Zenk claimed Martel had secretly negotiated an individual contract worth three times more than his partner's contract (traditionally, tag teams are paid roughly equal salaries).[4]

Martel strongly disagreed. In Mad Dogs, Migdets and Screw Jobs, he said: “Ever since I had been fired by Jim Barnett, I decided not to discuss money matters with other wrestlers . . . I did the same thing with Tom, and he put it in his head, or some other people put it in his head, that I made more than him. But as far as Vince was concerned, if you were in a tag team, you earned the same amount of money.”[5] He also claimed Zenk "...was overwhelmed by it all... Wrestling is very hard on your body. Hard on you also mentally. It's hard physically. Tom wasn't mentally or physically hard as I thought he would be."[6]

Strike Force (1987–1989)[edit]

After Zenk's departure, Martel formed a new tag team with Tito Santana, called Strike Force. The duo quickly captured the WWF World Tag Team Title from The Hart Foundation, holding it for five months before losing to Demolition at WrestleMania IV.[2]

Shortly afterward, Martel (kayfabe) took time off due to injuries sustained in a title rematch at a Prime Time Wrestling taping in Oakland, California on June 1, 1988 (aired July 11). Smash hit Martel with a steel chair, then both members of Demolition performed their "Decapitation" finisher on him at ringside, leaving him unconscious on the floor. On the June 18 Superstars, it was announced he suffered back injuries and a concussion. In storyline, he briefly retired due to these injuries. In reality, he took six months off to help care for his severely ill wife.[7][8]

Martel returned in January 1989 as a singles wrestler, before reforming Strike Force with Santana at WrestleMania V to face The Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard). During the match, Santana accidentally hit Martel with his signature flying forearm smash and knocked him out of the ring. A frustrated Martel refused to tag in and walked away, leaving Santana to be beaten down and pinned.[9] Later, in an interview with Gene Okerlund, Martel said, "I'm sick and tired. Sick and tired of him. I was doing great as a singles wrestler, but Mr. Tito wants to ride my coattails some more."

Following his heel turn, Martel acquired Slick as his manager. He feuded with Santana on and off over the next two years, losing to him in the finals of the 1989 King of the Ring tournament, then defeating him at The Main Event IV taping on October 30, 1990 (aired November 23).[10][11]

As 1989 came to a close, Martel's relationship with Slick quietly ended.

The Model (1989–1995)[edit]

In late 1989, Martel adopted a narcissistic gimmick, as "The Model". Just before the 1989 Survivor Series, he introduced his own (fictional) brand of cologne called Arrogance, which he carried in a large atomizer and sprayed in the eyes of his opponents to blind them. He wore a turquoise sweater tied around his neck to the ring (later replaced by a turquoise sportcoat), with a large lapel pin that read "Yes, I am a model."[12] Martel made his pay-per-view singles match debut at WrestleMania VI, where he defeated Koko B. Ware via submission with his signature Boston Crab.[13]

Martel's most high-profile feud during his stint as "The Model" was with Jake "The Snake" Roberts, sparked when he blinded Roberts with Arrogance on "The Brother Love Show" in October 1990. Martel and Roberts captained opposing teams at the Survivor Series. The Visionaries (Martel, The Warlord and Power and Glory) defeated The Vipers (Roberts, Jimmy Snuka and The Rockers) in a clean sweep, 4-0.[14] Martel continued to have the upper hand in the 1991 Royal Rumble match, eliminating Roberts from the match en route to lasting (a then-record) 53 minutes, before being eliminated by The British Bulldog.[15] Roberts would ultimately get his revenge at WrestleMania VII, defeating Martel in a blindfold match.[16] For the rest of 1991, Martel represented the WWF on Japanese tours for Super World Sports. In December 1991, he lost to Naoki Sano in a match to determine the inaugural SWS Junior Heavyweight Champion.

In early 1992, Martel began a feud with Tatanka, leading to WrestleMania VIII, where Tatanka pinned him.[17]

That summer, Martel had a brief feud with Shawn Michaels, as both men sought the affections of Sensational Sherri. The feud ended with a chain of events that resulted in a double countout at SummerSlam 1992. The match carried a "no punching in the face" stipulation, mutually agreed upon and eventually disregarded by the two narcissistic heels.[18]

Martel then resumed his rivalry with Tatanka by stealing his sacred eagle feathers, to add to his wardrobe. The feud was resolved at the 1992 Survivor Series, where Tatanka again defeated Martel and reclaimed the feathers.[19]

By 1993, Martel mainly appeared on the lower undercard, and rarely on television, mostly on programs such as All-American Wrestling and Wrestling Challenge. However, at the September 27 Monday Night Raw taping, he was the co-winner (with Razor Ramon) of a battle royal (aired October 4) to decide the competitors in a match for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. He lost that match (aired the next week) to Ramon.[20] After this, Martel began moving slightly up the card once again. Martel also briefly feuded with Bastion Booger, losing one of their matches when he got fed up with how Booger smelled and started spraying him with his Arrogance cologne. Martel also appeared at Survivor Series 1993 in a 4-4 elimination match, being eliminated by The 1-2-3 Kid and in the 1994 Royal Rumble as the 26th entrant before getting eliminated by his old rival Tatanka. Martel was set to appear in a ten-man tag team match at Wrestlemania X but the match was cancelled during the show due to the show running out of time. The match was later held on RAW, with Martel's team victorious.

By the summer of 1994, Martel dropped out of the WWF picture and would not be seen again until participating in the 1995 Royal Rumble (he was a substitute for Jim Neidhart).[21] Martel's final appearance came the following month at a house show in Montreal, as his wrestling career began to slow as Martel pursued a career in real estate.

In a later shoot interview with RF video, Martel claimed that he and Don Callis were set to return to the WWF as 'The Supermodels' in 1997, and Callis was to eventually turn on Martel, making him a babyface for the first time since 1989. However, after a pay dispute with Vince McMahon, Martel signed with WCW.

World Championship Wrestling (1997–1998)[edit]

Martel debuted for World Championship Wrestling in 1997, feuding with Booker T for the WCW World Television Title and winning it on the February 16, 1998 Nitro. Martel's comeback was cut short during his rematch with Booker T at SuperBrawl VIII on February 22, when he landed badly on a throw, hitting his leg on one of the ring ropes. He tore an inside ligament of his right knee, fractured his leg and suffered cartilage damage, effectively ending his in-ring career. He was originally booked to retain the Television Title in the match, intended to be a gauntlet match, by beating Booker and then Perry Saturn. Martel and Booker worked out a finish in the ring (by which Martel suffered a further injury after a botched Harlem Sidekick), and then Booker and Saturn worked the second half of the match entirely on the fly. Martel was out of action for several months.

After suffering another injury in his first match back (on the July 13 episode of Nitro, against Booker T's tag team partner, Stevie Ray), Martel retired from the ring.[22] He then worked for WCW as a trainer, and as host of the French versions of WCW programming.

Guest appearances[edit]

After the main event of a house show in Quebec City on May 3, 2003, then-WWE Champion Brock Lesnar introduced Martel to the ring as a surprise, and shook his hand. Martel said he was honoured to be associated with WWE and thanked the fans.[23]

At WWE's Vengeance: Night of Champions pay-per-view in 2007, Martel, along with Tony Garea, saved Jimmy Snuka and Sgt. Slaughter from a post-match attack at the hands of Deuce 'n Domino.[22]

Personal life[edit]

Vigneault married his wife Johanne in 1983. They have a daughter named Coralie, born in 2000.

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • PWI ranked him # 48 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
  • PWI ranked him # 70 of the 100 best tag teams during the PWI years with Tito Santana in 2003
  • Universal Superstars of America
  • USA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[40]


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  2. ^ a b c d e "Solie's Title Histories: WWWF/WWF". Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2011-09-02. 
  3. ^ "Solie's Title Histories: AWA - American Wrestling Association". Solie's Title Histories. Retrieved 2011-09-02. 
  4. ^ "Interview with Tom Zenk". Archived from the original on October 28, 2009. 
  5. ^ ISBN 9781770410947
  6. ^ "Interview with Rick Martel". 
  7. ^ Santana, Tito (2008).Tito Santana's Tales From The Ring, pp.81-82, Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-59670-325-4
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External links[edit]