THE VACHON DYNASTY
Paul “The Butcher” Vachon
Born in the blue-collar Montreal neighbourhood of Ville-Émard in 1938, the seventh of thirteen children, Paul was nine years old when his father decided to quit his job as a police officer and relocate his family to a dairy farm in the Eastern Townships, a few kilometres away from the Vermont border. Determined to follow in the footsteps of his brother Maurice, Paul brought home a silver medal from the amateur national wrestling championships in Regina, Saskatchewan, at age 17. He turned pro shortly afterward, taking up the ring name of “The Butcher,” on Maurice’s advice.
The farm boy who dreamed of seeing the world eventually racked up 6,000 matches in 33 countries. He enjoyed a successful solo career and also joined forces with his big brother, known professionally as Mad Dog, to become the AWA’s world tag team champions. In Quebec, he was one of the promoters of Grand Prix Wrestling (along with Maurice, Édouard Carpentier and other partners), which aired matches on television. It is through Grand Prix Wrestling that André the Giant became known on this side of the Atlantic. It is credited with being the inspiration behind the modern-day WWE.
Paul retired from wrestling in 1984. He has been married three times, has fought cancer twice and has written and published four autobiographical books (When Wrestling Was Real, volumes 1, 2 and 3, and Wrestling with the Past). He sells them at fairs, flea markets and wrestling reunions, which he attends as often as he can. He has always loved the life of the travelling performer and intends to keep it up for as long as possible.
Paul’s passion for wrestling was shared by three late members of his family: his sister Diane “Vivian” Vachon, who lost her life in a car accident in 1991; his adopted daughter Gertrude “Luna” Vachon, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2010; and his older brother and best friend, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, who passed away in his sleep in November 2013, at age 84.
Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon
At the tender age of 14, Maurice was already one of the best amateur wrestlers in Canada. He was picked to be on the Canadian team for the 1948 Olympics in London, finishing seventh in the middleweight freestyle category. Two years later, he brought home gold from the British Empire Games (the predecessor to the Commonwealth Games). At the suggestion of the owners of a bar where he worked as a bouncer, he abandoned his amateur status for a better-paying career in the pro wrestling world. He quickly established his reputation as a talented athlete with a hot temper and a bad-boy attitude.
In 1962, promoter Don Owen nicknamed him “Mad Dog” after, in a fit of rage, he attacked his opponent, the referee and a police officer before a match. His aggressiveness often crossed the line, causing him to be banned from arenas in three U.S. states. He nevertheless continued to rack up championship after championship, both as a solo wrestler and as part of a team.
Maurice retired from wrestling after a final farewell tour in 1986. He was 57. His fame and his love for his fans translated into a contract as a celebrity spokesperson for Labatt Breweries. In 1987, he was hit by a car while out for his morning jog. The result was an amputated right leg. During his hospital stay in Iowa, he received thousands of letters, phone calls and telegrams from his well-wishing fans. His career subsequently took another turn when he was offered a role on the small screen in a Quebec children’s show called Les aventures du pirate Mad Dog.
Maurice lived out his final days in Omaha, Nebraska. He died in his sleep in November 2013, aged 84.
Diane “Vivian” Vachon
The youngest child of the Vachon family and the only one not born in Ville-Émard, Diane dabbled in modelling and singing (two out of the three singles she recorded were done with Trans-Canada, the biggest record producer and distributor in Quebec at the time) before she found her true calling in the world of wrestling, as Vivian Vachon. At her brother Maurice’s encouragement, she learned the tricks of the trade at the school run by The Fabulous Moolah, considered by many to be the greatest female wrestler of all time. In 1971, Vivian was crowned the American Wrestling Association’s Women’s Champion. She wrestled in the U.S., Canada, Bermuda and Japan and starred in the 1973 movie Wrestling Queen, in which both Mad Dog and The Butcher also appeared. She died tragically in 1991 with her daughter Julie when their car was hit by a drunk driver.
Gertrude “Luna” Vachon
Gertrude “Luna” Vachon was adopted by Paul Vachon when he married her mother, his second wife, Rebecca Van Pierce. She showed an interest in wrestling from an early age, despite many attempts by Paul, Mad Dog and her friend André the Giant to discourage her from a life in the ring.
Like her aunt Vivian, Luna honed her craft with The Fabulous Moolah. In a match, she could be every bit as fierce and terrifying as her uncle Mad Dog. She used to say that “in a world of butterflies, it takes balls to be a caterpillar.”
Luna was quick to express her dissatisfaction with the sexualization of female wrestlers. In the ring, with her head half-shaven, she was anything but “cute.” She snarled, she shrieked and she screamed, like “someone who had forgotten to take her pills,” as some put it. As it turns out, she actually was on pills. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and struggled with addiction.
Her career saw plenty of ups and downs over the years. She wrestled around the world with several federations but, to her great disappointment, the world championship eluded her. She came close at one point in a match-up against the popular and beautiful Sable, but Luna was ordered not to hurt her rival because she had an upcoming Playboy photo shoot... Luna would later claim it was the only choregraphed match in her 23 years of wrestling.
Luna retired in 2007 and became a tow truck driver. In 2009, a fire burnt down the apartment building where she was living and took all of her wrestling memorabilia with it. On August 27, 2010, she was found face down in a plate of pizza at her mother’s home, the victim of an overdose of oxycodine, a powerful prescription painkiller, and benzodiazepine, a tranquilizer often used in the treatment of anxiety.