Luna Vachon found dead
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
Luna Vachon has died. She was 48. According to family, she was at her mother's house and was found dead this morning. A cause of death has not been determined.
The news comes just a short while after a house fire consumed her home and destroyed her wrestling memorabilia. She was staying at her mother's home after the fire.
Gertrude Angelle Vachon -- "Trudy" to friends -- was one of the most colourful and eccentric woman wrestlers of all time.
She was always billed as the daughter of Paul "The Butcher" Vachon; though biologically she is not his daughter, he always considered her as his daughter, even after splitting with her mother, Van, which was Butcher's second marriage.
Trudy arrived in his life when she was only four years old. "I taught my daughter Luna how to wrestle and also sent her to Moolahís wrestling school. She patterned her wrestling style and personality after Mad Dog and I. Luna became one of the most famous and recognized lady wrestlers in wrestling history," wrote her father in his second autobiography.
"As a student, she was very much interested, and very much involved in really, really wanting to do the thing. She had good hopes," said Lillian Ellison, the Fabulous Moolah, years back. It was Moolah that named her "Angel" for wrestling. Luna would also credit Judy Martin and Velvet McIntyre for teaching her how to throw a proper punch.
In a 2000 interview, Butcher Vachon expanded on his adopted daughter's exposure to the wrestling business.
"She was 13, 14 years old and she used to come to the wrestling matches. I was working for the World Wrestling Federation when Vince Sr. was running it. We were living in Connecticut," he recalled. "We'd go early and get there late afternoon, the building would be open and the ring was up and no people in the place. We'd get up in the ring and I'd show her a few moves. Then some of the guys would start coming in and they'd help me start putting her through some paces.
"She could have done anything. She was a beautiful girl and very intelligent, smart, good looking, of course, like her dad. All she ever wanted to do [was wrestle]. Her idol was my sister, Vivien, who was a wrestler. She had been watching her ever since she was four or five years old. That's all she ever did. I told her she was a lunatic because all she wanted to do was wrestle."
"I thought it was the worst business a woman could be in. It's not even a business for men."
"I grew up wanting to be a part of this business so badly," remembered Luna in a WWE.com interview. "My family discouraged me at first. My aunt Vivian was a wrestler, so they knew the kind of toll that wrestling could take on a womanís body. I didnít let that stop me though. It was in my blood, and all I wanted to do was become a wrestler."
Her look became her calling card. There were the strange haircuts, the tattoos, the gravely voice -- which was legit.
Luna always had a wild streak, Butcher said. "This is a kid that at 15 years old, she took off on her own and hitchhiked to California from Florida."
Luna Vachon with her father Paul Vachon at the 2008 Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas. Photo by Mike Lano, WReaLano@aol.com
Almost immediately, Luna got a chance to work in Japan, with her father as her manager, who pulling a few strings. "When you come right down to it, if you don't cut the mustard, it don't matter what kind of strings you pull," he said. "It helped her, just like when I started Mad Dog had already been in the business for seven or eight years."
In a 1990 interview with Jeff Bowdren in the Wrestling Observer Yearbook, Luna talked about working in Japan. "They are the most fabulous athletes in the world. It's incredible to me what the new girls have to go through. Yet, at the same time, it's such an honor to be a woman wrestler in Japan. It's the complete opposite of this country. They really are considered great athletes and are held in high regard."
Her early days on the North American scene were based out of Florida, for Florida Championship Wrestling.
After only 11 matches, Luna was recruited into Kevin Sullivan's Army of Darkness, paired with the dark-haired Lock (also known as Winona Little Heart) as The Daughters of Darkness. Also working for Sullivan was Maha Singh, formerly the veteran Olympian Bob Roop.
"She was green, she was new to the business and really had a desire to do it. She was a sweet girl," Roop recalled of Luna's early days, adding that she "had some self-esteem problems."
Luna came by the training facility one night when Roop was there. "She was jumping off the top rope, she's a girl who's been around a while, and she's just working out. She's jumping off the top rope, dropping elbows on people, just doing all these incredible things in terms of beating the crap out of your body. So she really had the desire to do this stuff."
In 1987, on the advice of then-boyfriend Dick Slater, Luna did a short stint in Memphis, working with Lock.
She would also serve as a manager to The Blackhearts, a masked tag team that had also worked in Stampede Wrestling. From here, it gets complicated. The Blackhearts were Tom Nash, to whom Luna was married, and Dave Heath, who she would later marry and who would go on to greater fame as Gangrel.
It wasn't too much longer until the World Wrestling Federation came calling.
Her first stint with the WWF came in 1992, and peaked in March 1994 at WrestleMania X, where she teamed with Bam Bam Bigelow to beat Doink The Clown and Dink The Clown (Tiger Jackson).
In 1994, she found herself in the predecessor to ECW, Tri-States wrestling, alongside Mick Foley, Eddie Gilbert and Madusa Miceli. In an interview with Luna-Tics Asylum website, she said that her favourite match of all-time was in Philadelphia in a steel cage match against Stevie Richards, which she won.
In the same interview, she also said that she has always favoured being a heel. "Definitely a heel is more fun. If a guy is willing to throw his nice two dollar beer at me then I know I did well. Not that I want things thrown at me, of course, but to see the audience react to you is the best feeling in the world. It shows that I have succeeded in doing my job."
Not too long after the stint in Philly, she gave up wrestling for a while, settling in Florida. She later returned for a brief stint in ECW, running an angle with her husband, Vampire Warrior (David Heath, aka Gangrel).
Paul Vachon recalled getting call from Pat Patterson of the WWF, who was looking for Luna to come back to the 'Fed. Vachon didn't know where she was, except that she was in Florida. "They found a detective agency to hunt her down, believe it or not," said Butcher. "They found her working for a Shoney's restaurant."
In another WWF stint, she worked with Sable (Reno Mero), helping the newcomer through her first matches in pro wrestling.
"Sable wasnít a wrestler until I made her one," said Luna in the WWE.com interview. "A real wrestler can wrestle a mop, and make it look like the mop is kicking their ass, and thatís what happened that night. She beat us, and when we got to the back, there was champagne and confetti, and everyone wanted to celebrate with Sable. I kept walking until Owen Hart came up to me and told me I had just put on the match of my life. It meant a lot to have someone like him say that to me."
Luna also battled for the women's title, and worked in The Jackyl's Parade of Human Oddities.
"She was the sweetest woman I ever worked with in the wrestling business," said David Herro, a Milwaukee, Wisc., promoter and booking agent, for whom Luna had her final match. "She had that crazy attitude. You thought she was nuts, but she had the biggest heart. She just kept getting screwed over by everybody. She really was. And I consider her one of my best friends. This one really stinks, because she was just so talented and so good. She never got what she truly deserved and that was the respect from everybody. I mean, she made Sable look like a million dollars."
A fight with Sable led to a suspension from the company. Luna last worked for the WWF in early 2000. She admitted in a SLAM! Wrestling interview in 2008 that she didn't really fit in with the "divas" the company was so high on. "In this world of butterflies, it took balls to be a caterpillar," she told Fred Johns.
The Gerweck Report interviewed Luna in 2005, and she said working with Sable drove her crazy. "Sable knows how to manipulate people," Luna said.
The atmosphere was chaotic, wrote Vince Russo in his first book, Forgiven: "The competition between the women of the WWF was vicious. Sunny hated Sable, Sable hated Sunny, Luna hated Sable, Chyna hated Sable, Luna hated Sunny -- it was a soap opera. ... And the girls were so open about it, too. Unlike the guys, who would quietly and methodically stab each other in the back, the 'divas' would scream at each other, curse each other out, physically attack each other -- it was, as Regis would say, 'Out of control!'
"Yes, the girls were quite public with their spats. I'll never forget the time when I stood in front of Sunny to protect her from a charging Luna. Now I was considered 'office,' hands-off, but that didn't stop Luna. She came at me like a bull seeing red -- dumping me butt-first in a laundry cart. I swear to you, Luna Vachon could kill you. I don't care how big and tough you are, she'll rip out your eyes and eat them in front of you."
The last few years saw highs and lows for Luna, which was pretty normal, as she was bipolar, and medically diagnosed as manic depressive. She announced her retirement from wrestling in November 2007, and worked as a tow truck operator. Luna became a devout Christian, and could be found on occasion as a part of a Christian wrestling ministry, performing wrestling shows along with Ted DiBiase and Superstar Billy Graham.
A recent high was being honoured by the Cauliflower Alley Club in 2009 with a women's wrestling award. "There's so many people in this room that I owe a thank you to," said a teary-eyed Vachon, the fourth member of the family to be honored by the CAC, after her father, uncle Mad Dog, and late aunt Vivian. "To receive an award like this, for someone like me, means more than you'll ever know."
In the end, a prediction Luna mentioned in the 1990 interview came true. "Moolah once told me that my heart was much too big for this businses and I'd end up getting it ripped apart," she told Bowdren. "But when Luna came along, it gave me a person to hide behind who had some strength."
Luna Vachon had two sons, Joshua and Van (who was a contestant on the latest season of Hell's Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey), and two granddaughters, Neila Hurd and Lauren Hurd.
Funeral arrangements are not known at this time.
Luna Vachon Photo Gallery
August 28, 2010: Howard Brody: Saying farewell to my friend Luna
August 27, 2010: Friends remember Luna Vachon
August 7, 2008: A visit to Luna's 'little land of lunacy'
Luna Vachon in the Canadian Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame
Previous SLAM! Wrestling obituaries
Greg Oliver met Luna Vachon on multiple occasions. The bar in Flint, Michigan is probably the most memorable occasion. Rest in peace, Luna. Greg can be emailed at email@example.com.