June 27, 2010
SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Rick Martel
BORN: March 18, 1956
NICKNAME: The Model
When wrestling hit its peak in the mid-'80s, with the Rock 'n' Wrestling connection, Hulk Hogan's 24-inch pythons and Ric Flair's stylin' and profiling, Rick Martel was on top of the world.
He was a strange choice in some ways to be AWA heavyweight of the world. That crown should have been Hogan's. He had feuded extensively with then-champ Nick Bockwinkel and was poised to win the title before jumped to the WWF. Instead, the title passed from Bockwinkel to Jumbo Tsuruta and then from Tsuruta to Rick Martel on May 13, 1984.
Martel was a veteran by that point in his career, yet not that old. He knew his way around in the ring but didn't have that magic star-power that sets superstars apart from the rank and file. He was a clean-cut Canadian boy from Quebec who had paid his dues and made it to the top through hard work and perseverance.
Martel comes from a wrestling family. His brother, Mad Dog Michel Martel, was instrumental in getting Rick into the business. Martel explained his start in a 1996 on-line interview with AOL: "I got my start in Nova Scotia. There was a wrestler that got injured one night and they needed a replacement for him within 24 hours. So, my brother called me up and told me to get on a plane from Quebec to Nova Scotia and he told me I was starting as a professional wrestler. I was only 17 years old." (Note: Sherri Martel is not in any way related to the Vigneaults.)
He was quick to gain success. Martel won the British Empire/Commonwealth title in New Zealand on three occasions from 1977-1980. He's held the WWWF tag team titles on three occasions -- twice with partner Tony Garea and once with Tito Santana as Strike Force. Martel would also have likely won the titles with partner Tom Zenk as the Can-Am Connection (photo above) if Zenk hadn't bailed out on him.
In the late 80s, Martel went through a transformation, became a heel and dubbed himself 'The Model'. He carried a bottle of perfume called Arrogance around, often spraying it in opponents' eyes to get the advantage.
Martel returned to pro wrestling with WCW in the 1990s, and held the TV title for a short while before being injured. Now working in real estate in Quebec City, Martel still makes occasional appearances as a special guest at wrestling shows and conventions.
His nephew Kevin Martel also wrestled for a while in the late 1990s/early 2000s.
RICK MARTEL STORIES
Rick Martel, I think he kind of broke in out here with me. He got to be a very good performer. His brother was wrestling in Puerto Rico. Michel Martel. After a very hard match in Puerto Rico, he just collapsed and died on the way to the hospital.
Stu Hart, from a Nov. 1997 interview with SLAM! Wrestling
Rick Martel was the kind of wrestler who had the ability to be a very successful wrestler, but couldn't assume the role of a superstar. What I remember the most of Rick Martel is his stupid gimmick of "The Model" in the WWF but before that he formed one of the best successful short-lived tag-team, Strike Force, with Tito Santana. But like we know, good tag teams always finish with a split and that happened with Strike Force -- jealousy came in and the two split up. I know Rick was a very popular star in Quebec before jumping in the WWF in the 80's. Today, he's back in Quebec to do some promoting and wrestles less often.
The period from which I remember Rick Martel first was the time he was the American Wrestling Association World Heavyweight Champion, but more for the effect it had on a small area. At the time (1984-1985), Rick was splitting his time with the AWA, and a small federation (what would now be called "independent"), who prime feature (to me, at least) was having a weekly television show. It was Gino Brito's "International Wrestling".
Known for being the starting area for such wrestlers as Dan Kroffat (Phil LaFon), Tom Zenk, Dino Brito, (Headshrinker Samu and the Rougeau Brothers, as well as featuring other stars like "Dr. D." Dave Schultz, Hercules Ayala & "Sadistic" Steve Strong (known elsewhere as Steve DiSalvo), and of course, the world-famous Road Warriors. The interview I'll remember most was a preview for a match of then-World Champion Martel vs. Steve Strong; as if to show how angry he was, Martel actually grabbed a beer bottle, and broke it over his forehead. He continued the interview with red blood pouring down his face.
What I remember most about that time was how, before Martel lost the title, a small Montreal organization was on top of the world. Canadians saw the World and Tag champs on regular cards in their area. What could be better than that?
I met with Rick Martel while he did a show in Cloverdale B.C. He signed a picture that we had together and I can always remember what a nice guy he is.
Until Martel bailed out on Santana at Wrestlemania 5, he was my 4th favorite wrestler at the time. I didn't know that he wrestled in 1980, but from what I read, he was a hell of a wrestler. Can-AM Connection wasn't all that bad, and they proved that at Wrestlemania 3, but when Martel and Santana formed a tag team, they were unstoppable, and until they got stiffed at Wrestlemania 4, they were the best tag team at the time, and they are still my favorite tag team ever. When Martel turned heel, the only thing it did for him was give him a chance at the IC title, but he sucked as a heel. Either way, as a face, he is still one of my favorite wrestlers of all time.
The Leprachaun DE
I remember when he squirted Arrogance into Jake the Snake's eyes, then wrestled him at WrestleMania 7 in a blind fold match.
My first memory of Rick Martel is his first tour with the WWF. He was tag-teaming with Tony Garea who was one of my favorite wrestlers when I was a kid and they won the WWWF tag-team titles. They remain one of my all time favorite tag teams. I met him while he was with the WWF as "the Model" but even as a heel he would always sign autographs and take time to talk to me after the matches. Rick is one of the true nice guys in the business. Today Tony works the WWF front offices and Rick has just signed with WCW.
I could always remember reading about his AWA title reign in magazines, just about the same time Hulk Hogan began his WWF title reign. Then he exploded on the WWF scene with the Tom Zenk and he made a big impression on my friends and I. Chico and Martel also did well together, but were no match for Demolition. His years as "the Model" were o.k, and I was pulling for either him or Dino Bravo to win the Intercontinental championship tourney that Curt Hennig won.
Well, let me start by saying that Rick Martel, was one of the finest athletes in the sport of professional wrestling. He took alot of things in stride and always came out having a fun time, whether or not the fans liked him or not. I have to say, whenever he sprayed the can of ARROGANCE in Jake "The Snake" Roberts' eyes, was a memory that will stand out to me, after the blindfold match that Rick was to enter with Jake, I think he learn that you may get bite when you mess with a snake. But he will always be a fine person as well as a fine athlete.
Rick Martel was one of the WWF's best superstars. Strike Force was robbed of the titles so Demolition could look bad ass. Even as a soloist, his match with Jake Roberts was a classic.
I always liked to watch Rick Martel in action. I read a lot about his so-called decline in ability as "The Model". I recall him still doing amazing cartwheels and dropkicks that so little evidence in that statement. I think that "The Model" gimmick provided him with Limited Potential (aka Double J gimmick) that wasn't deserving to such an athlete and felt that the WWF jobbed him to other athletes.
I was lucky enough to attend Wrestlemania 6 in Toronto. Obviously Martel's match was not the highlight of the night. He squared off against Koko B Ware. Koko started the match off quite well. Then Martel slapped on a Boston Crab and Koko tapped out. I also saw the model fight in Belleville against Razor Ramone (Scott Hall). The Model had the Crab on him but Razor ended up winning the match.
My fondest memory of Rick Martel was when I took a vacation down to Cocoa Beach in 1993. I was at a bar buying a drink when all of a sudden a great eruption exploded through the door. All I heard was, "Ha ha ha ha ha! A beer for me and a beer for my buddy Blackie! Hey Mitter Tulu, Ta ta ha ta hi tat ti ta, ha ha ha ha ha!" Then he threw about twenty foxtails on the bar and bought beers for everyone. What a great guy! But as Rick always said, "Dut don't tut de long flow gold lock, you looder!"
My fondest memory of Martel was the BlindFold match at WrestleMania against Jake Roberts.. Martel put up a good fight.. but as usual he jobbed to The DDT!
I met Rick Martel in Hawaii back in the late 70's after a wrestling match. He had just defeated Tor Kamaka in a "vengeance" match. After the lights came on, me and a couple of friends ventured back to the locker rooms seeking pictures and autographs. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Rick Martel and the rest of the wrestlers (heels included) were very personable. I had the opportunity to have been included in a group polaroid which included Rick, Sammy Steamboat, "Superstar" Steve Strong, Tor Kamaka, and Chief Billy Whitewolf. The picture was taken by then-New England Patriot Russ Francis, who wrestled in the off-season. Rick took the time to make sure that me and my buddies questions were answered. Rick, if your reading this, welcome back!
Rick Martel has always been one of my favorite wrestlers. I go back to his tag team with Tony Garea in the late 70's. To this day, I think the Martel-Garea team was the greatest scientific tag team the WWF has ever had.
I had a chance to follow him as AWA champion through the Pro Wrestling USA show and thought he did a wonderful job in and out of the ring. Even through his days as the "Model," Martel was always a fun wrestler to watch. Hopefully he'll come back soon from his injuries.
By the way, it's amazing to me that, except for his body structure, Martel looks exactly the same as he did in the 70's.
When I heard that Rick Martel was coming back, i was overjoyed! He was my favorite wrestler growing up as a kid. I used to watch him on a local show (in Montreal) with Dino Bravo, Abdullah the butcher and the very young Rougeau brothers. When i was watching, he used to be the AWA champ....the day he lost the title to Stan Hansen...i think i cried! But he made the eventual jump to the WWf, that was cool, and i was really excited when he won the tag team belts with Tito Santana....Then he did that unfortunate turn as the Model. But i still had fond memories...
So when i saw Rick Martel back in his first match, all those memories call flooding back.. it's as he was never gone! The flips, the cartwheels and that unforgettable Boston Crab! All delivered in top form! So welcome back Mr Martel! I wish you all the success when you get back!
Thanks for all the memories!
My proudest memories of Rick Martel was when he first teamed with popular star Tito Santana to form Strike Force. I vividly recall the match that had Strike Force (Rick & Tito) against the Hart Foundation (Bret & Anvil) for the WWF tag team title. The moment Rick slapped the Boston Crab on Anvil, I knew Strike Force had the belts won.
When Rick and Tito won the WWF tag team belts, I couldn't have been any happier. Rick and Tito, you made me real proud!!
Leonard J. Weirich
I met Rick in a convention a few years ago....he was cool as hell and had a pleasant personality. He told of his interest in WCW...and in my book is one of the Greatest in the history of the sport.
Even though I am from Quebec city, I never had the chance to meet Rick Martel ! But .....I always did follow his career with a lot of interest !
I remember most of the events that have been related in here !
I have to say one thing about Rick, He is one of the most complete wrestler I have seen !
I mean by that, that he can be a bad guy and as well as good guy and always give a stunning performance ! And even though it did sadden me to see him turn his back at Strike force and become the Model , I did learn to like the Model and his arrogance ! That does tell a lot about the acting performance that Rick is capable of !
Now that he is in WCW, I see nothing but great things that can happen ! hmmmmmmmm ! I think that a match against Disco Inferno would be pretty funny !
Good luck Rick and come back soon and in shape !
From a fellow Quebecers cheering for ya !
I started watching wrestling in late 1989 (WWF) when I was only 13 yrs old. Rick Martel was always one of my favourites, and I loved the phony Arrogance commercials when he was on the tennis court or with chicas in the dressing room. His matches were often the highlights of Prime Time Wrestling on Friday nights (vs. Tito Santana, Red Rooster, Hercules, Paul Roma, Marty Janetty and others in 1990) I also thought it was very fun when Martel came out after having blinded Jake the Snake with Arrogance and asked him "How many fingers am I holding up" and then slapped Jake with that hand.
Since I was I kid in the 70s, Rick Martel has long been my favorite wrestler. As a face, he was unbeatable, and exciting to watch. From his tag titles, to the AWA world title, to his too short stint as WCW TV champ, Martels success has always been as a face. The bookers who were trying to make him heel again should understand and harness Martel's abilities. He is the quintessential "face," like Flair is the quintessential bad guy.
My memories of Rick Martel date back to the late 70's during his tour of Australia and New Zealand. My grandmother, GOD bless her soul, got me interested in wrestling from the age of 4 and I've been following it ever since for over 32 years. Rick when he arrived was this young, new exciting talent which both my grandmother and I loved. His style, athleticism and ability always stayed in my mind. No matter what image or gimmick he has these days, that is the Rick Martel I'll always remember. He would have to be up in the best 5 - 10 wrestlers I've ever had the pleasure to have seen.
T. A. Hooper
I started watching wrestling when I was 12 years old, and that was almost 18 years ago. It was during the peak of the Garea-Martel team and I have been a Rick Martel fan ever since. I've always wanted to send him a letter to let him know how popular he was in Manila, unfortunately, I couldn't find his addy or any wrestling magazine by that time. I just hope Rick could read this.
Message to Rick Martel: I've always wanted to let you know that you've got a (very loyal) big fan here in Manila, Philippines. When the local TV stations stopped showing WWF, I felt the world turned against me. But thanks to the internet... I can now get news about you :) and special thanks to SLAM! as well, for the news. I hope you get well. And if you happen to talk to Tony Garea, please tell him that he still isn't forgotten by his Filipino fans. We Love you both and God bless!
Maria Cristina Jasmine
I remember watching the AWA on TV as a child. Martel was just about to lose the title to Stan Hansen. He seemed like a great wrestler in great condition. I enjoyed watching his title defenses and I was heartbroken when my dad told me that he lost the title to Hansen. I cried because I didn't really know about the business. I didn't understand how a guy who wrestled for the fans could ever lose.
His later years in the sport were mixed with triumph and disappointment. I loved Strike Force,but I was shocked when he turned on Tito at WM5. I didn't feel like supporting him anymore....that is,until he came back to WCW. I can't believe he injured his knee. Rick Martel,wherever you're at,get well soon because we miss you.
I was at the first Georgia Dome Nitro show when Rick Martel made his 1998 WCW debut. When I heard Dave Penzer introduce him the initial reaction in the stands was "Why are they bringing back this fossil?" Imagine our surprise when Rick came into the arena in (arguably) the best shape of his career. Not only had he lost extra muscle bulk he carried during his WWF days, he had regained the bright smile that I recognized from early in his career. His return match was crisp and exciting and I was looking forward to watching many of his matches in the future. His unfortunate knee accident some weeks later ended the comeback bid- I am glad that I had the opportunity to see him wrestle live at least once. If Rick can carry over his enthusiasm and smile into his Real Estate ventures, he should have no problem being as successful in that arena as he has been in the squared circle.
I have to say that Rick Martel was an still is my favourite wrestler of all time. I started to follow wrestling in the late 80`s, and I was immediately fascinated by "The Model". Later I have seen tapes of older matches involving Martel, including Can-Am Connection/Strike Force matches. I have only fond memories of a great personality, great smile and tremendous wrestling ability. A true great of the sport, and my eyes, an unsung hero. Rick, if you read this, you are the greatest ever.
The best matches with Rick:
1. Rick vs Shawn Michaels SS`92
2. Rick vs Bret Hart WWF Title Match `93
3. Rick as he came back and won a battle royal to gain a IC shot
Rune Eresberg, Norway
Greatest memory of Rick Martel? Was when he was with the best tag team that I have ever seen. The Strike Force. Just before Survivor Series 87, I loved watching Jim Neidhart submitting to the Boston Crab, winning the tag team titles for Strike Force. To this day, Strike Force are still my most favorite tag team of all time.
Derek M. Ellis
I remember watching Rick Martel and Tito Santana as Strike Force in the WWF in the mid-80's. They were my favorite team in the WWF at the time. I was happy to see him in WCW last year and felt disappointed when he retired. I thought it was great that he was involved in a feud with such good wrestlers as Booker T. and Saturn and not involved in the NWO junk. I was glad to see that he had kept himself in good physical condition. I consider him one of the greats of the last twenty years and he will always be one of my all time favorites.
Many great wrestlers have come out of Canada throughout the years, but none with as much class and style as Rick Martel. I have had the opportunity to meet Rick on a number of occasions and he was always a gentleman and always very receptive to the fans. The part that amazed me was he always knew fans by their first name. Congratulations on a fine career Rick, you are a true superstar.
My favorite memory was his stunning victory over the Hart Foundation to capture gold with Tito Santana as Strike Force.
Till this day, I'll never forget his great big smile after victories and his ever famous "jumping jacks" in the ring. I am a hardcore fan and it was a disappointment when I heard that he retired. I was heartbroken.
I wish the best of luck to Rick...I'll never forget you!
Your greatest fan, Stephanie
Rick Martel, as I remember him was a wrestler who could come out every match and gave it 110%, win or lose. He worked good as a single as well as a tag-team. He wasn't the biggest but in his mind he was the biggest and the baddest. He would amaze the audience match with his athletic ability. Him and Tito Santana climbed to the top to finally win the Tag-team titles.
I met Rick Martel when I was fourteen years old and he came to Cloverdale,B.C. My brother had recently passed away and I knew Rick had lost his brother, too. I talked with him a bit about it and he's the nicest guy. I hope I meet him again some day.
I have been watching wrestling since I was just a child. So I have seen many, many, wrestlers come and go. Rick Martel is one of the finest athletes that I have watched. I met Rick in the early 80's when he first came to St. Louis. He has been one of my favorites ever since. Not only is he a great wrestler, he is a true gentleman. And no matter how long it has been he always remembers you. I haven't seen him for several years now, but Rick, whatever you are doing these days, I wish you well. I still think you are the greatest!!!!
Darla from St. Louis
Strike Force was one of the best teams. But my greatest memory of him is back in Hull, Quebec, in the International Wrestling. It was Wednesday, June 25th (I don't remember the year). He had already lost his A.W.A. title and was now in a feud against one of my best heels: Steve Strong. I knew at that time what wrestling was all about, but I was 100% sure that Ricky Martel really hated Steve Strong and wanted to kill him. It was a good match but it ended with Martel getting disqualified for using a chair that Steve Strong had threw in the ring. Another good memory of him is watching him teaming up with Austin Idol against the Road Warriors.
Back in the mid-70's I had a chance to watch great match that pitted Rick Martel and Tito Santana face the than tag champs Greg Gagne and Jim Brunzel at Civic Center in St Paul. All four wrestlers put on a show with more different holds a high flying action that kept the fans on the edge of their seats for over sixty minutes it ended in a draw. I followed Rick when he wrestled in the WWF for Vince McMahon as the Model he played the heel part very well action like a real villain with his manager Sherry Martel. Any fan of the sport and any wrestler will tell you Rick always gave his all in the ring.
I saw Martel wrestle Stan Hansen at White Sox Park on one of Gagne's "Pro Wrestling USA" combined AWA/NWA shows, several years before I ever heard of Dave Meltzer. I always wondered how Dave would have rated the card and this match.
Martel and Hansen brawled all over the infield with the bull rope and cowbell if I remember correctly. I presume there must have been if you wads of tobacco juice on home plate as well. I remember being surprised and impressed by Martel's brawling ability. I would like to see the match again since I have been reading the Observer for approximately 12 years.
I remember Rick as being a great wrestler. I could watch the man perform all day, he was good. Even though I don't get to see him any more I'll always remember the Can-am connection, Strike Force, even The Model. You don't see workers like Martel much anymore. They're a dying breed.
What I remember most about Rick Martel was The Model gimmick I think it was funny I don't know why he didn't win any titles with the gimmick the thing I remember about the gimmick was on the Brother Love show when he sprayed Jake Roberts in the eyes with his arrogance perfume bottle leading up to there blind fold match at Wrestlemania VII.Martel did some funny stuff in that match like missing a elbow after Roberts had moved out of the way 4 seconds earlier or grabbing a chair and pumping into a post and thinking it's Roberts and whacking the post with the chair and hurting his hands there's other memories I cherish like at Wrestlemania V when he walked out on Tito Santana during there match with The Brainbusters. It was a great long run Rick.
Le no. 1 est quand je l'ai rencontrer sur la terrasse Dufferin a Quebec sympathique et genereux de son temps. Le 2e est le match avec Dino Bravo comme partner contre les Road Warriors Hawk and Animal au Colisee de Quebec tout un combat qui ses terminer dans un free for all terrible les chaise de bois volait dans l'arene match nul. Le no 3 est le match entre Rick Martel champion AWA contre Ric Flair champion NWA au Colisee de Quebec
I remember Rick Martel from the AWA wrestling when wrestled wrestlers such as Jimmy Jam Garvin and most of those matches was for AWA heavyweight title when Martel was the champion and then from there he went to the WWF and teamed up with the Z-Man and they were called the Can-Am Connection and then from there he teamed up with Tito Santana and they were called Strike Force. When they broke up he became The Model Rick Martel and that creature he left the WWF and wrestled from Grand Prix Wrestling and he teamed up Don Callis they were called the Super Models. I met Rick Martel when he was in Grand Prix Wrestling and pretty nice and from he went to WCW and he defeated Perry Saturn for WCW world TV belt and after that I never saw Rick Martel since then. I hope Rick comes back sometime in the future.
Jason Noonan, firstname.lastname@example.org
A great memory I have of Rick Martel is when he tagged with Tony Garea, which I feel in my day they were an super tag team -- the youth from a vibrant Martel and the experience and ring savvy veteran from Garea. They had each others backs. When they beat the Samoans at the Philadelphia Spectrum, I was 11 years old at the time and I was very excited that they beat this very tough tag team. It was a few weeks later when I experienced roller coaster of emotions. WWF would come on every Saturday morning on WLVI channel 56. I'd be in front of that TV religiously. One Saturday, Martel and Garea had to defend their titles against the Moondogs, the match was in the momentum of the team of Garea and Martel but the Moondogs got control of the match by working on Garea and keeping him from making a tag. The ending went like this -- the two teams got into a fist of cuffs, Martel got Spot into the Boston crab while Garea was keeping Rex at bay with a dose of right hands. While the ref was distracted by the Garea and Rex, Capt. Albano came in and cold-cocked Martel over the noggin with a dogbone and Spot covered him for the 1-2-3. I was devastated and so disgusted on how the Moondogs won the straps, but that is okay because they announced next week due to the result of the match their would be a rematch. I jumped out of my chair salivating for next week's matchup -- let's say I was so pumped up that particular week, when school ran, it was the longest week of my life. Then came that fateful Saturday morning, the rematch I'd been waiting for. Let's get to the ending -- it was almost a rewind from last week except when all four wrestlers got it on in the squared circle, Garea had Rex in a bent-over position, hitting him with forearms to the back and coming from behind was Spot who was ready to knock out Garea with the dogbone. I said to myself 'not again', the camera went right to Martel who was on the top turnbuckle as Spot was ready to hit Garea with the bone, Martel did a sunset flip onto Spot and covered him for the 1-2-3!!! I was jumping up an down doing the jumping jacks like Martel in crazy celebration. I was very loud and I had alot of energy to expend for the rest of the day!!!
Thanks for the memories Rick.
Steven from Boston
My memories of Rick Martel goes back to the late 70's when we had Wrestling Hawaii. My family and I used to buy ringside seats at the Neal Blaisdell Arena whenever Rick was in town wrestling in front of the Hawaii fans. He was my favorite wrestler and still is! I started a memory book filled with photos of Rick Martel, Ed Francis, Russ Francis, Bill Francis (who I just met at the Hawaii Hall of Fame when Bill accepted an award for his brother Russ Francis), Don Muraco, Clayton Rodrigues, Siva Afi, the Missing Link, Sammy Steamboat, etc. in the late 70s and and I still bring it out to look at the photos and remember the good old days of wrestling. Much luck to him in his future wrestling matches!
Aloha, Wendy Young
I guess after following Rick through his AWA championship years and then his success in the WWF, I'd have to rank the blindfold match he had with Koko B. Ware as one of my favorites- that and when he stole Tatanka's feathers.
My two favorite memories of Rick Martel when he Took on Jake Roberts at Wrestlemania 7 in a blindfold match and When he and Razor Ramon won the Battle Royal to advance to see who would win the Intercontinental Championship on Monday Night Raw.
Rick Martel was a great all around wrestler. I watched him when he first joined the WWF. Him and Tony Garea were a great tag team. So were Strike Force. The Model gimmick was ok but I think he would have been better off with Santana. Martel was a great tag team wrestler.
Fantastic interview with Martel.
I'm from England and always remember Rick Martel being my favourite wrestler. An excellent all rounder I think he needed his time as the Model to get the all round recognition but I agree he was at his peak in the Can-Am connection.
My memory of Rick Martel was blindfold match between Rick Martel and Jake "The Snake" Roberts which was feuded by Martel spraying Roberts in the eye with "arrogance" when Jake was supposed to blind so Jake caught Martel in the match and DDT'ed him.