Aug 20, 2011 - by Jamie Cruickshank
Real Name: Richard Vigneault
Weight: 234 lbs.
From: Quebec City, Quebec
Date of Birth: March 18, 1956
Pro Debut: June 7, 1972
Trained By: Pierre Martel
Finishing Move: Quebec Crab
Rick Martel’s 25 plus year career began in Florida, where he worked as a replacement for an injured wrestler in 1972. Martel came from a familiy of wrestlers and quickly conformed to the lifestyle. Martel won championships in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling and performed all over the world, in places like New Zealand, Puerto Rico and his home country Canada. Martel’s first big taste of success came in 1980, when he started working for the World Wrestling Federation. Martel was placed into a tag team with Tony Garea, and the team became the WWE Tag Team Champions twice. Martel left the WWE in 1982 where he received his biggest success as a singles star. In 1984, Martel defeated Japanese legend Jumbo Tsuruta to become the AWA World Heavyweight Champion. The reign would last an incredible 19 months as Martel had classic matches with the NWA World Champion Ric Flair, Jimmy Garvin and Nick Bockwinkel among others. Martel’s reign ended in 1985, Martel lost the AWA Championship to Stan Hansen, who beat Martel with a Boston Crab.
Martel returned to the WWE in 1986, teaming up with Tom Zenk to form the Can-Am Connection. The duo was well received by the fans but a falling out lead to the team going their separate ways after WrestleMania III. Martel was far from over as a tag team specialist in the WWE. After defeating Barry Horowitz, The Islanders attacked Martel after his match. Tito Santana, who was announcing left to come to Martel’s aid. Santana and Martel would become known as Strike Force. It didn’t take long for the two to have success, defeating The Hart Foundation to capture the WWE Tag Team Championship. The duo lost the belts five months later to Demolition and Martel left the WWE for a short period of time to deal with a personal matter. Upon Martel’s return, he teamed with Santana to face the Brain Busters, Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard. Santana accidentally hit Martel with his signature forearm and Martel walked out on his partner. Martel exclaimed in a post match interview that he was fine as a singles star but Tito wanted to ride his coattails. Martel and Santana would engage in a heated feud, with both picking up key victories. Martel won their match at The Main Event IV but Tito defeated him in the Finals of the 1989 King of the Ring tournament.
Martel then transitioned into a new gimmick as ‘The Model.’ This gimmick portrayed Martel as a egotistical ladies man who carried an atomizer full of his own personal cologne named ‘Arrogance.’ Martel would release vignettes promotion ‘Arrogance’ but his first major feud with this character came against Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts. Martel appeared on The Brother Love Show and sprayed Damien’s bag with his cologne. As Roberts tried to stop him, Martel accidentally sprayed Roberts in his eyes. This incident lead to a Blindfold Match at WrestleMania VII, won by Roberts. In the middle of this feud, Martel lasted 53 minutes in the Royal Rumble Match, which was a record at the time. Martel would then go on to feud with Shawn Michaels over Sensational Sherri in 1992, which culminated at that year’s Summerslam. Martel’s last major feud in the WWE was against Tatanka, but it was short lived with Tatanka defeating Martel at the 1992 Survivor Series.
Martel would get lost in the mix soon thereafter and sporadically appeared on WWE TV and pay per views, his last being the 1995 Royal Rumble.
In 1997, Martel returned to action but this time for World Championship Wrestling, and he engaged in a feud with Booker T over the WCW Television Championship. Martel would go on to defeat Booker T for the TV Title on an episode of Nitro and moved on to Superbrawl to defend it. At the pay per view, Martel was injured when hitting the ring ropes and fractured his leg, among other injuries he suffered. Martel was out of action for several months and had one final match in WCW, where he faced Stevie Ray and suffered yet another injury. After this match, Martel retired from professional wrestling and would go on to work for French broadcasts of WCW programming.
Martel made one more television appearance for the WWE at Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2007. Martel and former tag team partner Tony Garea were introduced to the fans as former Tag Team Champions. After the WWE Tag Team Championship match, Martel and Garea came to the aid of Sgt. Slaughter and Jimmy Snuka, chasing away the Champions at the time, Deuce and Domino who attacked the legends.
Martel will go down in history as a terrific professional wrestler and the man with a golden gimmick. Martel has competed in front of some of the biggest crowds in wrestling history and held a multitude of championships, both of the singles and tag team variety. A spot in the WWE Hall of Fame someday is almost assured.