"Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers

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Template:Pwstatbox2 "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers (Born Herman C. Rohde Jr. but later legally changed his name to Buddy Rogers) was a professional wrestler and one of the biggest stars in the beginning of the Television Era.


The son of German immigrant parents, Rogers was discovered by a local promoter and soon became a top wrestler using his real name around his hometown where he gained his first major win over the legendary Ed "The Strangler" Lewis. He continued his career down in Houston where he assumed the name "Buddy Rogers." Rogers would get his first major taste of gold in during his tenure there, winning the promotion's Texas Heavyweight title four times, one time from a man he would have an interesting history with, the legendary Lou Thesz. After his time in Houston he went to Columbus, Ohio and the final pieces of his character were added. He bleached his hair and was given the moniker "Nature Boy" by promoter Jack Pfeffer after the popular Jazz song.

With the advent of television, Rogers' flashy look, great physique and bombastic personality instantly caught the ire of audiences. The first sign of Rogers' impact was his involvement in Sam Muchnick's opposition promotion in St. Louis, Missouri, a major wrestling market at the time. He was pitted against the well respected Lou Thesz as a draw. In the end, Muchnick's promotion was powerful enough with Buddy Rogers as its main star that the two promotions merged. Rogers continued control of the Midwest as a booker and wrestler, most notably in Chicago, frequently selling out the 11,000 seat arena. In the 1950's, Rogers also expanded into Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling Corporation.

In 1961, the National Wrestling Alliance voted him NWA World Heavyweight Champion. He took the belt off of Pat O'Connor on June 30 in front of 38,622 fans at Comiskey Park, the largest crowd for an NWA and a wrestling attendance record that would not be matched until Wrestlemania III at the Pontiac Silverdome. To many promoters, it seemed that Buddy Rogers favored northeastern promoters over other territories. Promoters and noted shooters Karl Gotch and Bill Miller confronted Rogers in Columbus and broke his hand. Another injury in Montreal in a match against Killer Kowalski kept Rogers on the sidelines. On his return, the heads of the NWA voted to switch the title back over to Lou Thesz, who made it public that he did not like Buddy Rogers. On January, 24, 1963, the match took place in Toronto. Promoter Sam Muchnick put used two safeguards to guarantee Rogers' cooperation. First, the match was only one fall, out of the ordinary since most title matches were two out of three falls until the mid-seventies. The second safeguard was his threat to give Rogers' bond away to charity. Thesz took the belt for his last run with NWA championship.

Northeast promoters, led by McMahon and Toots Mondt, withdrew their membership from the NWA and formed the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) since Thesz was not a strong draw in the area. Soon, Rogers was awarded the WWWF World Title as its first holder in April 1963. However his reign was cut short by a mild heart attack that greatly hindered his endurance. He finally dropped the title to Bruno Sammartino on May 17 of that year in a match that lasted 47 seconds. Legend says that Toots Mondt dragged Rogers out of his hospital bed and forced him into the match but it was obvious that Rogers could not take the burden of a world championship in his condition. By the end of the year, he was retired and only wrestled an occasional show for The Sheik's promotion in Detroit and Montreal.

In 1978, Rogers returned to wrestling as a babyface in Florida although he was into his late 50's. He later moved up to Jim Crockett Promotions in the Carolinas as a heel manager managing wrestler like Jimmy Snuka, future WWE Intercontinental champion Ken Patera, Gene Anderson of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew and Big John Studd. His most notable achievement during his run in the Carolinas was his feud with the new "Nature Boy," Ric Flair. The two had a hot feud until Rogers was finally defeated on July 9, 1978. Ric Flair would use this legitimacy to further his career and follow in Rogers' footsteps, becoming the second and last person to win the WWE World title, which he would do in 1992, and the official NWA World title, Rogers' being the first. After his time in Mid-Atlantic, he moved back into WWF where he was a babyface manager and part time wrestler who also hosted the interview segment "Rogers' Corner." During a feud teaming his old protégé Jimmy Snuka against Lou Albano and Ray Stevens, Rogers broke his hip and retired from wrestling for good.

He was set to wrestle yet another "Nature Boy," this time Buddy Landell, in a comeback match early 1992 but the promoter went out of business and the match never happened. Later in the year, Rogers was weakened by a severe broken arm and suffered three strokes, two on the same day. He was put on life support and died a short time afterwards on July 6, 1992.

Rogers was not well liked during his prime years because he had a habit of taking advantage of opponents in the ring. With age he mellowed and became a very respected veteran. Rogers was considered the first total package wrestler. He had all the looks, physique, personality and ability promoters wanted. He is often attributed with developing the psychology that several heels went on to use with great success and inventing the "Figure Four Grapevine" (later renamed the Figure-Four Leglock). He had one of the longest consistent top drawing periods of any main eventer, 15 years, and the ability to draw in several different territories successfully. In 1994, he was posthumously inducted into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame.


Preceded by:
WWE Champions Succeeded by:
Bruno Sammartino

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