“Abdullah the Butcher”, Nelson “Le Trappeur” Veilleux, Richard “Big Rick” Charland, Hulk Hogan, Jacques Rougeau Jr: it was not only hockey players who sent thrills through the heart of the Auditorium and Verdunites, wrestling did too! On Wednesday, March 6, 1940, a few weeks after its opening, the Auditorium hosted its first wrestling gala. The popularity of the sport gave the arena a chance to make its facilities known, by hosting a number of professionals, including Canadian Olympic wrestler Bob McNab.
In the 1950s, wrestling evolved: it became an entertaining show where the wrestlers were characters in their own right, willing to do anything to attract attention. The Auditorium welcomed them, which made it possible for it to see the whole gamut: giants, dwarfs, bionic women, animals, etc. Around the late 1990s, a show with a bear took a bad turn! The animal was supposed to obey a wrestler who would reward him with honey. Unfortunately, the feeding bottle filled with honey emptied out very quickly and the bear no longer wanted to do anything expected of it. The arena got quite a scare!
Thanks to wrestling, the Auditorium saw within its walls a number of world-renowned wrestlers: Hulk Hogan, Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon, Jacques Rougeau Jr, the “Acadian Giant” Robert Maillet and several others. The wrestling galas were very popular among Verdunites and Montrealers: the stands were full!
As the years passed, the wrestling galas at the arena evolved. In the early 2000s, it witnessed galas without any violence, but during which there were lots of acrobatics, theatrics and humour. On December 29, 2007, at one of these galas, the Auditorium was even front and centre for the wedding of Québec wrestler Jacques Rougeau Jr. There was no doubt about it: there was a lot of stuff going on at the Auditorium during these galas!
The Verdun arena sometimes presented boxing matches as well. The first galas that it welcomed were more amateur than professional. For example, in 1946, two boxing matches were organized by the Canadian Army to raise funds. Over time, the Auditorium welcomed boxing professionals to its ring and hosted a few fights, some of which go down in history.
Despite its popularity among Verdunites, boxing remained a short-lived sport at the Verdun Auditorium, even though the building loved the adrenalin of these fights!