Rick Martel is a French-Canadian professional wrestling legend, best known for his appearances with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWF) between 1980 and 1995 and a two-year long reign as AWA World Heavyweight Champion.
Rick Martel is from a family of wrestlers, and made his professional debut at age sixteen when his brother Michel, a wrestler, asked him to replace an injured wrestler. Martel was already a skilled amateur wrestler, and quickly adapted to professional wrestling.
Martel wrestled throughout the world, winning titles in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling promotion, New Zealand and Puerto Rico. His first real success in America came in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)'s Portland affiliate Pacific Northwest Wrestling and in Vancouver-based NWA All Star Wrestling, where he became a top talent, holding the Canadian and PNW Tag Team titles simultaneously. He left PNW on August 16, 1980 when he lost a "Loser Leaves Town" match to Buddy Rose.
Between 1980 and 1982 Martel made a number of appearances with the WWWF, winning the Tag Team Titles twice with Tony Garea.
Martel signed with the AWA in 1982 and quickly ascended through the ranks, defeating Jumbo Tsuruta to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship on May 13, 1984. His reign as champion lasted nearly nineteen months, during which time he wrestled several matches with NWA Champion Ric Flair.
In 1986, Martel returned to the WWF with his then tag team partner, the American Tom Zenk, as the Can-Am Connection. The Can-Am Connection had been formed by Martel in the Montreal International Wrestling Association in 1986. The Can-Am Connection quickly garnered the affections of fans, and they looked certain to win the WWF tag team titles in the near future. However, the team split shortly after WrestleMania III.
Upon the departure of Zenk, Martel formed a new tag team with Tito Santana, Strike Force, quickly capturing the WWF Tag Team Titles from The Hart Foundation, holding them for five months before losing them to Demolition at WrestleMania IV. Shortly afterward, Martel suffered an injury after taking Demolition's finisher on the floor, splitting up the team for several months until his return at WrestleMania V. During a match with the Brain Busters (Arn Anderson and Tully Blanchard), Tito accidentally hit Martel with his signature Flying Forearm and knocked him out of the ring. A frustrated Martel refused the tag, leaving Tito to be beaten down and pinned. Later, in an interview with Gene Okerlund, Martel claimed "I’m sick and tired of him. I'm sick and tired of carrying him around. I was doing great as a singles wrestler, but no, Mr. Tito wants to ride my coattails once more, well I'm sick and tired of him. I've been carrying him around for too long already!"
Following his heel turn, Martel acquired Slick as his manager. Martel feuded with Santana on and off over the next couple of years.
In late 1989, Martel adapted a narcissistic heel character, becoming "The Model." He had his own brand of perfume called "Arrogance" which was kept in a large atomizer and would be sprayed in the eyes of his opponents to blind them. He also wore a Turquoise sportcoat, complete with a large novelty button that read "Yes, I am a Model" to the ring.
One of Martel's most famous feuds during his stint as "The Model" was against Jake "The Snake" Roberts. He blinded Roberts with his perfume on an episode of "The Brother Love Show" in October 1990, which led to a symbolic "blindfold match" at WrestleMania VII. It was also during the midst of this feud that Martel lasted a then-record 53 minutes in the 1991 Royal Rumble. After WrestleMania VII, Martel later feuded with Shawn Michaels, as both men sought the affections of Sensational Sherri. The feud ended with a chain of events that concluded in a double count-out at SummerSlam 1992 in a match that carried a "no punching in the face" stipulation (mutually agreed upon by the two heels). Martel then entered a lengthy rivalry with Tatanka, revolving around Tatanka's sacred "eagle feathers," which Martel stole from him. This was resolved at the 1992 Survivor Series when Tatanka defeated Martel and reclaimed the feathers.
By 1993, Martel was declared co-winner of a battle royal on Monday Night RAW for the vacant Intercontinental Championship. He lost a match the following week to Razor Ramon to fill the title vacancy. He remained a regular feature on WWF programming until shortly after WrestleMania X and would make a sole appearance eight months later at the 1995 Royal Rumble.
Martel reappeared in World Championship Wrestling in 1997, feuding with Booker T for the WCW World Television Championship, which he won on February 16, 1998. Martel's comeback was cut short when, at SuperBrawl VIII, he landed badly during his match with Booker T, hitting his leg on one of the steel cables that WCW used as ring ropes. He tore an inside ligament of his right knee, fractured his leg and suffered cartilage damage, effectively ending his in-ring career. Martel was out injured for several months and after suffering another injury in his first match back, Martel decided to retire from the ring. He then worked for WCW as a trainer and as the host of the French versions of WCW programming.
At the end of a WWE house show in Quebec, Canada in 2003, Brock Lesnar brought out Martel as a surprise. Martel put Lesnar over as a legitimate star by shaking hands with him. At WWE's 2007 Vengeance, Martel, along with Tony Garea, saved Jimmy Snuka and Sgt. Slaughter from a post-match attack at the hands of Deuce 'n Domino.
Finishing and signature moves
Boston (Quebec) crab
Championships and accomplishments
3-Time WWE Tag Team Champion with Tony Garea (2) and Tito Santana (1)
WCW World Television Champion
AWA World Heavyweight Champion
3-Time NWA British Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion (New Zealand version)
3-Time NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Team Champion with Roddy Piper
NWA Canadian Tag Team Champion (Vancouver version) with Roddy Piper
NWA Georgia Tag Team Champion with Tommy Rich
NWA North American Heavyweight Champion (Hawaii version)
NWA Pacific Northwest Heavyweight Champion
NWA Austra-Asian Tag Team Champion with Larry O'Day
Canadian International Heavyweight Champion
Stampede International Tag Team Champion with Lenny Hurst
WWC North American Tag Team Champion with Pierre Martel
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
PWI 500 Rankings:
1991 - 41
1992 - 35
1993 - 156
1994 - 70
1995 - 93
1996 - 139
1997 - 363
1998 - 193
PWI ranked him #48 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
PWI ranked him #70 of the 100 best tag teams during the PWI years with Tito Santana in 2003
PWI ranked him #74 of the 100 best tag teams during the PWI Years with Tony Garea in 2003