Biography by Claude "The Duke" Leduc
You heard the phrase more than often as a baseball fan : Babe Ruth is the Man who built Yankee Stadium. In Montréal, not one but two men built the legendary Montréal Forum : Montréal Canadiens hockey great Maurice " Rocket " Richard, and pro wrestler Yvon Robert.
Born in Verdun, a suburb of Montreal, young Robert was already regarded as a strongman in the beginning.
Disinterested in school work, his father brought him in an Outremont gymnasium where a local coach, impressed by the kid's strong capacities, refers Robert to a wrestling coach : Emile Maupas. The latter held a camp in the Laurentians and taught Robert the secrets of wrestling under a strict but efficient training. Maupas will become the future champ's mentor until 1947, when he died from an accident.
Yvon Robert's first fight was on April 9th, 1932 at Montreal's former Mount Royal Arena against John Charrette. He had not only won the fight, but also the admiration of the fans in the arena. Then he went to the United States, mostly in New England, and became a fan favorite. This is where he met future Montreal promoter Eddy Quinn, the man who will shape his future as a champion.
He won his first NWA title against a reticent Dan O'Mahoney. Then, it's a series of successes as Eddie Quinn took over the Montreal promotion from Tommy Gorman in the Montreal Forum. Each time Robert fought, the place was a sell out. In the summer time, to draw even more crowds, Quinn moved some of his events to the DeLorimier Downs Stadium (at the time, the home of the Montreal Royals, farm club of the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers and first baseball home of Jackie Robinson).
Many fighters challenged the French Canadian Lion : Lou Thesz was one of them, as well as Bobby Managoff, in which he had one of his biggest feuds, Buddy " Nature Boy " Rogers, Wladek " Killer " Kowalski and Toronto's Whipper Billy Watson, in which the rivalry paralleled the one between the NHL's Canadiens and Maple Leafs. Others tried also to injure or cripple him but failed, due to the champ's inner streinght to win at any cost.
Yvon Robert toured also Europe three times, mainly in France, beating famed European champions like Henri Deglane and François Miquet. In his last tour, he invited a talented local wrestler to take a chance in Québec, afterward calling it its adoptive land... His name : Edouard Carpentier.
To many wrestlers who soon followed its footsteps, Robert was indeed the role model for them. Maurice " Mad Dog " Vachon saw him when he was a kid and soon became his idol. Late great Johnny Rougeau trained with him in the fifties and had the honor of being his last tag team partner in Robert's farewell match in Quebec City on October 18th, 1957. Before the death of his mentor Henri Maupas, Robert helped the latter train other wrestling hopefuls like Larry Moquin.
Outside the ring, Yvon Robert was a successful restaurant and tavern owner, along with his brothers and a family man with three children, among them Yvon Jr., who took a chance at wrestling in the seventies. However, being a champion takes its toll of beatings, as Robert did several trips on a hospital bed with injuries mostly in his left hip.
After his retirement, Robert became referee for local wrestling events, but left after two years for personnal reasons. But he kept his involvement in pro wrestling by managing the career of Johnny Rougeau and then becoming a promoter. Unfortunately, several heart attacks forced Robert to quit definitely, leaving the promotion to Bob " Legs " Langevin. He supervised for a while the beginning of his son's Yvon Jr in the sport as well as taking hobbies like playing cards, attending horse races or driving his Cadillac.
Finally, he officiated a last wrestling match in the newly renovated Montreal Forum on November 11th 1968. Before the match between Johnny Rougeau and the Sheik began, 20 000 persons gave him a roaring last standing ovation to the legendary 16 times NWA champion.
On July 12th, 1971, Yvon Robert passed away on an 8th heart attack. He was 56. Seven months later, he became the first Canadian to be inducted in the Wrestling Hall of Fame on Feburary 23rd, 1972.
Copyright 1999, Productions Leduc 2000
ltd, Montrèal, QC.