It's Saturday, and whether you like it or not, you're stuck in my history class for the next 5 or 10 minutes to read this column! I've sifted and thought about the requests, and I was actually unsure about who I'd write about earlier this week.
However, Regulator from the LoP Message Boards kept suggesting a Rick Martel history, since he was a big fan. Honestly, I didn't think nothing of it at first, but as I thought about, I felt that I knew enough to do the History. So here we are...
Oh, and for those who keep suggesting the Horsemen column. I'll do that column one of these days. The Horsemen have a very long past to cover, and it would be very time consuming. I'll pick and choose when to do that one. Maybe I'll make that one a 2 part series, so that I don't burn myself out like I did with the NWO column. Hmmm....
Well anyway, it's time to discuss a guy who claimed to be a "model", which I hinted yesterday.
Rick Martel has led an interesting wrestling career, spanning from the 1970s until 1998 when you saw him last on WCW television. He's been to many federations, held several championships, but some would argue that he could have been better. Whether it was his Model gimmick, unappreciation, or what not, he's one that the new generation of wrestling fans haven't heard of.
Martel's wrestling career started on a rather strange note. Rick's brother, Michel, was in need of a tag partner for an event, due to an injury. So Michel enlisted the services of the then 17-year-old Rick Martel. Here's how Rick said it:
Rick Martel: Michel was in the Maritimes and the wrestler got injured and they needed a wrestler within 24 hours. And they couldn't find one. So he ventured, 'my kid brother, he wrestles' and I was 17-years-old. I had wrestled amateur, Olympic- style, Greco-Roman style, but I had never wrestled professional. So he called me up on a Friday night and said 'I'd like you to get on a plane tomorrow and start professional wrestling.' And I said 'whoa, I've never wrestling professional.' He said, 'that's alright, you've wrestled Greco-Roman, and all that. You'll do alright.' So I got on the plane and wrestled that Sunday in New Glascow, Nova Scotia.
From then on, Rick Martel was hooked. He immediately enrolled himself in wrestling school to follow his new found love. For several years, Martel trained to become a wrestler, and paid his dues in local independents like the next guy. Martel would travel around the world to wrestle, in which he captured his first title: the Commonwealth title, in 1977 by defeating a wrestler called King Curtis. Later, in 1978, he'd travel to Hawaii, where he teamed with Don Muraco to win some tag titles. There, Martel possibly met Nick Bockwinkle, a big powerhouse in the AWA back then. Bockwinkle liked what he saw, and suggested Martel for the AWA. In 1980, Martel went on to win the Pacific Northwest Title and some tag titles with Roddy Piper of all people. Martel would wrestle some in Asia, during this time, as well. After winning some tag titles in Canada with Piper, the slowly booming WWF grabbed Martel for his services.
In Martel's early days with the WWF, he tagged with Tony Garea, a long time veteran at that point. In November of 1980, the duo defeated the Wild Samoans for the World Tag titles. They'd hold the titles for 4 months, until the Moondogs came along and won the titles. 4 months later, Martel and Garea won back the tag titles for their 2nd reign. Two months later, in October of 1981, Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito defeated Tony and Rick for the titles. Martel, however, wanted to now pursue a singles career, and with the help of 'word of mouth' in the AWA by Bockwinkle, he landed a job as a SINGLES wrestler in the AWA.
Martel's career boomed in the AWA. As a singles wrestler now, he quickly climbed up the ladder and now threatened to be a World Title contender. Verne Gagne actually noticed this rather quickly, and was planning on giving Martel the world title very soon. The WWF, ever so growing at that point, was in talks with Martel about possibly jumping to the AWA, like several other AWA stars were doing at that point. Rick Martel won the AWA World Title in May of 1984, and he would go on to have a pretty lengthy reign (7 months) until the tough Stan Hansen came a long and took his title away. Martel recalls that Hansen was his toughest opponent he's ever faced. As world champion, oddly enough, Martel had several unification matches with the NWA Champion, Ric Flair, which Martel enjoyed very much.
The WWF gave Martel a call, since they loved talent raiding in the mid to late 1980s, and Martel gladly accepted. The WWF wanted to use Martel as a tag wrestler again, for they were quite heavy at the top at that moment (Hogan). So Martel suggested Tom Zenk, who he noticed had a lot of potential at his young age. Vince McMahon signed him, and the Can Am Connection was born. Zenk and Martel were a pretty Flamboyant team at the time, as they were destined for greatness. If you want to see this flashy team wrestle, check out Wrestlemania 3 when the Can Am Connection defeats Don Muraco and Bob Orton in the opening bout.
However, the Can Am Connection didn't last. Tom Zenk was beginning to buckle under the constant pressures of being a professional wrestler, and one day he just quit the WWF. This shocked Martel and especially one Vince McMahon, who had high hopes for the team of Zenk and Martel. McMahon knew Martel was an excellent all around wrestler, so he wanted to find Rick a good enough tag partner to be as good, if not better, than the Can Am Connection. Tito Santana, who was now past his peak as a singles wrestler, needed something to do, so he was tagged up with Martel to form Strike Force. It was perfect for Tito Santana, for his ability mixed with Martel's perfectly.
Strike Force was an immediate hit as a wrestling team and with the fans, so they quickly scaled the WWF ladder and defeated the Hart Foundation for the World Titles in October of 1987. As champions, Martel began to get an "itch" to become a singles wrestler again, as he kept insisting for McMahon to give him the opportunity. With Demolition becoming rather huge back then as HEELS in early 1988, Strike Force dropped the titles at Wrestlemania 4. However, the injury bug bit Martel, and his singles career was put on hold.
Martel came back by 1989, and was put back with Tito Santana to reform Strike Force. However, the plans for the Martel singles career were still in place, for Vince booked Martel to turn on his partner. The turn really showed at Wrestlemania 5, when Martel walked out on his partner Tito Santana, allowing for the Brainbusters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard) to get the easy win. Now, the heel turn was in place, but the WWF would have to develop a new attitude for Martel. The came up with the......
(Image from WrestlePics.com)
THE MODEL Rick Martel. Yes, we are slowly evolving into the Gimmick age of the WWF, where you couldn't get over on shear personality, but you had to represent your attitude through some corny gimmick. Early on, it wasn't so bad, but as we move on into the 1990s, Martel added a lot of stupid things to his character. For instance, as pictured, he'd carry this perfume container called "Arrogance". So for every opponent he lost, he'd spray them with the container because they smelled bad, or so he claimed. He'd wear rather large buttons that would say "Yes, I am a Model", and wear some of the most ridiculous outfits.
Martel would feud with Tito Santana on the next few Pay Per Views, but not with a singles match on those shows. I find that odd, because the two could have had an incredible match against each other, alone. Maybe they fought on a Main Event show? Sorry if I'm wrong on that part. Anyway, Martel's career as the model was really booming when he moved on to feud with Koko B. Ware, the glorified jobber he was at that point. Martel, of course, beat him, but this match was the first sign that the Model wasn't going anywhere in the WWF. Martel would then eventually feud with Jake "the Snake" Roberts, in which they did an angle where Martel sprayed the Arrogance in Jake's eyes, blinding him. So with that, a special match was created at Wrestlemania 7 to go with Robert's disability. Yes, that's the good old "Blindfold Match", in which both wrestlers had some black sacks placed over their heads and try to wrestle each other in the ring. It turned out to be a disasterous match, with Roberts easily disposing Martel.
Did I mention that Rick Martel's career was going no where, and fast? For the next year, 1992, Martel would feud with Tatanka, which became sort of an odd feud. Martel would rip on Tatanka for being a "smelly Indian", in which Martel stole Tatanka's Indian feathers and made sure to spray them with Arrogance. I'm surprised the WWF didn't take heat for this feud, but the recent sports movement about Native American's exploited in sports was just beginning back then. At least Tatanka would come out as the victor in this feud, which blew off at Wrestlemania 8. Martel's singles career wasn't exactly going anywhere at this point.
Martel would go on to Summerslam 1992 to fight the growing Shawn Michaels, to a very lame double countout finish. Sherri Martel (HBK's manager), ABSOLUTELY NO RELATION TO RICK, passed out during the match, and Michaels and the Model fought over reviving her. Good grief. Nothing else happened for the Model after this, for he himself was going downhill in his wrestling career. It appears that Martel put on a few extra pounds in his late WWF career, as he'll explain that one.
Rick Martel:: I was involved in commercial real estate. And that was a mistake of mine, really. I got involved in commercial real estate and I couldn't do both at the same. Concentrate on wrestling and also concentrate on my business. That's why I quit wrestling, because I couldn't do both. I couldn't train the way I wanted to, I couldn't diet the way I wanted to.
So there you have it. Martel was beginning to find life out of wrestling, in which he couldn't fully dedicate his body to being a wrestler. His last WWF glory was winning a shot at becoming the NEW Intercontinental Champion during a RAW battle royal to determine the #1 contenders for the vacated belt. Shawn Michaels, by the way, was stripped of the title for no-showing this RAW. Martel was one contender, and the blooming Razor Ramon was the other. Razor was picking up a lot of popularity and notice at the time, and Martel's days were beginning to become numbered. Razor won the match, but it was a good one. Probably a fitting ending for the potential that WAS there with Martel, but somebody dropped the ball.
After this, Martel would eventually become FULL TIME into commercial real estate, which is where he would be for a long time before his WCW debut in late 1997/early 1998. WCW was such a powerhouse in 1997, and it featured many wrestlers that Martel used to work with in the early 1990s or even the 1980s. He figured that if they could still do it, he could as well. So in 1997, Martel sold all of his commercial real estate, and concentrated on one of the biggest wrestling comebacks, ever.
(Picture by WrestlingMuseum.com)
So seeing that he was in great shape, that he could still perform, and also for the fact that he could still carry some WWF namepower, World Championship Wrestling picked up Martel immediately. For Martel's first WCW Monday Nitro in late 1997/early 1998, the announcers hinted that a "former WWF champion" would be showing up to wrestle. This stirred up quite a bit of wonder by fans, and they figured another current WWF wrestler was making the jump, like possibly Shawn Michaels. Nope. It was Rick Martel, making the greatest comeback in the history of wrestling. Some fans may have been let down, but Martel came to wrestle.
Martel was an immediate contender for the Television Title in WCW, going after the champion Booker T. They fought at Souled Out 1998, in which Booker T got the victory. However, several Nitros later, Rick Martel beat Booker T for the TV title in February of 1998. Up to this TV title win and a little bit after this, Martel was showing signs of a HEEL turn. The plans were to turn Martel heel after Superbrawl to keep the feud with Booker T going, or to maybe elevate him up the card! But in the world of wrestling, fairytales don't always come true.
At Superbrawl 1998, one of the best Pay Per View cards of all time, Rick Martel fought the opening match with Booker T for the TV Title. The winner of this match would face the other TV title contender at the time, Perry Saturn. Martel wrestled Booker T to a truly excellent match, but tragedy struck during the match that would end this great comeback to professional wrestling.
Rick Martel: It happened at SuperBrawl against Booker T. He threw me from the corner, and I landed, my back in the ring and my legs hit the ropes. And as you know the ropes are steel cable, and they didn't move at all so my knee went completely sideways.
From the injury, Martel tore an inside ligament of his right knee, had cartilage damage, and a fracture on a bone in his leg. Rick Martel did finish the match, but in great pain from what you can imagine. He'd go to the back, where WCW trainers would quickly take a look at him. Then, at Superbrawl 1998, the WCW announcers told the fans that Martel suffered possibly a career threatening injury to his knee. It's truly one of the sad moments in professional wrestling, and you can really hear it in Bobby Heenan's voice on commentary, since the Brain knew Martel from the AWA days.
From here, he might have tried to make another comeback after this drastic knee injury, but if he did, it's nothing we have heard of since he hasn't been on television, anywhere, since the injury. It's very unknown on where Martel would be at this point if he didn't suffer such a harsh injury. Maybe he could have been a key player for WCW in their 1998 war against the WWF, which WCW lost. Who knows? But what is known is that Martel had the opportunity to shine again, but the "model" of success couldn't shape up due to the career ending injury.
[ Credit for some information: WrestlingMuseum.com for the early days and Slam! Wrestling for the Quotes ]
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