Monday, November 25, 2013

Pile-drive in peace, Mad Dog

One of my favorite, most vivid memories as a kid was staying overnight at my grandpa’s apartment in Sioux Falls and watching all-star wrestling.

Pa was the caretaker of three apartment buildings on Spring Avenue behind what was not too long ago, Gigglebees. Pa and Sioux Falls had cable television long before it reached the sticks on our farm by Canton. The big thing for me in preschool and grade school was to go to Pa’s and eat sardines and crackers, drink pop and try to stay awake until midnight when all-star wrestling came on from Minneapolis. It was Verne Gagne’s thing, the American Wrestling Association, long before the current WWF or WWE.

It featured many of the old greats, including my favorite “Mad Dog” Vachon. He was tough and mean and talked like he had sandpaper in his throat: “It’s a dog eat dog world!” He was best friends with and trained my second favorite wrestler, Baron von Rashke, yes, he of the “brainclaw” finishing move. Those were good times and I’d have fought you tooth and nail if you tried to tell me it was fake.

Mad Dog died last week, but he will live on among my favorite childhood memories.

This was back when men were men:
Before long, "Mad Dog" Vachon consequently developed a reputation as perhaps the most feared rulebreaker in all of wrestling. Furthermore, Maurice's younger brother Paul - ultimately known as "The Butcher" - soon also made his debut and on February 17, 1959 the Vachon brothers teamed to defeat Chico Garcia and Chet Wallick for the NWA Canadian Tag Team Titles. Vachon's tendency to hurt his opponents with foreign objects, filed fingernails and teeth, and the multiple use of his signature finishing move, the Piledriver, to end matches made him notorious in the business and caused him to be banned in three U.S. states. But it also made his popularity soar among the fans.
And it makes my story of meeting my wife look pretty lame:
He also met his future wife Kathie Joe at a wrestling event, after spitting a shoe string he had used for choking his opponent at her, as she was sitting in the audience.

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