In classic wrestling style, like Britain’s Mick McManus, who died in May, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon was the man fans loved to hate. In grappling parlance he was a “heel”, and there was none better. With what appeared to be a volcanic temper, and a brutally unorthodox style, his fame spread far beyond his native Canada, and he fought more than 13,000 bouts in career that lasted nearly half a century.
Born in Ville-Emard, a suburb of Montreal, he was one of three wrestling brothers, starting out as an amateur and finishing in seventh place at the 1948 Olympics in London at the age of 18. Two years later he won gold at middleweight at the Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand, and then after a couple of years working as a bouncer in his home town he turned professional, often appearing with his brother Paul.
Thanks to his wild style – stamping, biting and generally fighting dirty – and his off-the-scale interviews, not to mention his shaved head and goatee beard, he soon made a name for himself. He became notorious for filing his nails to sharp points, and for his signature “Piledriver” move. In fact away from the ring he was charming and lovable. “He was the first wrestler to understand the power of television,” said Yves Theriault, who made a film about him. “He was the first wrestler to speak to the camera.”
In 1973 he fought Wladek “Killer” Kowalski in front of a crowd of 29,127 at Montreal’s Jarry Park. After 13,000 fights and 30 titles, his last professional bout was in Montreal in 1986. The following year he was struck by a hit-and-run driver and had one of his legs amputated. In 2010 he was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Maurice Vachon, wrestler: born Ville-Emard, Montreal, Canada, 14 September 1929; died 21 November 2013.