Yes. Our first show as "The Can-Am Connection" was while I was still based in Montreal .... it was a sell-out at the Montreal Forum against The British Bulldogs - a hell of a show! Then we did some TV in the US before going back to Montreal to catch Air Canada to Tokyo for AJPW's 1986 "Most Prestigious Tag Tournament".
22. How did the Can-Am get over in Japan?
After we wrestled the Funks [Terry
Funk and Dory Funk Jr.] in Japan, the office came back. Lord Bleares called
Rick aside. Rick had cut Bleares some slack from their time in Hawaii.
Rick came back and said "They want to put us over in the tournament - as
tag champs over [Stan] Hansen and [Ted] DiBiase." But Rick told them "we
can't." He told them we had commitments in the US. I said "Rick,
let's take it, It's twice what I'm earning in WWF." They wanted us
to win the tournament. But I found out in the next day or two that
Martel hated Japan. All the stresses he had about being away from home
just doubled in Japan. He was also allergic to peanut oil which they cook
with there. His face would blow up like the elephant man. He'd break out
in a rash if I ate a Snickers bar in the car. And, like Johnny Ace he wanted,
above all, to be a big star in the US. He wanted to be the wrestler from
Quebec who made it in the US.
The deal was, we would both get paid $5,000 a week, with one-month-on and one-month-off. AJPW would pay all our airfares and tax. But Rick insisted on a personal payment of $6,000 a week. When he'd been in Japan as AWA champ he'd been getting $10,000 a week. But his career had gone down-hill since then and Baba felt he was arrogant to insist on so much money. I was getting $2,500 a week as his tag partner in WWF and the Japan deal would have doubled my pay. I didn't know then how much Vince was paying Rick but in the back of my mind was the nagging question "Why wouldn't Rick want to be tag team champion in All-Japan UNLESS he had a better deal in WWF - better than the one I had..."
24. If Martel refused the deal, then presumably you 'lost' the tournament. What was it like wrestling Hansen and Dibiase?
Hansen knew we had good looks
and good bodies. He knew we were over. So he f***** up the match. He ignored
the spots. He brawled to stop us looking good. Stan is like Ole Anderson.
"F**** the pretty boys!" He told Johnny Ace one time - "Even if you
can't get the match over, you've got to get yourself over." He'll
take your head off with a clothesline, then say "Sorry brother, I didn't
see properly." [Hansen wears bottle glasses outside the ring]. He was always
a clumsy stiff worker.
Rick conducted the negotiations
with McMahon in the US while I was still working in Montreal. [This was
before the Japan tour]. He told me "a ship can only have one captain" and
I agreed, given his long experience in the business, that he would be "the
captain" . He treated me like my brothers would treat me and I trusted
him. He was a caring, good guy. He was nice to me. I was raised on
respect and I respected him. You've got to take a chance on someone and
I took a chance on him. At the same time I was concerned at the way he'd
made a deal behind the backs of [Gino] Brito, [Dino] Bravo and Tony Muley
- his partners in IWA.
26. Was it your understanding that both of you would be drawing the same pay from WWF? And do you think there was any intention by Martel or McMahon to deceive you into believing this?
We signed separate contracts. I signed in Montreal. Rick would never let me see his copy of the contract. I said I didn't want to sign a separate contract - I was pushing his buttons to guage his reaction. He told me "Vince needs you to sign the contract. Vince is very big on loyalty." I think Rick thought I was a mark for the business, a young guy with "stars in his eyes" who was just happy to be in the ring. Veterans think they can work "naive", "dumb", young wrestlers - but I always regarded wrestling as a business. I was in it for the money. My understanding was that Rick and I were signing as equal partners. And a "partnership" to me, means 50 - 50. Do you think, honestly, I would go along with him taking more money than me - or did they just forget to tell me? I assumed that, in any negotiations, it would be me and Rick against the promoter. But Rick had worked for Vince before and Vince went along with the idea of Rick taking a larger share of the contract money. He didn't tell me any details of the negotiations and I never got to meet or speak with McMahon himself. In fact Rick blocked me everytime I said I wanted to speak to Vince. So I'd say, yes, he deceived me purposely. When I finally got to know the details, I left it alone for a while so that Rick could dig himself into his own lie. As far as I'm concerned, I was totally honest with him. And it was he who broke the trust between us. It was ultimately Rick, with his greed, who split the Can-Am Connection.
27. Martel has argued that he was a veteran offering to help a younger wrestler into the spotlight. He uses this to justify taking a larger share of the contract money. Is there ANY merit in this argument?
Rick had experience but, on the
other hand, I had youth. From my point of view, it was a combination of
equal partners. Rick wasn't doing me any favors. I mean, do you think Rick
was trying to help me or help himself? If I couldn't have held the
spot, Rick would never have had me! In fact, neither Rick nor Vince McMahon
would have had me! At that stage Rick had the reputation of being a "quitter"
who'd lost the AWA title by submitting to Hansen in the boston crab. He
was known everywhere as a "quitter" and that really troubled him. As AWA
heavyweight champion, Martel couldn't draw money and the Gagnes' were looking
for a hot heel to replace him. Martel took his revenge on Verne by hand-picking
Stan Hansen to drop the belt to. By choosing Hansen, Rick knew there would
be very few opportunities for the Gagnes' to make any money out of
title defences in the US, because Hansen's bread and butter work was in
Japan. On the other hand, Rick knew there'd be big money opportunities
for himself challenging Hansen in Japan. When Martel was booking in Montreal
he'd done some favors for Baba, like promoting Toshiaki Kawada during his
tour of Canada. That gave him an 'in' with Baba and he was looking for
$10,000 a week to wrestle Hansen in AJPW as the former AWA Champion.
28. So you're saying that, although Martel was a veteran, his experience wasn't enough to justify taking a larger share of the contract money?
Well despite loads of experience,
Rick's career WAS floundering. On the other hand I had youth and I'm convinced
that I made up at least half of the Can-Am's appeal. The truth is that
Rick found out his real net worth as a veteran when I left. I mean, according
to Rick and the rest of the team at WWF, when I left I took away "no knowledge"
and "no talent." And they replaced me with a really good worker, much better
than me - Tito Santana - another veteran much closer to Rick's age - and
look what happened! They never drew the same! They never made the same
money! Rick found out his true value, his true net worth without
me, in 'Strike Force'. I think that sums it up!
29. The Can-Am Connection seems to have been an overnight success in the WWF....
Yes. Rick often says in the wrestling press that we COULD have been the best tag team ever - but I have no doubt in my mind we WERE the best tag team! Better than Zenk and Pillman! We had the looks, body, size and we put out 100% each night for the WWF. We had it all! And Rick spoiled it with his greed - and I'm sure that's why he's still bitter about it. Vince was a FOOL to pay Rick more than me and create problems between us. Rick says in interviews that we were best friends - but as partners in any type of business, it should be equal as far as money goes. Rick always lied about the money. He claimed we made the same amount. Personally, I made a lot more money after I left the WWF.
30. Immediately after you left, Rick and the people at WWF tried to convince the fans that you were a "quitter" who couldn't stand the pace of the pro-wrestling business .....
You know people will often accuse
you of the things that are, in many cases, more true of themselves. That's
what I think happened in Rick's case. He was often stressed out and under
pressure from his wife. And then he'd accuse ME of being stressed out.
I think it was the same with the quitter tag. Being labelled
a "quitter" damaged Rick's career during 1985-6, but that didn't seem to
stop him from using the same tag to try and damage me a year later. When
I left the WWF, he knew people would be hot at me for being labeled as
a "quitter". The WWF also used that tag to enhance the new team of Tito
Santana and Rick Martel - saying Tom Zenk was a "quitter" who "couldn't
take the stress" or "was not mentally tough enough to compete at that level".
That should have brought a lot of sympathy for Martel and enhanced the
WWF's product - especially when Rick labelled me as "leaving like
a thief in the night", a "coward" who "didn't have what it takes" and worst
of all a "quitter". In American society nobody respects a quitter - especially
when it seemed the Can-Ams had it all going for them. Right? But,
as things turned out, it didn't do anything at all to enhance "Strike Force".
|"WWF was like the mob - they
were very big on loyalty but when you wanted out, they went after you.
I told Linda [McMahon] "I've got the New York Times' phone number in front
of me. How would you like me to ring them and tell them that you've got
Dr Zahorian in your locker room with 2 tackle boxes full of steroids, painkillers,
speed and downers? And you're making money out of selling your product
to little children." And Linda said "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
I said "Are you threatening me?" and she replied "You can take it any way