|This article by
Liz Hunter appeared in Pro-Wrestling Illustrated in June 1987, only
weeks before the Can-Am Connection's split up.
While the article emphasizes the Can-Am's evident physical appeal, this is qualified by proper recognition of their ring skills and vigorous training regimes.
Pervading the article is an undertone of skepticism about Martel's actual contribution to the Can-Am Connection - questioning, for example, his supposed 'sudden appeal' - given his considerable longevity in the business (then 16 years); and Martel's actual contribution to the team's 'sex appeal'.
The article was designed
to prepare fans for Zenk and Martel's succession to the WWF tag titles,
then held by The Hart Foundation.
Can-Am Can Do! Rick Martel and Tom Zenk light up the WWF!
by Liz Hunter, PWI June 1987
"For years the WWF has lacked its own equivalent to The Rock 'n Roll Express, Fantastics and Midnight Rockers. The Can-Am Connection, Rick Martel and Tom Zenk, fit the image. But before you give them a copycat label, watch what they can do in the ring!" Ever take a look around the arena during a World Wrestling Federation card? The majority of the audience is comprised of males - young, middle aged and old, - with an occasional tag along mother, wife or girlfriend thrown in for good measure. Sure there are female wrestling fans in attendance, but compared to other major areas they comprise a low percentage. The WWF has more than its share of big, strong, muscular wrestlers, but it is seriously lacking in the looks department.
In other words, Paul Orndorff, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Davey Boy Smith will never be approached for one of those Gentleman's Quarterly "style of the stars" features. That space is reserved for the Ron Darlings of the sports world. And the bi-annual "Who is Wrestling Sexiest Superstar?" poll conducted by our sister publication Wrestling Superstars has been reserved for the Rick Mortons, Robert Gibsons, Magnum T.A.s, and Von Erichs of the mat world.
True the WWF has had the occasional heartthrob (i.e. Rick Steamboat) but the federation has generally resisted the current trend toward "pretty boy" tag teams. The NWA has The Rock 'n Roll Express, the AWA has The Midnight Rockers. Until very recently, the UWF had The Fantastics. Up until a few months ago, the best the WWF had to offer its female fans was The British Bulldogs. Arf!
Introducing The Can-Am Connection, and that sound you hear is female fans knocking down the gates at arenas all across the country straining to get a good look at Rick Martel and Tom Zenk, the WWF's gift to the ladies. Now look around any WWF arena and what do you see? Ecstasy!
Trying to explain the appeal of the Can-Ams is nearly impossible, so let's have a breathless WWF fan give it a try. "Tommy and Ricky are, well, they're just the most incredible looking men I've ever seen, " sighed Lisa Zitowski at a recent Madison Square Garden show. "They're dark and handsome and just solid muscle. They both have the nicest hair and the prettiest eyes. Tommy and Ricky make my heart beat faster!"
The sudden appeal of Martel is somewhat surprising, because he's no newcomer to wrestling. The Montreal native held the WWF World tag team championship with Tony Garea in 1980 and 1981 and then went on to the AWA, where he was World champion for 19 months before bowing out to Stan Hansen. From there, Martel headed for his homeland and began training Zenk, whom he had met months before in the AWA.
From all reports, Martel was immediately impressed with Zenk and realized that their styles complemented each other. Zenk, a former bodybuilder, had only been wrestling for two years, so Martel, a very young, but very experienced 16-year veteran of the sport, took the youngster under his wing. Martel is from Quebec City: Zenk is from Minneapolis. Therefore The Can-Am Connection.
They figured to go far on their wrestling talent, but what they didn't bank on was the sex appeal factor. Martel did earn the distinction of "Wrestling's Sexiest Superstar" in 1982. The fact that he dropped to number three in 1984 and number 16 in 1986 does not mean he isn't as sexy as he once was. The truth is that Martel was flattered, but embarrassed by winning the poll in 1982 and afterwards he went out of his way to play down his sex appeal so as not to detract from his considerable wrestling abilities.
Strange things happen to a man in the WWF, however. In the land where money talks, Martel seems very willing to cash in on his and Zenk's appeal to women. A recent segment on a WWF TV program saw Martel and Zenk discussing the virtues of women in various cities throughout the U.S. and Canada. And while a year ago Martel would have vetoed such a segment in favor of a televised strategy discussion or training session, that's not the case anymore.
But, don't under any circumstances, get the idea that this new team doesn't train seriously away from the camera. From what they do in the ring, it is obvious that they train very hard. And with the injury suffered by Dynamite Kid, they've replaced The British Bulldogs as the number one fan favorite team in WWF. This means that they're also the number one contenders for The Hart Foundation's newly won World tag team championship.
Even though Martel and Zenk haven't been together long, wrestling experts predict that their style will present major problems for Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, and if they can maintain their number one contender's status long enough to get a series of matches with the champions, they are likely to take the title. The Hart Foundation, remember, failed in countless title opportunities against a health pair of British Bulldogs, which indicates that either they are not solid championship material or they have big problems with speedy tag teams.
The only question is: How long can The Hart Foundation hold off The Can-Ams lightning fast combination of double dropkicks and over-the-rope swan dives? Zenk, a mere baby by wrestling standards, is only getting better. Martel, renewed by his partner's exuberance, is on the top of his game.
"I don't think I've ever seen Rick look better," said former partner Tony Garea. "His dropkicks, his execution is just perfect. I remember when we were a team, we were pretty tough to beat and Rick just couldn't wait to get into the ring every night. I think he looks at Zenk like a teacher looks at his star pupil and it excites him to think about what they can accomplish together. Rick and Tom can go very far."
Just how far remains to be seen. But if nothing else, the Can-Ams have filled the WWF's most serious void. The WWF has its Rock 'n Roll Express. Martel and Zenk have made the connection.
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