Chad D. Aaron shines the spotlight on a legendary performer inside the ring–and personality outside of it–Rick Martel!
The Throwback Spotlight will bring you a profile on some of the under-appreciated stars of days gone by. Today, we look back at the career of Rick Martel’s and, of course, make a couple of comparisons to some stars of WWE today.
Martel began his career in the territory days, as many of his peers did in that era. He had a background as a stand-out amateur wrestler. That, along with his clean-cut looks and physique, helped make him a popular draw. He worked all over the globe, spending time in Georgia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, and various Canadian territories before landing in the Pacific Northwest, where he really began to develop into a bona-fide wrestling star.
In July 1980, he came to the WWF and was soon paired with Tony Garea, a tag team veteran with three title runs to his name at the time. It did not take long for them to become top contenders and in November they won the WWF World Tag Team Championships. They regained the championships later in 1981 for a second title run together as well.
In 1982 he headed back west, this time for the AWA. Martel quickly became a crowd favorite and before long was regularly challenging Nick Bockwinkel for the AWA World title. When Bockwinkel dropped the title to Jumbo Tsuruta, Martel quickly stepped in as Tsuruta’s top challenger. Martel claimed the AWA World Championship from Tsuruta in May of 1984. Martel was AWA champion when I first watched the AWA on ESPN.
As I became a regular reader of the Apter magazines, I read of AWA vs. NWA Title vs. Title matches at large joint shows. I was (and still am) a big fan of Ric Flair and Four Horsemen, so this news really caught my attention at the time. And when I read about Martel and Flair going to hour-long draws at these shows, it made an impression on me. In my young eyes, it put Martel on the same level as Flair and Hulk Hogan, the guys who I knew as world champions.
Martel’s AWA title run lasted over a year and a half, which was impressive at the time for the AWA title. Martel’s 595-day reign ranks as the third longest run, trailing only WWE Hall of Famers Bockwinkel & Verne Gagne. Gagne, the promoter, always put his top belt on guys who had legitimate in-ring acumen. He never featured gimmicks as his champions. Verne keeping the title on Rick that long says something to me about his in-ring prowess and his ability as a top draw for the company.
After his AWA exit, Rick was soon back in the WWF, as part of a tag team he had formed in Montreal with Tom Zenk: The Can-Am Connection. They had good chemistry together and were starting to get a decent push on WWF programming. The duo got a win at Wrestlemania III. The team turned out to be short lived, but what followed that was one of the more popular tag teams of the 80’s
Tito Santana and Rick Martel were even more over with the WWF crowds than Martel and Zenk. Although they were both ring veterans at this point, they were presented as a young, exciting, pretty boy tag team much in the way the Rockers would be later on. Of course, it did not hurt that both men were top workers in the ring as well. Tito Santana was a former Intercontinental Champion and was regularly featured on WWF TV. The team had a number of matches with the Islanders and eventually turned their attention to the Hart Foundation. They succeeded in unseating The Harts as WWF Tag Team Champions, giving Martel his third such title run in the WWF.
After dropping the titles to Demolition, Strike Force split up and Martel transformed into his most well-known persona, ‘The Model.’ He sprayed his trademark ‘Arrogance’ perfume at his beaten opponents and became the textbook narcissistic heel. He had a series of really good matches with Santana, Jake Roberts, as well as a young Shawn Michaels in one of HBK’s first feuds as a singles wrestler. This was now the early 90’s WWF, filled with over-the-top characters, and The Model fit right in. His in-ring ability led him to be called upon frequently when a new champion needed to look good in a title defense, or if there was a new star needing a push. The WWF would put Martel across the ring, knowing that he would get them the result they needed.
Being a native of Quebec, English was not his primary language. Despite that, during this time, his promo skills made huge strides, as his character necessitated him talking down to his opponents and extoling his own virtues. Looking back at some of his early career interviews, such as in his AWA run, you can tell he is not comfortable talking in front of a camera at all. At the time, in certain places, you could be a legit superstar based on ring work alone. This was no longer the case. When forming Strike Force with Santana, he gave a passionate interview about “Striking back with lightning force” that helped coin the team’s name. The improvement was evident, but he still had leaps and bounds to go with that side of the business. As the Model, he became a much better interview and really helped get his character over.
Martel vanished for a few years and the business changed. He re-emerged, kind of out of nowhere, in WCW in the late 90’s and had a couple of really good matches with yet another guy getting his first real singles push, Booker T. Martel won the WCW Television title during this time. However, this run was cut short due to an in-ring knee injury. His comeback match resulted in yet another injury, and Martel retired for good soon after.
Martel was one of the 80’s and early 90’s most successful, yet least heralded wrestlers. With his clean-cut image and good physique, he was the epitome of the white meat babyface for much of his career. Later on, he showed his versatility by transforming into a heat-drawing heel. Martel had classic wrestling matches with legends like Flair, Bockwinkel, and Michaels He could mix that up by going toe to toe with the best of the brawlers as well, such as a Stan Hansen and Jake Roberts. An in-ring great, he developed into a solid promo guy as well.
In my eyes, The Model was the clear inspiration for Tyler Breeze’s gimmick in NXT. Where Rick had his Arrogance, Tyler had his selfie stick. They filled similar roles in the company as well. When WWE needed a good Takeover match with Jushin Thunder Liger, or someone to main event an NXT show with the likes of Adrian Neville or Sami Zayn, there was Tyler Breeze to fill the spot. He made it believable, made his opponent look good, and keep the crowd invested.
Martel’s early career could be compared to someone like the early WWE run of Daniel Bryan. A top-notch ring technician who was not considered a good promo guy. Luckily, both were able to overcome that and show their abilities. Much as Bryan was often considered too small as well, the WWF of Martel’s day was the land of the giants. His 6-foot, 230-pound frame was looked at as perhaps too small. But, transplant Martel into today’s WWE, his body type and ring ability makes him a real candidate to grab a top spot.
So, as we talk and argue about the best wrestlers of all time, make sure we give Rick Martel his due. He found success everywhere he went, he could hold up as a top worker, he could play a gimmicky character. He was a top baby face and a heat-drawing heel.
Until next time, watch some wrestling this week, stay safe, and never forget to #UseYourHead!
AJ’s Controversial? Wrestling Opinions 10.12.21
AJ feels like spouting off about a few wrestling topics that bug him. How controversial are they though?
As Eric Bischoff, President of WCW once said, Controversy Creates Cash…no I’m serious; it’s even the title of a book that he did. Everyone has their hot takes on professional wrestling and some are always wide eyed and kind of shocking to some. There are some of us that will have same opinions or chastise me on a show or an article maybe but hey, don’t hate the player, hate The Game.
Maybe there are some that the readers at home agree with or you want to also be the one to chastise me, @PhenomenalAJB on Twitter. This one is going to be fun!
#1- There are more things than just WWE/AEW and are better majority of the time
There are many people that will rant, rave and complain that the mainstream product is so bland and boring and the classic, “Who even watches this trash?” Whether you love the flippy dippy do’s like I don’t or long drawn out storylines that peter out very quickly because fans aren’t invested in a story or character. To those people, I will say something very bold, very confusing and very… very controversial…
THERE ARE OTHER COMPANIES YOU CAN WATCH ON VARIOUS PLATFORMS IN VARIOUS MEANS ON YOUR OWN TIME!
I don’t know how and I don’t know why that this is even a topic. “TNA has been dead for years” No it hasn’t. Pay $1 USD for Impact Plus on YouTube so you can watch it without commercials at 8:30 Eastern. “Two hours is too long!” NWA and MLW both go for an hour on their respective YouTube Channels as well and if you want to watch, you can hop in at any time. Everyone has something for everyone and you might find your new favorite wrestler in a matter of minutes into an episode. I would never have known who Eli Drake (now LA Knight on SmackDown Live), Alexander Hammerstone or even in the early stages of TNA Impact, AJ Styles, was! You can watch more than what is broadcasted on your TV. Is it easier? Of course but, there is so much more than just the popular option.
#2- Belt Collecting now is just redundant and moronic
Back in 1996, Ultimo Dragon famously has a picture of him holding TEN championships looking like an amazing superstar with amazing defenses. What people don’t know is, that was because eight championship belts were united in a tournament called “The J-Crown Championship” with the adage of ‘All or Nothing’. He lost them one by one but, it was to show that he was the best Junior Heavyweight (or Cruiserweight/Light Heavyweight) out of everyone in various promotions.
People after that really haven’t belt collected other than unifying championships to a grand caliber… then Austin Aries showed up. Aries kind of revised the gimmick and brought it back to light. Newer fans might have thought this was cool but older fans kind of groaned and grumbled. I was one of them but, nothing is original in anything anymore so it’s a fresher concept at the time back in 2018. He did surpass Ultimo with ELEVEN championships but it seemed everyone started doing it to an extent after. Matt Cardona, after being released from WWE, started doing it, getting up to six championships before dropping them. As of right now, not necessarily solo belt collecting, The Bloodline has a stranglehold of the World Championships for both Singles and Tag Teams, we had Becky Two Belts, Bayley wanted Dos Straps but nothing makes this worse than Kenny Omega’s stint as a belt collector.
I am not and will never be a Kenny Omega fan. I don’t see the appeal, I don’t see the amazement or anything like that out of him. I’m impressed he did three 35+ Minute IWGP Championship matches against Okada because that takes a lot of stamina to do so but, that’s about it. When he won the AEW Championship, alright. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that since he helped build the company up. The Triple A Megas Championship… nothing too wrong here. I hate that he had five defenses in two years but he vacated it due to his injuries. It wasn’t until Don Callis and Omega popped into Impact and made the Hogan Era of TNA look like a dream… okay ALMOST but still. Kenny defeats Rich Swann and Moose in two different matches and has everyone else carry the belts while holding the AEW Championship. I understand heel tactics and mentality but at one point in an interview about going for the Impact Championship, he compared it to a common Comic Book and the AEW Championship as Superman Issue #1. I understand trying to be a heel in this story but you boost your clout, not rain on what you are going after. Heel or Face, belt collecting has just been a cluster within itself in the past four years and it honestly needs to stop.
#3- Overuse of Certain Moves
This one is a more recent problem that I have seen and no, I wish EC3 paid me to say this but it is true and very annoying to even bring up but here I am, wishing for Carter money and a fifth Rum & Coke…
Stop. Overusing. Moves. Because you think. They were cool.
If I had a shot for every time a Canadian Destroyer, Superkick, Suicide Dive, Avalanche (Insert High Spot here), Dual Dropkick spots where they cancel each other out or opposing members do back to back high spots on the prone partner spot… I would not have written this article due to death… even if it was water, I would have died due to drowning. They don’t look cool anymore when everyone does it. It’s bland. When Petey Williams wrestled in his last return to Impact, the Destroyer looked very… stale. Superkicks are the new DDT apparently (another Finisher turned common everyday move) and most people that do dives mess it up in some way shape or form whether it’s their feet get caught in the ropes, they didn’t get a full launch or they overshoot it. Having your own move special to you is difficult now but different wrestlers do their own styles or the pay homage to a family member or a wrestler that they interact with or ask permission… or asked to stop.
How’d you feel if you watched WCW and WWF in 1997 and saw DDP do the Diamond Cutter and HHH did the Pedigree Pandemonium and say they do the same move? That is exactly what happened too if Dallas didn’t ask Hunter to stop using it. We might not have the RKO out of nowhere or an iconic move that seldom bigger names use today.
That’s my list. I said before if you agree with my list and if you don’t and want to throw hate my way… @PCTunney is the hate mail account so enjoy!
AJ’s Thoughts: Five Potential Returns
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With Trips in charge and already starting to bring back some people that didn’t work in Vince’s picture, AJ got an idea. Who else could we see on the horizon radar?
With everything going on with WWE, the one thing we have all been hyped about are all of these returns. Dakota Kai made her return at SummerSlam alongside Io and Bayley and now on last SmackDown, Karrion Kross and Scarlett made their returns in a big way against Drew McIntyre and showed the Hourglass to The Bloodline.
With all of that, there have been things in the pipeline saying Triple H’s foot isn’t off the pedal so these are 5 returns from either NXT, main roster or even Try-Outs that I would love to see happen with the new regime.
1. Johnny Gargano
Now this is a name that people have been saying, “Maybe Impact or MLW” but, what about a return? Gargano didn’t renew his contract, most likely to be with his family which is a valid and amazing reason, will never disrespect that. If he were to return, there would be a handful of great reasons. Maybe a singles run with the Intercontinental or United States but with Ciampa getting limelight in the main roster from RAW, what if we get a tag team reunion?
WWE is hurting for Tag Teams and what better than to scare off The Bloodline, loosen the stranglehold of championships with some Do It Yourself action. DIY reunion could be amazing, especially with newer faces showing up to get championship aspirations like Kross and Ciampa. Want to break the hierarchy? Do It Yourself.
2. James Storm
This one is a little bit weird and off. On one hand, who doesn’t love the Tennessee Cowboy, Jimmy James Storm? On the other, he is 45 and getting some nagging injuries as of late. So why would I say Triple H should bring James Storm back and give him something for the main roster? One of the things I said for Gargano, we have a lack of something and The Usos might need to watch two things in the rearview.
Watch your Money and your Alcohol.
Beer Money showing up in WWE would be amazing in my personal opinion. The Bloodline jump Roode, someone in a hoodie or jacket comes up and jumps them to even the fight and as soon as one Uso remained in the ring, the figure goes down and the old stomping goes off and we hear “BEER…” and Roode looks around and gets hyped up and shouts, “…MONEY!”
3. Big Cass
Since his departure from WWE, he has done something I have said since they split him off from Enzo. Take him through the Kevin Nash School of How To Big Man. ROH and Impact are great examples that he actually cleaned up and worked on what he has to do to be good in the ring. He can work the microphone, he can work the ring so we got a new big boy to take on the WWE once again.
Now I could have said Enzo and Cass to rejoin but, I’m sure the antics of Enzo will get Cass in deep water along with the fact that I already made two tag team predictions, we don’t need another. Cass brings a lot to the table and was kind of unproven in WWE because he was just the big enforcer to the more charismatic Enzo. Give this man about six months in the ring and you have your next MASSIVE problem in the IC or US Championship scene or even more.
4. Bronson Reed
The big man from down under is a former NXT North American Champion. He looked to have a good push going with that championship but he got release. If you wonder where he went… he actually made a pit stop in Impact Wrestling as JONAH with the most fire theme song in recent history I swear… I will link the theme song and Trips… please. Get rights to this theme song. I will be a bigger Bronson Reed fan.
Bronson to me is the weird man in all of this but, I think with Triple H involved, he could get something going for him with a good singles champion run or a big threat to go through like a gatekeeper of sorts. Big boy with a great amount of athleticism? Can’t really hate on that considering the last time we saw athletic bigger people were Keith Lee and… what was that one guy? Sherman Tank with a Ferrari Engine…?
5. Bray Wyatt
And the last one is the obvious one in all of this. Yes… we have Judgment Day as the somewhat supernatural dark group but we know the true successor of the supernatural and that is “The Eater of Worlds”, “The Fiend” Bray Wyatt. This time around, I don’t think we will get the Jekyl and Hyde, Mister Rogers gimmick. I believe this time around we get full darkness and mayhem. We get the darkness and the theory of reverting back to your prime.
To make a refresher… Miz went back to being the cocky narcissist after fighting The Fiend. Finn turned back to the Prince and much more. With guys like Edge returning, maybe we see the return of the Heel Ultimate Opportunist, maybe a Fiend fight with AJ Styles to get the TN-AJ perhaps. Possibilities are endless and with a great mind like Wyatt for character and execution, I think Hunter will pick up the phone and Let Him In.
– There are clearly others that I could say, or maybe even didn’t think about, but hey, that’s the Chairshot way of Always Using Your Head. Those are just five returns that could happen and hopefully you read this before RAW or SmackDown and who knows if I get any of these right, maybe I missed an obvious one or maybe we get a giant signing that nobody thought possible. Let me and all of Chairshot know!
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