by Mike Aldren
(Wrestling Globe Newsletter)
Playboy Buddy Rose (Paul Perschmann) was found dead on Tuesday at his home in Vancouver, WA. I believe he was 56. According to Buddy’s wife, Tammy, she came home from work at about 4pm and found Buddy non-responsive in his favorite chair. No cause of death has been determined, although he had long standing issues with diabetes.
Rose wrestled primarily for the AWA, WWF, and for promoter Don Owen in Portland. He trained by Gene Anderson: “Gene taught me a lot. He was tough. I worked my ass off for a year and a half training before I worked in front of a live crowd. We went over moves time after time until he knew I was ready. Once he had me doing back drops in the ring over and over and wasn’t even watching me. I asked one of the guys later what that was about and he told me Gene was listening. I said ‘listening.’ He said, ‘Yes. He can tell if you’re doing it right by the sound you make when you land on the mat.’” Rose later honed his craft with Verne Gagne and Billy Robinson in Minneapolis.
One of the most legendary feuds in the Pacific Northwest pitted Rose against Roddy Piper. According to Piper in his autobiography, this was the feud that really made him a name in the business, and cemented Rose’s status as an icon the region. He also had a long feud with Jimmy Snuka, which Rose remebered fondly: “Jimmy would never hurt you when he came off a cage or the top rope. It jarred you a little, but you just raise up a little before the impact and it’s easy going from there. He always landed on me perfectly, and I was never injured. He was one of the best ever to step into the squared circle.”
Rose remembered the business a lot differently back then to what it’s become today: “It was 365 days a year, seven nights a week. It felt funny if you had a day off. ‘Double shots’ (wrestling twice in two different towns in one day) on the weekends. Maybe a one o’clock show in the afternoon, and then get on an airplane or drive to the next town, and you wrestled that night. There was no home life in a lot of the territories for a lot of the wrestlers. In the Northwest, you could be home every night. But there were territories like Charlotte and Dallas and Amarillo and in Florida. I could go on and on… you were only home a couple nights a week. If you had a family, you sacrificed a lot. If you had a good wife who totally supported you, which I have, you could make it through anything. I was so fortunate to be able to work the Northwest. I could be home every night, and that’s one reason I stayed there so long.”
Due to the pressure of being on the road and working hurt, Rose, in later life, openly admitted his own drug use and talked about going to rehab on his own dollar: “I went to rehab myself, for cocaine, as an outpatient. It was a choice. When we make the wrong choices and go down the wrong path, it’s either jail or death… The best thing I ever did was to go to that six weeks of outpatient rehab. My wife has been with me since 1976. She and I had a talk, and we decided the cocaine was a problem. I could have lost her, so I did the best thing I ever did, and I graduated.”
When in the WWF during 1982-83, he was main eventing at Madison Square Garden against Bob Backlund for the WWF World Heavyweight Title: “I loved working with Bob, and he was a pleasure to be in the ring with.
Very easy, and he listened. We both had the same work ethic and sensibilities. Together we made a ton of money, and loved every minute of it. It was hard work, but I really loved my job. Bob was always working out, hanging upside-down in the bathroom stalls, from a bar, wearing the gravity ankle boots. He took the wrestling business more seriously than just about anybody I had ever met.”
Rose wrestled as the masked Executioner against Tito Santana in the opening match of the first ever WrestleMania in 1985. This was because booker George Scott didn’t want Rose as himself to do the job. Rose, managed by the Grand Wizard, also had some fantastic bouts against Pedro Morales.
Rip Rogers, who now helps run the Ohio Valley Wrestling school with Danny Davis in Louisville, recalls Rose as a fantastic worker: “The WWF needed Buddy to make other guys look good, and he was one of the best in the business. People pay for winners and losers, they don’t pay for draws. You’ll never see a draw in major league baseball. Not everybody can win.”
Rose returned to the AWA in 1986 and teamed with Doug Somers engaging in a notable feud with 21-year-old Shawn Michaels and 24-year-old Marty Jannetty, as The Midnight Rockers, for the AWA Tag Team Titles. A consummate heel, Rose was well respected for his great ability to both work the microphone adn was considered a ring general. He even turned his weight gain during the later part of his career into a gimmick. When a ring announcer would introduce him and listed his weight, Rose would take the microphone away and correct him, claiming to weigh less. This would, of course, bait the crowd into a booing frenzy. On occasion, he would also do one-handed push-ups and kip ups in the ring, and challenge other more muscular opponents to a pose-down.
“I was very fortunate to be able to perform no matter what my weight was. I wrestled at 205 pounds when I had my first match back in 1973 (against Bob Remus who would later be known worldwide as Sgt.
Slaughter). I primarily wrestled around the 240 to 260 pound range. It was probably around 1990 where I was over 317 and still performing like I was 235 pounds. Go figure. Built for show not for go. Heavy in the seat, light on the feet.”
Rose was a solid all-around athlete. He was proficient at baseball, softball and hockey. In 1981 he skated against five of the fastest members of a minor league hockey team, beating one of them, who went on to compete in the NHL.
“No matter what my weight was, I could still get things done in the ring. The one-arm push-ups, the ’217 pounds,’ Blow Away Diet, etc., that was all part of my gimmick. Me calling myself Playboy compounded everything. Vince McMahon used to say, ‘I want everybody to work out… except for Buddy.’ He knew that my weight was my gimmick, and did not want me to change. I could still work the matches as well as anybody else, doing nip ups and all the required bumps, and that was the most important part. The fact that people still remember this all is a testament to the success of my work.”
With the AWA in deep decline falling behind to the WWF and NWA, Rose went back to work for Vince McMahon briefly in 1990, helping to establish a new breed of future stars: “I was paid very handsomely for passing the torch onto many of the kids that were superstars-to-be, like Shane Douglas, Dustin Rhodes and the late Davey Boy Smith. I wrestled Kerry Von Erich on NBC’s Saturday Night’s Main Event to help get him over, too.”
After disappearing from the national spotlight Rose opened a wrestling school with his former partner and friend Col. DeBeers (Ed Wiskoski) in Portland.
His last match took place at the 2005 Wrestle Reunion event in Tampa, FL. He worked a trios match with himself, Col. DeBeers and Bob Orton, Jr. against Jimmy Valiant, Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka. This was billed as Jimmy Valiant’s retirement match, but Rose (who took the biggest bump of the night) retired after this as a wrestler, and only made personal appearances up until his death.
“Some guys forget what we do is for the fans. It’s to entertain the fans, not to stroke our own egos. Anybody can be beaten. It’s not about who wins… I’m often asked why do I still do it at my age? I love the sport. I want to help young guys who have drive and dedication be able to work in this business.”