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SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame: Michel 'Le Justice' Dubois


REAL NAME: Michel Lamarche
BORN: February 9, 1947 in St.-Lim, Quebec
6'3", 255 pounds
AKA: Michel 'Le Justice' Dubois, Mike 'The Justice' Dubois, Alexis Smirnoff, "La Machine" Cecil DuBois

The Hangman
Michel 'Le Justice' Dubois, left, in 1971, being interviewed by Jean Jacques Fortin and his manager Eddy 'The Brain Creatchman. Photo courtesy Paul LeDuc.
 If you speak French, and your English is weak, it's only logical that you end up as a Russian in the ring, isn't it?

That's what happened in the case of Michel Lamarche, of St-Lim, Quebec.

After dabbling in the amateur game, Lamarche trained with Edouard Carpentier and started out as Michel 'Le Justice' Dubois in 1970, a name suggested by Montreal promoter Bob 'Legs' Langevin. There was a Dubois family in Montreal that was always in the news, and always in trouble with the the law. After six months in Kansas City, he terrorized the scene in Quebec and the Maritimes. He was a star because he spoke French.

"Things were rolling real well for me," recalled Lamarche for SLAM! Wrestling in July 1999. "The fact that I was speaking French, I could get the people really hyped up."

Between 1970 and 1974, he fought all the big names in French Canada -- Johnny Rougeau, Edouard Carpentier, Eddie Auger, Abdullah the Butcher, The Shiek, Mad Dog Vachon and was a three-time International champion out of Montreal.

In 1974, Lamarche went to Texas to the territory run by the Funk brothers, and wrestled as Mike 'The Judge' Dubois. Eventually, he even became Texas heavyweight champ. From Texas, he went to North Carolina for two years, often teaming with Rene Goulet.

The year 1977 came, and Lamarche was wondering about the direction of his career. "I decided that Michel Dubois was not a big attraction in the United States, that I needed a gimmick," he recalled.

On tour with Ivan Koloff, he realized that 'The Russian Bear' got heat from the crowd just because he was billed as being from the U.S.S.R.

Koloff suggested that Lamarche consider leaving 'The Judge' behind. "He told me, 'Why don't you change your gimmick to a Russian? There's not too many Russians in the business,'" Lamarche remembered. "'It's easier to do some interviews' because in those days I could barely speak English. So you go to TV and say we are the greatest minds, blah, blah, blah and that was it. So it was easier for my interviews. I would shave my head and it would look really good."

So in 1977, he went west to San Francisco and, without doing any research on the Russian way of life, became 'The Mad Russian' Alexis Smirnoff.

"It did get over real well in San Francisco, Japan, Korea, most everywhere," he said.

In San Francisco, he beat Pat Patterson for the U.S. title and wrestled big names like Ray Stevens, Harley Race, Roddy Piper, Jimmy Snuka, Sgt. Slaughter, and The Shiek.

In 1978, Lamarche signed a contract with Japan for three tours a year, and by the end of his career, he had been the The Land of The Rising Sun 30 times.

He had huge success in Japan, and was even briefly the International Wrestling Alliance World champion in 1979, beating and losing to Rusher Kimura. Lamarche remembered his win. "I know Andre the Giant was there that night. After the fight when I'd won the title, Andre the Giant, he says, 'You've made it for life in Japan.' .... They don't give the strap to too many Americans or Canadians."

Over the years, Alexis Smirnoff wrestled for both All Japan and New Japan, and fought the likes of Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki, Ric Flair, Terry Funk, Bruiser Brody, Jimmy Snuka, Bruno Sammartino and The Destroyer.

Back in the U.S. from 1979-81, he found himself teaming with Ivan Koloff in Atlanta, and the Russian duo were Georgia tag champs. "To me, he was my best tag team partner," Lamarche said. "We didn't really need to talk to each other, just look and we'd know what to do. He was a very good partner and we were a very good team together."

Following that stint, he went back to Montreal where he tagged on a regular basis with Mad Dog Lefebvre.

Around 1982, he settled down south of San Francisco for family reasons. "The kids were getting old enough to start school and I didn't want to move my family around." Family life always came first for Lamarche, who has been married 22 years, and has two girls and one boy, all young adults now. "I always separate wrestling and my family," he said. "You come in my house, I've got a lot of Japanese souvenirs, stuff like that, all my stuff of wrestling is back in a box somewhere in the garage."

His schedule a bit lighter, Lamarche hit Hawaii and Australia on occasion, in between his regular trips to Japan. He also did regular work for the WWF on the West Coast but it didn't last. "I quit WWF in 1985 because they wanted me to quit my contract that I had in Japan. For me, Japan was my bread and butter, so I decided to keep going to Japan."

His last big mainsteam gig came in 1987 in the AWA, where he partnered with Igor Gordienko (Paul DeMarco) for about six months, wrestling mostly The Rockers -- Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty.

Talking about the AWA brought back not-so-fond memories for Lamarche, who had been in the promotion for a short period of his time earlier in his career, when he was dubbed 'La Machine' Cecil DuBois in the AWA. Why that name?

"That was the stupidity of Verne Gagne," Lamarche laughed. "After all the exposure I had, all the publicity I had under the name of Smirnoff, Verne Gagne loved French people and he knew that I was French. He brought me to his territory and I didn't even know, I came back from Japan, and I flew to Denver for my first show, and looked around as asked what's going on? I'm not on the card? He said your name is Cecil Dubois. I asked why Cecil? At least you could put Michel Dubois! So Verne Gagne said 'I didn't know your first name, blah, blah, blah. You're a French-Canadian and we're going to start to go in Quebec, and all that. People know you up there. And he says, I don't really need a Russian right now.' So, that's one of the reasons that I did not stay too long in Minnesota'"

Lamarche retired in 1988. "I always promised at 40 years old I would quit," he said. "After 20 years of getting beaten up, taking falls, and everything you think and do, I saw so many wrestlers get injured at 45, 48, 50, and they never came back. So at 40 years old, I figured I was still in pretty good shape, no serious injuries in my back, my knee or shoulder."

Following his retirement, he took a year off, then had a wrestling school for a couple of years. Lamarche also did some has done commercial work for local car dealers and the Golden State Warriors NBA team. He also appeared in a couple of movies like The Bad Guy, Body Slam, Alcatraz 2000, and the TV show The Fall Guy. These days, he manages a pub in Freemont, California.

Looking back, the former Michel 'Le Justice' Dubois and Alexis Smirnoff is proud of his career and his contributions to wrestling. "I fought them all from Andre the Giant to the smallest guy." Probably sounds good in French and Russian too.

-- By GREG OLIVER, SLAM! Sports

Memories

 I enjoyed our piece on Mike "The Judge" DuBois. I saw him on ATV in 1975-76 when we lived in E. Millinocket, Maine and made a few trips to Fredericton to see him live. He had some great matches against the Cormier brothers of Dorchester, NB and I especially thought his bouts with the Beast were outstanding. Mike was very agile for a guy who was usually much bigger than his opponents.
  I generally don't try to visit with the wrestlers after a show but I did approach Mike and Lord Al Hayes one night with a question. There were two wrestling magazines published in Montreal which were sold here. One said that an attractive young female wrestler from PQ, Rachel DuBois, was Mike's sister. Mike and Al were very cordial, quite a surprise since the "heel" wrestlers in the WWF were forbidden from being pleasant with fans when my wife tried to get autographs in Bangor. Anyways, Mike said he knew Rachel, she was a fine young lady, but she was not his sister.
  Once he left the NWA-Halifax in mid-season in 1976, I followed Mike's success as Alexi Smirnoff. I was glad to see he was a major part of the resurgence of great wrestling in Montreal (I came back as a fan in about in the early 1970's after being a "kid-fan" in the late 1950's, and caught some of the brothers Rougeau, Vachon & LeDuc action).
  Mike Abbey, Fairfield, Maine
 I remember Dubois when he was in INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING in MontrŽal between 1980 and 82. Great guy, even when he acted as a heel. He ruled with his late buddy Pierre Mad Dog LebfŹvre against the Rougeaus and one Dino Bravo, to whom he slapped his face in front of a live TV audience. And had a powerful piledriver as well. And remember the call: JUSTICE ! Michel, t'es mon meilleur, Creatchman avait bien raison....
  Claude Leduc
 I remember when DuBois used to team with the Iron Shiek in the AWA but he didn't last long in the federation.
 Mike Fitzgerald
 The man known as Michel 'Justice' Dubois or Alexis Smirnoff is my father. Not only was he a great wrestler but he was a awesome father. Not many people lead the kind of life he did and come out at the end with great memories -- a wonderful family and a life well lived. I am very proud of my father. I still enjoy hearing his wrestling days stories...and now I have children of my own and not only is he a great dad but he is the best grandpa a kid could hope for. My son loves to wrestle with grandpa. Go figure...
 VWANJEL@aol.com