Our own memories of Mad Dog
SLAM! Wrestling writers and contributors offer their thoughts
|Mad Dog Vachon suits up for Schmockey Night at the Winnipeg Arena. Photo by Bob Holliday
Bob Kapur, SLAM! Wrestling writer:
I met Mad Dog at the pre-show press conference at WrestleMania back in 2010. Right after the press conference, they ushered out all of the talent, but he was waiting around to be escorted to the VIP Guest / HoF inductee area. I was waiting while the WWE staff took the foreign media and got them settled in the press box, and saw him in his wheelchair trying to reach his gift bag that was on the floor. I picked up the bag and gave it to him, introduced myself, mentioned SLAM! Wrestling and he said "Greg Oliver, good guy." We ended up going into a side room and talking for about 30 minutes -- me, him, and trainer Rob Fuego. We were so caught up in talking with him, I even missed the call for the domestic media to be brought up to the press area. The WWE people must have come into the main room, didn't see him, and forgot about him as well. His aide to get the wheelchair around (Michael, I think his name was?) had to figure out where to take him so that he wouldn't miss bell-time. Similarly, I had to rush upstairs and try to find my own way to the press box. I was worried that they wouldn't let me in without the WWE escort and I'd have to find an empty seat in the stands. Still, it was worth it to hang out with Mad Dog for a bit.
Bob Holliday, former Winnipeg Sun reporter and WWE Winnipeg promoter:
The world lost another good guy with the passing of Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon at age 84. The Dog died in his sleep this morning said wife Kathie from their Omaha, Nebraska home. Jesse Ventura once told me the Dog was the toughest S.O.B. he'd ever met and the man he'd want watching his back in a bar room brawl. I took the pic of him in his Winnipeg Jet uniform during Schmockey Night at the Winnipeg Arena. The Dog and Kathie used to sunbathe in my back tar, so I put a "Beware of Dog" sign on my front door. When they moved to Omaha, I had kids coming to my front door asking if "Mad Dog could come out to play?" That says it all about the man. And who could forget those "Specs Unlimited" commercials.
Marshall Ward, visual artist and occasional SLAM! Wrestling contributor and editor:
At Wilfrid Laurier University, while studying Fine Arts, my first solo exhibition 'The Squared Circle' included a 6" by 4" foot painting of Mad Dog Vachon. At the opening reception, I couldn't believe how many people instantly recognized his image, knew exactly who he was, and shared some stories of seeing him wrestle. Without even being there, Mad Dog ended up being the star that night, which was fine with me!
Steve Johnson, co-author of The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame series of books:
Bruce Hart and Butcher Vachon help support Maurice Vachon after Mad Dog was presented with the Iron Mike Award at the 2003 Caulfilower Alley Club reunion. Photo by Greg Oliver
To me, Mad Dog Vachon's greatest promo came years after he'd entered the ring for the final time. At the 2003 Cauliflower Alley Club reunion in Las Vegas, the Dog was tapped for the Iron Mike Mazurki Award. Vachon didn't know he was in the running for the club's top honor, and his wife had already left the banquet hall, site of another protracted CAC presentation. Vachon hobbled to the stage next to emcees Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan and cut loose like he was trying to drum up business for a Texas Death Match with The Crusher. In his best growl, the one-time Olympian talked about how he learned to fight on the streets and as a bouncer. He had the crowd in the palm of his paw, er, hand. "One guy tried to break a bottle in my face. He didn't know what I knew. I could wrestle ... and I could beat the shit out of them. And most of the time I did. That's eventually when [promoter] Don Owen called me the Mad Dog. So I carried it inside and outside of the ring. I must have had hundreds of street fights. Why I'm not in jail today is a surprise to me." Of course, no ring could hold the Dog. So what chance would some poor jailer have?
Yves Leroux, Montreal-based SLAM! Wrestling writer:
Iíve had the privilege of meeting Mad Dog twice since I have been with SLAM! wrestling. The first time was at a press conference in Montreal to announce the coming of a French language television documentary on Historia in 2007. I was present with Greg Oliver and this is where I first met many of the great names in wrestling: Rick Martel, Killer Kowalski, Edouard Carpentier, Frenchy Martin, Gino Brito, Paul Leduc to name a few (yeah I know, quite impressive). But when Mad Dog entered the pub you could feel an aura surrounding his presence. Although, I only chatted a few minutes, it was his glowing smile for every pictures taken that I remember the most. The second time was in 2009 when he made it into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame and was a special guest at a NCW show where he got a lifetime achievement award. I spent the whole intermission backstage talking to Maurice, and his brother Paul "The Butcher" and then some. When I came back in the crowd to continue covering the show for SLAM!, I was told I had missed the first two matches after the intermission. That just goes to show how classy the brothers are. Even though Maurice was showing signs of fatigue, after travelling from Nebraska to Montreal, he still had that contagious smile and only stopped signing autographs once everyone there had one. I will never forget how simple and humble he was. He truly is a legend in the world of wrestling and here in Quebec, he is a legend at all levels. I, we will miss him dearly. My heartfelt sympathies goes to his wife Kathie, his brother Paul and his wife Dee, and the rest of the Vachon family.
Dave Burzynski, later manager "Supermouth Dave Drason:
As a wrestling obsessed child, I would often see Mad Dog Vachon in my monthly issues of Wrestling Revue, Ring Wrestling and Wrestling World. When I would read about his wild antics coupled with the photographs that pictured this beast of a man that looked like an escapee from a monster movie cinema, my daily prayers consisted of not running into this animal in my entire lifetime. As years went by, while corresponding with many other fans throughout the country, his image of continued torture upon his opponents not only came through the forum of my magazines, but now through programs from different territories he headlined. In 1967, my image of this man-beast took a total 180 degree turn when I joined the Fan Club run by my friend Vicki Moore for none other than the Mad Dog himself. I came to realize that deep inside, there was a soft side to this man, someone who really cared about his fans, most often, the ones who hated him the most. How could this be? Kayfabe? Hell, I thought kayfabe was some gal I kept hearing about who attended matches every night of the week, in every town in the country.
Fast forward a few more years when I was lucky enough to see this man perform his magic with my own eyes in the city of Montreal. I was quite excited yet a little frightened from the aura created by this wrestler who I had only read about prior to this day. When it was all said and done, I came away with a sense of awe on how this man of such small stature, had the ability to pulverize a man twice his size, quite convincingly I may add, and all the while, bring out such rage and anger out of a blood thirsty crowd that literally wanted to kill him. With the noise level to a fever pitch, the smoke filled arena ready to combust, he brought the anxiety level of the crowd to near conniption fit status with his wild, unorthodox yet not really hard core style as we know of today. Quite a different character I thought but for all his wild and wooly antics, he sure could wrestle. I came away with a new found respect for this vicious character called Mad Dog Vachon.
Over the years, I had seen him perform many times on television in the old AWA territory but it wasnít until 2006 when I finally had a chance to meet him up close and in person at our Cauliflower Alley Club reunion. Knowing in advance that he was to be in attendance, I came prepared with a few items I thought may well break the ice between us to start a spirited conversation. When I introduced myself and told him where I was from, his eyes lit up as he began to tell me about his wrestling exploits in the 1950s when he wrestled in the Detroit area. Great stories aside, it was then I pulled out a few of his old fan club bulletins that were distributed to its members, plus my membership card that I asked him to autograph. He did so with so much pride and a bit of moisture in his eyes. He became still and silent as he fingered through the old bulletins, nodding his head every so often with a toothless grin on his face. He said that he hadnít seen these in nearly 40 years and didnít have any copies of them. It was then I offered them to him as a gift and he shook my hand with such passion, it was as if he was trying to break a Danny Hodge grip record.
My only regret to this day is that when he was in the hospital in Windsor, Ont. a few years ago, just across the water from here, I had no idea that he was there. I would have gladly gone across the river and engaged in a one on one battle with one of his passions. Wrestling? No. But to play a game with the man known as the King of Cribbage. The joy I could have brought to his pain, the things I could have asked, the things I could have learned.
There are not many left of our old school heroes, especially someone with the esteemed credentials of a Mad Dog Vachon. Enjoy them while they are here because in the blink of an eye, only our memories will remain. Thank the Lord I have many to treasure of Maurice, the man known as The Dog, but always to me, respectfully, Mr. Vachon.
I first saw Mad Dog in person as wrestling returned to the Montreal Forum. They had him in a six-man match, almost a token to fans just to get him on the show. All I remember even if the wrestling nothing to write anything about, is his photo made the paper ahead of some of the current stars. When he attended an NCW show in 2009, a promotion I had a big hand in putting on the map, in what is turning out to be the last time Maurice Vachon was part of a wrestling show in Quebec. I was proud NCW was credible enough to host such a legend. Last summer I met him and was able to share our book Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs (with Pat Laprade) with him. It was somewhat sad since his memory was leaving him and he got lost while signing his name. I told him: "Thank you Mr. Vachon" in French. Then the light bulb went on and he rose up on his chair and said: "De rien mon ami!" Right there at that moment, he was Mad Dog Vachon and remembered everything. I had goose bumps; it was priceless.
Although I spoke to Maurice on the phone on several occasions since 2004, I only met him on a few occasions. The first time was during his last stay in Montreal in 2009 when he was inducted in the Quebec Sports HOF. I think the very next day, I got to play cribbage with him, his brother Paul The Butcher and Paul's wife. What a thrill it was for me to befriend with Maurice and Paul like if I was a long-time buddy of theirs.
The day before he went back home, Paul had asked me to organize a dinner with all of their family members and friends. He made sure to invite my parents, which I thought was a nice gesture.
My dad was 78 at the time and Maurice had just turned 80, so it was important to me to get a picture with both of them, since they were about the same age. Maurice was sitting on his wheelchair, I introduced him to my dad, Guy, and as we were ready to take the picture, Maurice told my dad with his rocky voice: "Guy, Guy, put your hand on my shoulder!" And so he did! Who can argue with Maurice?!?
I saw him for the last time last July and I was glad to speak with him, and to give him a copy of my book and to take some pictures.
And writing this make me realize how privileged I am to have bonded, for a short period of time, with one of the all-time greats!
Jan Murphy, Kingston Whig-Standard:
I never had the privilege of meeting the late Mad Dog, but his name was one that came up countless times in my career. Whether I was talking to an old-school wrestling fan or just someone with knowledge about the business, Mad Dog worked his way into many a conversation. In fact, so many times when I'd merely mention that I was Canadian, inevitably Mad Dog would come up. Before the Bret Harts and Adam Copelands, there was the Mad Dog Vachons of the world. His contribution to the business is legendary. But his contribution to this country also became clear to me in all of my travels. Wrestling lost a legend. Canada lost an icon.
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