With his platinum blond hair and radioactive charisma, Buddy Rogers lit up arenas around the world. He was arguably the most colorful champion in wrestling history. Rogers possessed a near-perfect physique and became a highly popular wrestling figure. Born Herman Rohde in Camden, New Jersey on June 26, 1921 Rogers first began his wrestling career as the character Dutch Roberts in July 1939.
In 1944, Rohde would officially wrestle under the name of Buddy Rogers and he subsequently captured the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) Texas Title in 1945. After his first heavyweight championship, Rogers earned the distinctive nickname, "The Nature Boy", while in California in 1947. Rogers again won the NWA Texas Title in 1950 before winning the AWA Title in Montreal, Canada in 1951.
After much success as a singles wrestler, Rogers competed in the tag team circuit and teamed with Ronnie Etchison. The tough team would quickly win the NWA World Tag Team Titles in San Francisco in October 1958. Two years later, Rogers found a new tag team partner in Johnny Valentine within Vince McMahon Sr.'s World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). Valentine and Rogers defeated the Fabulous Kangaroos for the US Tag Team Title in 1960.
Rogers would win the NWA World Title from Pat O'Connor at Chicago's Comiskey Park on June 30, 1961 before 30,000 fans. In January of 1963, "The Nature Boy" would lose the NWA Title to an individual who would turn out to be one of Rogers' greatest rivals, Lou Thesz. A few months after the stunning loss to Thesz, Rogers was recognized as the first WWWF Heavyweight Champion in April 1963. Roger's title reign wit the WWWF was short lived as he would drop the belt Bruno Sammartino on May 17, 1963. This defeat to Sammartino led to Buddy's retirement.
His matches with Billy Darnell, Ilio DiPaolo, Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino and many others showcased his rugged and submissive style of wrestling. Rogers' most effective technique was the patented figure four leg lock, a hold that would be adopted by a future "Nature Boy" -Ric Flair.
Rogers returned to the ring in a managerial capacity during the late 1970's and guided some of the industry's biggest stars while in the NWA. "The Nature Boy" managed of "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka, Big John Studd, and Olympian Ken Patera, all of whom went on to have successful careers in professional wrestling. Rogers was later a casino manager and a television personality. He appeared on Saturday Night Live and other notable programs including Toast of The Town, Songs For Sale and Cavalcade of Bands.
The impact that Rogers made on the world of professional wrestling is as unique as the character that he portrayed for decades. Buddy Rogers passed away at his home in Florida on June 26, 1992. "The Nature Boy" defined the word "champion" in every sense and he will always be credited for taking the wrestling industry to new and diverse heights of popularity.