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SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: The Beast


REAL NAME: Yvon Cormier
BORN: November 3 in Dorchester, NB
5'10", 250-255 pounds
AKA: The Beast
The Beast has his hand raised by referee Frank Parker in Halifax, July 1999. -- photo by Andrew Murphy

  Just how, exactly, does one become a Beast?

Well, for Yvon Cormier of Dorchester, NB, it was a matter of walking into Jim Crockett Sr.'s Charlotte, NC office. Crockett looked the Maritimer up and down, and said 'starting today, you're going to be a Beast.'

It was fine with Cormier, who remembered the incident for SLAM! Wrestling in July 1999. "Well, I said, that's lovely. Fine with me. So Beast stuck to me, and for years and years, all my hotels, airplane tickets, and everything was always named under the Beast."

Cormier is a great fellow to talk to, and like his career, his stories have a tendency to keep going and going.

"People far away from the States somewhere would want to call me, didn't know my number, didn't know my real name, so they'd call the local operator and ask for the Beast, and they got me! The operator knew who the Beast was!" he laughed.

Now well into his late 50s, Cormier still gets in the ring for Atlantic Grand Prix wrestling and old friend Emile Dupre, who actually got him started in the business.

Cormier had done various jobs as a teen, including working in the woods, shoeing horses, and driving heavy equipment. He was very strong. "When I was 17 years old, I could pick up the backend of a half-ton truck," he claimed.

In 1957, Dupre was wrestling in Moncton. Cormier recalled their meeting. "One spring, I just came out of the woods and I had long, curly hair and a big beard. He looked, and he said 'would you like to wrestle?' So I said I'd try it, and I trained a little bit."

A few years later in 1962, Cormier went to Indianapolis, Indiana to train seriously, and started as a regular pro wrestler the next year. Until he was christened The Beast by Crockett Sr., he wrestled as Ivan The Lumberjack.

His career took him around the world seven times. Without prompting, Cormier begins naming country after country - "I'm like Hank Snow. I've been everywhere." His favourite place to wrestle was The Maritimes.

Three of Cormier's younger brothers followed him into wrestling. There's Rudy, who wrestled as Rudy Kay, then Leonce, who wrestled as Leo Burke, and the baby of the family Bobby, who was Bobby Kay.

"I started first. Then two years after, I started Rudy. Then I started Leo, then started Bobby," Cormier remembered. "They had it easier than I did. ... I brought them with me. I had a new car and some money, it was different when I first started! So, they came with me and I made sure they had a nice hotel to stay in, travelled good. But we had, you know, quite a career."

Well, 'quite a career' is quite an understatement. The Beast wrestled seven different world champions, including six, 90-minute draws with world champs.

"I've had a lot of sellout crowds, and naturally that always makes you feel proud," he sincerely explained, modest almost to a fault. "I wrestled Giant Baba in Japan before 45,000 people. It's something that makes you think, you know, like you've accomplished something." (In fact, Cormier was invited to the Giant Baba memorial tour, but couldn't go.)

Wherever he was in the world, Cormier always tried to call home three to four times a week.

"I remember Rudy and I were in Australia, doing real, real good there," the Beast recalled, with a wonderful Maritime accent, where good becomes 'gouud'. "April came, and I said to the office that we're leaving in May. They all took a fit and said 'you can't leave, you can't leave! You have to stay here.' Well, I said, 'I'm afraid that I am leaving. I have my return ticket here. Always when spring came, and May, I had to go home."

Cormier was one of the early weight and health fanatics in wrestling. "I was kind of a nut, I guess, working out with weights. The most I ever bench pressed was in 1979, 527 bench press," he said. Even now, he does about 300 push-ups before going in the ring each night, on top of 200-300 squats. "I don't do as many now as I do when I was younger. But I do quite a few."

He realizes that he has been very fortunate to avoid serious injury during his long career. "The Good Lord must have been with me," he mused. "Nothing drastic ever really happened. Broken nose, broken hand, broken ribs. That's nothing. Just part of the business. I was very, very lucky. I mean, my knees never bothered me. Elbows, I never had serious [problems], like Rudy. He's got a plastic knee now. Leo...he's having a hard time. My knees have been real good."

The Beast eased up on his schedule in 1980, yet here it is 1999, and he's still out there night after night entertaining many of the same people that he's been entertaining for decades. He got the call from promoter Dupre in January, and couldn't say no.

"It's going good so far," Cormier said of the 1999 summer season of Grand Prix. "I get to see all my old friends. The younger generation are sometimes a little puzzled, they're not told. But then their parents tell them who I am."

That younger generation is certainly on Cormier's mind these days. There are four 'Beast Juniors' out there being trained for wrestling -- Cormier's sons.

"I don't really want them to wrestle. I got four boys and the youngest one, he weights 330, 6'2" and my oldest boy, he weighs 280, and he's about 5'11". My third boy, he's 6'2", 270. So my smallest one is my second son. He weighs about 220. Just a small little runt," he joked before continuing.

"But I don't really want them to go through what I went through. I mean, if they really wanted to, I wouldn't stop them, naturally. They're grown up men now. It's a hard life -- a lot of travelling, you're away from home a lot. You're everywhere."

For now, The Beast will remain an on-going legend, helping the next generation both on the tour and at home.

"I ain't going to be wrestling too long," said the part-time wrestler. "I'll just take it day by day, and as long as everything's okay, I'll do it."

-- By GREG OLIVER, SLAM! Sports

RELATED LINKS
  • May 13, 2006: Cormiers celebrated with laughter and music
  • The Beast's brother Leo Burke (Leonce Cormier)

    Memories

     I watched the Beast during many of the summers that I spent in the maritimes at my Grandmother's house as a child. Every Wednesday night we would make the trip down to the matches in Fredericton. It was always a night of magic; something that would live with me forever.
      Oh those grand nights when Rudy and Bobby Kay would get pounded and then the great Leo Burke would enter the scene. Ah, but even Leo would get into trouble sometimes and then it was time to call the Beast. I'm grown now, but those scenes still sit in the back of my mind waiting to be called to duty when I think back of why I got into the wrestling business.
     Years later I considered myself fortunate to be lucky enough to enter the world of pro wrestling. To walk in the dressing room on my first night of a tour I did out east, in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia and meet Leo Burke was a moment I won't long forget. He looked at me as another young guy running the roads. I looked at him as one of the greats and I've never forgotten the Beast.
      Dan Denton
     Last night I attended my first Grand Prix Wrestling show in Cocagne, New Brunswick. The main event was a title defense between Joe E. Legend and Wild Man Austin. The Beast was serving as the special guest referee. It was also my first time seeing The Beast live. The arena came alive when he went to the ring. Every single person in the Cocagne Arena seemed to be cheering him. It was then that I relized how much of a legend Yvon Cormier is.
     Kurtis Wagar
     What can I say about these two Maritime Legends that hasn't been said in the past? They were my first introducion to the sport of wrestling. I was only a small boy when my Grandmother would take me to see Atlantic Grand Prix Wrestling and I loved it. Leo was my favorite, he was the master of the sleeper and I always wanted to use that move as my finisher if I had the opportunity to get into the business. Seeing Leo and the Beast on tour this summer brought back a lot of memories that I wanted to share with my 8 year old daughter who is a huge wrestling fan. She saw her first Grand Prix show a few years ago when Christian and Edge were wrestling her but when I had the chance to show her my favorite wrestlers she really enjoyed it. I hope to see them again before they hang up the tights forever, but if I don't, they will always be in my memories as my favorite wrestlers.
     F. Norman Robitza, Highlander1783
     I have a lot of memories as my grandfather would travel an hour from Boiestown every Thursday night to take me to wrestling. The Beast was the master of the chain match. I only seen him loose one chain match and that was to Freddie Sweetan (deceased) and that was by a LOW BLOW. My favourites were all the Cormiers as they would protect each other. I would say that Leo Burke was the toughest wrestler around. I watched alot of dirty guys like Eric Pomeroy, The Stomper, Killer Karl Krupp, The Cuban Assassin -still going strong, Bulldog Bob Brown
      One of my favorite matches was at the York Arena between Big Stephen Petitpas and Ric Flair. Ric won with a small package at about the 40 minute mark. They shook hands before and after the match.I met Flair before the match and that was an honor as he was very down to earth and a class act.
     My favorite match was the cage match as the cage was put tight against the ring so no one got out of the ring and you beat your opponent half senseless.
     TERRY.
     What a wrestler, what a gentleman. Seeing "Ol' Beasty" back on the Grand Prix wrestling circuit this past summer was a gift from God. The man is such a physical marvel, as even some of the younger wrestlers found out. Beast also re-kindled his legendary feud with Cuban Assassin, climaxing with a bloody "chain match" in Halifax in August, which, of course, Beast won. Think you'd ever see that sissy-boy HHH, or that loud-mouth blowhard Rock in a chain match? Uh-Uh!!! Beast always makes time to chat with the fans and sign autographs. Some of my favorite wrestling memories involve just chatting with Beast outside the Halifax Forum after a Grand Prix card. Always a kind man, he always spoke well of his family, his horses, his wrestling opponents, and his love of the Maritimes. Thanks for a great summer, Beasty, and your fans can't wait to see you next year!
     John Greeley, Halifax, Nova Scotia
     Being from Halifax, I saw the Beast wrestle many times live and on TV when Atlantic Grand Prix wrestling used to be on Saturdays on ATV. I have a lot of memories but I will never forget a chain match he had with Frenchy Martin. They went at it for a long time and I never remember seeing so much blood. The whole canvas was red from the blood spilled from both wrestlers. Needless to say the Beast, who has never lost a chain match, won a hard fought match. I still remember a Leo Burke and a wrestler name the Brute coming out for the next match and seeing the shocked look on their faces when they saw all the blood in the ring. The Beast is the best performer ever.
     George
     I remember going to the packed New Glasgow arena for Saturday night "Wrastling", as the maritimers say; back in the 60's. It seemed like the whole town was there. The characters were very exciting to a young boy, and I particularily remember the bad guys - Nature Boy Dillon and his monologues, Cuban Assassin and his dirty tricks, Stomper and his boots, Killer Karl Krupp insulting Clairie Fleming. The good guys were headed by Beast Cormier and his brothers, but I don't seem to remember any other good guys. I remember when Leo Burke was playing his guirtar for Clairie Fleming, when the bad guys came out and broke it over his head. Clairie just keep on talking.
     The whole thing seems very simple compared to the stuff they have now, but I guess times were different back then, and we we not so hard to impress.
     Rob
     My recollection of the Beast goes like this:
     I went to the Halifax Forum the summer of "99" to see all my favourite legends from the old Grand Prix Wrestling Days. Emile Dupre's tour that summer was being billed as the reunion of the legends. On the card were The Beast, Leo Burke, No Class Bobby Bass, Cuban Assasin, Ever Popular Buddy Lane, Bobby Kay and Referee Ron Gogagne was selling pictures at the entrance. As well up and coming future stars Joe. E Legend, Chi Chi Cruz and Wild Man Austin were on hand. This night would play out a little different. The Beast was in a 6 man tag with his brother Leo and Mike Hughes against the Cuban his son and Wild Man Austin. There was this gentleman there at ringside heckling and yelling at the wrestlers all night. He stood about 6'5" maybe 260 and he was loaded. The action spilled out onto the arena floor and this guy got up into the Beast's face. Then all of a sudden he pushes the Beast who in turns slaps the piss out of him. He slapped him so hard I think he was trying to tear the face right off him. It was the funniest thing I had ever witnessed at AGP. Here was this guy 6'5", 260 pounds holding on to his face crying like a baby after he received one of the Beast's slaps. A true classic Beast story.
     The Legend, Halifax, NS