Rick Martel (born Richard Vigneault on March 18 1956) is a French-Canadian former professional wrestler, best known for his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) between 1980 and 1995 and two-year long reign as AWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Rick 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.
World Wrestling Federation (1980-1982)
Martel made a number of appearances with the WWF, winning the Tag Team Titles
twice with Tony Garea
American Wrestling Association (1982-1987)
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
. His reign as champion lasted nearly nineteen months, during which time he wrestled several matches with NWA Champion Ric Flair
. Martel lost the title to Stan Hansen
, who forced Martel to submit to the "Brazos Valley Backbreaker" - a version of the Boston Crab
. As it was rare at the time for titles to change hands via submission, the loss hurt Martel's standing in the eyes of many fans.
World Wrestling Federation (1987-1995)
The Can-Am Connection (1986)
In 1986, Martel returned to the WWF with his then tag team
partner, the American Tom Zenk
, as the Can-Am Connection
. The Can-Am Connection had been formed by Martel in the Montreal
International Wrestling Association in 1986. Tom 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 titles 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
, Strike Force
, quickly capturing the WWF Tag Team Titles
from The Hart Foundation
, holding them for five months before losing them to Demolition
at WrestleMania IV
. Shortly afterwards, Martel suffered an injury after taking Demolition's finisher on the floor, splitting up the team for several months until his return at WrestleMania V
. During a match with the Brain Busters
and Tully Blanchard
), Tito accidentally hit Martel with his signature Flying Forearm and knocked him out of the ring. A frustrated Martel refused the tag, leaving Tito 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. Martel feuded with Santana on and off over the next couple of years. As 1990 began, Martel's relationship with Slick was phased out as his image was repackaged.
The Model (1989-1995)
In late 1989, Martel adapted a narcissistic heel
character, becoming "The Model." He had his own brand of perfume called "Arrogance," which was kept in a large atomizer
and would be sprayed in the eyes of his opponents to blind them.
One of Martel's most famous feuds during his stint as "The Model" was against Jake "The Snake" Roberts. He blinded Roberts with his perfume on an episode of "The Brother Love Show" in October 1990, which led to a symbolic "blindfold match" at WrestleMania VII, where Martel was defeated. It was also during the midst of this feud that Martel lasted a then-record 53 minutes in the 1991 Royal Rumble. After WrestleMania VII, Martel went on a leave of absense for several months, returning at the end of 1991. He later feuded 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 count-out at SummerSlam 1992 in a match that carried a "no punching in the face" stipulation (mutually agreed upon by the two narcissictic heels). Martel then entered a lengthy rivalry with Tatanka, revolving around Tatanka's sacred "eagle feathers," which Martel stole from him. This was resolved at the 1992 Survivor Series when Tatanka defeated Martel and reclaimed the feathers.
By 1993, Martel had been transitioned into an undercard role. However, that October, he was declared co-winner of a battle royal on Monday Night RAW for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. He lost a match the following week to Razor Ramon to fill the title vacancy. He remained a regular feature on WWF programming until shortly after WrestleMania X and would not be seen on programming again until a sole appearance eight months later 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.
World Championship Wrestling (1997-1998)
Martel reappeared in World Championship Wrestling
in 1997, feuding with Booker T
for the WCW World Television Championship
, which he won on February 16
. Martel's comeback was cut short when, at SuperBrawl VIII
on February 22
, 1998, he landed badly during his match 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 Hangover
), 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 (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.
At the end of a house show in Canada in 2003, Brock Lesnar
brought out Martel as a surprise. Martel put Lesnar over as a legitimate star by shaking hands with him.
At WWE's 2007 Vengeance, Martel, along with Tony Garea, saved Jimmy Snuka and Sgt. Slaughter from a post-match attack at the hands of Deuce 'n Domino.
- Finishing and signature moves
- *Airplane spin - GCW
- *Boston crab
- *Swan Dive Splash (Slingshot splash) - 1986-1987
- *Flying crossbody
- *Front backbreaker
- *Hip toss
- *Multiple suplex variations:
- **Bridging belly to back
- **Double underhook
- *Rolling spinebuster
- *Scoop slam
- Signature illegal weapons
- *Arrogance perfume
Championships and accomplishments
- *AWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- *NWA Georgia Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Tommy Rich
- Lutte Internationale (Montreal)
- *Canadian International Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- *NWA Canadian Tag Team Championship (Vancouver version) (1 time) – with Roddy Piper
- *NWA North American Heavyweight Championship (Hawaii version) (1 time)
- *NWA British Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship (New Zealand version) (3 times)
- *NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- *NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Roddy Piper
- *Stampede International Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Lenny Hurst
- *WCW World Television Championship (1 time)
- *NWA Austra-Asian Tag Team Title (1 time) - with Larry O'Day
- *WWC North American Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Pierre Martel
- *WWF Tag Team Championship (3 times) – with Tony Garea (2) and Tito Santana (1)
- *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.
- *PWI ranked him # 74 of the 100 best tag teams during the PWI Years with Tony Garea in 2003.