An additional chapter of an in depth look at the growth of women’s wrestling, from noted ring historian The Phantom of the Ring.

THE PHANTOM OF THE RING

Lipstick, Dynamite and Glowworms, Part 31

The Vachons

.

.

.

004VivianVachon

.

While male dynastic connections in wrestling are easily found and vetted as thoroughly as wrestling allows, the distaff side of the coin is rarely mentioned in contrast, even when it takes place within the same family. This is the case with the Vachons. Over the years, Maurice and Paul have been feted and much has been written about them. When it comes to Vivian and Luna, however, we quickly discover that not only isn’t this the case, but that a veritable dearth of information prevents us from knowing more about these two remarkable athletes, though more has come out about Luna since her untimely death, mainly due to the WWE connection and the fact she died too soon in a haze of prescription drugs.

.

003VivianVachon

.

Vivian Vachon was born Diana Vachon in 1951 in Montreal; one of thirteen children born to Ferdinand Vachon, a Montreal police officer who later retired and invested his retirement on a small farm in Quebec. Wrestling ran in the family and Vivian was no different, though she was the only female Vachon to express an interest in the sport beyond the backyard. Brother Maurice, himself an Olympic wrestler before turning pro, instructed her in the basics and when she turned 16, he arranged for her to attend Moolah’s school in Columbia, South Carolina. (It was widely assumed that, because of the 21 year gap in their ages, Vivian was actually Maurice’s daughter.) Supposedly while there she dated one of Moolah’s nephews, which is not as outrageous as it sounds, as many of Moolah’s male relatives either dated or married her charges.

.

01viv-vachon

.

She began her wrestling career in 1969, adopting the ring name Vivian Vachon (she would be billed variously as Viviane Vachon, Vivien Vachon, and Vivianne Vachon, depending on how the promoter spelled her name) because it flowed better with Vachon.  She quickly ditched Moolah and used her brothers’ connections to obtain bookings, which is why she never made an appearance in the Northeast, where Moolah handled the women’s bookings.

.

002vivian

.

On February 4, 1971, she defeated Betty Nicoli in Los Angeles for the California Women’s Championship. Nicoli won the belt back sometime in 1973. Whether it was contested or awarded is not known.  Vachon also toured the AWA, winning its version of the Women’s Title by defeating Betty Nicoli on November 4, 1971, in Winnipeg, Canada. Some accounts state that Vachon defeated Bette Boucher for the belt, but as Boucher never toured the AWA, we can accept that Nicoli was the champion. (At least we know Vachon defeated someone named  Betty.) The title reverted back to Nicoli on August 16, 1973, but again, whether by contest or declaration is unknown.

.

0012vivian

.

In 1973 she gained immortality of a sort when she was featured, along with her brothers, in the documentary, Wrestling Queen.  Vachon also cut a couple of records in French that were hits in Quebec. She retired from the ring in 1978 after marrying fellow wrestler Buddy Wolfe. The marriage, however, lasted only a little less than a year.

.

005vivian

.

In November, 1979, she married Canadian career soldier Gary Carnegie, with whom she had two children: Ian (born February 5, 1980), and Julie (born in 1982). Although she lived in St. Cloud, Minnesota, when married to Wolfe, she moved with Carnegie to CFB Petawawa Ontario. She came out of retirement in 1986 for brother Maurice’s farewell tour, which was followed by a brief tour of Japan. The Carnegie’s divorced in 1991. Shortly thereafter, on August 25, 1991, Vivian and nine-year old daughter Julie were killed when their car was hit by a drunken driver about 50 miles south of Montreal. In 2006 Vivian was posthumously honored by the Cauliflower Alley Club.

.

01Lano-LunaInringDebut5

.

One of the true characters in the world of wrestling was Angelle “Luna” Vachon. Her bizarre hairstyles and make-up were matched with an equally intense personality. It wasn’t known until later that Luna suffered in real life from bipolar disorder, a disease no one that enters professional wrestling should have, to say the least. That and a severe lack of self-esteem were noted by wrestlers I’ve talked to as being the hindrance to a superstar career and possibly one catalyst for a substance abuse that ultimately took her life. Of all the stars in wrestling that burned bright, none burned brighter than Luna Vachon. Born Gertrude Elizabeth Wilkerson on January 12, 1962, in Atlanta, Georgia, she was adopted by Paul “Butcher” Vachon, who married her mother Van (his second marriage) and continued to live with her stepfather after the marriage broke up.

.

031early luna

.

The story is that growing up, Gertrude wanted to follow in the footsteps of her family, especially Aunt Vivian. Her family objected at first to her becoming a wrestler, even allowing her to travel to Paris with family friend Andre the Giant, who also tried to dissuade her. When nothing worked it was decided to send her to her aunt Vivian to see if she could finally be dissuaded, but she took everything her aunt dished out, and it was decided to send her to Moolah for development. (In a later interview Luna gave credit to Judy Martin and Velvet McIntyre for showing her how to throw, and take, a proper punch.) After her training, Gertrude began working for Moolah as Angel Vachon, but what dissuaded Luna more than anything else was the huge bite Moolah took out of her pay as booker/manager.

.

28luna

.

In 1985 she moved to Florida and made her debut with Florida Championship Wrestling, first appearing as news reporter “Trudy Herd” and handing “The Rookie of the Year” award to Kendall Windham. While in the midst of this she was assaulted and kidnapped as part of an angle by Kevin Sullivan, who “lured” her into joining his “Army of Darkness.” Her gimmick was now that of being half crazy and half sane, illustrated by the shaving of half of her head and the use of body paint on her head and shoulders.  Sullivan “gave” her the name “Luna.”

She served as a replacement for Sullivan’s valet, The Lock (Winona Barkeley, who earlier worked as Winona Little Heart). When The Lock returned, she and Luna teamed as the “Daughters of Darkness.” They would be brought to the ring in chains while battling with each other. Luna’s first big solo feud while in Florida was with Madusa Miceli. After her run in Florida, she took then-boyfriend Dick Slater’s advice and worked the Memphis are with Lock.

She then toured Japan with The Lock, doing the same gimmick, but managed by father Paul Vachon. Coming back to the States, she worked for POWW, then with the AWA, appearing at SuperClash III, along with Bambi (Selina Majors), Brandi Mae, Peggy Lee Leather (Peggy Lee), Laurie Lynn, Malibu, Nina (Lisa “Ivory” Moretti), Pocohantas, and Pali The Syrian Terrorist in a Lingerie Battle Royal (won by Pali).

.

Lano-LUNABlackHeartsAJPWbelt

.

In 1991 she began managing a masked tag team called “The Blackharts” in Stampede Wrestling. The Blackharts were “Apocalypse” (Tom Nash – Luna’s high school friend and her then-husband) and “Destruction” (David “Gangrel” Heath – her next husband). They used a gimmick where they claimed they were the illegitimate sons of the Hart family. Unfortunately, they weren’t paid like the real members of the Hart family, so they left and resurfaced in Joel Goodhart’s Tri-State Wrestling,  out of Philadelphia. They then worked for Herb Abrams’ UWF, and finally, for All Japan, where the team split up. Heath claims that Nash told Baba that Heath didn’t want to train at the dojo, so Heath was let go, and Luna, whose marriage to Nash was on the rocks, left with Heath.

.

20luna

.

In 1992, while wrestling between Puerto Rico and Florida, she sent tapes to the WWF in the hopes of getting Heath a job. But the WWF had seen tapes of her in Puerto Rico and decided they’d rather hire her. She made her first WWF appearance at WrestleMania IX, accompanying Shawn Michaels to the ring for his match with Tatanka. After the match, Luna attacked Sensational Sherri backstage to begin a feud that eventually included both Tatanka and Bam Bam Bigelow. According to the angle, Bam Bam was in love with Luna, calling her his “main squeeze,” and redubbed his moonsault the “Lunasault.”  A mixed tag team match between the two couples was scheduled for SummerSlam, but because of a legitimate arm injury suffered by Luna, the match was postponed and later canceled when Sherri Martel left the WWF.

.

Lano-LunaWWF91

.

Before her injury, Luna was also working for the United States Wrestling Association (USWA) in Memphis, where she defeated Miss Texas (Jacqueline Moore) for the USWA Women’s Title on August 2, 1993. The title was later vacated.

Her next big angle came at the Survivor Series, where Bam Bam Bigelow joined The Head Shrinkers and Bastion Booger (Mike Shaw) against the four Doinks. Luna’s role in the angle was in causing dissension between Bam Bam and Booger, who had also “fallen in love” with her. The angle with Doink carried over to WrestleMania X, where Bam Bam and Luna defeated Doink and his midget sidekick Dink, in a mixed tag match.

.

lunagangrel2

.

When the WWF revived the women’s division, Madusa Miceli, wrestling as Alundra Blayze, won the title in a tournament. Luna became a top contender and the two had a series of matches, all won by Blayze. The angle with Bigelow came to an end when Luna “sold” his contract to Ted DiBiase and “invested” the money to bring Bull Nakano in from Japan to win the belt from Blayze. After a series of matches, Nakano finally won the belt from Blayze in Tokyo on November 20, 1994, but Luna left the WWF shortly after.

.

Lano-Luna-Dave

.

On Halloween, 1994, Luna married David Heath, then set off for the independent circuit, landing first in ECW, where she was brought in as Tommy Dreamer’s new valet in his long-standing feud with Raven, introducing her to Raven as “someone out of your past.”  (Luna worked with Raven – then known as Johnny Polo – while in the WWF.) She feuded with Raven’s “helpers”, including Stevie Richards (with whom she had a cage match) and even her husband, the angle being that he was jealous of the time she was spending with Dreamer.

In January, 1997, Luna worked in WCW, once again feuding with Madusa, and once again being unable to defeat her.

.

LANO-36Luna-Paul

.

After her run in WCW, The WWF wanted to bring her back. Not being able to locate her, they called her father Paul. He told them the only thing he knew was that she was living in Florida. The WWF hired a detective agency to track her down. She was found working as a waitress at a Shoney’s restaurant.

Luna returned to the WWF as Golddust’s new manager, assisting him in his feud with Vader, which culminated when Vader pinned Golddust at the Royal Rumble. Golddust and Luna also began imitating the gimmicks of Golddust’s opponents. In what Triple H “intended” as a joke, Golddust and Luna dressed as Triple H and Chyna in a European Title match versus Owen Hart. When Hart defeated Golddust, WWF Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter awarded the title to Hart, considering Golddust to be a legitimate substitute.

.

Lano-LunaShavedHead4

.

Also at this time, Golddust began teaming with Marc Mero. This led to another feud, with Luna and Mero’s valet Sable fighting outside the ring. At WrestleMania XIV Golddust and Luna faced off against Mero and Sable, which ended with Sable pinning Luna. Luna later challenged Sable to an Evening Gown match at Unforgiven 1998, winning by stripping Sable down to her underwear. The feud between Luna and Sable was not entirely scripted. In an interview Luna said the Sable treated her well until she received the Playboy offers and Vince began giving her preferential treatment. Sable’s attitude toward Luna then did a 180 degree turn. When Luna tried to train her before their WrestleMania match Sable told her she wasn’t required to take bumps, and, besides, she was going to get the Women’s Title no matter what, a prize Luna said she had always wanted. Luna was told by WWF management that if she hurt Sable, she was gone. So, Luna carried Sable in their match; as Luna put it in an interview with WWE.com, “Sable wasn’t a wrestler until I made her one. A real wrestler can wrestle a mop and make it look like the mop is kicking their ass, and that’s what happened that night. She beat us, and when we got back, there was champagne and confetti, and everyone wanted to celebrate with Sable. I kept walking until Owen Hart came up to me and told me I had just put on the match of my life. It meant a lot to have someone like him say that to me.”

In August, 1998, Luna found herself as a member of a new group, the short-lived Oddities, consisting of Giant Silva, Kurrgan, Golga (John Tenta under a hood), George Steele, and, of all people, Sable. Luna began a feud with Marc Mero’s new valet Jacqueline, pinning her in August, but losing the rematch in September. At SummerSlam 1998, she managed the Oddities in a match against Kai En Tai (Sho Funaki, Dick Togo and Mens Teioh).

.

photo by Robert Payes

photo by Robert Payes

.

In December, Sable was attacked by the masked “Spider Lady,” who later turned out to be Luna. Their feud was spiced up by Luna being repeatedly attacked before her matches by an “obsessed fan” of Sable’s. This “fan” interfered in her match against Sable at Royal Rumble and later turned out to be Tori. Luna was booked for another title shot at Sable at the February St. Valentine’s Day Massacre PPV, but the match was canceled after Luna got into a shouting match with Sable backstage and was suspended.

Luna returned from suspension at SummerSlam 1999,  where she chased then Women’s Champion Ivory backstage after Ivory had defended her title by pinning Tori. This led to a feud that culminated with Ivory defeating Luna in a “Hardcore Rules” match at September’s Unforgiven PPV.

Luna’s next role was as manager for her husband, David Heath, now working in the WWF as Gangrel. She took part with him in several mixed tag matches and interfered in his other matches to defeat his opponents.

.

Lano-Luna-SevernGreat

,

At Survivor Series 1999, she teamed with Ivory, Jacqueline, and Terri Runnels in a losing effort against Debra, The Fabulous Moolah, and Mae Young.  At the Royal Rumble 2000, she took part in the Swimsuit Contest, though as a protest she refused to remove her gown. Luna then began feuding with Jacqueline, who had pinned “Hervina” (Harvey Wippleman) to become the Women’s titleholder. The WWF was about to place Luna in the scrap for the Women’s Championship when she was suddenly released in February, 2000. Supposedly, the release came from an incident where Luna had taped the mouth of a producer shut, but she claimed it was a joke and everyone had a big laugh over it, including the producer. Luna blames backstage dissension with Sable and Mero as the real reason she was released.

.

photo by Paul Stratoti

photo by Paul Stratoti

.

photo by Robert Payes

photo by Robert Payes

.

After her release, Luna worked the independent circuit with husband David Heath, who was considered as part of a new ECW vampire gimmick with Kevin Thorn (Kevin Fertig), but released from his WWE contract in January, 2007. In 2004 Luna became a born-again Christian and toured with World Impact Wrestling, a Christian wrestling organization. On June 9, 2007, Luna defeated Traci Brooks for Great Lakes Championship Wrestling’s Ladies championship. She announced her retirement on December 5, 2007, and two days later, successfully defended her title against Brooks and retired as an undefeated champion. She traded life in the ring for that of a tow truck driver and was able to hack out a moderate living. She received the “Ladies Wrestling Award” at the 44th annual Cauliflower Alley Club Reunion in April, 2009.

.

luna-towtruck

.

It was around Christmas of 2009 that Luna lost all her possessions and memorabilia in an electrical fire that destroyed her house.  After the fire she stayed with her mother and later joined her father and his third wife, Dee, on a Caribbean cruise in February, 2010. Her fellow grapplers rallied around her. Mick Foley urged fans to send Luna any memorabilia they had concerning her and further suggested that TNA bring her in as Tommy Dreamer’s manager at the August, 2010, PPV Hardcore Justice. Luna turned down the offer, stating that she was, indeed, retired.

.

Lano-MickLuna

.

On the morning of August 27, 2010, her mother called on her at her Florida home. Receiving no answer she entered and found Luna in her bedroom, dead. Police investigators found oxycodone and other prescription drugs in her bedroom, including those prescribed for her bipolar disorder. She was cremated and buried at a private ceremony at the ranch formerly owned by her godfather, Andre the Giant. Luna left two sons, Joshua and Van (who was a contestant a few seasons back on Hell’s Kitchen), as well as two granddaughters, Nila and Lauren Hurd.

.

Do you have a question for the Phantom, or a Separated at Birth you wish to point out? Please, send your suggestion to the Phantom in care of this web site and see your name in print with the full credit.

– The Phantom of the Ring

You can write to the Phantom care of Karen Belcher

kabelchr@verizon.net

One Response to “The Phantom of the Ring: Lipstick, Dynamite and Glowworms, Part 31”

cassandra vachon

March 20th, 2013 - 3:56 pm

Its so awesome to see a woman go out and achieve her dream no matter what anyone thinks. I am proud to have her as my great aunt. Im the grand daughter of her brother Paul Vachon. So sad she left the way she did. But it all happens when its time.

Leave a Reply