June 21, 2011
SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: The Rougeau Family
FROM: St. Sulpice, Quebec
"Quebec's most successful family of wrestlers"
"There have been many family acts in wrestling in the past but I don't believe any family has attained the standards set by the Rougeaus," said WWF president Vince McMahon in August 1994 to the Toronto Sun. "Both inside and outside the ring, the Rougeaus are wonderful human beings, which is the highest compliment you can pay any competitor."
As far as legendary Canadian wrestling families go, there's the Hart Family of Calgary and the Rougeau family from St. Sulpice, Quebec ranked one and two. Both families have produced two generations of top calibre wrestlers, both have done promoting and both families have risen to become a pinnacle of their communities.
Johnny Rougeau (real name Jean Rougeau) was the first of the family into the mat wars. He started as an amateur in 1943, inspired by his uncle Eddie Auger It wasn't long until he turned pro. Johnny was a star in the 1950s and '60s. Outside the ring, he was equally well known. He was a bodyguard to Rene Levesque during the 1960 election campaign, a nightclub owner, businessman, politician, junior hockey coach for the Laval Nationals (and coach of Mike Bossy), and eventually president of the QMJHL. To wrestling fans, he was the promoter for Montreal and environs. When he died May 28, 1983 after a 17-month fight with cancer, over 7,000 people attended the funeral. He published an autobiography shortly before his death, titled Johnny Rougeau.
After Johnny came his brother Jacques Sr., who started as a pro in 1955. He was a star of his own right, but best known as a tag partner with his brother. In 1984, he got back into the ring with his three sons for a series of matches around Quebec against heels Pierre 'Mad Dog' Lefebvre, Frenchy Martin, Sailor White and Tarzan Tyler.
Raymond, as the oldest of Jacques Sr.'s three sons (and two daughters), was the first of the next generation. As a teen, he trained by his father and great-uncle Auger. Raymond made his pro debut in 1971 in Joilette at age 16. He's 5'11" and 230 pounds. Tagging with his brother Jacques Jr., the Rougeau brothers had a great couple of runs in the WWF, almost winning the tag team titles on numerous occasions. Shortly after debuting in the WWF in 1986, the brothers realized they weren't being appreciated by the fans in the U.S. so they became the heel Fabulous Rougeau Brothers. Ray told the Montreal Gazette in 1993: "After working as crowd favorites our entire careers, we were getting death threats. It was great." You can currently see and hear Ray on WWF broadcasts, both in English and in French. Hired originally to do voice-overs for WWF French for Quebec, Europe and Africa, it wasn't longer until his responsibilities increased.
Jacques Jr., five years younger than Raymond, followed a few years later, though no one really expected him to enter the mat wars. As a teen, he was tall -- 6'4" -- and skinny. But he bulked up -- fighting weight of 240 pounds -- and started pro at age 17 in Verdun. He's the only Rougeau still wrestling today, currently in WCW with Pierre Carl Ouellet / Jean-Pierre Lafitte as the Amazing French Connection. The two met when Jacques was wrestling in Puerto Rico. Jacques was the reason the Rougeaus disappeared from the WWF scene in 1989, wanting time off. His brother made the jump to announcing, and after a year, Jacques came back as The Mountie, truly one of the best characters from Vince McMahon and the WWF. The gimmick even managed to work up the actual RCMP, and it was eventually ruled by the courts that he couldn't portray the Mountie character in Canada. ("We took 100 and some years to build our credibility," began RCMP spokesman Yves Juteau in Ottawa, who is obviously a non-ring fan. "We don't want it ruined in a short time.") So he was Jacques Rougeau Jr. in Canada and the Mountie everywhere else for a while. After another sabbatical in 1992, Jacques joined with Oulette to become the Quebecers, and finally won the WWF tag titles that had always eluded him and Raymond. He summed up his career for the Toronto Sun in March 1994: "There have been times over the last few years when I've been mentally blown away by the enormity of the crowds - the 90,000 in Detroit, the 80,000 in England and the 60,000 in Toronto."
Armand, 16 months older than Jacques, began wrestling in 1982. He trained with his brother Raymond, but never really made it big. Armand was injured in 1986, had discs removed from his back and was forced to retire from the mat game. He took to running a garage after retiring.
Joanne, sister to Raymond, Jacques and Armand (the other sister is Diane), was a very successful bodybuilder for a number of years until joining the WWF in 1995 as a marketing specialist and promoter for Quebec and the Maritimes. She worked with the WWF until 1999. For a time, she was married to wrestler Denis Gauthier. Their son, Denis Gauthier, is an NHLer with the Calgary Flames (see story.)