The Masked Fan

The Bell Tolls For A Wrestling Legend, JFK 50 Years Later, And The Latest In NHL Tidbits!

Marc Elliott

ST. LOUIS…. This past Thursday in Omaha wrestling legend Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon passed away in his sleep. He was 84. Many memories came flooding back to me about Maurice and the old American Wrestling Association. As a kid growing up in the Twin Cities, my brother and I and a great deal of our friends were big fans of the show. We never, ever missed an AWA TV show and with cards alternating between the old St. Paul and Minneapolis auditoriums we hardly ever missed a live show either. I can recall while still in grade school when Maurice and his brother Paul “The Butcher” Vachon came into the AWA in the mid sixties as a bad guy or “heel” tag team. They were very much disliked.

Maurice hailed from Quebec and was a gifted amateur wrestler although as a pro he relied much more on a fighting, biting, brawling style then anything considered to be scientific wrestling. I have heard that he and the AWA’s Verne Gagne first met each other at the Commonwealth Games in Britain in 1948. They became friends and that endured a lifetime. One of the Vachon’s first storylines put them up against the famous Crusher and The Bruiser in a series of  epic tag matches, the culmination of which was at the first big AWA show held at the relatively new Met Sports Center, home of the Minnesota NorthStars. They were one of the feature matches of what I believe was about a 10 match card, bigger then the usual 6 or 7.  What I recall of the match was that at least half of it took place outside of the ring.

At some point in the match while tangling with the Crusher outside the ring, The Dog grabbed a box of popcorn out of a little kids hands seated at ringside. He then proceeded to massage the salty snack into the Crusher’s eyes, rendering him without sight while the Vachon’s knocked the snuff out of him. This fueled fan angst against the hated Vachon’s. Of course the little kid was soon crying his eyes out. The match ended when the referee, who was no longer, if ever, in control of the match disqualified both teams. The teams continued to grapple for another 5 minutes or so and then left the ring area.

A few minutes later while awaiting the next match, an usher quietly made his way toward the kid. He was holding an arm behind his back and when he got to the young boy, produced a fresh box of popcorn, most likely courtesy of The Dog. The large crowd, ensconced in the lads misery was palpably relieved. The kid suddenly had renewed enthusiasm for the day. For as gnarly of a ring and interview presence as he was, I know that behind the scenes he was one of the nicest people you would meet in the business. I have heard many stories about him being of help to young wrestlers trying to make it and “get over“.  

In my book Vachon was the best TV interview ever in the business. Ric Flair was probably a close second to the Dog. Vachon was the first wrestler to speak directly to the camera during a promo spot and eventually turned it into an art form. He was also an educated man. I was listening to him do a promo spot with the great Rodger Kent once. It was a lead-up to a tag match featuring he and Gagne against The Sheiks, Adnan Al Kassie and Jerry Blackwell. As I listened I thought to myself, where have I heard these words before? It then hit me that Vachon had taken a WWII General George Patton speech and turned it into a wrestling promo spot!
At any rate, Vachon turned from hated bad guy into fan favorite and dare I say into a Twin Cities cult hero. The heyday of the AWA seemed to be at it’s peak from the late seventies until the mid eighties, mirroring the peak of popularity of one of it’s greatest stars ever, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon. Thank you for all of the entertainment Maurice, I would bet you have already met up with the Crusher in heaven and are enjoying a cold beer together…

FIFTY YEARS AGO ON FRIDAY was one of the worst days in the history of our country. It was the date of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was a 9 year old kid growing up on West 7th Street in St Paul. I was at home for lunch from Homecroft school and while young, can still recall the profound sadness of the adults. Obviously, school was cancelled for the afternoon and the event took over all radio and TV coverage for several days. I got to see the President once when his motorcade went through our neighborhood. We were right up at the curb as his car passed by and from 10 feet away JFK waved to us.

I can’t debate the event here and now, but I can tell you that when I got into my teenage years the gravity of that day finally hit me. I have hoped from then forward that before my time comes that I might know what really happened that day and why…

WITH GOALIE JON QUICK finding himself on the LA Kings IR list from a groin strain, TEAM USA’s goalie spot is suddenly in flux. He had been the anticipated starter on most peoples short list…. THE MINNESOTA WILD’s Charlie Coyle helped the club to a SO victory up in Winnipeg yesterday afternoon with a highlight reel goal. Look it up if you didn’t see it happen live…. WAS AT the NorthStars-Blues tilt last night and a very big and talented Blues squad manhandled the N-Stars enroute to a 6-1 victory… WILL BE AT the WILD-Blues tilt tomorrow eve and the Wild will have their hands full. The Blues give absolutely no space to the opposition and play right on top of you. The Wild though have a much better puck control game then the N-Stars and I expect that might give them a chance against a very tough team. LETS GO WILD!! PEACE


Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota.