The Natural Part I
February 8, 2006 by Nathan Dewey
During the beginnings of the television era, one man captivated the audience like no other and turned into one of the most hated superstars in history; a man who would go on to become one of the greatest legends in sports entertainment. Before there was Ric Flair or Buddy Landel, there was the "Original Nature Boy", Buddy Rogers - the man who started it all in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). With a cunning ability and mat techniques, which would go unmatched for a number of years, Buddy Rogers held numerous titles, one of which was the first ever World Wide Wrestling Federation Championship. In my last column "The Cutting Edge", I chronicled the history of the former WWE Champion Edge, so it only makes sense to start from the beginning and pay homage to the man who started it all.
For those obsessive wrestling fans out there who are not familiar with Buddy Roger's accomplishments in the world of professional wrestling (or have since forgotten), let me remind you of a history lesson about the Nature Boy, old school style.
Born Herman Rohde Jr. on February 20, 1922 to German immigrant parents, Buddy Rogers was immediately intrigued with the concept of professional wrestling. Rohde began honing his skills in the ring and was determined to make an impact. In his young adult years, Rohde, trained by Joe Cox and Fred Grubmeyer, would debut in local shows in June 1931. Rhodes career began to take shape when he was discovered by a local promoter who found potential in the young stud who at the time was 6'2'' and 227 lbs. After years of practice and strict teaching, Rohde developed into a natural performer in the ring. It was around this period of time when Rohde would get his first major win against the legendary Ed "Strangler" Lewis. With this momentum, Rohde would continue to perform regularly in the Houston area and eventually obtain the persona of Buddy Rogers. With unlimited potential, Rogers worked vigorously and tasted gold for the first time when he won the Texas Heavyweight Championship. He would go on to secure the championship on five other occasions, one of them when he defeated another legend by the name of Lou Thesz who is arguably the greatest champion of all time. The history of Buddy Rogers various Texas Heavyweight title reigns are as listed below:
- Won the title after it was vacated from Olaf Olson and succeeded by Bobby Managoff
- Defeated David Levin and succeeded by Ted Cox
- Defeated Ted Cox and succeeded by Jim Casey
- Defeated Jim Casey and succeeded by Lou Thesz
- Defeated Lou Thesz and succeeded by Kay Bell
- Defeated Pepper Gomez and succeeded by Pepper Gomez
After his tenure in Houston, Buddy Rogers traveled to Columbus Ohio, where he would bleach his hair and become the original "Nature Boy", a name given to him by Jack Pfeifer who was inspired by the popular jazz song of the same name. Most of the beginning of Roger's career was completely un-televised. However, television became available, and his career soon began to sore. For the first time audiences everywhere could see Roger's unique image and admirable build; wrestling on the screen. His charisma and mat skills became the stuff of legends. He was truly the epitome of entertainment at the time, especially considering he was the man everyone loved to hate. Sam Muschnik's promotion (based in St. Louis) Missouri would rise to become a major wrestling promotion. The Nature Boy would become involved with the promotion and help develop it over time. Rogers would expand his horizons and regularly maintained booking control for the Mid-western events, which so happened to draw in larger audiences. Rogers also joined Vincent Kennedy McMahon's Capitol Wrestling Corporation promotion in the 1950's, just for good measure. However, Buddy Roger's would continue to push the boundaries and become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion.
On June 30, 1961, Buddy Rogers took the championship from Pat O' Connor in front of 38,622 fans at Comiskey Park in Chicago, setting an attendance record for any professional wrestling event at the time. During his reign he would retain the title in matches against Mike Paidousis, Boris "the Great" Malenko, and The Sheik in a Best 2 out of 3 Falls match at the Cincinnati Gardens by using his finishing move, the Figure Four Leg lock, securing the third and deciding fall. Bobo Brazil defeated Nature Boy on August 18, 1962 for the championship; however, he would lose to Rogers in the coming months during their rematch. Rogers continued to wrestle as a heel and would go on to create a lot of controversy.
Buddy Roger's then went on to face off against Lou Thesz in a 2 out of 3 Falls match on January 24, 1963 in Toronto, Canada. Throughout the match, the two would successfully secure one fall a piece. Leading into the third fall; emotions arose and in the end, and the formation of WWWF had become a reality. Rogers would defeat Lou Thesz due to a disqualification, however many NWA officials and promoters found the outcome to be distasteful. As a result, the promotion split into the creation of World Wide Wrestling Federation. Thus, making Buddy Rogers the first WWWF Champion on April 23, 1963!
And there you have it. Not only did Buddy Rogers become the first WWWF
Champion, but he helped lead the formation of the new promotion along
with many superstars and Vincent McMahons and Toots Mondt. Buddy Roger's championship reign was just beginning; as he would go on to defend it for six months. However, Rogers would face more challenges in his life. He would sustain numerous injuries causing his eventual retirement, but he would leave a mark on the business that can never be forgotten. Buddy Rogers' fame, at the time, was really just beginning...
Stay tuned to OWW for Part II of the legendary career of the "Original
Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers.
by Nathan Dewey ..
Steven P. wrote:
I commend you on writing an article about a wrestler
from a far different era, being that I'm only 18
years old. You made some good points, and just
imagine, like you said, if televised wrestling was
around when Rodgers started. He would have received
more respect then and would be more of a household
name today. Good column, I'm looking foward to part
Kevin Roberts wrote:
I respect Buddy Rogers for being the original "Nature Boy," and I thank him for inspiring one of my all time favorites, Ric Flair. However, I think Im going to have to disagree with Buddy Rogers being more hated than Ric Flair. I was not around during his era, but I simply cannot imagine ANYONE being more hated than Ric Flair. Except for The Ultimate Warrior. LOL.
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