Guest Author - Vance Rowe
Nature Boy Buddy Rogers
Herman Rohde was born in 1921 and began a career in professional wrestling in 1939. He would go on to become one of the most prolific and well known wrestlers of wrestling’s “Golden Age” during the 50’s and 60’s. There would be many imitators coming after him but none, well almost none, could match up with the charisma of the original Nature Boy. Nature Boy Ric Flair could and did equal the charisma and the wrestling ability of Buddy Rogers.
When he began his career, he went by the names of Dutch Rogers and his birth name, Herman Rohde, however he wanted something that would stick or was catchy so he adopted the name Buddy Rogers after a famous silent film star of that time, died his hair blonde and attached Nature Boy to the front of it. He was the original flamboyant heel and the fans despised him. He would capture a lot of regional titles in the AWA and the NWA but wouldn’t win his first World title until 1961 and defeated Pat O’Connor at Comisky Park in Chicago and that was in front of the largest number of fans ever to grace a pro wrestling event at that time in 34,000.
He would hold the title and anger fans for the next two years until he finally lost the title to Lou Thesz and it was controversial because it was only one fall. At that time, the World championships were decided in a two out three falls match. Some promoters were so irate that they broke of and formed their own regional company called the World Wide Wrestling Federation, which today, of course, is known as the WWE. They named Buddy Rogers as their champion. This gave Rogers the first, and for the next thirty years, the only wrestler to hold both the NWA and WWWF World titles. Ironically, the next person to do that would be the Nature Boy Ric Flair. Rogers would hold the WWWF title for only six months.
One month prior to wrestling a young upstart named Bruno Sammartino, Rogers would suffer a heart attack and was still pretty weak in his title match against Sammartino and dropped the match and the belt after only forty seven seconds. He took some time off from active competition and became a manager. He managed such talents as Jimmy Snuka, Ray Stevens, Ken Patera and Gene Anderson and led many of those men to championships. In 1979, Flair challenged Rogers to a “Battle of the Nature Boys” which would also become a battle of the figure four leg locks. Flair would win the match and Buddy Rogers continued to manage and wrestle periodically.
He was supposed to wrestle another Nature Boy in Buddy Landell but the match never took place because Buddy Rogers died in 1992 of a massive stroke. He was a wrestler’s wrestler and fought all the way until the day he died and over the years many wrestlers patterned themselves after Buddy Rogers whether they did it intentionally or not. He will always be remembered by fans as the original Nature Boy and another of the greatest to ever climb into the squared circle.