|This article first appeared in Wrestling
World, December 1987, several months after the split up of the Can-Am
Connection. It includes commendations from, among others, Hulk Hogan who
considered Zenk and Martel probable new WWF tag team champions.
In discussing the Can-Am split, the article incorporates - and then interrogates - WWF's version of Zenk's departure. However it fails to identify the real reasons for the split.
The interviews with Tom Zenk are fictitious.
The Can-Am Connection's New Direction by Allan Bolte 'Wrestling World', December, 1987
"Rick Martel and Tom Zenk have gone their separate ways. Once titans among the tag teams, the Can-Am Connection has come unconnected. Here's a look back at the dynamic duo and a look into the future for the Canadian, Martel, and the American, Zenk."
Rick Martel and Tom Zenk, once they joined forces, were known throughout the wrestling world as the Can-Am Connection. And once they burst upon the tag-team scene it didn't take them long to rise quickly to the top of the ratings.
Everything seemed to be going their way until the impossible happened: The Can-Am Connection came unconnected! Tom Zenk, worn down by the grueling lifestyle of professional wrestling, tired of the constant travel and wanting to spend some time with his family announced his retirement. He headed home to Minneapolis, thus ending the formal career of the Can-Am Connection. Whether his retirement is permanent, as Zenk now claims, or temporary remains to be seen. But we can now clearly see the beginnings of this dynamic duo and their skyrocket to stardom.
Before he teamed up with Zenk, Martel had already tasted the championship lifestyle. He had been successful in the W.W.F. tag team ranks with partner Tony Garea and had then gone on to prove himself in singles competition, culminating with his rise to the status of A.W.A. World champion.
"I've worked hard to get where I am today," Martel told Wrestling World. "I've been wrestling professionally for about nine years and I've had my share of hard knocks. I trained hard, took on some of the top wrestlers and whenever I was knocked down, I got right back up."
'Last year I decided I wanted to get back into tag team wrestling so I searched for a tag partner. I spent three months trying to find the right one and that's when I discovered Zenk."
"I liked his speed and stamina, he thought a lot like me and he was young and strong. So we discussed the idea of teaming together - he was all for it. He had heard about me and my good reputation. In fact, if anything, he said he was concerned that he wasn't as well known as me and that he didn't have quite the reputation," recalled Martel.
"But at the time all I was looking for was a good, capable partner and I was impressed with him; I liked what I saw. And fortunately we hooked up. I felt positively about our teaming ability - you could say that we had our eyes set on the tag belts."
At the time, the World Wrestling Federation had some of the greatest tag teams in wrestling such as The HArt Foundation (Jim 'the Anvil' Neidhart and Brett Hart with manager Jimmy Hart): The British Bulldogs; The Killer Bees; Magnificent Muraco and Cowboy Bob Orton and the new kids on the block Demolition.
So Martel and Zenk knew that they had their hands full. Still they readily accepted the challenge.
Martel was born 29 years ago [!] in Montreal, where he excelled in various sports including weightlifting, wrestling and football. His first professional match was in early 1978.
Zenk, 26, had been wrestling for only five years, and in that short time he has picked up what appeared to be a world of wrestling knowledge.
"These two are too young, they're just kids, they don't know what they're doing," said Jimmy Hart, manager of The Hart Foundation when the Can-Am Connection came on the scene. "They should be back in their play-pens. The Hart Foundation will probably have finished these two children off by the time this magazine is in print. They don't belong in wrestling, they should be in ballerina class instead."
On the other hand The Killer Bees had nothing but good things to say about Rick and Tom. "We teamed with Rick in a few six-man tag bouts and we were really impressed., " B. Brian Blair said. "These two are a great team and although we've never wrestled them, we'd look forward to such a match because we know they'd give us a run for our money.
"To sum it up, they give wrestling a good name. I'm tired of rule-breakers and people like King Kong Bundy, The Iron Sheik and Demolition giving wrestling a bad reputation.. I think Martel and Zenk can change things quickly."
World champion Hulk Hogan even commented on the duo's ability. "They're great, I see a good future for them," Hogan predicted. "They're definitely going places. They have what it takes to be a successful tag team. I admire them because they like to follow the rules and they know how to protect themselves in the ring. In other words, they're willing to fight fire with fire, and that's the way I like it. I believe they will win the tag-team championship in the very near future."
The Can-Am Connection was once asked some interesting questions by W.W.F. announcer Gene Okerlund. "Gentlemen," Gene asked them, "would you accept a match against each other at any time? If so, what would be your reaction?"
Both looked uncomfortable and Rick was the first to answer. "We wouldn't look forward to such a match, believe me," he responded slapping Zenk across the shoulder. "We're both friends and tag partners so it wouldn't be easy. But I admit that we have a similar style of wrestling so the match would be even.
"And neither of us would have to worry about anyone breaking the rules. It would be a good, scientific match. At this time we have no interest in finding out who's the better - or tougher wrestler between the two of us."
After a Can-Am victory over the team of Iron Mike Sharpe and Frank Patterson, Martel and Zenk explained the duo's philosophy. "We try to wrestle by the rules and we have pride in our sport," Zenk said. "We care about our reputation and we are concerned with our future. The fans have been good to us, they have always supported us and that means so much.
"Believe me, when you're in the ring getting the heck beaten out of you, it means quite a bit to have the fans on your side. They yell words of encouragement, they help by pumping that adrenaline in me, it keeps us going. It gives us that extra push and we need it.
"The fans always supported us so we want to return the favor if possible. We'd like to win the championship and then defend against the teams with bad reputations - you should know who we're talking about."
"Teams like The Hart Foundation, Demolition, Muraco and Orton and the Islanders. Here are eight wrestlers who would kill their mother if it meant winning a match or a championship. That isn't right, Rick and I believe in a different theory, different principles. The Islanders were at one time a good, capable tag team that we all could look up to. They won their matches and went on their way. Now they're trying to cripple as any opponents as they can" Martel said sadly.
"But they'll get theirs. What comes around goes around, as they say, and they'd be sorry for what they did. We'll bide our time with them."
Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, who claims he is the greatest manager in professional wrestling, never had anything positive to say about the Can-Am Connection. He even predicted that his newest team, The Islanders, would finish off Martel and Zenk, and after that win the World Tag Team championship.
"I have discovered the greatest team in wrestling," Heenan said. "The Islanders are powerful and sadistic. They think like I do and everyone knows I only take on the best. Martel and Zenk have no chance at winning the championship for one main reason - they are not managed by me. Everybody I take on wins the championship without fail, sooner or later. I think these two are speaking bad about me and the Islanders only because deep inside they're jealous that I won't be their manager."
"Remember one thing, they don't have the belts and they never will. And they'd better look over their shoulders at all times because the Islanders will be after them," threatened Heenan.
"Wrestling is one of the toughest pro contact sports in the country," Martel retorted, almost as a premonition to the breakup of the Can-Am Connection. "But we know that the fans will be behind us and that's important."
Well, also important to at least one half of the Can-Am Connection is his personal life. Was wrestling really too tough for Tom Zenk or were there just more important things for him to do? Will Rick Martel regain his status as one of the premier singles wrestlers in the country or will he keep up his momentum he's established in the tag ranks? These are just a few of the questions created by the Can-Am's new direction. All we can do is wish both Martel and Zenk luck and say "Thanks for the memories!".