Follow TV Tropes


Wrestling / Buddy Rogers

Go To

"To a nicer guy, it couldn't happen."
"The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers after defeating Pat O'Connor for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship

Herman Gustav Rohde Jr. (February 20, 1921 – June 26, 1992) was an American police officer turned professional wrestler from Camden, New Jersey who performed as Buddy Rogers. He debuted in 1939 and, after working the carnival circuit, first made his name in Houston. When television came along, he jumped to St. Louis, where he became such a major name that he caused Sam Muchnick's outlawnote  body to merge with the existing National Wrestling Alliance territory there. While he won various regional titles over his career, he is most famous for being the first wrestler to hold both the NWA World Heavyweight Title and the WWWF (now WWE) World Heavyweight Title. In fact, it was a match he had with Lou Thesz that led to NWA Capitol Wrestling splitting from the NWA and renaming itself the WWWF. He retired from full-time competition in 1963 due to physical decline. He made a comeback in 1978 (when he was in his fifties), ultimately retiring once and for all in 1982. He passed away on June 26, 1992 after having suffered a series of strokes. He was posthumously inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994.

Not to be confused with Charles "Buddy" Rogers, a Hollywood actor of the 1920s and '30s.

These tropes fit the bill:

  • Arch-Enemy: He and Lou Thesz did not get along during their active careers. They mellowed toward each other later in life.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • Badass Boast/Catchphrase: "When you want the best, you've got to get Rogers to fit the bill."
  • Catchphrase: "To a nicer guy, it couldn't have happened."
  • Dirty Coward: How some perceived his explanations about his health, just prior to his legendary WWWF championship loss to Bruno Sammartino. Rogers wasn't shy of the conventional dirty cheat either.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Adela Antone occasionally used a "Nature Girl" gimmick in the 1950s.
  • Finishing Move: The figure four leg lock, known as the Figure Four Grapevine in those days.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: While defending the NWA World Title in Quebec against Killer Kowalski, Rogers broke his ankle and the match was called off at the first fall. Some states in the USA actually claimed Kowalski was the new champion but NWA insisted there was no title change.
  • Gorgeous George/The Fighting Narcissist: He'd look down on the fans and insisted that his blond hair was natural. His look was obviously inspired by George's but he lacked the Ambiguously Gay elements.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack, Worf Had the Flu and All Part of the Show: Part of his infamous 48-second title loss to the sport's then-newest superstar, Bruno Sammartino. According to most accounts, Rogers – just 42 years old – had suffered a heart attack not long before his scheduled match against Sammartino, and was booked to lose the title. Depending on who one finds most believable, the heart attack was either legit (and he agreed to drop the title so he could recover), he was indeed sick but – insisting that he be allowed to hold onto the title until he recovered to go on tour as "champion" – was made by bookers to wrestle and drop the title as planned, or he was healthy all along and simply refused to cooperate with (the elder) Vince McMahon in dropping the title to a wrestler they found more charismatic and had more drawing power. Indeed, Sammartino – who, by the time of his death in 2018, had spent more than 20 years as the last surviving key figure involved in that match (and was in good health until his last months) – often said the latter explanation is the one, and with few to no surviving accurate records (no taped footage of the match itself, no existing paper records and strict maintenance of Kayfabe abounding in that era) there's little evidence to dispute him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: As an amateur wrestler, Rogers wasn't too fond to see the sport of professional wrestling transition from standard wrestling matches to fights that happened to have some grappling in them and really wanted a lot of the more blatant cheats such as hair pulling to be thrown out entirely. (This was the same Rogers who was perfectly fine with jumping his opponents from behind while and punching them in the back)
  • Large Ham: Along with Gorgeous George, he was a showy, bombastic Heel in the early days of television who influenced many people who followed him. What else would you expect?
  • Legacy Wrestler: He was the first of many Nature Boys in pro wrestling with Ric Flair being the most famous, arguably more so than his predecessor. Less famous Nature Boys include Buddy Landel (now deceased) and "The Black Nature Boy" Scoot Andrews.
  • Married to the Job: Wrestling day in and day out, that's what he wanted his whole life, from the YMCA in Canada to his turning pro. He finally got to make this a reality when he started getting over in 1943.
  • News Broadcast: Famously broke the knee tendons of a reporter who had the audacity to ask him if professional wrestling was fake using the figure four leg lock.
  • Power Stable: (in NWA Mid-Atlantic): Rogers' Army, with Big John Studd, Jimmy Snuka and Ken Patera, until Gene Anderson took it over and renamed it Anderson's Army.
  • Red Baron: "The Nature Boy"
  • Retcon: The tournament in Brazil where he defeated the likes of Bruno Sammartino and Antonino Rocca then won the WWWF championship never actually happened.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: He was a booker in St. Louis and Chicago.
  • Smug Snake: He and manager Bobby Davis would cut promos about how Rogers' opponents weren't even deserving of being in the same ring as him.
  • Talk Show with Fists: "Buddy Rogers' Corner," in early 1980s WWE. Jimmy Snuka, who was the WWF's biggest star in 1982-1983, was a central figure in two of the most memorable segments/storylines: 1. Where Rogers informed Snuka that Captain Lou Albano was defrauding him; and 2. Where Don Muraco, upset that he was not the center of attention as Snuka came to ringside for his match, left the "Corner" set and went to ringside to trash-talk Snuka, only for a wild brawl to ensue.
  • Unbuilt Trope: His gimmick could be summarized as Gorgeous George minus the homophobia bait at the time but the "nature boy" has since taken on a life of its own, having at least four successors.
  • Underwear of Power: He grew up in an era when they were more or less synonymous with athletes in the USA and they were still popular, even outside of professional wrestling, when he debuted. They were on their way out everywhere else by the time of his comeback though.
  • Unrelated Brothers: With the original Rip Rogers, better known as Eddie Graham.
  • Ur-Example: Was the first WWWF World Heavyweight Champion, the first Nature Boy, and the innovator of the extremely popular submission hold The Figure Four Leg Lock.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Perhaps his most controversial use of this tactic was when he claimed to have only lost the NWA World Heavyweight title to Bobo Brazil due to a groin injury. Hearing this, Brazil actually refused to take the championship belt until a doctor later clarified Rogers was not injured. Still, the NWA maintained Bobo never won the belt.
  • Worthy Opponent: In the 1980s Rogers claimed to have done more for pro wrestling than anyone else had in the last 25-30 years on a televised interview. Then he backspaced and said anyone else but besides Lou Thesz.
  • Wrestling Doesn't Pay: Eventually subverted, as he became on of television's first stars, but at first he (begrudgingly) kept his day job as a police officer for most of his four years as a pro before it happened.