Paul Vachon: Wrestling’s Beloved ‘Butcher’

"Butcher" Paul Vachon was fierce. The burly, bald, bearded, barrel-chested baddie and brawling brother of "Mad Dog" Vachon formed one of the greatest tag teams in history. Wrestling in some forty countries over a thirty-two-year career, Paul was also a singles contender challenging the top champions of his day. He was also the adopted father of Luna Vachon. This is his remarkable story.

Butcher Paul Vachon over the years.
Butcher Paul Vachon over the years.

Paul Vachon: Beginnings

Paul Vachon grew up as one of thirteen children of Ferdinand Vachon, a Montreal police officer. His mother was a descendant of the French royal family.

In an Icons of Wrestling interview with Paul, he laughed, "I could claim, if I wanted to, to be a descendant of the French Kings, but I’d rather not."

In discussing his entrance into the wrestling business, he shared:

"At fourteen, I was 6’1" and weighed 185 pounds. My brother [Maurice ‘Mad Dog’ Vachon] was already a professional wrestler then. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be big enough.

“I wrestled for The Canadian Championship; I won the Silver Medal for the Province of Quebec.

“I talked to my brother, who was wrestling in Texas, and he said, ‘That’s enough amateur stuff. You’re never going to make money wrestling amateur. You’re going to turn pro."

In 1957, he followed his brother Maurice into professional wrestling, adopting the Mad Dog’s vicious style and the moniker “Butcher” Vachon.

His first match was challenging, to say the least.

"We’re wrestling against Dory Funk, Sr., and another wrestler named Tough Tony Borne (father of Matt Borne, aka ‘Doink the Clown’). It was a tag match.

“My brother wrestled for five or six minutes, tagged me, and goes, ‘Okay, come in!’

“And believe it or not, I couldn’t move! My legs were shaking. My teeth were chattering. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and my brother said, ‘C’mon! It’s your turn!’

“I just can’t come in; I couldn’t do it.

“So, my brother wrestled another five or six minutes, muttering under his breath.

“He said, ‘Are you ready now?’

“He came over and tags me, and I still couldn’t come in.

“He got mad and said, ‘If you’re not going to come into this ring, I’m going to take you back to the farm tomorrow!’

“So that did it, and I stepped into the ring, and I was still petrified.

“The guy I was wrestling saw what was happening and said, ‘Hey kid, you know when you dive in the amateurs? Do the same thing to me.’

“So, I leg-dived him, and my stage fright never came back."

It was onwards and upwards from there.

Butcher Paul Vachon faces Gorilla Monsoon at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1976. [Photo taken by Wrealano@aol.com for use on Pro Wrestling Stories]
Butcher Paul Vachon faces Gorilla Monsoon at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1976. [Photo taken by Wrealano@aol.com for use on Pro Wrestling Stories]

The Butcher and the Mad Dog

Wrestling is riddled with kayfabe brother tag teams. But when you talk about the great legit brother tag teams of all time, Butcher Paul Vachon and Mad Dog Vachon would be at or near the top of that list.

Paul cites his brother as the wrestler he most admires.

"He was 5’7. I have seven brothers. He was the shortest of them all, but let me tell you, he was the toughest one of all.

“They always told him, ’Well, you can be in the professional wrestling business if you want to, but it’s not like in the amateurs. You’re too small. You’ll never make money.’ That’s all they had to tell him.

“So, he said, ‘I’m going to prove them wrong!"

And Mad Dog did just that. As did The Vachons tag team.

YouTube video

After wrestling worldwide, he rejoined his brother. Maurice had been making good money with the moniker Mad Dog that promoter Don Owen had bestowed upon him due to his crazed brawling antics.

In the documentary 350 Days, Vachon reminisced about how he got his ring name.

Mad Dog wanted to name him "Paul the Pig," but it didn’t appeal to him. So, they settled instead on the gory-sounding "Butcher."

The Vachons went on to win many prestigious titles, including the AWA Tag Team Titles, which they held for an amazing three and a half years.

He cites their toughest match as being against Dick The Bruiser and The Crusher in a cage at Comiskey Park in front of 30,000 people.

A Great Wrestling Family

Butcher Paul Vachon with his sister Vivian and brother Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon on the cover of Wrestling Monthly (March '72 edition).
Butcher Paul Vachon with his sister Vivian and brother Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon on the cover of Wrestling Monthly (March ’72 edition).

When you think of great wrestling families, the Anoa’i family tree is massive, and fans are also well aware of The Funks, Windhams, Von Erichs, Guerreros, and Rhodes families, among others. And currently, the Mysterios are going at it for millions to enjoy.

But sometimes left out of the discussion is the great Vachon clan. Some younger fans aren’t aware of how deep their family roots go.

Paul was the adoptive father of the fierce and fabulous late Luna Vachon. He is not only the brother of Mad Dog Maurice but also Vivian Vachon, who died tragically in a car wreck.

Vivian was married and divorced from noted wrestler Buddy Wolfe, and she shines bright in the documentary Wrestling Queen.

Paul is also the former father-in-law of wrestlers David "Gangrel" Heath and Tom Nash.

Regarding family, Paul has seven children and has been married four times.

JJ Dillon and Butcher Vachon discuss the Vachons here:

YouTube video

Solo Glory for Paul Vachon

Paul Vachon was a top singles challenger headlining cards worldwide, including in India, where he drew massive crowds, nearly inciting a riot in a soccer stadium holding 55,000 people.

He’s faced many of the greatest world champions in history, including Jack Brisco and Verne Gagne, and in 1975 entered the WWWF to take on Bruno Sammartino in various arenas, including the Nassau Coliseum.

Vermont’s Seven Days cite, "Children of the 1980s are likelier to recall his groundbreaking TV wedding on a 1984 episode of WWE’s (then WWF) Tuesday Night Titans.

“The show was initially planned as an actual wedding for Vachon and his fiancée at Madison Square Garden. But when she broke the engagement, WWE head Vince McMahon Jr. decided to substitute a lengthy series of skits, an early stab at the soaps-for-men genre he would create on the USA Network.

“Audiences watched a scripted narrative in which "Captain Lou" Albano objected to the marriage until he found out the bride wasn’t a virgin — all leading to a massive, messy pie fight.

Vachon ducked out of that battle early, he remembers. "I had my brand-new suit; I knew to stay out of the way."

Mentoring Andre the Giant

Noted wrestling photojournalist Dr. Mike Lano credits Paul Vachon as an important influence in the career of Andre The Giant.

Paul, along with Maurice, Edouard Carpentier, and others- immensely helped Andre the Giant in his earliest years in Paris, Japan, and finally got him to even greater fame as Jean Ferré in Montreal.

Paul helped book Andre’s matches there with fellow giants Don Leo Jonathan and Killer Kowalski. And he also helped Andre later in WWWF and other territories, putting him over for Andre’s earliest debuts in “The Lower 48,” as Paul used to call the U.S.

Watch Andre the Giant vs. Butcher Paul Vachon:

YouTube video

Working The Territories and Around the World

Dr. Mike Lano cites Vachon’s amazing travels.

"For anyone who only knows his WWWF/WWF work, Paul Vachon was a huge star throughout our territories golden era. Look at all he and Maurice did in the AWA, Ed Francis’ Hawaii, Omaha, Atlanta, Florida, and many other circuits and offices—tons of singles and tag straps everywhere.

“And as ‘The Butcher,’ on mic promos with Maurice, he was often the ‘voice of reason’ for Mad Dog.

“Paul is proud of not just his AWA and Atlanta work; but also of his tours to Japan’s AWA-affiliated IWE."

The Wrestling Scout website discussed Vachon’s world travels as well.

"As a teenager, Paul worked for Bert Ruby in Detroit, starting his career in 1957.

“By the 1960s, Butcher Paul Vachon was a world traveler, performing across Canada and the United States before succeeding in India, Australia, Pakistan, and England.

“He starred in Bollywood movies opposite Dara Singh; he wrestled in the famous Royal Albert Hall before the Duke of Edinburgh; he wrestled before a reported 85,000 fans in Karachi.

“Back in North America, Vachon achieved his greatest success.

“In Georgia, he brought in the former "Mad Russian," made him Stan Vachon, and worked a program with the Torres Brothers.

“Next, he had a lengthy run in the AWA when that promotion was arguably at its peak, often partnering with Mad Dog.

“Nearing forty, Paul returned to Quebec and was a key partner in the Grand Prix promotion that challenged Johnny Rougeau’s established International Wrestling.

“The ’70s promotional war lit the city on fire for several years. Vachon dedicated himself to running the promotion before selling out and hitting the road again for another ten years."

Butcher Paul Vachon in Los Angeles

Butcher Paul Vachon worked virtually all the territories, and Dr. Mike Lano, who shot for the legendary Los Angeles front office, has first-hand memories of his run there.

"Paul came into our Los Angeles territory in 1976 and was immediately put with Chavo Guerrero, who’d debuted for us about seven months earlier in 1975 with his dad.

Gory Guerrero was primarily there to help get his son over as Chavo was thrust almost immediately out of the blue as our lead face.

“Vince McMahon Sr. had sent Paul, Johnny Rodz, and SD Jones to work in L.A. to help out his long-time promoting pal Lebell since 1975, Los Angeles began crumbling with talent leaving.

“John Tolos was taking one of his breaks from promoter Mike Lebell.

Other lead SoCal faces like Fred Blassie, Bobo Brazil, and Mil Máscaras were long gone, and experiments like Cowboy Frankie Layne hadn’t worked long-term.

“When Gory returned to El Paso, Paul arrived oddly as a babyface and resumed Gory’s role as a sort of father figure character, teaming right away with Chavo and soon winning our America’s Tag Titles.

“Butcher Paul said in promos that he would have Chavo’s back fighting Roddy Piper. Piper had been thrust in as lead heel opposing Chavo.

“He managed an army of heels, including Crusher Verdu and Java Ruuk (Johnny Rodz), doing an ‘The Sheik’ Ed Farhat knockoff gimmick.

“Paul was a face in his amazing Montreal Grand Prix promotion, where he, Maurice, and Vivian were over and beloved. But he had only worked in the U.S. as a heel. Thus, the fans were initially confused with this giant playing a fan favorite for us but soon took to him, which helped get Chavo over further.

“For weeks, vignettes would air, introducing viewers to Mando Guerrero, who then debuted, And later brother Hector. Paul Vachon would subsequently team with Mando and Hector, giving them the ‘big time’ rub.

“Paul eventually left us and went back to WWWF."

An Ailing Icon

Over the years, Paul Vachon has battled colon and throat cancers and dealt with various issues stemming from Diabetes.

On his Facebook page, Paul Vachon recently posted the following.

“To all my Family. Friends. Fans. Foes.

I want to tell everyone that my voice has given out. My memory is slowly leaving me, and I am now in the hospital, having a tumor on my skull removed.

The one thing I can do is read. I would love to read any stories, good or bad, that you may have. I will enjoy reading them, and it does bring back my memory.

THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES.”

This was followed by:

“My surgery went well. I am resting at Valhalla with my caregiver Dee waiting a few days to go back and check to see how things are healing.

I am WITHOUT words listening to Dee read SO MANY COMMENTS of all the folks who touched my life.

Thank you isn’t enough to say to show my appreciation for all the kind words that are bringing me so much joy, laughter, tears, goosebumps, and smiles.

Thanks for the memories.

It’s those ‘SPECIAL MOMENTS IN TIME’ that keep me going.

I’ll keep in touch.

Yours from the Squared Circle and life.

Paul Vachon”

A Beloved Figure

As one of wrestling’s oldest living legends, Butcher Paul Vachon is a beloved elder statesman nobody has a bad word to say about- a decided rarity in this business.

These are but a few of the glowing comments gathered from wrestling dignitaries.

DARREN ANTOLA (Executive Producer: 350 Days):

"He told us, ‘Thank you for respecting and interviewing us about our business.’ I remember him telling us that. He is a super nice guy."

MICKEY DOYLE (Wrestling Legend):

"I worked with Butcher in Los Angeles in a TV match. We did about ten minutes, and he worked his tail off. He was taking bumps, and it surprised me.

I found him to be a very nice man. This would have been either 1977 or ’78.

He is a legend and a giant of a man."

JULIAN RICH (Wrestling Journalist):

"I was driving down from Portland, Maine, towards Boston and took the old Route One and pulled over at a roadside craft fair, and there he was selling knives.

We had an enjoyable conversation, and I thanked him for many moments of enjoyable TV, especially the wedding."

NIKITA BREZNIKOV (Author: When It Was Real):

"I remember with fondness how Butcher Vachon used to wipe his hands then make a sweeping away motion as if to say, ‘Take this trash away.’

He was a large, menacing figure that never failed to deliver."

SCOTT WILSON (Wrestling Historian):

"I was sitting ringside at Nassau Coliseum 1975, and Andre the Giant backdropped him. You thought the ring would collapse. He weighed about 350-375 that night. A beloved, heartfelt memory."

IAN ABUGOV (Wrestling Historian):

"I have an amazing recollection of meeting Paul Vachon at the airport when I was twelve.

While waiting to greet family, my mother astutely spotted Paul Vachon about 100 feet away, and I ran over to him.

The Butcher was very affable and friendly. He gave me a bear hug, tipping me off why wrestlers submit so quickly. It felt like my ribs were interacting, kind of like a slinky toy going down the stairs.

At that time, Vachon ran a very successful promotion in Montreal, competing directly with the Rougeau clan.

For years, he had exclusive rights to the hallowed Montreal Forum.

Vachon’s current state deeply saddens me; it’s never easy to see a boyhood hero fall gravely ill."

DAVEY O’HANNON (Pro Wrestling Legend):

“Paul and I traveled together for many miles. We became very friendly when I first got to the New York territory.

Years later, when he was winding down his wrestling, he came up with an ‘invention’ for paper boys to cart around their papers.

I was involved in the newspaper business, and Paul called to ask if I could help. I set up meetings with people from all of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut publishers.

He stayed at my home for about a week and made his contacts.

Evenings would find him in the living room with my wife, three-year-old daughter, and myself. Just imagine Butcher Vachon on the floor playing with a little blond three-year-old!

When they were done playing, he would instruct Amanda on how to put her toys away properly.”

DR. MIKE LANO (Wrestling Photojournalist):

"Paul has always been an amazing friend. I looked forward to his calls over the years and later sitting and chatting with him at length at reunions like Cauliflower Alley Club.

He has always been a huge part of grappling history but also loved recording it.

He wrote a series of books on wrestling history, using my photos and others.

He always included his first-hand take on, for example, Montreal outdoor Jarry Park mega shows—or philosophical differences between Vince Senior and Junior.

There was a documentary done on The Vachons, as well, The Last Villains.

When I was in Montreal in the ’80s, Paul took me around to the last surviving Mad Dog Burgers franchise and gave me a detailed history of the once-thriving chain.

As always, he had a ton of stories about it during its heyday. And about the magical venues there like Verdun Auditorium.

Paul also has an amazing operatic singing voice. Once at a Cauliflower Alley reunion when we were still in Los Angeles, he had a ‘sing-off’ with Fabulous Kangaroo Al Costello, who had an equally super voice.

The love I got to see that he had for daughter Angel, Gertie, who most knew and loved as Luna Vachon, was really something.

She’d often introduce Paul to others as not just her dad but her best friend and protector in the world. Whenever Paul and I would talk about Vivian, Luna would break down in tears.

The bond this family has always had with one another and the importance and contributions they’ve made to the biz, Paul in particular, are staggering.

I’m praying for Paul’s health right now, as we all are, and I wanted to give him his well-deserved flowers.

He’s always carried himself with such grace while always seeking out more from life overall. And helping out any green talent who’d come to him asking for any advice, which he gave out cheerfully.

Paul, I want to remind you how much our community loves and respects you.

How someone as lovely and giving as you could ever have been named one of wrestling’s “Butchers” is beyond us. Maybe because you “sliced and diced” this industry with kindness.

Yes, ‘La Vie en Rose.’"

Family is everything for Butcher Paul Vachon (right), seen here with his brother "Mad Dog" Vachon and daughter Luna Vachon during a 2009 Cauliflower Alley Club event. [Photo taken by Wrealano@aol.com for use on Pro Wrestling Stories]
Family is everything for Butcher Paul Vachon (right), seen here with his brother “Mad Dog” Vachon and daughter Luna Vachon during a 2009 Cauliflower Alley Club event. [Photo taken by Wrealano@aol.com for use on Pro Wrestling Stories]

The Legacy of Butcher Paul Vachon

In his Icons of Wrestling interview, looking back at his life, Vachon emotionally and tearfully shared his joy and pain and the sacrifices he made as a wrestler.

"You know, I’ve read people who live the longest and happiest lives are the ones who can turn the page. And I realize you have to block it all out, but I had seven children and never really had the opportunity to bring them up.

“Life is but a collection of memories, and people ask me why were you a wrestler if it wasn’t for the money? I was really in it for the stories I can tell. And I can tell a lot of stories.

“I want to be remembered as somebody who wanted to see the world. And meet lots of people and be friendly with lots of them. I wanted to be happy, and I figured that’s what would make me happy. It did, and I’m grateful for that."

Yes, Paul Vachon collected a boatload of belts, memories, and friends in his travels around the globe. And to this day, the wrestling community loves and treasures this gentle and genial 85-year-old elder statesman ironically named "Butcher."

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Evan Ginzburg is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories and a contributing writer since 2017. He's a published author and was an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie "The Wrestler" and acclaimed wrestling documentary "350 Days." He is a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring.