He was one of the most vicious and most hated men in all of professional wrestling and surprisingly became a fan favorite later in his career.
Mad Dog Vachon
Real Name: Maurice Vachon
Stats: 5′ 7″ 225 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon was one of the biggest stars the American Wrestling Association has ever known, and to generations of fans both in the Midwestern portion of the U.S., as well as his native French Canada, “The Mad Dog” was one of the most vicious, hated villains in the world of wrestling. Over the course of some 25 years, though, that hatred turned to love, and during his final years in wrestling, “Mad Dog” was a beloved veteran fan favorite. His Tazmanian Devil-ish appearance and style was legendary, and his opponents, nearly all of which were far larger than Vachon, were well aware that the “Mad Dog” was 5 feet 7 inches of pure dynamite. A man who was perpetual motion in the ring (nearly all of it stomping, biting, and pounding), his stamina was known worldwide, nearly as much as his reputation as a bloodthirsty mauler. As the unofficial leader of one of wrestling’s proudest families (the Vachon wrestling family includes “Mad Dog,” brother Paul “Butcher” Vachon, sister Vivian Vachon, and niece Luna) “The Mad Dog” led by example, winning the AWA World Heavyweight title five separate times. During his prime as one of wrestling’s most hated “bad guys,” Vachon was as “evil” as they came, portraying a character only steps away from a snarling, blood-hungry beast — showing a score of future “psychotic” wrestlers how its done. Truly, “Mad Dog” Vachon was a legitimate trendsetter, and a wrestling wildman unlike all others…
The story of Maurice Vachon begins in Montreal, Quebec in 1929. Born one of 13 children, Maurice excelled at sports as a youth, particularly at wrestling. As a Middleweight, Vachon was one of Canada’s most gifted amateur wrestlers during the mid 1940’s. In fact, Vachon was so talented that he represented Canada in the 1948 Olympic Games. Among a world-class pool of top international grapplers, Vachon placed a respectable 7th, and returned home to a hero’s welcome in his native French Canada. Soon afterwards, Vachon made the decision to enter the professional wrestling ranks, where he once again excelled. As is the case for all pro wrestlers of his era, it was a tough road for Vachon at first. Originally, he did not use his famous “Mad Dog” persona, but instead wrestled simply as Maurice Vachon. But when he shaved his head bald, grew a goatee’, and developed his “Mad Dog” personality, Vachon’s career skyrocketed.
When he entered the AWA in the early 1960’s with his new character complete, Vachon became an instant box-office powerhouse. The fans, although they despised him, could not get enough of this wrestling wolverine and his vicious tactics. On May2, 1964 in Omaha, NE., Vachon toppled his archrival, AWA World champion Verne Gagne to win his first World title. The victory was short-lived, however, because Gagne regained his belt just two weeks later, again in Joe Dusek’s Omaha territory. Gagne and Vachon battled night after night in cities throughout the massive AWA region, with the technical master trying his best to fend off the never-ending onslaught by the “Mad Dog.” On October 20, 1964, Vachon once again defeated Gagne for the AWA World championship. And held the title for several months before losing to The Mighty Igor. By now, however, Vachon had established himself as the top heel in the entire AWA, and it didn’t take him long to regain his belt from Igor.
On May 22, 1965 Vachon defeated Igor, and held the World title until Vachon faced the formidable challenge of The Crusher. “The Man Who Made Milwaukee Famous” was just as mean, just as tough as the “Mad Dog”, and twice as big as Vachon, and as a result, “Crusher” Lisowski won the AWA World title from Vachon on August 21, 1965. After being separated from his title for three months, Vachon rallied to defeat Lisowski on November 12, 1965 and regained his prized World championship. But by feuding with The Crusher, Vachon created a situation he hadn’t expected…and he soon found himself face to face with an angry Dick the Bruiser…
As the man who had feuded with (and taken the title from) his old drinkin’ buddy The Crusher, Dick the Bruiser (pictured) took Vachon’s actions personally, and pursued the hated champion with a vengeance. On November 21, 1965, The Bruiser exacted his revenge by bloodying and defeating Vachon for the AWA World title to the delight of AWA fans across the country. The popular “working man’s hero” defeated all comers during this year-long title reign, including our friend the “Mad Dog.” But, not to be denied, Vachon bested his (much) larger foe to regain his AWA championship on November 19, 1966.
“Mad Dog” Vachon’s 5th (and final) reign as AWA World champ ended on February 26, 1967 against the man he originally won the title from, Verne Gagne. However, it certainly wasn’t the end of Vachon’s championship ways. Later in 1967, he won the IWA World title (Montreal), making him the top heel in two major promotions simultaneously. After losing to Hans Schmidt, Vachon would again wear the IWA World title by defeating Johnny Rougeau.
It was during this time period that “The Mad Dog” formed a highly intimidating tag team combination with his brother “Butcher” Vachon. On August 30, 1969 the rugged duo upset the powerhouse team of The Bruiser & The Crusher for the AWA World Tag Team title, proving that they were capable of defeating one of the greatest teams in history. It was an omen of things to come, as The Vachons went on to defeat the best teams the AWA had to offer, and held the AWA Tag title for nearly two full years, an incredibly long reign for a tag team of that (or any) era. But of course, all title reigns must come to an end, and The Vachons finally lost their prized belts to the combo of Red Bastien & Hercules Cortez on May 15, 1971. Several years later, after forming a friendship with former bitter enemy Verne Gagne, the unlikely duo defeated Pat Patterson & Ray Stevens to win the tag title on June 6, 1979 in Winnipeg. The technical master and the savage brawler formed a solid team, one that proved very hard to defeat. Together, Gagne & Vachon held the AWA tag straps for over a year before losing to a legendary team in the making, the East-West Connection of Ventura & Adonis on July 20, 1980 in Denver.
As the 1980’s rolled on, the 20+ years Vachon spent taking punishment in the ring began to take its toll on his body, and he slowed down a bit, despite his incredible popularity with the fans. By the mid-1980’s, Vachon had retired from the ring after a tremendous career. He spent his retirement enjoying some long overdue time with his wife at their home in Omaha, and Vachon also ran a local gym. But in 1987, tragedy struck as Vachon (after doing some jogging) was struck by a hit-and-run driver. The sad result was the amputation of his leg. Still, “the Mad Dog” persevered, and fought to go on with his life, which he did. As one of wrestling’s greatest villains, “Mad Dog” Vachon was an early role model for brawlers around the country, men like “Maniac” Mark Lewin, Bruiser Brody, (of course) “Mad Dog” Buzz Sawyer, and many, many others. We at The Ring Chronicle recognize “Mad Dog” Vachon’s lofty place in wrestling history, and proudly induct him into his place within the TRC Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame…