Monday, November 25, 2019

The Marketable Visage Of Rick Martel

When you heard the strumming of the harp strings, you knew that the arrogant one was about to enter the arena. Yes, he was "The Model," and despite beginning his career in the relatively merchandise-light era of the 1970's, Martel ended up being featured on a load of items over the next few decades. Some of those pieces were reeking with arrogance, while others showed a clean cut hero who was virtually always striking with force. As we take a look at a few of them, perhaps you will want to cue up his famous WWF theme as mood music.

Originally making his mark in tag team wrestling on the '70s World Wide Wrestling Federation scene, Martel ended up honing his craft all over the world. The French-Canadian star began, as mentioned above, as a babyface who made the men cheer and the women swoon. Similar to his later partner Tito Santana, Martel may have had an accent but the fire in his promos came across crystal clear to all audiences. That fire translated perfectly into the ring with a style that was adaptable to virtually any opponent. Add it all together and Rick Martel had the perfect recipe for success.

Many fans will recall when Rick Martel shot to the top of the American Wrestling Association. "Ricky" made a credible AWA World Champion and was a good compromise between the ever-changing 1980's wrestling scene and the often-antiquated AWA approach to the industry. Martel, always a favorite with the magazine publishers in those days, appeared on covers as both "World Champion" and "rising star" simultaneously.

Famously, this period also saw the first action figure of Rick Martel. Originally packaged with opponent Baron Von Raschke, Martel's figure is one of the first that flashes to mind when the Remco AWA line is mentioned. Complete with jacket and occasionally a championship belt as well, there were several head sculpt variations for the figure that have previously been shown in these pages. Martel also appeared on the kid-sized championship belt carrying case that was supplemental to the Remco figure line.

In 1986 Martel jumped back to the World Wrestling Federation and immediately returned to the tag team ranks. Initially teaming with Tom Zenk as The Can-Am Connection, Zenk's departure led to Martel joining forces with Santana as Strike Force. The team saw a nice burst of success including a classic theme song in "Girls In Cars," a tag team championship run, and inclusion in LJN WWF Wrestling Superstars figure line.

1989 finally brought us a side of Rick that we did not yet know existed. At WrestleMania V, Martel turned on Santana and became an arrogant heel. Later that year, Martel became "The Model." Complete with his own cologne appropriately named "Arrogance," Martel took the ball and ran with the character. While he did not add any titles to his resume during this time, "The Model" had several memorable feuds all the way up to 1995. His inclusion in the Hasbro WWF figure line has always been a favorite of mine and in many ways was unexpected when released in 1993. Over the years "The Model" has also been produced by Jakks and Mattel as action figures, was included in the Remco WWF Superstars Shoot-Out table top hockey game, and appeared in several video games.

As arrogant as "The Model" was, Martel himself has always seemed to be a likable guy. Though he has appeared on the convention circuit in the past, promoters report that he has been relatively unavailable for bookings in recent years. By all accounts, Martel has had a happy and successful family and business life outside of the wrestling world. With all of the tragedy and sorrow that has surrounded many of his colleagues from the same wrestling era, this can only be taken as good news. Last seen on WWE television over twelve years ago, I think it's time that we hear that harp one more time, perhaps as part of the WWE Hall of Fame?

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