April 7, 2010
Phil Lafon returns to the ring
By SEAN COOPER - SLAM! Wrestling
This past March, after a five-year absence from the ring, veteran Phil Lafon made his return to the squared circle at a Monster Pro Wrestling event in Edmonton. Lafon was inspired to return to the ring to help a close friend out.
"I wanted to return to the ring to help out my good friends over at Monster Pro Wrestling. I'm 49 years old so I can't do a lot anymore in the ring, but I try to offer whatever I can," Lafon told SLAM! Wrestling.
Monster Pro Wrestling promoter, Nelson Mayer, was really excited about the involvement of Lafon at the event. "It's tremendous to have a legit legend like Phil Lafon involved at all with Monster Pro Wrestling," he said. "We are very excited to have him wrestle for us after his five-year layoff. He is a great talent, and a true gentleman in this sport, we are honoured to have him wrestle for us."
Phil Lafon, who also worked as Dan Kroffat, Rocky Ventura and Phil Lafleur, was a solid worker best known for his tag team with Doug Furnas in WWF. Lafon also had a brief stint in ECW and had great success in Japan.
The story of how Lafon made it to the WWE is an interesting one that involves stops in the infamous Hart Dungeon in Calgary, a stint in Japan for All Japan Pro Wrestling where he first formed his team with Furnas when Giant Baba put them together, a brief stint in the renegade promotion before eventually making it to the number one promotion in the world, WWF. Lafon's run in WWF would have been more memorable if it wasn't for a tragic car accident that unfortunately shortened his career.
Born September 16, 1961 in Mantouage, Ontario, and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Phil Lafon left home at the age of 19 for Calgary, in pursuit of a girl he adored. Most professional wrestlers were huge fans as a kid, but not Lafon.
"I never knew I was going to be a pro wrestler until I became one," he said. It was this new-found love that allowed him to wrestle inside the squared circle and make a living for over 20 years.
It was while in Calgary that Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid of Stampede Wrestling discovered Lafon at a local gym. This break allowed the Canadian wrestler to be trained at the famed Hart Dungeon.
"It was tough but it was good. More Japanese style because we had a guy there, Mr. Hito. He was training us. He trained us pretty solid," Lafon recalled of the humbling experience.
After spending two years in Stampede Wrestling, Lafon headed east to the Maritimes, wrestling under the name Rene Rougeau (later the name used by a debuting teenage René Dupre).
It was during his time there that he caught his first big break when he met the Cuban Assassin (Angel Acevedo) who helped get him booked in Japan.
The Land of the Rising Sun is a place that Lafon still holds dear to his heart: "First time I went to Japan, I was hooked. I liked the style better," he said. "It's more serious, more solid. It's not so much Hollywood. They're a little more serious with their sport. I really liked that. They showed more discipline."
The tag team of Lafon and Furnas -- the Can-Am Express -- would go on to last over eight years. Lafon credits their success as a tag team due to the distinct roles they played: "I was the worker, Doug was the manager. That's how basically it worked." While in AJPW, Lafon and Furnas would go on to hold the All Asia Tag Team Titles a record five times.
After a successful run in Japan, Lafon would return stateside with his tag team partner, Furnas, debuting for the upstart promotion of ECW. After a series of brilliant tag team matches with Rob Van Dam and Sabu, Lafon and Furnas left ECW, making their debut at Survivor Series event in 1996 in a winning effort against then tag team champs, Owen Hart and the British Bulldog. Known as the Can-Am Connection, Lafon and Furnas worked together as a babyface tag team, feuding with the tag team champions.
In 1997 Lafon's life and wrestling career would be changed forever during a car ride to the next WWF event.
"Sid [Vicious] was driving, I was on the passenger side. Flash Funk [2 Cold Scorpio] was in the back with Doug," he recalled. "We just basically lost control. He went to put up the sun roof and he lost control. He hit the soft shoulder and rolled about four or five times. I'm saying four or five times, but I woke up in a hospital."
It was this car accident that lead to the end of Lafon's WWF career.
"After our car accident, they kept paying us. After about five months, we went back and did a couple of shows here and there. Basically, it wasn't working out. We went down to ECW. ... they called up one day, Bruce Pritchard says, 'We're banging our heads against the wall and we just can't come up with a gimmick for you guys, so we're going to give you a three-month release. That was it."
Just recently Lafon had the opportunity to catch up with some of his close friends during a WWE event in Alberta. "It was nice getting to hang out with the boys again. I got to see some of my friends like Johnny Ace and Dean Malenko. I really miss the days on the road with the boys."
He has at least one fan from the current generation.
"Danny Kroffat, who wrestled as Phil Lafon in WWF, is, in my opinion, from the early '90s, was about as good as they came," said David Hart Smith. "I saw him in Edmonton when we went to Smackdown last year, and he was doing really good. He was helping some young teenage kids that had some drug problems, he was a counselor for them. He really cleaned up his life and looked like he was really healthy. I was happy to hear that. He's one of my favourite wrestlers."
Is this the last time we'll see Lafon inside the ring?
"You never know. I really enjoy helping out Monster Pro Wrestling. They are a really great promotion. They help out kids with addictions and help train the younger generation -- right now they have six to seven young kids under 18 years old. Maybe they will be the stars of tomorrow."
-- with files from Greg Oliver
Sean Cooper has been freelance writing for two years, with much of it at Beckett Media. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.