Buddy Rogers


Buddy Rogers
Real Name: Herman Rohde

Stats: 6' 2" 227 lbs.
Born: 1921

When people consider a flamboyant, charismatic, effervescent wrestler with great technical skills, they usually think of the great Ric Flair. Flair, however, was not the original Nature Boy - that distinction goes to the great Buddy Rogers.

Rogers was born in 1921 and began his wrestling career in July of 1939 under the Ring name Dutch Rogers. He also used his real name, Herman Rohde, on occasion, but realized that this name would do little to distinguish himself. After two years in the sport, he decided to take the name of a movie star named Buddy Rogers, died his hair platinum blond and became the "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers.

For some, it is easy to gain acceptance as a beloved figure, but for others, it is a goal to be despised by everyone watching. - such was the goal of Rogers and he achieved it every night. An arrogant, flamboyantly dressed villain, Rogers competed both in tag teams and in the singles division, winning a number of regional championship (including AWA and NWA titles.) In 1961 he officially reached the big time winning his first world championship belt, defeating Pat O'Connor at Comisky Park in Chicago in front of 34,000 fans (at that point the largest crowd to ever see a pro wrestling match) to win the NWA World Championship. For two years he traveled across the country as a hated champion, drawing sellout crow praying for his demise. He was finally defeated on January 24, 1963 by the great Lou Thesz after one fall. Controversy erupted because most matches were decided by a best two out of three falls and many promoters disputed Thesz' being awarded the belt. So furious were they that a number of Northeastern promoters formed a new organization called the World Wide Wrestling Federation (the predecessor of the WWF) and named Rogers as their first world champion. Rogers held the distinction of being the first (and for 30 years would remain the only) wrestler to hold both the NWA and WWWF titles belts.



The Nature Boy held the WWWF belt for six months when he was matched up against a young strongman from Pittsburgh name Bruno Sammartino. Having suffered a heart attack one month earlier, the champion was weakened as he entered the Ring and the match was a foregone conclusion as Bruno pinned Rogers in only 47 seconds. At this point, Rogers reevaluated his career. His success was enormous and he had invested his earnings wisely such that he could afford to retire from the Ring and take care of his health. He did so soon thereafter.

DuRing the 1970's Rogers returned to the sport as a highly successful manager, overseeing the careers of talents such as Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka, Gene Anderson, Big John Studd and Ken Patera, bRinging his hated persona and allowing it to rub off on each of his wrestlers. Being so close to the action in the Ring became too much for Rogers and he was lured back into the Ring for a brief comeback. He decided to reclaim the title as THE Nature Boy and set out a challenge to the new "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, then the top heel in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their match, which took place in July of 1979, was a meeting of Rogers and the man who idolized him while growing up. Flair not only admired Rogers but also tried to incorporate almost every element of the original Nature Boy gimmick into his own, including the flamboyant Ring robes, grand entrances, platinum blond locks, antagonizing demeanor towards the crowd and even his finishing moves, the "figure-four leg-lock." Admiration aside, at the end of the heated match, Flair walked away the victor.

 

Rogers continued to participate in the sport as a manager and occasionally made appearances as a wrestler. One of these was to be yet another showdown with a Nature Boy, this time "Nature Boy" Buddy Landell. This bout never took place, however, as Rogers suffered a massive stroke and died on June 26, 1992.

Buddy Rogers was a fighting champion all the way until the end of his life and countless wrestlers have (knowingly or unknowingly) patterned their careers after him.




For more biographical information on Buddy Rogers,
check out the Ring Chronicle Hall of Fame
Tribute to Buddy Rogers

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