06th Nov2020

Wrestling Retrospectives: The Unorthodox Career of Luna Vachon

by Chris Cummings

In January of 1962, in Atlanta, Georgia, Rebecca “Van” Pierce and Charles Henry Wilkerson had a baby that we would later know as Luna Vachon. Adopted by Paul “Butcher” Vachon in 1966, when he married Pierce, she was raised by “Butcher” from then on out, becoming a part of the infamous and legendary Vachon wrestling family. Niece to Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon and Vivian Vachon, Luna would be born into something truly unique and special, and it would change her life, though back when she was Gertrude Elizabeth Vachon at just four years old, she wouldn’t know it yet.

It wasn’t long, though, before Gertrude decided she wanted to continue the legacy of her family and journey into professional wrestling. There was the inevitable push-back from her protective family initially, as is often the case. Pro-wrestling was a harsh world, full of hardship, injury, drama and potential for harm, but Gertrude persevered and wouldn’t be dissuaded. She was hell-belt on becoming a pro-wrestler, and so, at the age of just sixteen, under the tutelage of her Aunt, Vivian Vachon, Gertrude began her training to become a wrestler. A journey that would take her from the small training halls she worked in with her family, through various territories, working with some of the best women’s wrestlers of the time, into promotions like ECW, WCW and, of course, the WWF.

Debuting in 1985, at just 23 years old, after a lot of training and discussions with her family, and family friends such as the legendary Andre the Giant, Gertrude was finally part of the business that had enveloped her life since she was a young girl. In those early years, she worked for the likes of The Fabulous Moolah’s all-women’s wrestling company, as well as Florida promotions, including Florida Championship Wrestling where she would go from working under the name Angelle Vachon to becoming Luna Vachon, and the birth of a darker and more wild character emerged. This was the birth of the Luna we would all eventually know and love. The mohawk and shaved head, the facepaint, the snarking and screaming. It was born here in those very early stages of her career. Looking back, it’s incredible just how ahead of her time she truly was, both in the ring and as a character. You could take Luna Vachon from the mid-80s and put her into any modern-day promotion and she would still work perfectly and stand out as something unique and contemporary. Her creativity and performances would help build a legacy over the following decades, a legacy that places her today as one of the best women to ever step foot into a wrestling ring.

In those early years, Luna would work with the likes of Madusa (Alundra Blayze) and the two would begin a rivalry that would stretch far and wide across both of their careers. They would go on to work a lot together, and shared a special in-ring chemistry. She also managed teams and worked in factions, be it Army of Darkness or The Blackhearts. She showed here that her capabilities weren’t just as a wrestler, but also as a manager and unique type of valet. She was physical, showing this psychotic and demented persona that reflected an alternative imagery of heavy metal, goth and punk rock. It was in Stampede Wrestling that she would meet David Heath, who would later become her husband. A man we would know as The Vampire Warrior or Gangrel. Before marrying Heath in 1994, Luna was married to Dan Hurd, with whom she had her sons Van and Josh, as well as her childhood friend and pro-wrestler Tom Nash. She was also allegedly involved in a volatile and abusive relationship with Dick Slater. Her marriage to Heath would last until the two divorced in 2006, but it’s said that they still shared a very strong friendship, and Heath still speaks very fondly and warmly of Luna to this day. Her life changed in 2004 when she became a born again Christian and she spent her later life devoted to the church, whilst dealing with bi-polar disorder, the illness she had fought for many years. Luna’s life wasn’t all smooth-sailing, but she still had many things to be thankful for and happy about, and her love of pro-wrestling helped her through the tougher times. In 1993 she would sign a contract with the World Wrestling Federation.

Luna’s first run in the WWF was a memorable one. She debuted as a character at WrestleMania IX, accompanying then-Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels to the ring for his match against Tatanka. This would spark an immediate feud with Sherri Martel, who had previously been the manager of Michaels, but was ringside for Tatanka in this match. It was a fun and big-time debut for Luna, and it helped inject her into the minds of fans who didn’t know who she was. She was put over on commentary as this monstrous demon of a woman, devilish and viscous, scary and not to be trusted. It was the perfect way to introduce her to a worldwide audience. I remember it fondly. It wasn’t long before Luna split with Michaels and became the “main squeeze” of the late great Bam Bam Bigelow. The two were fierce together and I feel had so much more potential as a duo. Their unique and in-your-face appearances stood out huge, and they should have been higher up the card for much longer, if I’m speaking personally as a fan here. They worked some mixed-tag bouts together, but would eventually split in 1994, with Bigelow joining The Million Dollar Corporation, and Luna leaving the WWF.

In the couple of years that followed her departure from the WWF, Luna worked for a number of US indies before joining the Land of Extreme on the advice of her friend, the late Nancy Benoit (at the time Nancy Sullivan). Whilst in ECW, Luna worked as a manager to Tommy Dreamer and got physical with many of the guys in the promotion, including working a cage match with Stevie Richards. She would work as Angel Baby, a throwback to her time as Angelle Vachon, in Puerto Rico and IWA Mid-South into 1997 and worked a short run in World Championship Wrestling where she once again worked some matches with Madusa, before signing a new deal with the World Wrestling Federation.

This was another memorable time for Luna, perhaps because it was during a very popular and high-energy period of WWE. The Attitude Era was starting to pick up speed and Luna became a big part of it, becoming a valet for The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust. Now, this wasn’t the best time for Dustin Rhodes as far as his health is concerned, but I still look back positively on it. Their tandem was a riot, and they helped create a riveting feud with Marc Mero and Sable. Luna was tasked with pulling the green and difficult Sable to matches, and was able to get a very good WrestleMania match out of her in a mixed-tag at WrestleMania 14. Luna Vachon became someone that management looked at to help guide others, to put over other stars, and to help drag lesser talents to better matches than they would otherwise have had. It’s a shame, too, because Luna never had a chance to win the Women’s Championship during this time, and she deserved a chance at that. The WWF, back then, were all about the sex appeal of characters like Sable and Sunny, and less about what Luna represented. She was different, she was unhinged and fought like a fighter, wrestled like a wrestler and didn’t look like many of the women parading around in the WWF at that time. This led to Luna being overlooked and somewhat ignored by management when it came to her having bigger opportunities. If Luna were a part of the modern age of women’s wrestling, this wouldn’t have happened. She’d have reached much higher heights, because she was that damn good.

This run would also include a babyface run with The Oddities, a silly but popular faction based on the old “freak show” circus-like concept. She would also feud with Ivory over the Women’s Title in 1999 before returning to ringside as a manager to her then-husband, Gangrel. Now, I remember this run and her time with Gangrel, but I wish it had been featured more on WWF television. Their look, their chemistry and their attitude could have led to some bizarre, exciting and fitting rivalries at a time when the WWF was all about doing edgy or out-of-the-box things. Still, I enjoyed their time together on-screen, as limited as short-lived as it was. It was during this era, an era where women were sent to the ring to wander around in their underwear, where commentary talked at length about their breasts and their butts, and where most, if not all, of the focus was on how these women looked rather than their abilities, their skills in the ring, or their unique personality traits, that Luna became frustrated with things. To the WWF in the 90s and early 00s, it didn’t matter if you could work, what mattered was how much you excited the male fanbase. This has aged terribly as a concept, rightfully so, and it’s frustrating (as it was then) to fans of Luna and others in her position, who never had a chance to shine properly. This time in the company led to Luna having issues with creative and how the company wanted to use her, which caused some outbursts backstage. Luna was later released from the WWF in the early part of 2000.

Upon leaving the WWF, Luna would go on to work independent dates alongside Gangrel. She worked all over the world, from England and over Europe to making her way back to Puerto Rico, to Australia and all over the United States. People wanted to book Luna, because she was a legend in the business. She represented what women’s wrestling had been for a long time, before the era of so-called “t and a”. Luna Vachon would retire from wrestling in 2007, wrestling a retirement bout with former TNA talent Traci Brooks. It was the end of a career that had been so wonderfully wild but also strangely restrained. She never had the chances she should have had, and that will stick with fans forever, but looking back on the career of Luna is a treat. She wrestled some of the best of the era, she worked for companies that were doing incredible things, from ECW during their time as a grunge-rock underground promotion, to the WWF during their creative peak of The Attitude Era. She was a character unlike any other in a world jam-packed with the most weird and out-there characters you could imagine. Luna still stood out, because she believed in what she was doing with all her heart, and gave every appearance she made her everything.

Ten years ago, on August 27th in 2010, Gertrude Elizabeth Vachon died at her home in Florida after an overdose of medication. She was just 48 years old. It was a tragic end to a career bursting with fireworks and wonder. Her ashes would be scattered at the ranch of her close friend, “The Eighth Wonder of the World” Andre the Giant, in North Carolina.

As sad and harrowing as Luna’s death was, it’s important to go back and remember all the things she did in both her career as a professional wrestler but also in her life, as a genuinely good human being. Luna took great pride in her visits to children as part of the work she did with Make-A-Wish Foundation, she mentored and helped younger wrestlers throughout her career, helping to guide them in the right direction and offer an ear and a shoulder should they need one. So many of her peers speak highly of her, and in 2009 she was presented with the “Ladies Wrestling Award” at the Cauliflower Alley Club. This was another nod to Luna from those who looked up to her and respected what she’d done in, and for, the business she devoted much of her life to. There will never be another like Luna Vachon, she was the unorthodox valet from your darkest nightmares, she was the screeching banshee of pro-wrestling, she was a main squeeze and she was, regardless of whether she reached the pinnacle in every promotion she worked for, a true champion.


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