Great North Wrestling Shoot Interview with Raymond Rougeau

Getting towards the end of my week off, this is an interview from 2016 by Hannibal, who isn’t really a good interviewer, but Ray is an excellent and detailed speaker, so he more than makes up for it. The interview is held at his lovely home in snowy Quebec, with his personalised seaplane down the hill!

What was it like growing up in a wrestling family? Nothing that was out of the ordinary to him because he was born into it, with his dad and uncles all wrestlers. It had good sides to it, with access to things, but also it was difficult to get privacy sometimes. He remembers being both excited and scared for his dad against guys like Abdullah the Butcher and Mad Dog Vachon.

Did he know the business was a work as a child? No, and he still thinks it should be protected as it hurts the intrigue and mystery. He found out aged thirteen that it was a work when he started training for the business.

What was his dad like as a wrestler? A big star with a reputation for being tough and was highly respected. Quiet, but didn’t take any messing from people. He had a very rugged and tight style.

What was his favourite feud that his dad had? With Abdullah when he was in his prime and much lighter than he ended up being.

How much interaction did he have with Abby? Zero, and the same with all the heels. His dad would kayfabe in front of him about injuries.

Did his dad ask him whether he wanted to be a wrestler? Yes, as he was a good athlete, but he didn’t see himself being able to gain the size. His dad trained him to gain the size he needed to approach equal with the adults. His dad trained him alongside two Mexican wrestlers, in a very similar situation to how Bret Hart was trained. Others were in and out too. His dad emphasised protecting himself at all times.

How successful was the Montreal territory at the time? On fire, selling out. It was a summer territory as in the winter you had hockey, so you worked seven days a week from May to September, which matched his time off school. People at school were impressed because it was big on TV with the smaller number of channels. He jokes he had no problems picking up girls.

His first match? Against Butch Morgan, and he felt very nervous because of the pressure and publicity, but it went well. He was the first of the second generation of Rougeaus to wrestle. Jacques started six years later.

Did he meet Mad Dog Vachon back then? Not really, because of the face/heel divide, then Mad Dog worked for the opposition company so they especially had no contact then. He only met him in his later days where he had mellowed and in the WWF. He liked him better when he was older. He recalls one of Vachon’s sons damaging a car door one time and getting a big slap off him, which he didn’t think was appropriate. Plus he took liberties, which was unnecessary.

Did he have much to do with Frenchy Martin? Yes, as they wrestled against each other in tag team matches (Martin’s first tag team partner was Michel Vigneault, Rick Martel’s brother). He was always fun to be around.

How about Dino Bravo? They only wrestled each other a small number of times, one singles match and tags in the WWF, as they were in the same locker room.

Was he surprised to find out about the manner of his death? Yes and no. He was surprised to find out about the execution-style murder as the customs officer just dropped it right on him as he came off a plane. That shocked him, but he knew about his mob connections and his real godfather was a Cotroni. Dino had made a lot of money, but spent it all too, so it led him to the criminal activity he engaged in and paid the ultimate price for.

How did he start teaming with Jacques? Jacques went all over for seasoning. He understood the business, but lacked in size and experience. When he returned to Montreal he had that and was more filled out and capable. Dino was the booker, so he put them together so it freed up the top singles slot for himself. They were immediately a sensation as a tag team.

What is his memory of the famous feud with the Garvins? It was quite coincidental, as they ended up in the same place at the same time, so forged the tag team based on their relationship and had a massive angle where they blinded and attacked the Rougeaus and beat them up. It was a big hit because they even got the dad in and attacked him. He remembers their return match as one of the best matches they ever had as it was intense and a sellout. It wasn’t a surprise to him that they made Ron Garvin the NWA world champion because he was a very credible wrestler, although he was likely a victim of politics.

 

What were early matches with the Road Warriors like? Not easy matches, but Rick Martel and Dino and then Jacques and Armand Rougeau (the other brother) wrestled them more. They respected Ray so there were no problems.

What were his early memories of Andre the Giant? He was very impressed with how big he was, but as he was with the opposition company there wasn’t much interaction. They became more friendly in the eighties with the Montreal promotion and then the WWF. A nice guy that he could speak French with. Not too many personal insane drinking stories to share as he was teetotal, but he’d see him drinking in the locker room and played cards together.

How intense was the promotional war with Grand Prix? Two companies in the same territory made overexposure dangerous, so interest might drop because of overkill on TV. They just outlasted Grand Prix while seeing people jump back and forth. He brings up Dick Taylor, their main heel, who jumped ship. Jacques Sr. found out where he was one night and beat the shit out of him for betraying them. He tried pressing charges against them, but he was wanted for arson in the States, so he dropped it and disappeared.

Working in Georgia, what was his relationship like with Ole Anderson? Great. He didn’t want to leave Montreal, but a guy that bought into the promotion had a bad reputation for rubber cheques, so he left the territory when he cheated him and tried Atlanta. Jim Barnett brought him in. He knows some people don’t like Ole, but he likes him and had great matches with him based on mutual respect.

What was his favourite memory of Georgia? Making friends with Ricky Steamboat. He was just starting out after leaving the AWA. They were inseparable. They shared an interest in cars and “pimped their rides”.

How did he end up in the WWF after coming back to the Dino Bravo/Gino Brito promotion? Eduoard Carpentier called them after becoming one of the French commentators for the WWF. Things were going OK, so he was a bit dismissive about making a move because he heard it was very exhausting in the WWF. Eduoard convinced him to meet with Vince, agreeing to meet with Jacques too and book them as a tag team. Terry Garvin then called the next day to arrange the logistics. They were picked up by limousine and made the deal with Vince and Pat Patterson, booked only in Canada first while they sorted their working papers out. They also got booked on the Australian tour too. Ray knew it would be awkward telling Gino and Dino they were leaving, so they gave proper notice while on WWF payroll. Gino was very understanding, even though it was a big loss, because he knew how big it was to get a job with the WWF, so they parted on good terms.

What was the main difference between Quebec and the WWF? The lack of camaraderie. Lots of little cliques and less like a big family. Some people wouldn’t be very helpful with stuff like directions and lifts. They realised it was every man for himself. Some would say hello, some wouldn’t, but they accepted it as being like that. Until you became a regular, they were more welcoming.

What memories does he have of wrestling with the Hart Foundation? Good memories, good workers, excellent matches. They were sometimes put on last together. The only gripe he had with that was that there was a little bit of anti-French sentiment in the crowd, so they had to work to get the crowd on their side.

Was he surprised at Bret Hart’s later success? Yes and no. Bret was as good a wrestler as anyone, but he was pushed when lots left as the new champion. The void on top allowed for him and Shawn to rise.

Was there any glance of Bret having a bit of an attitude early on? Not really. He did get fed up with constantly putting the Rougeaus over, but was generally very pleasant and there was mutual respect.

What was his take on the Montreal screw job? He knew Bret was going to WCW and had Bret’s version and the office’s version and could see both sides. He thinks Bret wasn’t going for a lesser position or payday, so just do the duty and leave without resistance. Ray was on commentary and didn’t have a clue what was happening, but realised Bret just got screwed. Everything after that confirmed it for him. He sees Vince’s side and that Shawn needed to be stronger after the match.

Did it seem like people were on Bret’s side or Vince’s? It seemed divided. Some saw that Vince did what he had to do. There were also Bret loyalists who took Bret’s side.

What was the feud with the Dream Team of Beefcake and Valentine like? He lets out a big sigh and says there was good and bad. Greg partied a lot, so wasn’t always there, as good of a worker as he was. Beefcake could be difficult with putting them over.

The Moondogs? Spot (Larry Latham) was someone he’d met in Atlanta and worked well with. They were the first opponents they had and Spot was bothered about putting them over. Rex (Randy Culley) was fine about it, though.

Jimmy Jack and Dory Funk Jr.? Dory is a legend, so it was an honour to be in the ring. Jimmy Jack was a good worker too, but not on that level.

How did they end up turning heel? They were getting signs in the audience saying “FROGS, GO HOME!”, so they figured don’t resist it and just go full heel. Vince felt the same, so they went with it. He saw it as an easier thing to go with even though they had been almost always good guys. The insincere gimmick of “loving the USA” was seeped in rather than laying it on thick. The tiny American flags was a great touch too. Ray joked they should be renamed the Vince McMen, but the Fabulous adjective was added to make them more heelish. They then turned via their work with gradual cheating and cheap shots.

How was the All American Boys song created? Adding Jimmy Hart as a manager made it logical, so he produced the song with lyrics for them to sing. Jimmy did the English lyrics where they’re sincere and they did the French lyrics where they’re being sarcastic. Ray didn’t realise why they were associated with Memphis so much until Hannibal clarified it’s because Jimmy was from Memphis.

Why did they get to win the tag team championship for one night before having it reversed and not acknowledged? Ray gets his timeframe a little mixed up, but they did it off a little bit of a fluke win in Canada where it could be reset. Ray then jumps ahead to giving Vince his notice at Summerslam ’89 because he was getting tired of all the travelling and he was gathering injuries like they were trading cards. He’d wrestle 41 days, have three off. His days off sometimes wouldn’t even see him get home, so he gave his notice. He’d said in March there was a 50% chance he’d be done before September but a 100% chance he’d be done by Christmas, which is what happened.

He clarifies it was actually at the TV taping after Summerslam that he gave notice. Vince was disappointed because he had much more planned for them, but Ray told him he wasn’t doing it as a power play, just that he wanted to go home. He gave him three months. Vince offered them the moon with a week to think of it. If it had been a year ago, he would’ve accepted the offers, but he was just done. He called Vince’s secretary and said to him he’d made his decision and it would be wrong to string Vince along for six more days or for Vince to keep on pushing. At that point, the idea for him becoming an announcer came up.

What are his memories of the feud with the Rockers? Shawn Michaels was incredible and Marty was good too. They had a hot angle with the megaphone shots to the throat. He says they even got death threats for it. They had a series of marathon/iron man matches running one hour. He enjoyed the premise for the match with the most falls, and sometimes they went longer than an hour on a draw for the winning fall. This was while being so worn out with all the flying and travelling.

Ray also talks about the difficulty of an iron man match being that if you get an injury then you can’t go home early, you have to do an hour, which he found out when he took a Marty powerslam wrong and tore a ligament in his armpit to where he couldn’t raise his arm. Jacques took the rest of the match. He iced the injury constantly but still feels it today. A doctor the next night wanted to take his blood pressure with the arm on the injured side and smelled a rat when he said take the other arm. He medically disqualified him from wrestling that night, so he just had to stay on the outside for a few matches.

Hannibal asks if this is the period where the incident with the Dynamite Kid happened, but of course that was the previous year. They’d had a really good match at Summerslam ’88, with a draw booked because Dyno refused to put them over according to his book. Ray sighs again and says he doesn’t put much stock in his book. Ray didn’t like him and thought he was a bully towards guys like Outback Jack, who he drove out of the business. No problem with the match, but Jacques had a way of getting under your skin. Curt Hennig probably is to blame for the rib with saying Dyno cut some of Jacques’ stuff when he did it, plus residual heat about switching flights and match order for them to get home. Curt then stirred up the Bulldogs, saying that the Rougeaus were going to report them.

Ray had a knee injury at the time, so when Curt and Jacques were playing cards Dyno slapped Jacques as hard as he could. Dyno’s buddies were all around too, like Don Muraco, Bad News Allen, Davey Boy, Bret, Neidhart, Warrior, etc. Ray couldn’t process it. Jacques tried to defend himself, but Dyno got the advantage. Ray told him that was enough, and it stopped. Dyno swiped Ray in the neck, which Ray said was like a smack from a baby girl. Ray asked him if he wanted to take his leg out too, at which Dyno said he’d wait until he was healed.

The Rougeaus ate a lot of shit for the next week, with stuff like getting the flight attendants to congratulate them on their new boxing careers, with marks on Jacques’ face. Ray said that retribution would have to come, but Jacques could do it sooner because Ray’s leg was injured. They agreed they’d stay low all week and continue to eat shit. Their dad had given them boxing training for defending themselves as kids, so they practised that and prepared to get their payback at the TV taping in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Jacques called his dad the night before he planned to get his revenge and his dad told him to tape up a roll of quarters for more weight in his punches. Dino Bravo was a mutual friend and had been telling Dyno to watch his back because he knew the Rougeaus wouldn’t leave it without a receipt, but Dyno felt invincible. Vince had heard about the situation and wanted to speak to them after a meeting with Hulk Hogan, so they knew the clock was ticking and they had to do it soon.

In the cafeteria, they saw all of Dyno’s buddies head their separate ways and the only person around was Pat Patterson. This leads to a reminiscence of when Zarinoff Lebeouf took advantage of Armand Rougeau in the ring early on, so Ray replaced him in a subsequent match and wiped the floor with Zarinoff in a shoot. Patterson was on that card, so knew that they wouldn’t leave Dyno without payback, so was hanging around cautiously. They looked past Pat to see Dyno on his own, at which point Jacques struck.

Jacques hit Dyno right in the mouth. Pat tried to get involved, but Ray held him to the wall and told him to stay out of it. Jacques expected Dyno to be floored, but he was still standing, sans his front teeth. Ray instructed Jacques to keep hitting him. Bad News came in and broke it up. He accused the Rougeaus of ganging up on him, but Ray held his hands up to show no marks. They then headed to Vince.

Vince was still in the meeting with Hulk, but saw the blood on Jacques’ hands. Hulk ducked out and left them to it. Ray said he was OK with if Vince fired them at that point, but there was no way they weren’t getting their own back. The Rougeaus were locked in the office while Vince went out to investigate. He came back and said the Bulldogs were heading to the hospital. He told them to go back to the hotel and come back the next day as there would be a lot of heat. Vince escorted them into the dressing room so nobody could get their own back on them.

The next day they were escorted in by an agent. Vince had met with the Bulldogs and saw that Dyno was pretty messed up. He said all four of them would be fired if there was any further trouble, but he had no plans on firing the Rougeaus. Dyno was threatening to break their legs, but Vince asked when it was going to stop – shooting each other’s families, etc. Dyno demanded that the Rougeaus pay for their teeth, which Vince agreed to, but Vince was going to foot the bill. Ray says maybe he did end up paying for it indirectly, but out of principle he wasn’t going to foot the bill.

Weeks later, the Bulldogs gave notice. There were already rumours of a comeback, so with nothing to lose they could strike back at any time. The Rougeaus were very guarded for a while, giving false info about where they were staying and keeping to themselves until Survivor Series. They had a meeting at the airport in San Francisco to air their differences.

Dyno said he didn’t appreciate being sucker punched. Ray said that the initial attack from Dyno was equally uninvited. Jacques wanted to butt in, but Ray told him to shut up because he was only going to make it worse. Dyno had said it was over now, which Ray took on the surface level, but would still watch out. They all shook hands. The match happened and the Rougeaus left the match early and then got out of the building while the Bulldogs stayed until the end.

From that EPIC story, to memories of the Bushwhackers! Not intense matches, just fun matches for a laugh. Both nice guys. It didn’t stand out.

Was Jacques OK with Ray retiring? Jacques was very adamant that he was done in the business forever, but a year later was the Mountie! Ray was calmer about it, saying he’d see if he missed it. Jacques was ready to go back sooner than that, but Ray stayed retired.

How did Ray become an announcer? He had no prior experience, but Vince wanted to keep him around, so he gave it a try. He was nervous and wanted to do well. He struggled but got there, then got the Face To Face interviews.

What did he think of the Mountie character? Great, with the uniform and cattle prod and Jacques really made the most of it.

What did he think of the Quebecers and Pierre? Fantastic, with Jacques slowing down and Pierre doing all the action-packed stuff.

What was his view of Johnny Polo? Jacques didn’t really like him and they rubbed each other the wrong way. Johnny wanted to be wrestling too.

What are his memories of managing Jacques in his first retirement match? Very emotional, as he was the last Rougeau still wrestling. It was a sellout and there was intensity in the air.

Memories of boxing Owen Hart in Montreal in ’96? Ray considered himself retired, but could come back. His son had never seen him in the ring, so he took the match so his son could see him in action. He got himself into shape for it and enjoyed it for his kid. It made more sense to do it as a boxing match because it was different. He wanted to box Shawn, but Shawn was the champ and it would be unreasonable to put him in that position, so Owen was a good second choice. Owen had attacked him at the prior Montreal show to set it up.

What does he recall of teaming with Jacques and Pierre in ’98 against Adam Copeland, Sean Morley and Tom Brandi, before two of them were Edge and Val Venis? His working visa was as a wrestler rather a commentator and the previous commentator Guy Hauray had left and was causing a lot of problems, including bringing up his visa as fraudulent. So, they had the one match to show he was a wrestler to get round it.

What led to the end of his announcing days with the WWF? Some TV contracts came to an end at the beginning of 2002, meaning he wasn’t needed beyond one show for Quebec, which wasn’t viable. Also, he was flying his own plane in and out of New York and 9/11 made him question that. He just decided it was time to call it quits and everything came together to end it.

Did he ever consider going to WCW when Jacques did? He was offered a job, but he was very grateful to the WWF and turned down a bigger offer from WCW. He let Vince know and told him he was with him for the long run as he was treated well, which Vince appreciated.

What did he think of the Ultimate Warrior? Not very much. He associated him with the Dynamite Kid and would try to intimidate people. He was hard to do interviews with too.

How was Hulk Hogan? Always easy to get on with. He couldn’t see why he became so anti-WWF in WCW when the WWF had been a big part of his success.

Memories of wrestling on Jacques’ independent shows twenty years or so later against the Garvins and others? He didn’t mind doing it, but he didn’t feel passionate about it. He was doing it to be helpful, but it was a big step down after the WWF.

When was his last match? He remembers the ’98 match, but also the matches in late ’89 and then the Royal Rumble. It was probably for his brother in Canada, though.

How does he want to be remembered? Vince had commented on how he brought a touch of class to wrestling, which he appreciated. He wants to be remembered as loyal and respectful to the end.

Any words to his fans? Thanks for the support, whether it was loving or hating them, and he still meets people who he shares memories with and finds that enjoyable.

The Bottom Line: Great, honest interview with Ray, who comes across very well. The Dynamite Kid story, which takes about half hour to work through, is absolutely worth a listen and comes across as the most likely version of the infamous incident.