Buddy Rogers was the "nature boy" of pro wrestling in the early era, circa 1950. This tribute will be updated. In the meantime, use the links from Tributes to the Legends
Possibly the best known wrestler of the Golden Era of the 1950s and 60s, Buddy Rogers was also one of the most talented. Born Herman Rohde in 1921, he made his ring debut in 1939 and wrestled under his own name and also under the moniker of Dutch Rogers for a few years.
While many modern-day mat fans believe Ric Flair to be the original Nature Boy, that distinction actually goes to Rogers, who bleached his hair blonde and changed his name to Nature Boy Buddy Rogers to become one of the most hated villains in the sport. The muscular Rogers won many regional titles in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and then captured the big prize, the NWA World championship by beating Pat OConnor before 30,000 fans in Chicagos Comiskey Park in 1961 at the age of 33.
The 6-0, 235-pounder defended the title five nights a week and grew more arrogant and flamboyant as he traveled across the country drawing sold-out crowds. He was eventually defeated by Lou Thesz in a controversial match on January 24, 1963. Most matches at that time were decided by the best-of-three falls and Thesz was awarded the belt after just one fall. Several promoters were so distraught over this that they left the NWA and formed a new promotion, the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF), the precursor of the current WWF, based in the Northeast. The new promotion named Rogers as its champ, and he became the first man to have reigned as both NWA/WCW and WWWF/WWF champion. The second man to achieve such glory was another Nature Boy, namely Ric Flair!
Rogers held the WWF title for over six months when he was defeated by fan favorite Bruno Sammartino. Having invested his money wisely, Rogers took the opportunity to retire from the ring. The lure of the squared circle was too much for him, however, and Rogers returned to the ring in the 1970s, this time as a manager of the likes of Superfly Jimmy Snuka, Ken Patera and Big John Studd. In 1979, he climbed back into the ring, challenging Ric Flair in a Battle of the Nature Boys. Each wrestlers finishing move was the Figure-Four Leglock and it was the move the younger Flair used to win the match.
Rogers briefly retired again but it wasnt long after his former protégé, Snuka began wrestling in the WWF that Rogers arrived on the scene and he even got his own interview segment, Rogers Corner. In one of these segments, he interviewed Snuka, who was now being managed by Capt. Lou Albano. Rogers told Snuka that Albano had signed him to an unfair contract and was ripping him off. As the weeks went by, Snuka grew more and more unhappy with Albano until Rogers found a loophole in the contract and took over the Superflys managerial duties once again.
Buddy retired in the mid-ë80s but, believe it or not, was planning a comeback in 1992 at the age of 70 to take on the third Nature Boy: Buddy Landel. Unfortunately, Rogers suffered a fatal heart attack before the match could take place.