Fights & growls: Wrestlers remember 'ultimate bad guy' Mad Dog Vachon
GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
|Mad Dog Vachon, Killer Kowalski and Edouard Carpentier all together again in Montreal in 2006. Photo by Greg Oliver
Man, where to start with the Mad Dog Vachon stories? I've been collecting them for years, and as you read through them, you too will be struck by how many legendary names from the history of professional wrestling are no longer with us.
So with a terrifying growl and a chair shot, read on brave soul.
"The ultimate bad guy, as far as I'm concerned, is Mad Dog Vachon. Man, this guy was unreal. Up until late in his career, I wasn't around him. I couldn't believe what a mean man this guy could be. I saw him when I was a kid. On the way out of the ring, some guy tried to hook him or whatever. He beat the hell out of this guy, then kept his way to the dressing room. I remember the police, that was the end of the night, and all the people outside of the dressing room, all loaded. They were screaming for the guy to press charges. The police were asking the guy. Then Maurice came flying out of the dressing room, barefooted, just in his trunks. Roarrrr! Screaming at the people. The people tried to break out of there. I was just a kid, maybe 13 years old -- 'Man, this guy's unreal!' ... It was like a wolf was sent into the crowd, with everybody scattering. I was pretty impressed right there and then."
"The Dog and I tagged up together, and I'll never forget his words. We were doing a television interview, and they were interviewing both he and I at the same time. He said (imitating Mad Dog's voice) 'Verne Gagne, remember this. When the match is over, and we get our hands raised, you go your way, and I'll go my way.' And that's what happened. ... The Dog was a good wrestler. He didn't have to pull hair and gouge your eyes out, bite you."
"We wrestled on an outdoor show and we drew 33,000 people, Mad Dog and I. ... he had a character. His character made him the Mad Dog ... One time we went to a bar outside Minneapolis. Someone gave him a little flak and he beat the sh-- out of the guy. Took a jar, or something like that, and hit the guy over the head with it."
"Cowboy" Bill Watts:
"Mad Dog is another guy who walks to his own beat, and was a great guy. Horrible worker but a great guy. Here was a guy who was a horrible worker, and no matter who you were, you had to adapt to his style, and you never knew what the hell he was going to do. Even his brother Paul, they spent most of their time when they were a tag team cussing each other out in French because Paul would get so mad at him that he couldn't see straight. But did Mad Dog draw money? You're damn right he drew money. Why'd he draw money if he was such a bad worker? He drew money because of the intensity of who he was. His interviews were so dominant because he believed that he was the toughest son of a bitch that walked. And he may have been! He was as tough as any human I have ever seen. So that got him over."
"Mad Dog, his kick was when he got ahold of a young wrestler that didn't have much experience, he would beat the s--- of him just for fun. I never liked that, but that's the way he was."
"People were just scared to death of him. He'd jump out of the ring if somebody would be hollering at him. He'd jump out of the ring, and they'd sit like a baby in a chair, never even open their eyes. They were just scared to death."
"Probably one of toughest, ornery little farts in the business. I call him up. He says, 'I work all my life in the ring. I never make a whole lot of money. I retire. I get hit by a car, they take off my leg. Now I'm a millionaire. ... Maurice was solid box-office. Everything he ever touched went to gold." Outside the ring? "You'd have to hit him with a hammer or shoot him or he'd kill you."
Pat Patterson inducts Mad Dog Vachon into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
"In 1961 ... I didn't ask him to help me, but Mad Dog Vachon wrote me a letter and he told me, 'Kid' -- I was in Boston at the time -- 'you're booked in Portland, Oregon. Come on up to Oregon.' The promoter in Boston says, 'You're going to go from Boston to Portland, Oregon, coast to coast?' I thought it was around the world. I was afraid. I didn't go. Then he wrote me another letter, and since then, Maurice 'Mad Dog' Vachon is the one that gave me my biggest break in this business, and I want to thank you, Maurice."
"He was really a Mad Dog. He was for real. ... I think Andre the Giant would have stepped back from him too. This man here, he's an animal. He worked like an animal in the ring, like a brawl. I'm afraid when he had a fight, anything went."
Cowboy Bob Ellis:
"There's a lot that didn't want to work with him. I always enjoyed working with him."
"The best bad guy as you call them is Mad Dog Vachon. You can't beat that or take that away from him. ... The first time I met Mad Dog Vachon, we went out to eat. He said to me, we're in this restaurant, and we've eaten, and I go to pay for the bill. He grabs my hand and says, 'Hey, kid, how money did you make today?' I tell and he says, 'I made this much.' And he paid for it. He was a good guy. He said, 'I lived the part.'"
"Best interview in the business too, and he never had any script to work with. ... You had to believe when he was saying something. ... his expression was fabulous. ... In the ring, he was good. He was always taking great bumps, and working solid. It was not bulls---, he was solid."
Eric Pomeroy (who was also Stan Vachon and Stan Pulaski):
Butcher Vachon, Mad Dog Vachon and Stan Vachon as a trio in Atlanta.
"Mad Dog looks at Lou Thesz and something was said between the two of them. Mad Dog looks at me and says (in Mad Dog voice), 'What do you think Stan? My dad would roll over in his grave if I don't slap this guy.' He was hollering and screaming in the TV studio. In this little TV studio down there in Atlanta, they were all cracking up. ... Maurice was as mean as any of them, but a super nice guy."
Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat:
"I do remember one of the matches that I had. After I had graduated, Verne had sent me on to Winnipeg, and I drove 501 miles. I'd get a $75 payday, and then 501 miles back. So I was up there, and that night I was on third. I was working with Mad Dog Vachon. Verne came up to me and he said, 'You're working with The Dog tonight. I want you to go about four, five minutes and put him over strong.' 'No problem, sir. I'm happy to be here.' Back then you had time limits. Maybe the first match was 15, the second match was 20, the third match 20, and then after intermission, of course the main events went 60 minutes. I'm out there with The Dog, and about four minutes into the match, five minutes into the match, I'm waiting for The Dog to just take it and do the regular finish, and that was it. Eight minutes go by, 10 minutes go by, 12 minutes go by, 15 minutes go by -- it's a 20-minute time limit -- 18 minutes go by. Right around the 19-minute mark, The Dog goes, 'You ready kid?' Meanwhile, he's putting the clawmarks on my back. He goes over and I get back to the locker room. On the way back as I'm walking, this is in Winnipeg, I'm going, 'I just went 19-minutes with The Dog!' I'd been out of camp for about two weeks, and I just went 19 minutes with Vachon. I get back into the locker room and I'm so pumped. All the boys are in there, some of them are reading the newspaper, some are planning cribbage over here -- '15-2, 15-4, pair of six.' I walk into the babyface locker room, and all of a sudden all the guys go, they're holding up their cards (pretending to hide behind things) ... Next thing, Verne comes walking in. He looks at me and he goes, 'Blood! Come here!' 'Yes, sir. I just went 19 minutes with The Dog, sir.' He says, 'Did I tell you to go four or five? Do you not know that I'm back in two weeks with him on top for the AWA championship? You were supposed to put him over strong! I've got him on top!' 'Uh, uh, uh.' 'That's it, you f---ing dumb guys, you just think you know it all, don't you?' 'Uh, uh, uh.' ... From across the hallway, down the hall in the heels locker room, (in Mad Dog's voice), 'Verne Gagne! Don't you yell at the kid! You want to yell at somebody? Come over here at yell at The Dog! (big applause) He was only doing in the ring what I told him to do. You want to yell at somebody, yell at me.' Well, Verne never went down there."
Author Gary Howard:Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon bio and story archive
November 21, 2013: Mad Dog Vachon dead at 84
Mat Matters column: Me and Mad Dog Vachon
Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon Photo Gallery
Mad Dog Vachon Career Record
Previous SLAM! Wrestling obituaries
"I remember well the year he was involved in the tournament for North American Jr. Heavyweight Champ sponsored by Labatts. He was the first champion followed by Tony Morelli, Len Rossi and Dinty Parks. Maurice was known as Madman at that time and always stayed in character, never giving autographs or posing with fans for pictures. I was about 12 years old. If you speak to him again,ask him if he remembers 13 July 1955 in Pembroke Ontario. Maurice and Don Evans were battling Dory Funk Sr. and Senator Joe McCarthy when the ring collapsed and all 4 men found themselves up to their ankles in ring posts and canvas"
Greg Oliver has so many memories of Mad Dog, and sends his love to Kathie, Butcher and Dee, and the rest of the family. Greg can be emailed at email@example.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @gregmep.