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Rick Martel

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Richard Vigneault (March 18, 1956) is a retired Canadian professional wrestler, best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) between 1980 and 1995 under the ring name Rick Martel. He is also known for his two-year long reign as AWA World Heavyweight Champion.


Early years (1972–1980)

Martel is from a family of wrestlers, and made his professional debut at age sixteen when his brother Michel, a wrestler, asked him to replace an injured wrestler. Martel was already a skilled amateur wrestler, and quickly adapted to professional wrestling.

Martel wrestled throughout the world, winning titles in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion, New Zealand and Puerto Rico. His first real success in America came in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)'s Portland affiliate Pacific Northwest Wrestling and in Vancouver-based NWA All Star Wrestling, where he became a top talent, holding the Canadian and PNW tag team titles simultaneously. He left PNW on August 16, 1980 when he lost a Loser Leaves Town match to Buddy Rose. Martel also served a stint as booker in a wrestling territory in Hawaii.

World Wrestling Federation (1980–1982)

Martel debuted in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in July 1980. That fall, he formed a tag team with Tony Garea. On November 8, they defeated The Wild Samoans to capture the WWF Tag Team Championship. They successfully defended the titles until they dropped them to The Moondogs on March 17, 1981. They would regain the titles by defeating The Moondogs on July 21. Their second title reign came to an end on October 13, when they dropped the titles to Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito. Though they would challenge the champions numerous times, Martel and Garea were unable to recapture the titles, and Martel left the WWF in April 1982.

American Wrestling Association (1982–1986)

Martel signed with the AWA in 1982 and quickly ascended through the ranks, defeating Jumbo Tsuruta to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on May 13, 1984. His reign as champion lasted nearly nineteen months, during which time he wrestled several matches with NWA World Champion Ric Flair. He had memorable matches with Jimmy Garvin, Nick Bockwinkel and King Tonga during this time. His finishing moves alternated between the slingshot splash and the combination atomic drop/back suplex. Martel lost the title in December 1985 to Stan Hansen, who forced Martel to submit to the "Brazos Valley Backbreaker", Hansen's version of the Boston crab.

World Wrestling Federation (1986–1995)

The Can-Am Connection (1986-1987)

In 1986, Martel returned to the WWF with his then tag team partner, Tom Zenk, as the Can-Am Connection. The Can-Am Connection had been formed by Martel in the Montreal International Wrestling Association in 1986. Zenk was the boyfriend of Martel's sister-in-law, and had been introduced to Martel in the AWA by Curt Hennig. The Can-Am Connection quickly garnered the affections of fans, and they looked certain to win the WWF Tag Team Title in the near future. However, the team split shortly after WrestleMania III; Zenk claimed Martel had secretly negotiated an individual contract worth three times more than his partner's contract (traditionally, tag teams are paid roughly equal salaries).

Martel claimed Zenk "...was overwhelmed by it all... Wrestling is very hard on your body. Hard on you also mentally. It's hard physically. Tom wasn't mentally or physically hard as I thought he would be."

Strike Force (1987–1989)

Upon the departure of Zenk, Martel formed a new tag team with Tito Santana known as Strike Force. The duo quickly captured the WWF World Tag Team Title from The Hart Foundation, holding them for five months before losing them to Demolition at WrestleMania IV. Shortly afterward, Martel (kayfabe) suffered an injury after Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji became involved in the match and Demolition Ax used Mr. Fuji's cane on Martel, splitting up the team for several months. In reality, Martel took an extended leave of absence to help take care of his wife, who was severely ill. Martel returned in January 1989 as a singles wrestler before reforming Strike Force with Santana at WrestleMania V. During a match with the Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), Santana accidentally hit Martel with his signature flying forearm smash and knocked him out of the ring. A frustrated Martel refused the tag, leaving Santana to be beaten down and pinned. Later, in an interview with Gene Okerlund, Martel claimed (kayfabe) "I'm sick and tired. Sick and tired of him. I was doing great as a singles wrestler, but Mr. Tito wants to ride my coattails some more."

Following his heel turn, Martel acquired Slick as his manager. He feuded with Santana on and off over the next couple of years, losing to him in the finals of the 1989 King of the Ring tournament, then defeating him at The Main Event IV on October 30, 1990 (aired November 23).

As 1989 came to a close, Martel's relationship with Slick was phased out.

The Model (1989–1995)

In late 1989, Martel adopted a narcissistic character, becoming "The Model." Just before the 1989 Survivor Series, he introduced his own brand of cologne called "Arrogance", which was kept in a large atomizer and would be sprayed in the eyes of his opponents to blind them. He also wore a turquoise sweater tied around his neck, later replaced by a turquoise sportcoat, complete with a large novelty button that read "Yes, I am a model" to the ring.

One of Martel's most famous feuds during his stint as "The Model" was against Jake "The Snake" Roberts, which was sparked when he blinded Roberts with his perfume on an episode of "The Brother Love Show" in October 1990. Martel and Roberts then captained opposing teams at the Survivor Series, with The Visionaries (Martel, The Warlord and Power and Glory) defeating The Vipers (Roberts, Jimmy Snuka and The Rockers) in a clean sweep. Martel continued to have the upper hand in the 1991 Royal Rumble match, as he eliminated Roberts from the match en route to lasting a then-record 53 minutes before being eliminated by The British Bulldog. Roberts would finally get his revenge when he defeated Martel in a blindfold match at WrestleMania VII. In early 1992, Martel began a feud with Tatanka, leading to Tatanka defeating Martel at WrestleMania VIII. That summer, Martel had a brief feud with Shawn Michaels, as both men sought the affections of Sensational Sherri. The feud ended with a chain of events that concluded in a double countout at SummerSlam 1992 in a match that carried a "no punching in the face" stipulation (mutually agreed upon by the two narcissistic heels). Martel then resumed his rivalry with Tatanka after Martel stole Tatanka's sacred eagle feathers in order to add them to his wardrobe. The feud was resolved at the 1992 Survivor Series when Tatanka once again defeated Martel and reclaimed the feathers.

By 1993, Martel had been transitioned into an undercard role and rarely appeared on television. However, at the September 27 Monday Night Raw taping, he was declared co-winner of a battle royal (aired October 4) for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. He lost a match to Razor Ramon (aired October 11) to fill the title vacancy. By the summer of 1994, Martel dropped out of the WWF picture and would not be seen again until a sole appearance at the 1995 Royal Rumble (contractual details are unknown, Martel was drafted in to replace Jim Neidhart). Martel's wrestling career began to slow as he pursued a career in real estate.

In a shoot interview with RF video, Martel claimed that he and Don Callis were set to return to the WWF as 'The Supermodels' in 1997, where eventually Callis would turn on Martel, making him a babyface for the first time since 1989. However, over a pay dispute with Vince McMahon, Martel opted to sign with WCW.

World Championship Wrestling (1997–1998)

Martel reappeared in World Championship Wrestling in 1997, feuding with Booker T for the WCW World Television Title, winning it on Nitro on February 16, 1998. Martel's comeback was cut short when, at SuperBrawl VIII on February 22 he landed badly during his rematch with Booker T, hitting his leg on one of the steel cables that WCW used as ring ropes. He tore an inside ligament of his right knee, fractured his leg and suffered cartilage damage, effectively ending his in-ring career. He was originally supposed to retain the Television Title in the match, which was designed to be a gauntlet match in which he would beat Booker and then Perry Saturn, but ended up suffering the knee injury. Martel and Booker worked out a finish in the ring (through which Martel suffered a worse injury after a botched Harlem Sidekick), and then Booker and Saturn called the second leg of the match entirely in the ring. Martel was out injured for several months. After suffering another injury in his first match back on the July 13 episode of Nitro (against Booker T's tag team partner, Stevie Ray), Martel decided to retire from the ring. He then worked for WCW as a trainer and as the host of the French versions of WCW programming.

Guest appearances

At the end of a house show in Canada in 2003, Brock Lesnar brought out Martel as a surprise. Martel shook hands with him.

At WWE's Night of Champions pay-per-view in 2007, Martel, along with Tony Garea, saved Jimmy Snuka and Sgt. Slaughter from a post-match attack at the hands of Deuce 'n Domino.

Personal life

Vigneault and his wife Johanne have a daughter named Coralie.

In wrestling

  • Entrance themes
    • "Let's Hear it For the Boy" by Deneice Williams (AWA and Japan)
    • "Girls in Cars" by Robbie Dupree (WWF w/ Strike Force)
    • "Model" by Jim Johnston (WWF)
    • "Razzmatazz" (production music; WCW)

Championships and accomplishments

  • Lutte Internationale (Montreal)
  • PWI ranked him # 48 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
  • PWI ranked him # 70 of the 100 best tag teams during the PWI years with Tito Santana in 2003
  • Universal Superstars of America
  • USA Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

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