This past summer, the world of professional wrestling suffered its latest casualty. On August 27th, one of the business’s last legit, female performers, Luna Vachon, passed away. She was only 48 years old. Vachon is the latest of dozens of professional wrestlers, under 50 years of age, who have passed away in the last 15 years.
Past causes of death for these performers have included overdoses, heart failure, freak accidents and suicide. Recreational and prescription drugs have frequently been linked, in one way or another, with the cause of death. Police reports obtained by the media after Vachon’s death stated that multiple prescription drug bottles and a box Oxycodone were found in her home. Reports also stated that according to her mother, Luna had numerous wrestling injuries and she often appeared medicated.
Ms. Vachon’s ashes were scattered in North Carolina at the home of the late, legendary wrestler, Andre The Giant. The seven-foot plus big man was Luna’s godfather.
Luna represented a rare part of the professional wrestling industry that seems to belong to the past. The majority of today’s female wrestlers look like models out of the Victoria Secret catalogue. That and they don’t have access to the education Vachon had growing up in an old school wrestling family.
At WrestleMania 14 , one of Luna’s biggest responsibilities was to make WWE’s blonde bombshell, former Playboy Centerfold Sable (Rena Mero) look like a credible female wrestler during their inter-gender tag team match. She was told that if Sable had at the most a scrape, she would be fired from the company. The match went off quite well and Vachon did her job to perfection.
People might wonder why anyone would want to be involved in an industry that has seen so many of its participants die before reaching 50. However, Luna found her purpose in a business that takes such a physical toll on the body.
When I spoke with Luna Vachon on my wrestling radio program back in 2003, you could tell professional wrestling was all she wanted to do in life. She was also very candid in stating how she felt misused and underappreciated during her time with the WWE. Her contributions to professional wrestling won’t soon be forgotten.
Sadly, another person full of life and passion is gone too soon from an industry devoid of sufficient measures to prevent more wrestling stars from dying so young. At least that’s how I see it. RIP Luna Vachon. You are not forgotten.
Listen to the Luna Vachon interview:
Below is a partial transcript of the interview with Ms. Vachon:
Chris Yandek: First off how are you?
Luna Vachon: “Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be on this network and joining you today. All things are good.”
CY: When you were [growing up], when your father was in the wrestling business, did you ever see any of the older women performers and what did you think of them?
LV: “First of all, my aunt Vivian Vachon was one of the greatest women wrestlers of all time. She had this unbelievable ability to wrestle more like a man than a woman. She was, anybody that’s not familiar with her can go to any Blockbuster and rent a movie called Wrestling Queen, which is about my aunt and my family and the era of the early 1970s, which were the women in the wrestling then. It was a great time in wrestling. That’s why I wanted to be a wrestler. From the time I was three years old I had told my parents I was gonna to be in the wrestling business and they tried to discourage me because it’s so hard on woman’s bodies.
It takes a lot more toll than it does on men’s bodies because we are made to reproduce. So they tried to discourage me. That’s why when I broke into wrestling I didn’t in the very beginning use the name Vachon because my family actually wasn’t talking to me. I did on many opportunities get the chance to see women’s wrestling because my aunt was 11 years older then me and she was my idol.”
CY: What did you learn from just being around your father [Paul Butcher Vachon] when he was a professional wrestler? What did you learn about the business?
LV: “There’s so many things I wish I could remember all the things I’ve learned I’ve forgotten. What I learned, one thing was when were in the Gange’s territory is that I learned you don’t buy a house. You don’t buy a house in the neighborhood that you’re working in because in our business that meant that the promoters were going to pay you less when you bought a home in their territory. I went to 16 schools by the 8th grade because we were constantly on the road…. There are only two types of promoters, bad and worse. I know that…. You grow up defending the business and fighting for the business and standing behind your father and family and protecting our profession. It was a totally different era. It wasn’t in the entertainment era so much at that time.”
CY: You’ve had a lot of intergender tag team matches, but the one that stands out in my mind is the one you had at WrestleMania 14 when you teamed with Goldust against Mark Mero and Sable. What are you thoughts on probably the atmosphere because that was really a huge night for yourself as you had to make Sable look good and that’s kind of hard I guess?
LV: “It was one of the most awesome nights of my entire life. How nice of you to remember and boy you know your way around the wrestling world. Sable has this preconception that she didn’t have to learn how to take bumps. So she didn’t know to protect herself in the ring, and it made it for an interesting match…. If there ever was anytime when a match that I was involved in to be called choreographed, it would have to be that match with Sable. Her not wanting even to learn how to take bumps and me getting the warning that if you scratch or bruise her you’re gonna lose your job.
This is WrestleMania. This is our Super Bowl. For about six weeks out we kind of had to do it step by step, so that she would learn what was gonna happen during this match and where I wouldn’t bump her during the match…. I think the days of old, a Mildred Burke or Moolah under those kind of conditions would have just broken her arm right away because you’re being asked to do something that this isn’t the ballet. This is wrestling and for a woman not knowing how to protect herself, how to distribute her weight properly, and take bumps, you’re asking a whole lot of their opponent to make them look good or for her to try to make me look good.”
CY: After that match was over, I think Owen Hart came and put his arm around you and said you did one hell of a job if I’m not mistaken?
LV: “Yes, it was Owen Hart. It was really cool because I walked though what’s considered the gorilla position and not even said a thank you or a second look, and you are kinda not sure under these conditions whether you have done an ok job or not. Nobody said anything. Nobody pulled me aside and Owen pulled me behind the big makeup box we call Barney and he said, ‘Thank you. You did great.’”
CY: What do you remember most about your days in the Florida wrestling territory?
LV: “I remember being scared to death. It’s amazing the magic you feel when you are going into an arena or something like that. I started out actually by giving an award to Kendall Windam for rookie of the year and Kevin Sullivan came and gave me a big slap. When we got back to the dressing room all the boys were looking at me like wow. I said, ‘Is that the best you can do?’ And it bought me a job. Most of them didn’t know I was a Vachon as I’ve said before. I remember that probably best.”
CY: Why don’t you think WWE ever gave you the women’s championship itself?
LV: “I don’t think that I fit quite into the mold that they wanted as a spokesperson. It is unfortunate for Vince McMahon that he didn’t see that because that’s what I desired the most in the whole world and most of my life. I just don’t think I conformed to. I really like the fans. The fans are the people that buy the tickets and I think that we have to do something to please them. Let me give you an example. One night the TV hotels when you check in, the fans, there’s people that know that the whole WWF or WWE is going to be checking in for this particular hotel for the evening let’s say. The fans would be waiting in the lobby and I can remember one particular evening when I was checking in and all the little kids and stuff, it’s real late at night after we had done a television taping. I can remember hearing somebody say, ‘She’s gonna be a bitch too.’
Just like Sable and Chyna were as they had checked in I presumed they meant. I spent about three hours in the lobby signing autographs after that because I felt like if the other two women that were part of this promotion had, had hard day days then it was my job to pick up the slack and make the women of our company look good like we care about the fans and signed some autographs. I just felt like that was important to do. It doesn’t seem like at that time the WWF wasn’t interested in their fans. I just constantly had the outside of buildings signing autographs or doing what I can do.”