Biography by Claude "The Duke" Leduc
He is perhaps one of the classiest, most handsome wrestlers that ever fought in the world of wrestling. However, the major part of his career was out of his homeland.
Born in Québec City in 1956, Richard Vigneault's older brother, Martin (who passed away in 1998) fought in several federations while Rick was learning the tricks of amateur wrestling in school. A two-week trip with Martin while he was in Stampede Wrestling gave him the wrestling bug. One day after his final year of high school started, he quits courses. Then a phone call from Martin in Nova Scotia asks Rick to replace an injured wrestler. This started his wrestling career at age 17 in 1973.
In 1974, he joins All-Star Wrestling in Montréal. However, though Martel was a fan favorite, he was too much compared to another young wrestler, Raymond Rougeau (and for the worst, the Rougeaus were promoters). A promoter advised him to make his mark elsewhere, seeing the talent that Rick showed in Grand Prix. He then flew to Japan and Texas.
1977 was a great year for him as he was wrestling in New Zealand as he became champion of the British Commonwealth. He toured also Australia and had the chance to hold the belt three times. Then he moved to the WWWF where he became tag team champion with Tony Garea (he was noticed in Québec by the then weekly WWWF show, CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING).
He joined INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING in Montréal in 1982, and did tag team mostly with Dino Bravo, then the heavyweight champ of the federation. At a certain point, Martel challenged Bravo for the belt. For many fans, it was a rivalry paralleled to the NHL Montréal Canadiens and the former Québec Nordiques (now the Colorado Avalanche) as the two wrestlers came from both cities. Unfortunately for Martel, Bravo outsmarted him.
In the meanwhile, he received a call from Verne Gagné-to join the AWA, following a reference by Nick Bockwinkel who fought him in 1978 along with his manager Bobby Heenan. He moved to Minnesota and impressed a lot a fans. His feuds with Bockwinkel will remain as one of the great rivalries in that former federation...
When Hulk Hogan, who was at the AWA at the time, left for the WWF in 1983, Martel took the opportunity to content for the belt. However, it wasn't easy to strip it from Bockwinkel, since he had The Brain in his corner. But Jumbo Tsuruta, a Japanese rookie, beat Bockwinkel. Then Martel challenged the young Japanese wrestler to a championship bout in St-Paul, on May 13th 1984. Obviously, Rick won over a cheering crowd at the Arena...
After losing the belt to Stan "the Lariat" Hansen, Martel went back to Québec and did INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING again. Many Québec wrestling fans saw him battle the greatest foes in that federation, which included the Masqued Superstar, King Tonga, Rick Valentine, Sailor White, Steve Strong, Michael Hayes, and more...
In 1986, INTERNATIONAL WRESTLING was fading due to the big influence of the WWF. Vince McMahon Jr asked Martel to join the WWF while the Québec federation crumbled. A decision that he did not regret however. He teamed up first with Tom Zenk, who created the Can-Am connection. But after Zenk left him, he joined Tito Santana to create Strike Force. The team won a tag team belt at the time.
But Martel wanted a change: after consulting Vince McMahon, he turned down on Santana and became "The Model", an arrogant and posh wrestler, from an idea suggested by J.J.Dillon. He also promoted a perfume called "ARROGANCE". However, the gimmick caused more trouble to Martel, though he enjoyed being a heel with this caracter.
In the beginning of the 90's Martel left the WWF and appeared in smaller promotions. Then he stopped for a while to become a commercial real estate broker in his native Québec City. But wrestling took over when one of his buddies, Don Callis (known to WWF fans and Canoe readers as the Jackyl...), convinced him to give it a try again... He started to tour again until he joined World Championship Wrestling in 1998. He was involved in an angle between Raven and Booker T. In the meantime, he won the TV championship belt, only to lose it again against the Harlem brawler in the 98 Spring Stampede Pay per view (he also got injured accidentally). Today, Martel does occasionnal color comments for the WCW's french versions of Nitro and PPVs. He is still reconsidering a return in the squared circle in the near future...
Source: the Other Arena, SLAM! Wrestling (Greg Oliver)
Copyright 1999, Productions Leduc 2000
ltd, Montrèal, QC.