Buddy Rogers was never demure in broadcasting his attributes. So in 1961, when he dethroned Pat O'Connor for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA)
World Title in front of 38,622 fans at Chicago's Chomiskey Park, the original "Nature Boy" couldn't resist getting on the microphone and heaping
praise on himself.
Said the smug Rogers, "To a nicer guy, it couldn't happen."
This was Rogers' style throughout his wrestling career, a manner that grated on the wrestlers behind the scenes as much as it did on the spectators.
But the inaugural WWE Champion seemed to care little about how he was perceived. He legitimately was great, and even his harshest detractors could do
nothing to change that.
Rogers was a former Camden, New Jersey police officer who took the name, "Nature Boy" from a popular song. In the 1950s, he received national exposure
while wrestling from Chicago on the old Dumont Network. With his platinum blond locks, rich tan, haughty strut and Figure-Four Leglock, Rogers stood
His services were sought all over the country, and are credited with galvanizing business in struggling promotions. His 1961 match with O'Connor set
attendance and gate records that would not be surpassed for two decades. But Rogers was considered a difficult person by many peers, and was
continuously embroiled in controversy.
In early 1963, he lost the NWA Championship to Lou Thesz in Toronto. While most promotions in the U.S. recognized the title switch, Vincent J. McMahon
-- father of current WWE Owner, Vincent K. McMahon -- and his partner Toots Mondt cried foul. They insisted that the NWA Title could only change hands
on a two-out-of-three falls match, and declared the result of the single-fall contest invalid. In fact, they claimed that Rogers had won a tournament
to become the titlist of their new company, an organization that would eventually morph into World Wrestling Entertainment.
Rogers did not wear the crown for long. On May 17, 1963, Bruno Sammartino defeated him in 48 seconds in Madison Square Garden. Rogers claimed he'd
suffered a heart attack shortly before the match. Sammartino claims the dethroned king was simply making excuses.
After the title change, Rogers vanished from sight, turning up briefly in different promotions, and disappearing almost as quickly. Then, in 1979, he
appeared in North Carolina, heckling, then attacking a new "Nature Boy," Ric Flair, in the Mid-Atlantic wrestling territory.
The "battle of the Naure Boys" was a pivotal moment in Flair's career. "Slick Ric" admitted to emulating many of Rogers' mannerisms and ring moves.
But when Flair defeated his idol with a Figure-Four in Greensboro, he earned the right to proclaim, "To be The Man, you have to beat The Man."
In the 1980s, Rogers was back in WWE, hosting an interview segment, Rogers' Corner. In an example of enterprising journalism, Rogers discovered that
Capt. Lou Albano had misappropriated funds due his protege, "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. Rogers began managing the popular Superfly, and occasionally
showed traces of the old "Nature Boy" when they paired up in tag team bouts.
WWE Hall of fame