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  May 17, 1999



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Mad Dog Vachon has his day on Comedy Network
By PAT ST. GERMAIN -- Winnipeg Sun
'Mad Dog' Vachon: Fans adore the "gruff" wrestling legend. -- Norm Betts, SUN
  Even in a wrestling era that spawned characters like Gorgeous George, Killer Kowalski and the Intelligent, Sensational Destroyer, burly Montreal brawler Mad Dog Vachon was something ... well, special.

 "The average person, he'd hesitate before he'd rip out your eyeball or chew off your ear or something like that. Vachon would think nothing of it," former CFL player Gene Kiniski fondly recalls in the one-hour special Wrestling With The Past, airing Wednesday at 11 p.m. on The Comedy Network Ch. 37/34.

 Ah, the gory, glory days of wrestling. Maurice Vachon and his brother and tag-team partner Paul (The Butcher) Vachon remember them well. And they laugh about them in the darkly comic documentary. But in a telephone interview from Toronto last week, Mad Dog says it wasn't always so funny in the '50s, '60s and '70s.

 "My body will tell you the answer. I got half my teeth knocked down my throat by my opponents, although people think wrestling is all fake, it's all show business, you know," he says. "Maybe today it is, but it was not always like that. Not all the time anyway."

 Now 69, Vachon, who lost a leg after he was hit by a car in 1987, says he has cauliflower ears, back problems and hand injuries as souvenirs of his 44-year career.

 "When people say wrestlers never get hurt, nothing could be further from the truth. But that's all right because you cannot change public opinion. They think what they want and I don't blame them now," he says.

 Despite the often-bloody carnage of own heyday, Vachon doesn't approve of today's choreographed bouts and their props of scantily clad females, although he does sign autographs at wrestling events and took part in a roundabout way in a World Wrestling Federation match in 1996, when The Diesel ripped off his prosthetic leg and used it as a weapon on Shawn Michaels.

 "There's gotta be a limit to what is happening right now," he says. "It's getting to be indecent, it's almost pornographic and it borders on the criminal. We all have children and I think it's crossing the line. I don't like it at all."

 Now in his third marriage, Vachon is a father of six, grandfather of seven, and great-grandfather to two children. And while he peppers his conversation with a faux menacing growl -- as when he jokes he'll follow Jesse (The Body) Ventura's lead and run for dogcatcher -- his bark is apparently worse than his bite.

 He belongs to an amputee support group and visits recent amputees to bolster their spirits. And he admits that as a child he collected stamps "to escape in my mind" to exotic places.

 That is, when he wasn't getting into the schoolyard scraps that prompted his father, a Montreal cop, to take him to the YMCA to box. Instead, he met a wrestling coach and went on to win three Canadian championships, compete in the 1948 Olympics and win a gold medal at the British Empire Games as an amateur wrestler.

 Vachon, who lived in Winnipeg in the early '80s, says he still sees old pro-wrestling pals like his tag-team partner Baron Von Raschke, master of The Claw.

 And he's always happy when fans approach him on the street. As his brother The Butcher points out, Mad Dog is still a hero to many people.

 "They love him even if he is a dirty, no-good, lowdown dog of a wrestler."

More on Mad Dog Vachon




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