Vachon bio a joyous romp
By GREG OLIVER -- SLAM! Wrestling
The Mad Dog, left, and The Butcher. Photos by Lanza.
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
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
"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
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
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,
, Gino Brito
, referee Glen Parks, Yvon Robert Jr., Stu Hart
, 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
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.