The Canada 150, Part 6: Rick Martel to Kyle O’Reilly

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The sixth part in our 10-part series looking at 150 Canadian names in pro wrestling, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Part 5 of the Canada 150, an alphabetical listing of Canadians’ impact on pro wrestling from the 1920’s to today.

RICK MARTEL

Photo: WWE

Quebec City’s Rick Martel is best remembered as the flamboyant pretty boy with the spray perfume Arrogance, but that was the end of a storied career. He debuted in 1973, from a wrestling family in Quebec – his father Pierre trained him and was an early star in Quebec, and his brother was “Mad Dog” Michel Martel. He caught on quick and was soon a rising young star across Canada, with runs in Calgary’s Stampede Wrestling and Vancouver’s All Star Wrestling (ASW), as well across the border in Portland with the NWA’s Pacific Northwest Wrestling territory. He jumped to the WWF in 1980 and found early success in the tag team division, winning the WWF World Tag Team titles with Tony Garea, off the Wild Samoans. He left them in 1982 and instead headed to Minnesota and worked with the AWA. Within two years, he was the AWA World Champion, taking the title off Japanese legend Jumbo Tsurata. He held the belt for almost 19 months, battling the likes of NWA World Champion Ric Flair and Nick Bockwinkel. During his AWA time, he bought Varroussac off Andre the Giant and formed Lutte International, the top promotion in Montreal. In 1986, he left the AWA for the WWF once again, selling off Lutte International to the WWF in the process. He brought his tag partner Tom Zenk to the WWF and he re-entered the tag division with him as The Can-Am Connection, his old team from Lutte. Zenk left for WCW and he was replaced by Tito Santana and the duo was renamed Strikeforce. “Girls in the Cars”, the Strikeforce theme, sung by Robbie Dupree, is one of the greatest theme songs of all time. A classic. In 1989, he entered the singles scene, and began a 6-year run as perennial Intercontinental contender “The Model”. In 1997 he attempted a comeback with WCW, winning the WCW Television title off Booker T, but a severe injury halted it early and he was forced to retire in 1998. One of Canada’s – and wrestling’s – most underrated performers.

FRENCHY MARTIN

Quebec City’s Frenchy Martin started his career in his home province in 1973, plus runs in Stampede Wrestling. By the end of the 70’s, he was adding Puerto Rico’s WWC to his tours. He came to the WWF in 1986, originally as an enhancement wrestler, before being transitioned into a manager, the character he’s probably best remembered for by today’s fans. He was the manager for Dino Bravo and Jos LeDuc. He retired in 1990 and moved to Puerto Rico to work as a booker for IWA. Martin passed away last year.

MARYSE

Photo: WWE

Born in Montreal but raised in New Brunswick, Maryse was a model who dreamed of being a professional wrestler. In 2006, she was selected for the Divas Search but failed to advance past the second round. WWE still signed her and sent her to developmental, spending a year with Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) where she worked as both a singles wrestler and valet. She debuted in WWE on 2008 and went on to become one of the top heels of the Divas era, a 2x Divas Champion, and one of the first colour commentators on NXT, alongside Matt Striker. She left the WWE in 2012, but returned last year to valet her real life husband, The Miz.

NICOLE MATTHEWS

Vancouver’s Nicole Matthews is one of the most popular wrestlers on the women’s circuit, with both fans and wrestlers alike. Starting off with hometown ECCW in 2006, before landing in SHIMMER in 2007, where she tagged with Portia Perez in Super NINJAS, as well as matches with SHINE, Smash, and AAW – she’s even worked enhancement in NXT. She’s currently back in ECCW with Cat Power, but it’s only a matter of time before she gets a big break with a bigger promotion. A testament to her ability, in 2014 she captured the SHIMMER Championship off Cheerleader Melissa and held it for 357 days, a remarkable feat in today’s North American indie scene.

EARL McCREADY

Saskatchewan’s Earl McCready got into pro wrestling in 1930, but he’d been a standout amateur for years prior. He was a 3x NCCA wrestling champion at Oklahoma State from 1928-30 (he holds the record for fastest pin in a Collegiate Tournament at 19 seconds), competed for Canada at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and won Gold at the 1930 Empire (pre-Commonwealth) Games. He was a fast learner to the pros and within two years was challenging the top guys, like Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis and Dick Shikat. The Ring Magazine often ranked him #2 behind only Jim Tolos as the best technical wrestler. In 1933, he beat the 10-year reign of Canada’s founding father of professional wrestling, Jack Taylor, for the NWA’s British Empire Heavyweight Championship, a title he would hold 3 times in his career. As he passed 25 years in the industry, he headed home to Stampede Wrestling, where he was one of the promotion’s top stars of the 1950’s. He retired in 1958, after a near 30 year career.

VELVET McINTYRE

Born in Ireland, Velvet McIntyre moved to Canada in 1980 when she was 18 to pursue professional wrestling, starting in Portland and Vancouver’s ASW. By 1982, she was working for the WWF, Stampede Wrestling, Mid South and other NWA territories. In 1983, WWF withdrew from the NWA for the second time, this time under Vince McMahon Jr., and Velvet signed exclusive to the WWF. Her and her partner Princess Victoria had just won the NWA Women’s Tag Team titles and they both brought them over with them and were immediately recognized as the first WWF Women’s Tag Team titles. When she went singles, she immediately feuded with the Fabulous Moolah as the company’s top face, defeating Moolah for the WWF Women’s Championship in 1986. Moolah often remarked she was the “best female wrestler in Canada.” By 1990, the WWF’s Women’s Division was dissolved and she was released. She returned to the indies and even spent some time with ECCW in their early days, as an early ECCW Women’s Champion. She retired in 1998 and still resides in Vancouver.

“THE WILDMAN” DAVE McKIGNEY

Every story has it’s tragic hero. And Canada’s wrestling history books shines it’s blue light on “The Canadian Wildman” Dave McKigney. The face may look familiar. The name may sound familiar. In 1950, a rough and tumble guy named McKigney debuted wrestling at carnivals wrestling a bear named Terrible Ted. That was it. That was his shtick. Granted he was a beast of a man and physically fought the bear every night (I’m sure it was a little work and a lot of shoot). He was unique in that he was a novelty in the US – a funny man wrestling a bear – but in Northern Ontario, the people who knew what a bear could do, he was considered the UFC Champion. The niche of his act, unfortunately, kept him as mostly a side show attraction and one that many of the major promotions were working to stay away from – it harkened to far back to wrestling’s “carny” days. By 1978, he was on his second bear, Smokey, when one night something went terribly wrong. Ted forgot to lock Smokey’s cage one night and he got out and mauled his girlfriend to death. McKigney turned more and more to promoting indie shows, but was growing more and more frustrated with the Tunney’s monopoly of Toronto’s venues with Maple Leaf Wrestling. He packed up shop in Ontario and moved to the Maritimes to tour. It was for one of these shows, that McKigney met his fate in a terrible folk tale of wrestling lore. McKigney was the driver who lost control of the car in Newfoundland that crashed and killed McKigney and two other wrestlers in the car with him, one of which was WWF Legend ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis, in 1988. His heart was too big for his dreams and it took the lives of many around him, including himself.

ROSA MENDES

Photo: WWE

Most assume that Rosa Mendes is an American Latina, but she’s actually from Vancouver of Costa Rican and Czech heritage. She was a participant in the 2006 Divas Search and made the final 8, but was eliminated. She was signed anyway and sent to WWE’s developmental. She debuted in 2008 as a ” crazed fan” of Beth Phoenix, and she entered the storyline of Phoenix and Santino Marella. Although she would wrestle sporadically, she was mostly used as a manager, starting with Phoenix, but also including Carlito, Zack Ryder, Tamina and Alicia Fox. Her managerial success was most triumphant during a three year run as the manager for Epico & Primo, when they were WWE Tag Team Champions. Her last run was as the manager/dancing partner for Fandango, before she announced her pregnancy in 2016 and ultimate retirement this year.

THE MISSING LINK

Photo: WWE

A protégé of Whipper Billy Watson and trained by Jack Wentworth, Hamilton’s Dewey Robertson is best remembered as the painted maniac, The Missing Link. He got his start in the Maple Leaf Wrestling in the 1960’s, under his real name, and spent the next decade working the NWA territories throughout Canada and the United States, working Mid-Atlantic, Central States and others, winning the NWA Canadian Heavyweight Championship (the top title in Maple Leaf) in 1979, with “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers as his manager. In 1985, he jumped to the WWF, where he was managed at times by Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart, where he became a mid-card heel. He left after a short run due to substance abuse issues, but resurfaced shortly after in WCCW in Texas, where he was managed by Percy Pringle (aka Paul Bearer). He retired shortly into the 1990’s.

GEETO MONGOL

Nova Scotia’s Newton Tattrie got his start in the 1950’s, training with “Wildman” Dave McKigney and Waldo Von Erich, soon getting a job in the WWWF as Tony Newbury in the early 1960’s. In 1963, he headed to Stampede Wrestling to get further training with Stu Hart. It was there he became the villainous Geeto Mongol. He took a shining to a Ukrainian immigrant to Canada, Josip Peruzovic, training him with Hart and teaching him English. He would become Geeto’s long time tag partner (as Bepo Mongol) and in 1968, the two of them moved their act back to the WWF. In 1971, Geeto opened the NWA’s Pittsburgh territory, still working with the WWF. In 1972, the original Mongol’s split, with Bepo becoming future WWE Hall of Famer Nikolai Volkoff. Geeto replaced Bepo with another of his students, Bill Eadie, as Bolo Mongol, and they took the Mongols to Japan. Geeto retired from the ring in 1982, with Eadie moving on to become the Masked Superstar and finally Demolition Ax in the WWF.

ANGELO MOSCA

Originally from Massachusetts, Angelo “King Kong” Mosca moved to Canada after college to play for the CFL, where he won 5 Grey Cups and 5 All-Star berths in a 14 year career primarily with the Hamilton Tiger Cats (he would remain a Hamilton resident the most of his life, although he’s now moved to nearby St. Catharines). He retired from pro football in 1972 and was convinced to start wrestling by famed Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn shortly after. He would spend time working in Stampede Wrestling, Maple Leaf Wrestling, as well as many US territories, before heading to the WWF in 1981. While a hero in Canada, in the WWF he was a monster heel – as a 6’4″, 275 lb bruiser, he was a frequent challenger to Bob Backlund for the WWF World title, as well as Pat Patterson. He retired in 1984 and moved to commentary for WWF’s Canadian television tapings, until he was released in 1985. He would work as a booker for the NWA in Canada for a few more years until he eventually retired from the industry.

SKULL MURPHY

Photo: WWE

Another wrestler from an Ontario hotbed, Hamilton, Skull Murphy was often billed as being from Ireland. He debuted in 1952, and soon became a rising star in Georgia Championship Wrestling, specializing in tag team wrestling. He was quite successful in GCW with Gypsy Joe. In the early 60’s, he went to the WWWF, where he tagged with another Canadian, Brute Bernard, and became WWWF World Tag Team Champions. The two would also find success in Florida as well as Australia. Murphy would end up spending the remainder of his career in Australia, with tours of All-Japan thrown in, but tragically, he committed suicide in 1970.

NATALYA

Photo: WWE

A third generation grappler from Calgary, Alberta, Natalya is the grand-daughter of Stu Hart and the daughter of WWE Legend Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart – her mother, Ellie Hart, is the sister of Bret ‘Hitman” Hart and Owen Hart, and she’s cousins with Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Teddy Hart. In 2000, she became the first woman trained in the Hart Dungeon, and was soon wrestling for Stampede Wrestling and the Prairie Wrestling Alliance. She toured the UK and Japan during the mid-2000’s, before returning to Canada and competing in ECCW. She signed with the WWE in 2007 and made her debut as the manager of the Hart Legacy, a tag team featuring her cousin Davey Boy Smith Jr. (billed as David Hart Smith) and her real life boyfriend (now husband) Tyson Kidd. A technically gifted athlete, Nattie is a former Divas Champion and has helped train many of the women’s wrestlers.

KENNY OMEGA

Photo: NJPW

What is left to say about Kenny Omega that people don’t already know? He’s arguably one of the most popular wrestlers on the planet right now after a series of crushingly amazing matches in NJPW against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada in NJPW, where he’s currently the IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion and the leader of the Bullet Club, the most popular faction on the planet. Another product from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Omega has wrestled all over North America and Japan, with stints in PWG, Ring of Honor and DDT, not to mention one year in WWE’s developmental back in 2005. One thing is for sure – Omega will continue to be a headline stealer in 2017 and beyond as he’s only just getting started.

KYLE O’REILLY

Photo: ROH

Vancouver’s Kyle O’Reilly debuted in 2005 with his hometown ECCW, where he immediately became one of Canada’s most exciting young stars. In 2009, he made his debut with Ring of Honor, a promotion he would remain loyal to until his departure early this year. During his time with ROH, he would become a tag team specialist alongside Bobby Fish in reDRagon, who together were 3x ROH World Tag Team Champions and 2x IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. He was a participant in the 2013 Battle of Los Angeles in PWG (a promotion he began to work for in 2011) and by the year’s end, defeated Adam Cole for the PWG World Championship. He won his second world title at the end of last year, when he finally won the ROH World Championship (again defeating Adam Cole). Currently a free agent, O’Reilly is working with EVOLVE, Smash and other indies while rumours of a jump to NXT run rampant.

Join us for our next instalment, Part 7 of the Canada 150: Vickie Otis to Bobby Roode

CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE SERIES SO FAR:

The Canada 150, Prologue: The Promotions 

The Canada 150, Part 1: Abdullah The Butcher to Gino Brito

The Canada 150, Part 2: “Bulldog” Bob Brown to Johnny Devine

The Canada 150, Part 3: Paul Diamond to Rene Goulet

The Canada 150, Part 4: The Great Antonio to Gene Kiniski

The Canada 150, Part 5: Ivan Koloff to Santino Marella

The Canada 150, Part 6: Rick Martel to Kyle O’Reilly

The Canada 150, Part 7: Vickie Otis to Bobby Roode

The Canada 150, Part 8: Rosemary to Space Monkey

The Canada 150, Part 9: KC Spinelli to Tarzan Tyler

The Canada 150, Part 10: The Vachons to Sami Zayn

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