Thirty years after a tragic accident caused him to lose his right leg, Mad Dog Vachon’s legend has only grown stronger thanks to a new book.
“Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story” covers the life and career of a wrestling pioneer, a forefather of the hardcore style and Canadian pop culture icon. The latest offering from ECW Press, “Mad Dog” provides an unprecedented, in-depth retrospective on Vachon’s wild in-ring antics and often wilder lifestyle. The highly recommended read also educates a new generation of fans unfamiliar with the five-time AWA World Heavyweight Champion and 2010 WWE Hall of Famer.
The authors of this 320-page biography, Bertrand Hebert (co-author of Pat Patterson’s “Accepted”) and Pat Laprade (co-author of “Sisterhood of the Square Circle”), previously collaborated on the 2013 Wrestling Observer Book of the Year: “Mad Dogs, Midgets and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped the World of Wrestling.” Originally released in French in 2015, “Mad Dog” has now been translated to English by George Toombs, with a foreword by Paul “Butcher” Vachon and epilogue by widow Kathie Vachon.
Hebert and Laprade decided to write Vachon’s biography after learning of his death while at the Montreal Book Fair, promoting the French version of “Mad Dog, Midgets and Screw Jobs.” Similar to when Dusty Rhodes passed away a few hours before a Championship Wrestling from Florida fan fest, Mad Dog became the talk of the town. With all the research they had previously compiled, the authors realized a comprehensive account of the icon’s life had never been told before. They owed it to him and to wrestling fans to share his incredible story of persistence and survival before it was lost to time.
As has become their trademark, Hebert and Laprade’s research efforts are extraordinary, culling quotes and anecdotes from a plethora of wrestling books, websites, films, newspapers and magazines. Roddy Piper, Pat Patterson, Rick Martel and Baron Von Raschke are just a smattering of the legends who praised Vachon, all of whom were mentored by the grizzled, gnarly veteran. Before he allowed the audience to see his tender side, his peers felt his warmth, compassion and endless generosity.
Of course, his family did, too. Mad Dog planted the roots for the Vachon family’s sprawl throughout the industry, which included his brother Paul, sister Vivian and niece Luna. The Vachon family played a major role in the Canadian wrestling scene, which the book sufficiently covers, especially in Montreal and Quebec. The chapters on the wars between Grand Prix Wrestling, All-Star Wrestling and the International Wrestling Association are one of the book’s strengths, as the authors shed some light on promotions rarely discussed these days. It’s also interesting how Mad Dog had to travel to the United States to become a star, a common theme among Canadian wrestlers.
Another of the book’s strengths are the chapters on Vachon’s amateur wrestling background, which delve into his training regimen, influences, ambitions, win/loss record, participation in the 1948 Summer Olympics and gold medal at the 1950 British Empire Games. Again, the research is incredible as you realize that Vachon blended his legitimate athleticism with an over-the-top persona to create a memorable character that audiences couldn’t get enough of. Before the term took on a corporate, politically correct, family-friendly connotation, Mad Dog embodied sports-entertainment.
His personal life is just as riveting as his career, if not more so. Three wives, strained relationships with his children, various health issues, financial struggles, alcohol-induced mood swings; nothing is left untold. The authors humanize Vachon, revealing the man behind the character during the kayfabe era of secrecy. It’s fascinating to see what Maurice Vachon was going through while Mad Dog was terrorizing opponents and riling up crowds.
My favorite chapter focused on Vachon’s tragic accident – Hebert and Laprade provide a thorough, vivid account of the hit-and-run incident, the medical response that led to his right leg being amputated, the failed lawsuit and the outpouring of support Mad Dog received. It’s heart-breaking to learn the impact the accident had on his life, and how it curtailed his burgeoning show-business career.
Overall, “Mad Dog” is an inspiring account of a man who faced all of life’s challenges head on, using his imagination, determination, charm and fearlessness to overcome all obstacles. Wrestling fans young and old will enjoy reading about one of the greatest characters inside the ring and one of the most colorful men outside it.
You can purchase “Mad Dog: The Maurice Vachon Story” here.