Welcome to A Look Back, where we pick out different wrestlers we believe are a little neglected for people to research, listen to podcasts about, or to discover their matches on the WWE Network or YouTube.
The star of our first edition? Allow us to introduce Vivian Vachon!
I hear so many people say wrestling used to be better in the 70s. Then it used to be better in the 80s when Hulk Hogan was around. Then there’s people who idolise the 90s, when Bret and Shawn were locked in their power struggle. Then people said it was better in the late 90s when the Attitude Era came, or even after during the Ruthless Aggression Era. I don’t remember some of these wrestlers because they were before my time or when I wasn’t following wrestling. So I would like to go back and explore them.
We’ve been getting some of this, of course, with the Dark Side of the Ring. The Dark Side of the Ring’s two seasons have been unbelievable. There have been a lot of wrestlers that I had never heard of or had heard their names, but I had no clue as to their stories. Then, hearing that A&E is going to be filming biographies of some wrestlers, made me want to look into some of the forgotten superstars of yesteryear.
So, let’s start our look back…
The Beginnings of Vivian Vachon
Vivian was born on January 23rd, 1951, as Diane Vachon. She was born in Vermont, but her family moved near to Montreal in Canada. The Vachons had 13 children and soon became a famous wrestling family, of which Vivian was the baby of the family. Known throughout the United States and Canada, the Vachons wrestled as French Canadians.
Vivian’s two older brothers are particularly notable. Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon and Paul “Butcher” Vachon wrestled with the AWA and NWA, amongst others. Maurice also had a child that many of you may remember: the legendary Luna Vachon. Yet, I’m interested in Vivian and her career because of The Fabulous Moolah.
Some friends were talking about stories they had heard about The Fabulous Moolah in her territory days and her time in the WWE. Now, I look forward to one day sitting down to research her. Her career touched so many others and spanned so many years. There are so many stories out there. But when my friends were talking about Moolah’s career, the name Vivian Vachon was brought up and I realised we didn’t actually know a lot about her.
The Vachon Family
I was intrigued enough to do a little bit of research. As mentioned above, Maurice and Paul were wrestlers and Vivian’s older brothers. They were particularly big in the AWA and NWA. Vince McMahon does own film of them there. You can see them on the WWE Network if you type in Vachon to pull up the whole family, with various wrestling matches and interviews on there. There was a 15 minute segment of Paul being involved in a wedding angle that they did. Some of the segments and matches are good. But the only thing that I could find on the WWE Network about Vivian was a Madison Square Garden show she wrestled on from 1977. She was 26 years old.
Vivian Vachon – One of the Best?
Many people and magazines of that era will say that Vivian Vachon was one of the best wrestlers in the 1970s. That was a shock to me for her to be at the top and considered one of the best wrestlers in a decade, and yet I had never heard of her. Granted, I don’t know my wrestling history that fully, but you would think the top wrestlers in each era you would have heard of. I never got to see Bruno Samartino wrestle, for instance, but I got to see him in his later years on Saturday Night Main Event. He would come on, thank people and raise his hand. I never saw him wrestle, but at least I know about him from this and from reading about. I had never heard Vivian Vachon mentioned before. Why?
Vivian decided to leave high school in the 10th grade. From what I was able to dig up, it was rumored that she tried to be a model and actually attended charm school at one point. Toward the end of her career, before she retired, it was said that she was a very good singer. I found out that she actually released some French singles in Canada. However, I couldn’t find out if they hit the charts or anything. I don’t even know any of the names of the songs to see if they are out on the internet. Surely there’s some kind of recording to hear somewhere. Many said she had a beautiful voice.
When she was a teenager in the late 1960’s, her brother Maurice decided to start training her in wrestling. She had a match about a year later. Her brothers decided that she had talent and natural wrestling ability. They felt like she could actually make some money as a wrestler. Of course, with her family being in wrestling, it must have seemed natural to Vivian. Maurice suggested that she go down to South Carolina. He wanted her to start training with Mary Ellison. You might recognise Mary by a different name: The Fabulous Moolah.
The Fabulous Moolah’s Influence
Vivian took Maurice’s advice and moved to South Carolina to get trained by Moolah. She actually lived on Moolah’s, for lack of a better word, compound. Moolah had some houses to live in and many women trained in what was at first her barn. This is where Moolah had built a wrestling ring for the women under her charge to train.
I couldn’t find any thing that said that Vivian did or did not like that. However, I did find out that while she was there she did end up dating one of Moolah’s nephews. I read two different articles that had two different views. One said Moolah introduced them and was fine with it. The other one stated that Moolah was very upset about it. She did not want her trainees to be dating anyone in her family or have anything to do with them. They were there to train and make money.
Influence – Good or Bad?
This starts a running thread that is hinted at in a lot of articles that I read. Moolah seemed to be behind a lot of different things throughout Vivian’s wrestling career. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. Had you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said, “Oh, no way.” But in the last 10 years, a lot of people have come forward with stories that are not so flattering to The Fabulous Moolah.
So it makes me wonder: was Moolah happy with Vivian? Or did she see her as a rival and want to hold her back? Vivian was said to be 5′ 7″ and 145 pounds. She was a curvy blonde and loved to played a heel. It threw people when they attended matches or saw her because they were expecting this beautiful, tall, curvy blonde to be the innocent babyface. They thought she would be strutting around and using her wiles on people. Instead, she shocked them by being a heel and yelling at the audience.
In February 1971, when Vivian would have been 20 years old, she became the California Women’s Champion. Then, later in November 1971, she became the AWA Women’s Champion. Remember her brothers were long-time veterans of the AWA, so I think they probably took care of her. A lot of people in that promotion saw her as a star.
Vivian was described by many as being willing to work like a man. She was willing to travel the circuit and perform night after night. Vivian Vachon had some rough matches. She was also described as having unusual combination of technique, strength and athleticism that many women just didn’t have. Back then, if you watch any of the older matches, a lot of times there was a lot of hair pulling, slapping, almost clawing being done in women’s wrestling. It seems like Vivian with her athleticism and training actually did a lot of moves with technique.
Vivian Vachon vs. The Fabulous Moolah
I read a couple of articles from 1972 and 1973 that stated that many thought Vivian might actually start taking on the women’s circuit across the country instead of just the AWA. Many promoters wanted her to be the star of their women’s circuit. People were talking about her unseating Moolah, yet that didn’t happen.
l looked and looked, but couldn’t find out why. Like I said, there’s a thread where they mention Vivian going up against Moolah and her possibly being in line to take over for Moolah. But then it’s all of a sudden gone. It just makes me wonder what was going on backstage in all of these different promotions. Did Vivian try to be a star in one promotion or area in particular that Moolah had connections to? Did Moolah put a stop to it because she controlled a lot of the women’s bookings? What exactly went on? I wish someone would let the cat out of the bag.
Retirement and Children
Suddenly, Vivian, in her mid 20s, announces that she is done. The official reason given is that Vivian’s physical style put a stop to her wrestling. There’s even a statement where she said she needed to retire in the hopes of starting a family. That was strange to me. She did end up getting married, but Vivian and her first husband could not conceive a child. They ended up having some issues and got a divorce. Soon thereafter she married her second husband, whom she did finally have children with.
Vivian did wrestle again on a Japanese tour in the early 1980s. I couldn’t find the exact year, but I can say that she then went back to Japan for Maurice’s retirement tour in 1986. But the articles and comments that I read about her on the 1986 Japanese tour was that Vivian appeared to be well past her physical peak.
Just think about it. She was 35 years old and they were saying she was well past her physical peak. That just hit me because, when you think about it, Shayna Baszler is 40 years old as of writing, and just look at the peak physical condition that she is in. I know you really can’t fairly compare different generations, but I am going to attempt to do just that, just a little bit, to show you how different women’s wrestling is now.
Really? 1-12 Was the Record?
Yes, Vivian was not in wrestling very long. She had about 217 matches that Wrestlingdata.com could find. Now, Wrestlingdata.com is the place you want to go to find things like this. They keep track of as many wrestlers as they possibly can. They have the matches. Who they took on and who they were tagging with. Whether they won or they lost or they tied or were disqualified. They have Vivian down for 217 matches, of which she had 92 wins and 52 losses.
Well as I was looking at those stats, I thought, well, Moolah was running a lot of the different promotions back then, especially the women’s part of it. People were describing Vivian as one of the most talented and best wrestlers of that era and were also saying that she was a rival of Moolah’s. So I looked up Vivian Vachon against The Fabulous Moolah. Guess what I found? Vivian had one win, one draw and 12 defeats. She was one and 12 against Moolah. Well, isn’t that interesting?
I said The Fabulous Moolah ran a lot of the women’s divisions in lot of different promotions. People were saying Vivian might take over from Moolah. Yet when Moolah is booking their matches, Vivian is one and 12. I don’t know about you but I keep thinking where there’s smoke, there’s gotta be some fire. As I said, I hope somebody tells us about this one day.
Vivian Vachon Comparisons To Wrestlers Now
But I want to show you how women’s wrestling has changed. So what I did is pick out some wrestlers that were in their 20s now to show you how much they wrestle now. The first lady that popped in my mind was Sasha Banks. She is 28 years old and debuted when she was 18. So, she’s got probably around about the same length of career that Vivian had. Sasha Banks has wrestled 835 matches. Now, remember I said Vivian wrestled 217. Sasha has wrestled 835 matches. Her record, for those of you who are interested, is 483 wins and 339 losses.
Because I’m not exactly sure when Vivian retired, I wanted to pick a little bit of a younger wrestler. I decided to pick Tessa Blanchard, who a lot of people think has had a very strong career so far. Tessa is 25 years old and has been wrestling about six years. She has 361 matches already and for those who want to know her record, she has 221 wins and 137 losses. So even though Tessa hasn’t been in a big promotion yet (no, Impact Wrestling isn’t a big promotion), she still has a lot more matches under her belt than Vivian did in the 70s.
As she was retiring, Vivian starred in a movie, Wrestling Queen. You can find it on YouTube, it’s about 80–90 minutes long. It’s actually a semi-documentary about Vivian and her family. The movie contains some of their life growing up, but you can see her charisma in this movie. You can see her talent.
I mean, it’s there. If Vivian would walk into WWE, AEW, Impact Wrestling, Ring of Honor, or New Japan right now, they would be able to see that and say, ‘hey, we can work with that’. I encourage any of you that haven’t seen Wrestling Queen, and want to see a very good documentary about that era, to watch it. It is considered by many to be one of the better wrestling movies ever made.
Vivian Vachon’s Accident
Vivian Vachon passed away in August 1991 at the age of 40 years old. I think that, in and of itself, is tragic, but also how she passed was very tragic too. She was driving with her nine year old daughter, Julie, when they were hit by a drunk driver who had ran a stop sign. Neither one of them lived. So that also got me interested in doing this article about her life and her career. Her story is the first Look Back in this series because what could have been. That’s what I wanted to stress: what could have been. She was only 40 years old.
What if she would have gotten back into the wrestling business? Not as a wrestler, but as a promoter or as someone in creative or in promotions? She died in 1991, and had that been something that she wanted to do, it was very likely that she could have gotten a place at WWE or WCW or ECW. Like I said earlier, Luna Vachon worked in ECW.
If you go on the WWE Network, you will see Luna working with Tommy Dreamer. You will see a lot of different vignettes and skits that she did and you’ll see some wrestling matches. Vivian’s brothers, Maurice and Paul, like I said, are on the WWE Network. Maurice and Luna have actually been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
What if Vivian Vachon would have taken a different route? Perhaps we all would know her name. You know sometimes you have to sit down and say ‘what if’ doesn’t exist, but I think, with this particular lady, I really wanted to know more about her. I would like to know if she truly left to start a family, or if she was pushed out. Did she get tired of the bureaucratic red tape and having to fight against the system? What would have been if she’d stayed in the business?
If you know anymore about Vivian Vachon, or any any more stories and information about, even websites or matches you can direct me to, then let me know. I would love to hear some stories and to see some matches. The history of wrestling is fascinating to me, and if you feel the same, then learning about these forgotten characters together will be a fun experience
If you have anybody that you would like for me to tell their story then feel free to let us know who you want to hear about. I know one that I want to explore. I have always heard about Gorgeous George. I’ve heard all kinds of stories, so I can’t wait to research him. Maybe he should be next. Maybe.