The Maurice Vachon Story
Bertrand Hebert & Pat Laprade (translated by George Toombs)
Synopsis: The larger-than-life story of Quebec legend and WWE Hall of Famer Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon.
The Grand Prix show was set for July 14, 1973, almost a year to the day after the previous one held by All-Star Wrestling.
However, things didn't get off to a very good start. Presale of tickets was slow. In the weeks leading up to the match, Michel Longtin, who was Grand Prix publicist before becoming Maurice's manager, stayed out of sight so he wouldn't have to tell the wrestlers how many tickets had been sold. That's when Maurice showed what he was made of. He got Longtin to find him a rope, hung it on the ropes in the ring, then gave an interview in French and English - an interview that has gone down in history (if that interview were given nowadays, it would have the opposite effect on the public).
"If I lose my match against Killer Kowalski, I am going to commit suicide!"
Then Maurice picked up Longtin's rope and tied it around his neck for an even greater visual effect. He succeeded in getting his message across: the upcoming card was going to be an event not to be missed.
Fans from this generation may have heard about Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon in passing; perhaps they heard how Diesel and Shawn Michaels used his prosthetic leg as a weapon during one of the In Your House pay-per-views. Or perhaps they know that he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010, a few short years before his death.
For those with an appreciation for the industry's history, Vachon is not only one of the most famous pro wrestlers ever to come out of Quebec, but he's also a five-time AWA World Champion, an Olympian in amateur wrestling and a true legend. And for those people, Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story is a biography that helps them understand what made the Mad Dog so special.
Authors Bertrand Hebert and Pat Laprade, who last teamed up to write the 2012 book Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screwjobs: The Untold Story Of How Montreal Shaped The World Of Wrestling, bring Vachon's larger-than-life career to light with incredible detail, vividly describing a man who started life as a fight-picking street punk and ended up as one of Quebec's most respected figures.
Not surprisingly, Vachon's life is colorful and complicated, and the book never shies away from the darker times in his life. Between a life of violence, alcoholism and rocky marriages, Vachon certainly isn't perfect and isn't painted as such. At the same, he's shown defending his friends, his family, his community and an entire generation of up and coming wrestlers. From his brother Paul Vachon to Pat Patterson to Rowdy Roddy Piper, a plethora of top names in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s profess their gratitude for the bald, bearded, gap-toothed grappler.
One of the best parts of this book is how it describes the Montreal wrestling scene, an underappreciated wrestling region in the grand scheme of things, and an area that more recently gave us the likes of Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn (Owens appears on the book's jacket singing the praises of Vachon). Quebec had multiple promotions at one time, with dozens of homegrown heroes and baseball stadium sellouts; Vachon was more often than not a focal point of the region's success, battling other legendary wrestling families such as the LeDucs and the Rougeaus.
Not only was Vachon a star at home, but he also toured the AWA, Texas, Oregon, Ontario and countless territories, often at the top of the card. Mad Dog had legendary matches against the likes of Verne Gagne, Nick Bockwinkel and Killer Kowalski and teaming with the likes of his brother Paul, Baron Von Raschke and even Hulk Hogan. On top of that, Vachon had a brief run in the WWF during the mid-1980s, primarily as a talk show host and goodwill ambassador in regions where his wild reputation preceded him.
Vachon's appeal wasn't necessary because of his size or his physique, but rather the natural toughness he brought to the ring. Anyone who tangled with Mad Dog quickly found out he wasn't playing a character, but rather a legitimate tough guy who was likely to clobber a civilian who asked whether wrestling was fake.
A healthy portion of Mad Dog is dedicated to Vachon's life after wrestling, which included a career as a television personality, political advocate and local hero. By the time he's run over by a car in 1987 and given controversial medical treatment (resulting in the loss of his leg), readers are no longer angry at the heel in or outside of the ring, but rather finding themselves with lots of sympathy for him.
The book includes lots of information about Vachon's family (including a policeman father he looked up to, multiple wives and several children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One also gets the opportunity to learn about his various business ventures (believe it or not, there was once a Mad Dog Burger chain in Quebec) and his views on the always-controversial English vs. French Canada debates.
Through interviews with several of his contemporaries (and Vachon himself), Mad Dog is a comprehensive look at someone who will remembered not only for his wild style in the ring, but also his position as a community leader and someone who grew to care passionately about the wrestling business.
Overall Rating: Oh Hell Yeah! While this book may not have received as much publicity as other wrestling biographies, this is absolutely worth your time and effort. Even true fans of wrestling's golden era will be able to learn something new by reading through Hebert and Laprade's unique tale.