The WWE Hall of Famers Blog continues with the Class of 1994 as we take look at the career of "The Original Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers!
Real Name: Herman Gustav Rohde Jr.
Birthday: February 20,1921
Death: June 26,1992
From: Camden,New Jersey,USA
Weight: 227 lbs
Trained by: Joe Cox
Inducted by: Bret Hart
Notable Titles Held:
WWWF World Heavyweight Championship
NWA World Heavyweight Championship
NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship (4x)
NWA Western States Heavyweight Championship
WWWF US Tag-Team Championships (2x)
WCWA Texas Heavyweight Championship (5x)
AWA Eastern States Heavyweight Championship
Notable Promotions Wrestled:
WWE (fka: WWWF)
St. Louis Wrestling Club
Herman Gustav Rohde Jr. is born to German immigrant parents on Camden,New Jersey. Since his young age he was always about the athlete life being involved in boxing, swimming, and football. But of course the one that would change his life forever would be: professional wrestling.
At the age of 17 he began performing for circus shows as a wrestler whilst also working other jobs. In 1939 he made his pro wrestling debut , the first big win of his career was against Ed "Strangler" Lewis. The first title that he held was the NWA Texas Heavyweight Championship which he won four times, once against his greatest rival: Lou Thesz.
In his early run he primarily wrestled in the Texas territory but moved on to Columbus,Ohio where he bleached his hair and promoter Jack Pfefer gave him the moniker "Nature Guy" which would later evolve into "Nature Boy." That nickname would not only change Rogers' career but the entire wrestling business!
He continued to experience great success as The Nature Boy becoming a huge star in multiple territories not only for his great wrestling abilities but his sheer charisma and the way he controls the crowd. Him and Lou Thesz had the greatest rivalry during their time, the last time wrestling fans of that era saw a huge rivalry was between Gotch and Hackenschmidt. If you're a wise promoter, booking Rogers vs Thesz as your headliner will surely be a sellout!
June 30,1961 Buddy Rogers would go on to become the NWA World Heavyweight Champion beating Pat O'Connor in a record sold out crowd in Comiskey Park on Chicago,Illinois! It was a two out of three falls match and was billed as "Match of the Century" and to all the near 40,000 fans in attendance, I'm sure it lived up to that expectation! He would hold onto the belt for an impressive 573 days which is still one of the longest reigns of the belt's history.
Rogers continued competing in wrestling even after he got dethroned by Lou Thesz for the World Title. He gained other championships in different territories. In 1963 he decided to jump ship from the NWA to the newly established WWWF, promoters Vince McMahon Sr. and Toots Mondt decided that their top guy would be Buddy Rogers himself and made him their inaugural World Champion on April 25,1963. They said that he won the title in a tournament at Rio de Janeiro,Brazil but that is all fictional.
Unfortunately due to a mild heart attack, Rogers wasn't the same performer as he was in his prime so the fans turned on him so the WWWF commitee decided to take the belt off him after only a 22 day reign and loss it to the newly groomed superstar that is Bruno Sammartino in a match that lasted only for 48 seconds! After that he continued wrestling for a while before taking a short hiatus.
In 1978 he returned to wrestling but with minimal in-ring action and played the role of a manager. At Jim Crockett Promotions Rogers managed some heel wrestlers like Big John Studd,Ken Patera,and Gene Anderson. He would also have a notable feud with the new Nature Boy: Ric Flair in the Carolina territory, Rogers ended up putting over Flair in the end.
He moved back to the WWF during his final years in wrestling and became a babyface, managing Jimmy Snuka and was instrumental in making the Superfly a huge fan favorite! During this time he also hosted an interview segment called "Rogers' Corner" which would be the predecessor for Piper's Pit. After suffering a hip injury, he decided to retire for good.
On June 26,1992 Buddy Rogers passed away at the age of 71. Two years later he would be posthumously inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame.
Buddy Rogers is another one of the all time greats that a lot of younger fans don't really know about, but simply say without this man there would be no Ric Flair. Rogers was the blueprint for gimmicks similar to his style, he was The Nature Boy in every sense of the moniker.
His rivalry with Lou Thesz is one of the best ever, not only because they delivered great matches also because they did hate each other both in and out of the ring, they told a true story in that squared circle that not a lot of performers are able to do today.
While some might say that his matches didn't really stood the test of time, they were high profile and technical masterpieces during his time. The only other showman that captured the same levels that he did during that era would be Gorgeous George.
I think Buddy Rogers should not only be remembered as "the first WWE Champion" but as a great professional wrestler that he truly was.
*In 1991 he was supposed to come out of retirement against "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel for Tri-State Wrestling Alliance but the promotion closed before the match could take place.
*He invented the Figure Four Leg Lock submission maneuver which was then called the "Figure Four Grapevine."
*He broke the knee tendons of a reporter who asked him if pro wrestling is fake. Stupid Idiot Reporter deserved that one.