“All-Star Wrestling! Rock ‘em Sock ‘em action” were the words we heard every Saturday night after the local 10 o’clock news. We would hover around the old black n’ white TV listening to Roger Kent the ring announcer call out the names of the A.W.A. greats. Verne Gagne, Killer Kowalski, The Crusier, the tag team of Larry Henning and “Handsome” Harley Race and (supposedly from Algeria) “Mad Dog” Vachon.
We lost “The Dog”, as Verne Gagne would call him, at the age of 84. He died in his sleep at his home in Nebraska. Few to this day wear that signature wrestling tunic. Could be the same one he wore in the Olympics in 1948.
Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon was actually one of 13 children from just outside the city of Montreal Canada where he, his Brother Paul “Butcher” Vachon plus their sister Vivian would make a career in the wrestling ring. Later a niece, Luna would follow in their footsteps.
I have very fond memories when visiting my Uncle Henry in St. Paul. He would sit right there in his recliner with us watching wrestling. We couldn’t talk except during the commercials. “SHHH. You kids hush up now” was his standard line. But he threw out a word or two when he didn’t like one of the Mad Dog’s moves. So it was ok for him to talk I guess. I can only look back and smile.
We all waited for Marty O’Neil to do the interviews between matches especially when it was Mad Dog’s turn at the mike. The ranting and raving, the spit flying from his mouth, the threats on what he could have done to his opponent and what he will do to his next opponent. And oh could that guy fight dirty. Biting, scratching, closed fists. This guy was a TV ratings grabber on his own. It’s reported many of today’s pro-wrestlers style their between match interviews on that of “Mad Dog” Vachon.
When I was a kid I got my Dad to take me to several of the pro matches that would be held at the Fargo Civic Auditorium. This particular match featured Vachon against the Frenchman Rene’ Goulet. In those days you were allowed to go up to the ring corner and ask for autographs before the bell that started the match rang. Goulet had just started my autograph and Vachon would run up and give him a double forearm smash to the back and my notebook and pen fell to the ring floor. When my stuff was finally retrieved by security, I looked to find only the first name “Rene” and the start of the “G” in his last, that’s when Vachon nailed him in the back. I still have that autograph by the way.
Later on one of my shows at KFGO I had Gagne, Roger Kent and Vachon all on the phone and told them that story. Mad Dog’s quick witted reply in that gruff voice “Well, I think the statute of limitations has run out on that.” Everyone couldn’t help but laugh. Later during that same interview he was answering a question and all of a sudden says “I’ve got to go now…” and hangs up the phone. That’s Mag Dog Vachon for you! I talked with some who knew him outside the wrestling ring and one friend of his called the Dog “A real pussycat.” He put on a great act on TV and the ring.”
When Jesse Ventura was running for Governor of Minnesota some t-shirts were stating “My Governor can beat up your Governor.” Vachon would take advantage with his own t-shirts. “I did beat up your Governor.” He actually did have a few victories against Ventura in the ring.
Oh, one more thing. I double checked on the internet (and if it’s on the internet it’s got to be true) Mad Dog Vachon is credited for inventing the “Pile Driver” wrestling move. That move by the way got him banned in three states. (It’s on the internet) It’s the same move that Jerry Lawler would use on Andy Kaufman and required Andy to wear a neck brace for some time.
Oh, oh, I’ve got one more thing yet. His third wife’s name is Kathy. So the couple were cutely nicknamed “Kat and Dog.”
He will be missed but Mad Dog Vachon’s antics will live in our minds forever.