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  May 7, 1999



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Vachon bio a joyous romp

Chat live with Mad Dog Vachon!

The Mad Dog, left, and The Butcher. Photos by Lanza.
By GREG OLIVER -- SLAM! Wrestling

The comparisons will be made between Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows, and Mad Dog Vachon: Wrestling With The Past.

But whereas Hitman Hart is a slick, two-hour view behind the scenes of professional wrestling, the Vachon bio-pic, which airs on The Comedy Network May 19, is a joyous romp, catching up with more than one legend of days gone by.

Toronto's John Dolin, 37, wrote, directed and co-produced Wrestling With The Past as a "real low-budget labour of love." And it shows.

As a fan growing up in Toronto, he attended shows at Maple Leaf Gardens on occasion, watched the TV shows, bought the magazines, wrestled in the school yard, and emulated his favourite, Johnny Powers.

As a successful writer and producer for TV (Psi-Factor, Side Effects), Theatre (Anything You Want, Baby) and film (Joe's Wedding), Dolin wondered what happened to his childhood heroes.

He tracked down Abdullah the Butcher at his restaurant in Atlanta, and got a big laugh at the irony of it all. And he thought "God, there's a TV series!"

"They're kind of 'B'-Movie star icons types. They're out of a part of pop culture that is bizarre," Dolin told SLAM! Wrestling. "I think they carved a deep little trench in a lot of people's minds. And for me too. I'm not enough of a fan that I knew that these guys were still doing autograph signings and stuff. From my point of view, they dropped off the face of the Earth."

Dolin tracked down a full network of wrestlers, and quickly settled on Mad Dog Vachon as the focus for the one-hour show.

The film uses Mad Dog as the prism through which Dolin looks at pro wrestling of the period -- his struggle as a young man, and being too small for the pro game in Montreal. Dolin tracks how he goes on the road and makes it as a junior heavyweight, then comes back as a champion in a heavyweight world.

A veritable who's who of Canadian wrestling legends talk about Vachon, and what 'the business' was like at the time.

Appearing in the show are Mad Dog's brother Paul 'The Butcher' Vachon, Killer Kowalski, Gino Brito, referee Glen Parks, Yvon Robert Jr., Stu Hart, Gene Kiniski, Don Leo Jonathan, Moose Morowski. From the other side of the border come The Super Intelligent Destroyer (Dick Beyers), longtime Portland, Oregon promoter Don Owen ("he named Mad Dog, the Mad Dog, so we tell the baptism story") and Baron von Raschke.

Mad Dog Vachon stretches an opponent.
Dolin found that there was a "rough poetry" about the oldtimers. "They're remarkably well-spoken, very insightful and they have seen and travelled the world. And yet totally uncensored. They said sh-t that totally blew my mind that we can't even use."

Without ruining the show, even what is used is more than a little racy, in a 'grandpa's telling a dirty story' way.

Despite it's place on The Comedy Network, Mad Dog Vachon: Wrestling With The Past isn't about telling jokes, it's more about the comic joys of life. And working on it sure made Dolin laugh.

"Mad Dog was a kick. He was the most fun," Dolin said. "Butcher was a kick. Mad Dog is insane. We had so much fun. I have never laughed as hard in my life."

When Mad Dog "gets into character and starts growling, it's hysterical. And it's still powerful. He is a strong, strong man still and he brings crazy energy at his age."

In the end, what is most evident from the show, is that the wrestlers themselves are still very much their characters.

Baron von Raschke can still do The Claw, The Destroyer is still wearing the mask, and Mad Dog and The Butcher still have the beards and shaved heads.

"They remain very true to their characters," mused Dolin. "They know what people want. They know they're still loved for certain things."

And any fan of wrestling of the days gone by will love Mad Dog Vachon: Wrestling With The Past.

Read our chat with Mad Dog Vachon!

More on Mad Dog Vachon




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