by Kris Levin, Columnist
As an official, it is my duty to remain impartial. As a fan, however, I can say without hesitation that PCO is my favorite thing going in wrestling today. It’s not just me, PCOmania is running wild across the independent circuit. With over thirty years spent competing at a high-level within the world of professional wrestling, it would be easy for Pierre Carl Ouellet to rest on his laurels. Most do at that stage, and rightfully so. However, despite being at a juncture in life where most would describe themselves as being in the twilight of their career, PCO is still rockin’ and rollin’.
My first encounter with the newly resurrected PCO was at Game Changer Wrestling’s presentation of Joey Janela’s Spring Break II this past April in NOLA, where he had a show stealing encounter with the breakout star from Austria, Walter, who has amassed an enormous amount of buzz himself over the last few years. There, at the age of fifty and still supporting a powerlifter’s build with a 6’1” tall, 262 pound frame, PCO pulled off a split-legged moonsault and a moonsault from the top rope to the outside, amid a variety of death-defying dives in a brutally hard-hitting match.
“At 50, PCO is still pulling off moonsaults. That combination of age and his ability to do things he should not have been doing when he was young, let alone now, is the immediate spark to PCO’s appeal.”
-Ian Williams, VICE Sports
After a recent appearance on MLW’s Battle Riot that left him as the fan favorite of the night, I’ll be there when PCO makes his return to Game Changer Wrestling in NYC at the now sold out (but available live on iPPV) Joey Janela’s Lost in New York on Friday, August 17th. There, PCO will be taking on MMA-standout Matt Riddle in what appears to be the latter’s last independent endeavor prior to joining WWE. I’ve got to tell you, I’m stoked. PCO is no stranger to the world of MMA himself and both are incredibly creative and intense performers. This is a match that I, as a fan, am pumped for. And I’m not alone. PCO modestly tells me: “For me, it’s a great opportunity to face one of the best right now in the pro wrestling scene. I was hoping to one day get the chance to fight him. It’s going to be a good clash of styles. I think it’s going to work. I think it’s going to be pretty insane.”
Matt Riddle, on the other hand, was slightly less diplomatic about their upcoming meeting: “So I got PCO August 17th. This match was supposed to happen before and it didn’t. It had a bunch of hype behind it. And the time before that, I remember meeting him for the first time when he wrestled Walter. And when he came into the back with his chest all blackened from Walter, he said, ‘Riddle, I want you next.’ I thought he was kidding, but ever since then he’s been cutting promos and trying to get the match. So you know what? This is what I’m going to say: If PCO wants the bro, he’s going to get the bro. And I know where he comes from. I know what he’s capable of. And I’m going to push the pace. I’m going to push him to the limit. If it’s his last run, he’ll remember me as the only run he ever had.”
Afterall, not since Terry Funk’s run in the nineties has a fifty-year-old man experienced a career resurgence that has made him the hottest prospect on the independent scene. To put it mildly, (so far as I can verify) PCO is not human. For that matter, I’m not sure that he’s alive, either. So far as I can tell from his latest videos, he is, in fact, undead.
During the majority of his career he spent as a tag team competitor, his partner Jacques Rougeau, Jr. was always the heater, leaving the hulking bruiser to silently take care of business. Not anymore. Pierre Carl Ouellet is no longer the swashbuckler and Mountie that he portrayed on the world’s stage throughout the nineties—a far cry from the BAMF he is today. He’s undergone a huge transformation. Not only in character, but in build. At fifty, he’s in the best shape of his entire life, putting on more muscle while simultaneously leaning out. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is his work ethic. One of few cross-generational stars from the nineties, he is flawlessly integrating into the modern super indie style and MMA influences of the modern era. Perhaps he is fitting in even more-so than he did in his prime.
Speaking to IMPACT Wrestling’s Brian Cage—who many feel PCO is a precursor of as an agile goliath—he tells me that he was a fan of PCO’s growing up. They finally had the opportunity to work each other in a match this past month and he was incredibly happy with the result: “The guy is crazy. He’s a fifty-years-old vet and instead of having the mindset of ‘back in my day, we didn’t need to do all of these crazy spots!’ …He is doing all of these crazy spots! He’s fearless and, crash and burn or not on certain dives, it’s like he’s Frankenstein. He doesn’t get hurt.”
Regarding his incredibly high-risk style, PCO tells me that his simple philosophy is as follows: “If I can do it, I’m doing it.”
Cage goes on to say: “To see someone in this business have a huge comeback like his is astounding. Just the comeback on it’s own. But at his age, the complete change and evolution of his style and gimmick is unheard of. Never done before. I love it, as does everyone else—hence his massive rise in such little time.”
PCO, however humble he may be, isn’t surprised by it: “You always do your best and the moment it starts to click, it starts to click. I know something big is coming in front of me because I know how hard I’ve been working all my life. Some people think I made a comeback and decided to be great. But they don’t know that every day of my life how much I was into it. How many movies did I watch that I saw myself in. I was wondering, ‘how come that isn’t happening to me?’”
But now, fortune has turned in PCO’s favor: “We’re right in that timing and we’re right there with it. So I cannot take any credit for that, that’s just the way life is. Some may say, ‘I never thought my favorite wrestler would be fifty-years-old,’ but nobody thought Steve Austin would become Stone Cold when he got let go from WCW, when he was wrestling for ECW and it looked like his career was on the decline. It looked like his best years were behind him, but they were in front of him. That’s the beauty of this business. Promoters always expect someone to pop their territory. And we wrestlers always are hoping for our career to pop the way we want. Everything is synchronized. When Destro and I crossed paths, I felt that was the time to open up and turn on the engine.”
These days, the high-flying French-Canadian resembles a macabre mix of Boris Karloff’s interpretation of Frankenstein’s Monster (from the Universal Studios hit based off of Mary Shelley’s seminal masterpiece of the horror genre) and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of The Terminator (the titular character from James Cameron’s groundbreaking science fiction vision). Flanked by his enigmatic, carnival barking handler Destro, PCO has begun incorporating into his act feats apropos for a circus freak show or horror movie via an ongoing series of bizarre, wildly entertaining online training vignettes. These cinematic productions are equal parts horror and tongue-in-cheek camp and incomparable to anything else I’ve seen in professional wrestling to date—which is no easy feat in and of itself. PCO describes coach Destro as a strongman from the world of show business and film with deep ties to the bodybuilding world. He tells me that to this day he’s an active competitor in arm wrestling tournaments and has held world records for grip strength. His respect and admiration for him is clear: “He knows a lot about training and which button to press. I was already a strong guy, but now I’m stronger than I ever was. I found the most perfect coach in the world. He’s a genius.”
Playing off of Destro’s background, the promotional videos started out as strongman stunts but promptly took a turn for the grotesque and outlandish. Some of these insane feats include drinking blood, a blockhead routine of hammering a nail into his nasal passage, electrocuting himself with jumper cables, breaking a cow femur in half with his bare hands, setting himself on fire, and legitimately having his chest sliced open with a scalpel in order to insert a car battery. This dude is crazy… and I suspect literally inhuman.
Talking to the entity himself, I asked what’s going through his head while filming these legitimately dangerous promos. He tells me: “Oh, I just trust Destro. With fire, it is something I imagine will open up doors for avenues of creativity. I think the fans see the fantasy, how much work we put into those promos and how hard we work to keep everyone on their toes and keep it entertaining.”
PCO tells me we can expect “more electricity. More crazy. More PCO.”
When discussing this new direction, PCO says it was all by happenstance: “I never planned on doing the Frankenstein thing.”
Instead, it organically evolved from the strongman stunts concocted by Destro: “He felt I was the incarnation of Frankenstein. You know when the timing and everything falls into place by itself? Pure coincidence. We didn’t do it on purpose. When we hit the nail on the nose, Destro said, ‘he’s alive! And it’s not a miracle!’ We watched the movie after we shot the video and it was just along those words. It’s hard to explain the way it happens. It’s just happening. Like a miracle, almost, the synchronicity. It’s so unbelievable. Everything we did was so synchronized without being conscientious of how they did it in a movie from nearly one hundred years ago.”
Since then, Frankenstein keeps popping up in both his and Destro’s lives: “The other day I was watching TV with my daughter and some Frankenstein cartoon came on. While Destro was attending a competitive arm wrestling contest, he encountered someone who spoke to him about studying Frankenstein in film school. I never thought I would do something coming from an old movie like that.”
For PCO, what is old is truly new again, it seems: “The wheel’s always turning and what’s old becomes new all-the-time.”
With this character he intends to take on a multidimensional approach. The electricity from the jumper cables will continue playing an important part of his character motif. Deep down, he’s not fully transformed… despite replacing his heart with a car battery: “I can still talk, there’s still a little part that has humanity and is human.”
But PCO wasn’t always a walking horror movie monster, nor was he simply a journeyman—not that there is anything but nobility in such a term, so far as I am concerned. As a teenager in 1987, Carl Ouellet began training in his homeland of Canada under the barrel-chested, innovative high-flying star of the fifties through the eighties, Édouard Carpentier (who also had a hand in training a young Andre the Giant). He cites Carpentier as a major influence: “Growing up I watched a lot of his matches and I was always impressed with high flying. Especially when a big guy could do something. It makes people’s jaws drops.” When asked on how the conditions were at training, he reveals: “We’re there training in the winter without heat in Canada. You’re there because you believe. That’s really what it is.”
“People don’t realize he’s actually been crazy his entire career.”
-Brett Lauderdale, promoter of Game Changer Wrestling
Taking bold moves based on the power of self-belief was always an integral part of how PCO functioned. He is confident in himself and his abilities, yet incredibly humble. His confidence is not to be misconstrued for cockiness or arrogance, it is about being the best version of himself he can be. PCO’s resurgence is no fly-by-night stroke of chance or luck, either. The amount he has sacrificed to get to this moment is readily apparent: “Early on, I sacrificed my family life. I wasn’t there for them. The desire that is inside of me is so much bigger than having a family. There were times when I had to have my mom Western Union me some money because I was stuck on the road.
“There’s so much work put into it. Believe me, it’s a tough road. It’s indescribable. The bigger the dream is, the bigger the desire. The bigger you see your destiny, the harder it is to get there. Things aren’t handed to you on a silver platter. You have to work for everything. I’ve spent my whole life trying to achieve that dream. Working at it, believing in it. You have to face a multitude of obstacles and adversities in front of you. It’s almost impossible to accomplish. Sometimes it takes twenty-to-thirty years. Some poor guys, it’s not their destiny. Reality strikes. They’re not willing to pay the price.” He reflects, “I didn’t expect it to happen that late in my life. It’s almost like I didn’t believe in it anymore.”
Early on, after experiencing the feel of working for a large production under the legendary Emile Duprée, Ouellet took a brief hiatus to pursue a career in professional hockey. Before long, that siren song familiar to many within the industry made its call and soon enough, with connecting flights and layovers, PCO was travelling twenty one hours to South Africa. “There was no down payment and I had only $25 in my pocket, just out of pure hope that everything’s going to work well. We got paid okay, but my mom was incredulous, ‘you’re going to leave to South Africa with $25 in your pocket?’ I said, ‘yes they’re going to pay me an advance when I get there!’ My poor parents, everything they’ve been through.”
Before long, Ouellet was working twenty five days per month for Brian Dixon’s All Star Wrestling in England for a mere twenty pounds per night. After some shots in France and working for Catch Wrestling Association in Germany, in 1993 Ouellet ended up in Puerto Rico working for Carlos Colón’s World Wrestling Council. There, he was programmed with the man who notoriously murdered Bruiser Brody, “Invader 1” José González. All Ouellet can say is that he treated him well and enjoyed working their half-year program together, that he was selfless when it came to passing on knowledge and was a rare worker who could lead (control the pace of) a match as a face.
As fate would have it, Jacques Rougeau, Jr. of the famous Rougeau wrestling family came to Puerto Rico for a week-long loop. After bonding over their French-Canadian connection, Jacques brought a VHS tape of Ouellet’s work back to the States with him. After a few shots in Japan, where Ouellet teamed with Bill DeMott in WING, the call came from New York: the World Wrestling Federation was ready for him
A fixture of the New Generation era of WWF, Ouellet joined Jacques Rougeau as one-half of The Quebecers under the nom de plume of Pierre. Jacques had been in the midst of a successful stint as the villainous Mountie that included a reign as WWF Intercontinental Champion, but political pressure came from Canada over concern of besmirching the name of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This led to the emphatic assertion that, despite all appearance, Jacques and Pierre were not, in fact, Mounties. Managed by Johnny Polo (who in the future would gain traction as Raven), the Quebecers were mainstays in the early days of Raw and would frequently go to war with the likes of the Steiner Brothers, the Headshrinkers, Men on a Mission, The Smoking Gunns, 1-2-3 Kid and Marty Jannetty, and, fellow Canadians in the Hart Brothers, Bret and Owen.
After a successful series of runs with WWF that had started in the mid-eighties with his brother Raymond as The Fabulous Rougeaus, Jacques had retirement in mind. This led to the Quebecers breaking up and going head-to-head in the heated main event of an October 21st, 1994 house show in Montreal’s Olympic Forum before a raucous, sold-out crowd. And, as with most retirements in professional wrestling, it lasted shortly. The duo would go on to reunite several times over the remainder of the decade, including in WCW at the peak of the Monday Night Wars (as The Amazing French Canadians) and again in WWF during the height of the Attitude Era.
When all was said and done, the duo boasted three reigns as WWF World Tag Team Champions. More-so than being remembered for their Championship reigns, the Quebecers left behind a legacy of tag team innovation that helped pioneer the modern style of frequent, intricate double-team offense. This important contribution came from humble beginnings: “Most of the sequences you saw the Quebecers do came from my first tag team partner, Nelly Veilleux, when we trained together.” Two young guns pushing each other to be the best they can be to take it to the next level. “We did it to be different. Handstands on each other and the big power moves. We tried it and ended up getting a huge response out of the move.”
This was not the only field in which Ouellet would become a trailblazer. Proving again to be a decade before his time, PCO was a trendsetter in the modern super indie style of wrestling. With his fast-paced, successive sequences involving Irish whips, suplexes, and other high-flying and power moves, many of his matches dating back to the nineties can be seen as an early template for the style of wrestling that began setting the world on fire over the last decade and a half.
Prior to any reunions, for a time PCO was on his own. It was at this point that Ouellet had the idea to capitalize on a real life incident that occurred when he was a child. While playing a game of pick-up sticks with some friends, twelve-year-old Carl was accidentally shot in the eye by a pellet gun with a rounded dart. A badass even as a child, Carl pulled out the stick that was submerged in his eyeball with his bare hands. Unfortunately, this roughshod matter of removal only served to do further damage, ultimately leaving him with a loss of 90% of his vision in that eye.
With that said, after Jacques left, PCO initially envisioned (no pun intended) himself being a “handicap hero” of sorts. He intended to be an inspirational role model, showing the world that people did not need to be defined by their disabilities. Instead, with all the delicacy and subtlety professional wrestling has traditionally been known for, he was given an eyepatch and made a pirate. Thus, derived from the 18th-19th century Cajun buccaneer siblings, Jean and Pierre Laffitte, Jean-Pierre LaFitte was born. Despite previously falling short of his noble intentions, PCO intends to use his newfound buzz to accomplish what he initially set out to do twenty five years ago: “I want to inspire people with handicaps. That’s the message that’s going to go with it. Something that’s wrong with you or is different from the others, just use it to your advantage instead of feeling like a victim. When I was younger I thought it would hurt my status picking up girls, but now I realize it’s important to emphasize on. It’s something that happened to me and I want to make it worth something.”
The highlight of this LaFitte run saw the culmination an eight-month undefeated streak by pirating WWF Champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart’s signature leather jacket, which led to a dynamic WWF Championship bout at In Your House 3: Triple Header on September 24th, 1995. On that match, Bret Hart had to say: “In a lot of ways, I loved working with guys like him. He was a guy that, when he threw you in the ropes, he really threw you in the ropes… Everything he did was power. At the same time, he was a very safe guy. He was a good wrestler, a good worker… He took a lot of pride in his work, he really wanted to have a great match with me… And so we worked really hard, and it was a really good match.”
Prior to that, there were talks of running at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. There, PCO says, the idea was for Bob Backlund to transitionally drop the WWF Championship to him for a few days. Alas, it was not meant to be. After a few run-ins with the Kliq, he soon found himself out of WWF and under contract with WCW. PCO credits the clashes with the Kliq as the mistakes of youth: “the glory of [going] eight months undefeated went to my head. I believed in my own gimmick and my own push.”
While in WCW, PCO found himself in the aforementioned reunion with Jacques. After a spell there, the reunited duo took their act back to WWF. Jacques’ time back in the WWF was not for long before another retirement occurred. On his own again, the WWF sent PCO to All Japan Pro Wrestling for a month-long tour and later to their developmental program in Memphis (where he lived with close friend, Sid Vicious). The highlight of this run saw PCO compete in WWF’s ill-conceived Brawl for All tournament, which hosted a legitimate combat environment featuring gloved strikes and takedowns. Notably, this was done sans State Athletic Commission involvement, given PCO’s bad eye and complete lack of depth perception. Despite being given one week’s notice to train (in comparison to his opponent’s three months), he still managed to go the distance with legendary badass “Dr. Death” Steve Williams.
On his second run with WWF, PCO had to say: “You always think during your career you’re going to hit a higher peak. And when you look at it when it’s all said and done, you saw where the biggest peaks were. And I mean, obviously we didn’t peak there on the second run.”
Moving forward, PCO again worked for CWA in Germany and had a brief stint in ECW, culminating in a galvanizing match with ECW Champion Justin Credible. Once ECW’s infamous financial woes began to pile-up, Ouellet wisely made for the door and wound up back in WCW, where he was made a member of Lance Storm’s Team Canada and briefly held the WCW Hardcore Championship.
From that point on, PCO spent the majority of his time traversing the world and facing the best talent the independent circuit had to offer. He had tours all over the world, visiting Europe, Puerto Rico, Australia, and the Middle East, but it was in his own backyard of Montreal where he became a mainstay at International Wrestling Syndicate. It was there he regularly crossed paths with Kevin Steen and El Generico in the infancy of their careers—both of whom now compete in WWE as Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn, respectively.
Ouellet proved to have a critical impact on both of the young stars’ burgeoning careers. He mentored Steen at a young age, imparting the advice to spread his wings and believe in himself when he felt he was stuck at a dead-end in his independent career.
After giving PCO permission to use his finish at-the-time on TV for TNA, a “package piledriver,” the favor would be returned years later when Steen began utilizing PCO’s finish, a “pop-up powerbomb,” as his finishing maneuver in WWE. Additionally, Generico asked PCO if he could list him as his trainer when it came time for a WWE tryout. In all actuality, while PCO didn’t train Generico from the ground up, he had worked with him enough that it was almost true. Of course, the request was obliged. “I had a lot of matches with both of them,” PCO tells me, “I’m proud of them.”
It was this portion of PCO’s career that was what initially caught the eye of Game Changer Wrestling promoter Brett Lauderdale: “I was a huge fan of PCO during his crazy run at IWS in Montreal. People don’t realize he’s actually been crazy his entire career.”
Many attribute PCO’s appearance at GCW’s presentation of Joey Janela’s Spring Break II, while initially seeming random and misplaced to the uninitiated, as being the catalyst behind the renewed wave of buzz surrounding him. When I ask Brett how it all came to be, he tells me: “PCO being on Spring Break was the ultimate case of ‘right place, right time.’ He was booked for a show at Black Label that Joey Janela happened to be on, went out and had a ridiculous match. Ten minutes later Joey was messaging us saying he wanted PCO on Spring Break. The rest is history.”
It was footage of the above match that landed in the hands of Don Callis and led PCO to having a run with Total Nonstop Action as the masked behemoth, X. Shortly after a dominant debut, PCO took one of professional wrestling’s gnarliest bumps of all-time in an attempt to gain the attention of the office. PCO reflects: “I felt like, ‘I’m going to show those guys how bad I want it.’ I did that just basically to prove my willingness to do whatever it takes to make it. To get a chance, an angle, a break to make it. It didn’t pay off and I almost killed myself. When you take a risk like that and it doesn’t pay off, it’s like, ‘what the fuck do I need to do to get a fucking break in this fucking business? What do I got to do to show them?’”
PCO terrifyingly recalls that night, when he sat down in his hotel and lost the ability to get back up. Thankfully, by the next day he was able to walk through the airport of his own volition as if nothing had happened. Current IMPACT Wrestling VP Scott D’Amore quipped at the time, “obviously he had no regard for his own safety.”
However, his career in TNA was not meant to be. Not long after that, his impressive run was over after a mere three months due to logistical problems within the fledgling company. For the next five years, Ouellet worked with several television stations in the Montreal area as a French language commentator for TNA, before ultimately leaving in 2008 to pursue another run in WWE. Just as Hernán Cortés sank his ships to embolden his conquest of Mesoamerica in the 16th century, for PCO there was no turning back as he followed his instincts and left behind a high-paying salary for life on the road again: “When the producers asked if they wanted to hold onto my job for three months while I pursued other avenues, I said, no. ‘If I ask you to hold my job, it’s because I don’t believe in myself. So go ahead and hire someone else and I’ll just have to go forward from there.’ It didn’t work out right away. Sacrifices like that and believing in myself, I’ve been doing that all my life.”
Unfortunately, his tryout experience left much to be desired. He pitched the idea of a character who knocks out opponents with a lariat, winning matches with a ten count. Lamentably, he felt that they were dismissive of him: “Everything went wrong. I threw a few ideas and I looked around and saw nobody was into it at all. Everyone’s looking at me like I’m a fucking alien. I still went in the ring and did what I felt I should have done. I followed my instincts and it backfired. It’s just one of those things. They said, ‘don’t bother to come back tomorrow, just drive the car back home.’
“I’m very real. When I believe in something, it comes from my heart. When you drive back ten, twelve, or sixteen hours, you have time to think. You’re wondering, ‘why am I still doing this? Why am I still fighting to accomplish that? It’s so much easier just to quit. You wouldn’t have to worry. Why do I decide to live on the edge of whatever’s coming up tomorrow?’ But I don’t leave. It’s just my fighting spirit.”
After that, PCO took a page from his former partner’s book and from 2011 through 2016 took a break from wrestling. He wasn’t retired though, not by a long shot. He was biding his time, improving his training regimen and even incorporating gymnastics to the mix. When asked what reignited his fire to return: “That fire was always there. When you’re working on the road five-to-six days a week, it’s hard to improve anything on your game. It just allowed me time to look at the business and see the way the business evolved. What’s hot and what’s not. What’s in and what’s out. Mold my style around the evolution of the business. Try to evolve to stay up-to-date with what’s done.”
And PCO did exactly that. And now, he’s back. And he’s better than ever.
But don’t call it a comeback. PCO has been here for years.
“The sky’s the limit for PCO,” Brett Lauderdale tells me. “We will continue to be among his biggest fans and supporters. He’s a great guy, very down to earth and also an excellent team player. It’s been great to have him in the GCW locker room.”
After successful runs with virtually every major organization in professional wrestling throughout the nineties, most people would call it a day. Undoubtedly, nobody would ever mistake PCO for being “most people.” He tells me: “The ultimate goal is to pop the wrestling world. To pop it the way Steve Austin and The Rock did it. The way Hogan did it twice with Hulkamania and later with the nWo. It’s almost unbelievable to have two huge runs like that, with a pretty big spread of time between them. Runs like that last maybe three-to-four years at the most. It really pops me when you can ride a wave for a really long time like that. For me, that was the ultimate goal when I was fourteen-years-old. I always wanted to be the next Hulk Hogan.”
Now, however, he’s done with that. Now, he’s ready to be the first PCO. And to that I say, all the better. I—along with countless other fans, I’m sure—avidly await to see what he does next. If anything, despite all previous success, it seems like PCO is just getting started.
Until next time, I hope you enjoyed this tale from the mat.
Warmest regards, Kris Levin.