He Said…He Said: The Can Am Disconnection

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Brian Damage

There are two sides to every story. One side may be more truthful than the other, it all depends who you believe. Such is the case with a rising tag team in the WWF known as the Can-Am Connection. One minute they are being positioned to be the next WWF tag team champions and the next minute…they no longer exist. What happened? Depends on which story you believe.

In 1986, Vince McMahon contacted Rick Martel about rejoining the WWF. The last time Rick was in the company was in 1982, when he and Tony Garea were two time WWWF tag team champions. Martel was hot off a world title run in the AWA and Vince…no stranger to collecting the biggest talents….wanted to bring Rick in for another WWF run.

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Rick had a protege named Tom Zenk that he wanted to bring with him to the WWF that just so happened to be dating his sister in law. Vince McMahon agreed and the team of the Can-Am Connection was born. They team had all the potential in the world and were pegged to defeat the Hart Foundation for the tag team titles. Merchandise was created and they were pushed very strongly and aggressively. Before they were elevated to the next level…Tom Zenk was gone and the Can-Ams were no more. That’s where the story of their demise becomes murky at best.

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We first begin with Rick Martel…the man who brought Zenk to the WWF with him. According to Martel, Tom Zenk became somewhat soft and an ego maniac from the start. Zenk had to constantly be motivated by the older Martel about the big push they were receiving. Zenk on the other hand, didn’t care so much about the push and much more on the paycheck. Tom was never satisfied with the work they were doing and constantly complained about the work dates, the pay and the accommodations.

Martel claims that on the 2nd week of being in the WWF a dress code was enforced and Tom Zenk defiantly dressed the way he felt like because he believed dress codes were stupid. Unmotivated, money hungry and defiant, Vince approached Martel about Zenk’s bad attitude. Martel agreed to talk with Zenk to get his head straightened out. It led to a heated argument where Martel scolded Zenk about his behavior. That night, Zenk left a thank you note to Martel…left the keys to their rental car and went home quitting the WWF.

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Tom Zenk has a similar yet different story. Tom Zenk never denied a big issue with his WWF tenure was money. He does claim that Rick Martel made a side deal for himself to be paid more than Zenk was despite Tom taking all the big bumps and doing most of the selling. Zenk has stated that after taxes, food and travel expenses..he was left with 50 dollars per night. Zenk states he never cared about the bright lights of the WWF, it was all about getting paid what he was worth. Zenk felt that both Martel and the WWF were taking advantage of him, so in the middle of the night, decided to quit and walk away.

In separate interviews, both have said that Martel went to meet with Zenk at his home to try and talk Zenk out of quitting, but talks were unsuccessful. Zenk no longer trusted Martel and Martel felt that Zenk screwed him over….thus ending the Can Am Connection.

So what happened to the two men?

Rick Martel was immediately paired with Tito Santana and formed the spin off tag team of Strike Force. They went on to win the WWF tag team titles.

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After their title run, Rick was turned heel and became “The Model” Rick Martel. He also went to WCW and won the TV title until an injury forced him to retire.

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Tom Zenk competed for the AWA and WCW as the Z Man and won a few secondary titles. Zenk claims he may have been fired by WCW after being named as a witness in a lawsuit Missy Hyatt filed against the company.

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Regardless of whose story you believe is more credible, one thing remains evident…fans were robbed of seeing a once promising tag team.

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12 thoughts on “He Said…He Said: The Can Am Disconnection

  1. In as story like this, I tend to take Martel’s side of it. Martel has had a sterling reputation in his 40-year career, and unlike Zenk, could actually wrestle, and when he was AWA World Champion, he earned that belt every night. Zenk, in my humble opinion, couldn’t wrestle his way out of a paper bag. All Zenk cared about was the money, and any grappler who is only in it just for the cheddar doesn’t rank real high in my book. Brock Lesnar strikes me the same way. Martel ALWAYS cared about the performances he gave every night, and it showed. Even as a heel, Martel had great audience reaction. When Zenk came out to the ring, it was almost like you could hear crickets chirping, he had that little of an impact.

    Can-Am could have been one of the best teams out there in the ’80’d if only Zenk would jave fave a damn jus t a bit more. Good grief, he had a former WWF tag champ twice over as his partner. But he just had to ruin it, so he left when he didn’t get his way, the crybaby. So what did Martel do? Only become a tag champ AGAIN, this time with Santana. The proof is in the pudding, friends. It’s why Martel is revered, and Zenk is reviled. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re delusional if you think that Zenk couldn’t wrestle. You rip Zenk for not being able to wrestle yet you claim the Can Am Connection could have been a great team. I’m curious do you work for the most money or for the “performance art.” I’m guessing you work to make the most money possible . Congratulations to Martel for winning a fake belt. I sure with Zenk on this. People like you get to caught up and act like marks and brag about fake belts . Then you lie. Zenk couldn’t wrestle? Even Mattel admitted that the guy was pretty good.

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  2. I remember this team pretty well. Their matches mostly boiled down to Zenk taking a beatdown for the majority of the bout before desperately tagging in Martel who would then clean house with his man on fire routine and then score the win with a Boston Crab. I have obviously have no clue about how much either got paid but I can certainly sympathize with Zenk’s claim that he took most of the bumps while Martel got all the highspots.

    Oh, and Strike Force sucked – that team never generated any heat. Can’t imagine what Vince was thinking there although he corrected his own error pretty quickly by putting the belts on Demolition. I remember them being team captains at the first Survivor Series and being dumped out very early in the match …..to a pretty loud cheer! The writing was definitely on the wall that night.

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  3. Good article here, I was really into this team back in the day. I remember they had a great match at WrestleMania 3, although I can’t remember who their opponents were at the time.

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  4. I remember this team as well and they seemed to be destined as the WWF Rock n Roll Express during their time. I don’t know the story of what really happened, but SEVERAL people in the business at the time said Zenk had a horrible attitude about the business. I agree Zenk was a pretty decent performer, but his attitude got the best of him. It is sad to see this team ended, and I agree Strike Force sucked.

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  5. Im curious consider the security risk Trump has exposed us to from meetings with Prime Ministers in public, unsecure telephones and secret meetings with Russians leading to Flynn stepping down, should Trump be piledriven into concrete?

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  6. I am very close to Rick Martel, and Zenk was a douche. Tito Santana and Rick got along great, listen to any worker that has ever been in the ring or a locker room with Rick. No one has ever had a negative thing to say about him. No one except for Zenk, who most of the boys couldn’t stand. May he Rest In Peace but he was a dick.

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