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At age 52, Ring of Honor world champion 'PCO' Carl Ouelett enjoying career renaissance

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PCO (Carl Ouellet) became the oldest Ring of Honor world champion when he defeated Mexican superstar RUSH at Final Battle in December. Ring of Honor/Zia Hiltey

Just call him PCO. That’s short for “Perfect Creation One.”

Current wrestling fans know him as the Ring of Honor world heavyweight champion.

His ex-mat moniker is Pierre Carl Ouellet, also known in wrestling circles as one half of former WWE tag-team champions The Quebecers along with Jacques “The Mountie” Rougeau.

A product of that company’s “New Generation” era, a period that dates back three decades, Ouellet was a relative newcomer to the business when he first became an established name.

Managed by Johnny Polo (Scott “Raven” Levy), The Quebecers’ early ‘90s tandem was good enough to earn three tag title runs, representing the apex of Ouellet’s career at the time.

The native of St. Catharine, Quebec, would later be repackaged as an eyepatch-wearing pirate billed as Jean-Pierre Lafitte, a swashbuckling storyline descendant of legendary French privateer Jean Lafitte, after Rougeau left the company in 1995. Gaining notoriety for a lengthy win streak and a feud with fellow Canadian Bret Hart, Ouellet thought he was on his way to the top of the WWE ladder.

Backstage problems with Kliq members, most notably Kevin “Diesel” Nash and Shawn Michaels, led to his departure in 1995.

Ouellet would rejoin Rougeau as The Amazing French Canadians in 1996-97 in WCW, but with little fanfare and a disappointing run.

That now seems like a lifetime ago for Ouelett. His recent resurgence in Ring of Honor has been Rocky-esque, and it’s a testament to never giving up on your dreams. His was to become a world heavyweight champion and, less than a month before his 52nd birthday, he achieved that goal.

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Carl Ouellet (right), as the Frankenstein-like character PCO, has experienced a career resurgence in Ring of Honor. He is pictured with his coach and manager Destro. Ring of Honor/Zia Hiltey

Ouellet has wrestled in more than 39 countries on five continents. That’s a lot of ring wear and road miles in Ouellet’s rear-view mirror during his three decades in the business, but quite miraculously he is now enjoying the greatest success of his career.

His story getting there, though, has been one of numerous ups and downs and a whole lot of adversity.

That Carl Ouellet would be a world heavyweight champion in his 50s would have been a very far-fetched prediction for most in the wrestling business years ago. But Ouellet says he always had faith that he would, at some point in his career, achieve that goal.

“It was always part of my goal, part of my affirmation. I had that vision, but I couldn’t tell you how it would happen,” says Ouellet. “I didn’t know which roads I was going to take or how it was going to go, but that was the end goal. Becoming the world champion has certainly been the goal since I was 14 years old.”

When he was signed by WWE (then WWF) and subsequently became one half of the world tag-team champions, he strongly felt that he was getting close to reaching that goal.

“I felt that down the line I would become the world champion. Things happened. But I dealt the wrong way with celebrity and fame. A lot of traps are out there when you’re not aware of them, when you’re so young, when you’re 25, 26, 27, you’re just a kid.”

He also would learn that there was more to climbing that ladder to success than just strong in-ring work.

“I knew I had to be better all-around in my life. It’s been a long journey. It still is. I still have to get better day after day. It’s never over. You’re always trying to get better.”

Overcoming adversity

Ouellet lost the sight in his right eye at the age of 12 after an accident with a pellet gun. It was yet another situation, he says, that he had to turn into a positive.

“I spent a month in the hospital, and was hospitalized three times for that same eye. It was a tough blow on the family also. It was big drama. I picked myself up at that young age. I think it helped me to never get discouraged in the face of adversity. It was a molding factor of my character about never giving up and not quitting.”

Despite the loss of an eye, Ouellet went on to excel in baseball and hockey, the latter of which he played collegiately for two years. But wrestling was his dream, and he began training with a number of accomplished veterans, including Quebec’s Pat Girard and Ed Carpentier, who in a previous generation had revolutionized Canadian wrestling with his acrobatic moves and his impressive physique.

Before earning his stripes, however, Ouellet would have to hone his mat skills in England, Puerto Rico, South Africa and Germany, cutting his teeth on the undercard while learning different styles and padding his resume.

Much of his early training came on the road, listening to stories of older, established veterans: “At one point I figured out that if I was not going to do something different from all the other kids in Montreal, who were doing the indies trying to make their way up in international wrestling, I would always stay a jobber. They would make sure to beat me up on TV.”

Ouellet borrowed money from his dad, flew to Calgary and approached legendary wrestler and trainer Stu Hart about securing a booking in his Stampede Wrestling promotion. Stu instructed Ouellet to talk to his son Bruce, who served as booker at the time.

“He put a little rib on me,” Ouellet chuckles. “I was a kid, only 18. They would say go to Edmonton tomorrow, so I would take a Greyhound bus from Calgary to Edmonton, which was like a four- or five-hour drive. I’d show up there with my wrestling gear, and I’d go back and ask them if they needed me tonight. They’d say, ‘No, maybe next weekend.’ Then I’d go back to Calgary. After four or five times doing that, Kerry Brown, one of the tough guys in the company, felt bad for me, and told Stu to give the kid a chance.”

Ouellet got the chance, moved to the Vancouver circuit, but went back home and “kept grinding.” He later got booked for the Maritimes run by veteran wrestler and promoter Emile Dupree. Surprisingly he was given a big push upon arrival.

“They put me right on top, but I screwed up so many things. I was just a green guy working in Calgary, and now I’m working on top in the Maritimes. The step was so huge; I was not ready, mentally, to go from bottom to top.”

Ouellet went from champion to being fired, and once again he was sent back home.

“There were some tough times before making it to WWE. I had wrestled all over the world. I had no other jobs. I was going from one tour to the next.”

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PCO puts RUSH through a door he placed in the ring. Ring of Honor/Zia Hiltey

Backstage politics

While working for the International Wrestling Association in Puerto Rico, Ouellet was offered a tryout with WWE. Not only did he make the cut, but he was teamed with veteran Jacques Rougeau. Billed as The Quebecers, with Ouellet adopting the name Pierre, the two were quickly crowned WWE tag-team champions, a title they held on three different occasions over the following year.

To Ouellet, it was validation for the hard work he had put in.

“When I got to WWE, the world tag-team title reign was well deserved. The hard work had been done, but the hardest part of the work was still to come,” he says.

A storyline feud culminated in the former partners wrestling one another in Rougeau’s retirement match on Oct. 21, 1994, in Montreal, main-eventing a sold-out house show.

While Ouellet was basking in his newfound fame, he now admits that something was very wrong.

“Losing humility, thinking you were better than others, you start to think you’re a superstar, you start to be cocky without even knowing it. It’s just your environment. You start to see people change a little bit. It was a weird time for me.”

As Jean-Pierre Lafitte, he was undefeated for eight consecutive months. His run, though, ended due to a backstage dispute with the influence-wielding Kliq faction. A match with then-WWE champion Diesel (Kevin Nash) in Ouelett’s hometown of Montreal was initially booked to end without a clean finish, allowing the two to return at a later date for a rematch. Backstage politicking by Kliq member Shawn Michaels led to a change in plans; Nash would now win clean, potentially killing any chance for a return bout.

Ouellet/Lafitte balked at that idea, fought to an unsatisfying double countout with Nash/Diesel, and ended up leaving WWE shortly thereafter. It’s a decision he now regrets.

“That went straight up to my head,” says Ouellet. “I thought my time had come to be the next world champion. I had a great relationship with Vince (McMahon). I had access to his office pretty much anytime I wanted. He would watch my matches at the Garden, give me some good tips, he’d call me at home asking me things. At one point in my career, I was quite tight with Vince. I kind of ruined that relationship when I got into a lot of problems with Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels. I stood up to them. I didn’t want to do business.”

To Ouellet, it was merely standing his ground against a faction he felt surely didn’t have his best interests at heart.

“I felt by acting the way that I did, by doing the same thing that they were doing, that I was doing the right thing. But looking back at it, it was a mistake. I realized all that later.”

Facing rejection

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PCO (Carl Ouellet) bends a steel bar during a show. Ring of Honor/Zia Hiltey

The next few years saw Ouelett continue to fight against the tide, first in rival WCW where he reformed his team with Rougeau, but this time as The Amazing French Canadians with manager Col. Robert Parker (Robert Fuller) attired in a French Foreign Legion uniform. The act was a dud, and Ouellet was fired shortly after defeating The Giant (Paul Wight) in Montreal.

The Canadians returned to WWE in 1998. “Instead of grinding hard and working my way up, it got me really mad. I had a lot of anger and frustration. Everything started snowballing. My life became miserable. I became bitter and mad and sad.”

Ouellet was gone again by 2000, unhappy with the lack of a push and beginning to think that his best days just might have been behind him. The trend, however, would continue; first in ECW for a short stay, and later that year returning to WCW with Rougeau and being released due to visa issues.

A dejected Ouellet remembers taking a piece of paper and writing a list of names on it, detailing everything he didn’t like about them. He thought they were the cause of his rejections from the business and pondered all the hatred he had for them.

“I had about two pages of names. I started reading that. It shook me in a way that, by looking at myself in the mirror, all the things that I was blaming the others for doing to me, I now felt I was the guy doing all that. That’s the day that I really picked myself up, and that’s when I started my real comeback.”

And that included making amends with Shawn Michaels and Kevin Nash.

“Ever since we had our big falling out in 1995, me and Kevin Nash are super good friends,” says Ouelett. “Every time I see them at a signing or see them on indy shows, we have so much fun. If I would have kept my anger and kept being miserable and not getting over all of that, I would not have been able to forgive myself. I know that 90 percent of my problem was myself.

“I’m big on personal development. In the year 2000 I started to change what was on the outside … friends, environment, companies. But nothing was really changing because inside myself I was the same person. You don’t become what you want to become, you become what you are. If you don’t get what you want to get, you get what you are as a person. That’s when I realized that it takes time and it’s a lot of work. That’s how I started my comeback. It was a slow, slow comeback.”

He thought he had turned the corner when he got another WWE tryout match in his hometown.

“In 2003, I had an incredible dark match for Raw at Bell Centre in Montreal, with people chanting my name all over the building. I got out of there crying and emotional, thinking this is it. I got it back.”

Two weeks later he got a call from WWE talent relations chief John Laurinaitis. The message: “Creative doesn’t have anything for you.”

It was yet another sobering setback for Ouelett.

‘Tough mental blow’

The toughest rejection, says Ouelett, would come a few years later. He was mildly encouraged when WWE offered him a chance to choose choice dates, ideally setting up some great matches with great workers.

Ouellet was booked for the first match on Raw. It would be his chance to shine and prove to Laurinaitis and, more importantly, Vince McMahon that he could still be a major player in the company. Ouelett brought a fresh new look and renewed enthusiasm to the show that night. Showing up at the building with a trendy mohawk, he was pleased when several of the boys paid him compliments on his new style.

When Ouelett laid out spots that he had meticulously planned for the match, he was taken aback when agents shot down nearly every idea. Then, minutes before going through the curtain, it got even worse.

“Just before my match, John Laurinaitis came up to me and said, ‘Vince doesn’t like your haircut. You look like a jobber like that. You’re going to need to shave your head.’ I was really shaken. I was shaving my head literally five minutes before the match.”

The only thing worse would be a subpar performance, Ouelett thought, and that’s exactly what happened. He had been instructed by agents to take bumps early in the match, which killed his heat and any momentum he had hoped to gain.

The match wasn’t good; Ouelett explained to Laurinaitis that he lost the crowd early by taking a quick bump. Laurinaitis responded by instructing him to take his rental car and drive it back to Montreal. And, he added, not to bother coming back to Smackdown the next night.

“That was a tough, tough mental blow. It was probably the hardest one,” laments Ouelett.

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Carl Ouellet (left) with Jacques Rougeau as The Quebecers in WWE during the early 1990s. Photo provided

Staying positive

Ouellet tried to convince himself to stay positive. Before that tryout match, he had exhausted a number of attempts to get to the big boss.

“I sent a FedEx to Vince’s office every single day for six months. I’d go to the Bell Centre (in Montreal) to meet with John. (But) I was trying to meet with Vince. He’d stay sometime until 1 a.m., when there was no one else in the building,” recounts Ouelett.

When he’d go to McMahon’s office, there would be a pair of bodyguards who would harshly tell him that Vince was gone. Ouellet knew the Bell Centre well, though, and he knew that Vince couldn’t have left.

“I kept on waiting for another 15 minutes, and here he comes. ‘Hey Vince, how are you?’” Ouellet asked the WWE czar. “The bodyguards jumped on me and wanted to kick my (behind), and Vince hollered, ‘No, no, guys, it’s OK. Carl, Carl, how are you doing? What can I do for you?’”

Ouellet bluntly told McMahon that he’d like to get the chance to come back and work for WWE. “Talk to John about that,” McMahon replied before quickly exiting the building.

Ouellet now laughs about McMahon’s response. Ouelett, of course, had already talked to Laurinaitis several times that night.

He hasn’t spoken to McMahon since.

Words to live by

From the beginning, Ouelett had envisioned an “account” that he would pay into, an investment in blood, sweat and tears. At some point in his career, that account would be available, a reward for the years he put into the business.

But after nearly 20 years, he was beginning to wonder if he would ever be able to cash in.

Sometimes, though, one simple phrase of encouragement can change a person’s path. For Carl Ouelett, it was something from an old boxing coach who approached him during a gym session in Puerto Rico.

“You’re going to be like George Foreman. You’re going to have your best years at an older age,” the coach told Ouelett.

“Those little phrases sometimes stick in your mind. That’s the little tap in the back that you need sometime. You have all these negative comments, but one positive comment can stick in your mind and you can roll on this one for quite a long time. I never crossed that guy again. But that little phrase got me going.”

To this day, says Ouelett, George Foreman remains a major influence and inspiration.

Ouellet would work several months for IWA in Puerto Rico before taking a job as a commentator for the French version of TNA Impact. Hosting the show with Marc Blondin beginning in 2005, the combination clicked, and the office started to take notice. It was during that time that Ouelett began using the moniker “PCO” in his commentary. The name stuck.

“I just had a good feeling about that name,” said Ouelett, feeling then that it just might be the name to get him to the top one day.

Unlike, he says, the name Pierre. “The name Pierre was kind of given to me by Vince McMahon. I never liked that name. It’s not a name that I relate with. Not because Vince gave it to me, but it’s kind of an old French name that I never thought was for me. For someone else it could be a nice name. My real name is Carl Ouellet. I used Pierre Carl Ouellet just to keep my real name there in the newspaper so if I was going to go away, people would still remember Carl Ouellet.”

PCO, he says, had a completely different vibe.

“When I was doing commentary for TNA on French TV in Montreal, I just thought PCO was so cool. I started using some lines with PCO in it. It got over big time on French TV while I was a commentator. People would call me PCO when I went into public places there. When I had the chance to come back in wrestling, that was it.”

Ouelett had used a similar name, “KO,” while working around Montreal. He had an early vision of that character, incorporating a little jiu-jitsu and karate, into his act. He says he was trying to mold his character after a video game fighter.

“That’s why, after three years there, one day I went to Mark and said I was done with this commentating. He tried to talk me out of it, but I was done. I had been thinking about it for several weeks. I wanted to be a world champion. I was going for my dream, my goal. I was 39 at the time. It was a great job with super money. The people were super nice. But I was sure. They even held on to my job for three months. They told me I could come back if things didn’t work out.”

But Ouellet knew that if he even considered the offer, it meant that he didn’t believe 100 percent in himself.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But I believe so much in myself,” he thought.

“You’ve really got to want it to get it. It’s no luck, it’s no fluke. It’s hard work and dedication.”

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Carl Ouellet as swashbuckling pirate Jean-Pierre Lafitte in WWE in 1995. WWE photo

Retirement and comeback

Ouellet announced his retirement in 2011 at the age of 43, although he had previously announced a similar retirement in 2004 when he wrestled former partner Rougeau in the main event of a WWE show in a near sold-out Montreal Forum. He came out of that retirement two years later, working several months for IWA in Puerto Rico before taking the commentator job at TNA.

His last high-profile match had taken place on an IWS show in May 2009, when he faced Kevin Nash for the first time in nearly 15 years, ending their long-lasting feud. His final match was a year later against TNA’s Desmond Wolfe.

“In 2011, I didn’t know. I had tried every single thing,” says Ouelett.

The retirement, though, didn’t stick. His love for wrestling and his dream to become world champion never waned, and it was time for redemption.

In 2016, five years later, he put on the tights once again, determined to give it one last try.

This time the French-Canadian tough guy burst back with a vengeance. A hard-hitting match in 2018 against the much younger Austrian powerhouse Walter (Walter Hahn), on an independent show called Spring Break 2 in New Orleans promoted by Joey Janela, put Ouelett back on the map. The Wrestlemania week match won by Ouelett quickly elevated PCO to superstar status in the indy world.

While prepping for that match, Ouelett debuted a series of bizarre YouTube videos in which he performed superhuman feats of strength. He would later release more vignettes, this time as a hulking, 6-1, 300-pound “non-human” with jumper cables around his neck. The videos exploded on social media.

In December 2018 he announced his exclusive signing with Ring of Honor, making his ROH debut as a member of Marty Scurll’s Villain Enterprises stable.

His improbable return to stardom was the culmination of every single failure, setback and hard time that he experienced throughout the course of his life, says Ouellet.

“The Walter match was really the turning point,” he says. “It just kept on getting bigger and bigger and snowballing. Every time I was failing or having setbacks or something was going wrong, I knew that was just the interest on what would be added to the account, but at one point I was telling myself that I wasn’t sure if I would ever collect that account.

“I asked myself what did I have to do to become world champion. I’ve been working hard, I’ve been sleeping early, I’ve done this, I’ve done that, putting more hours in the ring and being a better person. I have great respect for any champion or gold medalist. It’s very hard to get there. You’ve got to keep on grinding, keep on pushing and trying to get better and better and better, and just keep on believing. And that’s not always an easy thing to do. Especially at the age I was, it was like doubling the hard work. You’re going against the current.”

Ouellet had heard all the harsh comments. “You can’t do that, it’s not doable, you’re not in your reality.”

“But you’ve really got to be focused and really believe in yourself,” says Ouelett. “You can’t be affected by outside comments because it starts from the people who are closest to you … your best friends, your family. It was a heckuva task.”

As far as a modern-day wrestling version of mythic sports-movie hero Rocky Balboa?

“Hopefully, without taking anything away from Rocky, hopefully better than Rocky,” he jokes, half-seriously. “You try to (emulate) models that have done something unbelievable or undoable to add a little bit of a sense that it is possible and can be done. George Foreman is a big, big influence on my comeback. I’m right where I wanted to be at one point in my life … just 20 years later.”

‘You are Frankenstein’

The genesis for his new gimmick, says Ouellet, came during the filming of one of those odd training vignettes with Destro, the man with whom Ouellet does many of his workouts and strength training.

The mohawked “PCO” characterizes his persona as the “Not Human French Frankenstein.” It’s an apt description of his transformation.

“Destro, my coach and manager, is the one who found the gimmick. I was finishing a workout with my back away from him. He’s a big fan of monster movies and things like that. He’s a big fan of Frankenstein, and he told me ‘You are Frankenstein. The way you walk, the way you move.’ All my life I’ve been trying to find a character that would fit me.”

This one fit like a glove. It would turn out to be the perfect character for Ouelett.

A series of vignettes featured the trenchcoat-wearing Svengali Destro digging up PCO’s corpse in a cemetery and later bringing him to life by sending volts of electricity through his body.

Ouellete credits Destro with much of his success.

Canadian arm wrestling champion Mike Roy, the man behind the Destro character, is “the strongest man in the world with his bare hands,” claims Ouelett. “Nobody can do what he does. He’s teaching me all my feats of strength. He has the world record for number of deck of cards that he tore in 10 minutes. So many world records. He was 300 pounds before, and now he’s 135. The same feats of strength he was doing he still does it. He’s a champion in arm wrestling as well.”

Champion’s rebirth

Appearing for a major company for the first time in nearly 20 years, Ouelett’s resurgence has been one for the books.

He capped his remarkable comeback by defeating Mexican superstar RUSH, who is 20 years his junior, for the Ring of Honor world title in December. The match included tables, chairs and even a hearse (PCO was suplexed into the windshield), with PCO finishing Rush off with a moonsault through a table. He became the oldest man to win the ROH world title, breaking the mark set by Christopher Daniels, who won the belt in March 2017, shortly before his 47th birthday.

Combining hardcore wrestling, old-school promos and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get over with the audience, at the age of 52 Ouelett is enjoying a rebirth in the wrestling business that has been nothing short of amazing.

“It was a good year with great achievements,” he says. Those achievements are numerous.

Ouelett teamed with Brody King to win the ROH world tag-team title, the NWA world tag-team title, and the Crockett Cup, is a co-holder of the ROH world six-man tag-team title with King and Marty Scurll, and became the ROH world heavyweight champion.

Ouelett puts his title on the line in a rematch with RUSH at ROH’s first live event of the new year on Jan. 11 at Center Stage in Atlanta.

Firmly convinced that his PCO character is “just the tip of the iceberg,” Ouellet isn’t satisfied resting on his laurels.

“There’s so much more to go with this character. I think it’s the nature of life. I’ve got to get payback for everything I went through and everything that I gave with my heart and soul, a lot of tears and sweat.”

Ouelett is also working on a new contract with ROH. “We’re on good terms. We’re finalizing a new contract. ROH has shown tremendous confidence in me, and we have a great relationship. I’m sure we’ll extend the contract. It’s just a matter of time.”

“There are some very good people running ROH,” he adds. “They are running it with heart, with great principles. They’re awesome people. I just think there’s a very bright future ahead for Ring of Honor.”

Making an impact

With more than 30 years’ experience in the wrestling profession, Ouelett is well aware that the business is constantly evolving, and he is adapting to those changes.

“When you start working or yourself as a person, this is one of the key factors for every company to keep on being successful,” he says. “If you don’t adapt with changes, you get lost in the shuffle. Learning that I had to adapt through changes. If I get in a dressing room and talk about old school and how we should do things, I would be the only person talking that language. So what I did instead was act like I was a rookie, but at least I have the respect in the business from the guys. I try to fit in my stuff around them, and I adapt.”

With a world title to his credit, Ouellet feels he is far from reaching his peak potential.

“I want to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. I want to impact this business in a huge way. I don’t know what’s going to make it happen, but I know that something’s going to happen, something big that’s going to make a big shift. It might happen in a short span of time. But I think something will shift radically where people will be talking about PCO. That’s the goal … to really impact the business in a big way. To me it was Hogan, Austin and The Rock, where it went from wrestling to mainstream.”

Ouellet, who would eventually like to do a book and movie about his life, says a camera crew has been following him for the past two years, with plans for a future documentary that could play on the big screen.

“From the documentary a movie could be made. I really want to give back and be an influencer for people. I want to share what made me go from unsuccessful to successful, and help people succeed in life. So many have helped me along the way and been major influences in my life.”

It’s been a long road, he says, but all worth it.

“It took me two lifetimes to become world champion. I am grateful for that.”

Reach Mike Mooneyham at bymikemooneyham@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter at @ByMikeMooneyham and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MikeMooneyham. His latest book — “Final Bell” — is now available at https://evepostbooks.com and on Amazon.com

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