Golden Moment – Nature Boy vs Nature Boy – Wrestling 87

An article from Wrestling 87 magazine covering the Battle of the Nature Boys

AS A YOUTH, Ric Flair idolized “Nature Boy” Buddy
Rogers, one of the greatest NWA champions of all
nme. Flair not only admired Rogers’ considerable ralent,
but his charisma. F1air promised himself that he would be
be same type of wrestler that Rogers was.

When he finally turned pro, F1air took Rogers’ nick·
name as his own and committed himself to perfecting the
maneuver that Rogers claimed to invent: the dreaded
figure-four leglock. Rogers was angry that the brash rook·
ie had stolen his name and adopted his trademark He
hoped they would meet in the ring, where he would end
the comparisons and prove that no one could imitate the
onginal “Nature Boy.”

The two did meet in Charlotte, North carolina, in No·
ember 1979. Flair had recently surrendered his U.S. title
to devote more time to defending his NWA World tag
team title with Blackjack Mulligan, Even so, Flair would
gladly accept Rogers’ challenge. A fall favorite at the
time, Flair hated everything that his old idol had come to
represent.

Rogers, who managed John Studd and Ken Patera, was
in the midst of a comeback. As a manager, he had
carefully scrutinized the competition and decided he
could defeat any man in the sport, Flair included. Despite
being more than a decade past his prime, Rogers was
convinced he could score an easy victory.
F1air was considered by some to be overly cruel in this
match. He pounded Rogers bloody, showing the world
that he had finally become a worthy successor to the
Rogers legacy. The long-awaited figure-four . leg lock
showdown did come about, but it was inconclusive: both
men applied the hold, but both reached the ropes to
break it.

Two years after that fateful encounter, Flan: matched
Rogers’ title success by becoming NWA World champion.
He later said he regrerted ever having that match
because of the respect he once held for Rogers. But he
felt it was neccesary. Rogers came away from the match
realizing that it was time for one “Nature Boy” to recog·
nize the greatness of another.

Buddy Rogers Coolest Person of the 20th Century

An article by Bob Green of the Chicago Tribune

Sturgis, SD — When Northwest Airlines drops you off in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and then doesn’t come back to pick you up, you are presented with the challenge of how to kill time.

One way is to talk to people here about the big pay-per-view World Championship Wrestling show that was telecast from Sturgis over the summer. The show featured the usual current-day assortment of wrestling stars — Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Sting, Disco Inferno, Diamond Dallas Page — as well as “Tonight” show host Jay Leno wrestling in a tag team, and a current superstar of pro wrestling, a man who goes by the single name “Goldberg” (don’t ask)

The nationally telecast show, as you can imagine caused quite a stir around here. And perusing the current array of famous wrestlers, I am more convinced than ever about the identity of the coolest person of the 20th century.

That would be Buddy “Nature Boy” Rogers.

Buddy “Nature Boy” Rogers was my first hero. He was a wrestling star in the early days of coast-to-coast television; because TV was new and wrestling was a cheap way to fill airtime, professional wrestling became among the first people to find out about the amazing impacr of television fame. One year they’d been wrestling almost anonymously and dingy local arenas– the next year their faces were known in tens of thousands of cities and towns they’d never visited. And Buddy Rogers’ face. . .

Well, the blonde hair, the sneer, the gaze of absolute confidence — Nature Boy Rogers was to wrestling what Elvis Presley was to music: electric jolting, incandescent. Sometimes he was the good guy, sometimes he was the bad guy — it didn’t seem to matter much, he filled arenas either way. The Buddy Rogers strut was a work of art — he would saunter across the ring with a kind of cocky stutter-step that in itself was worth the price of a ticket.

Which for me, when I was 10 years old, was 50 cents. Because of an accident in geography, Nature Boy came to my hometown all the time. The big paydays for wrestlers were in New York and Chicago. But they’d stop in central Ohio on their way between the big cities, to make a little extra money appearing on “Lex’s Live Wrestling” a TV show hosted by local Chevrolet dealer Lex Mayer.

Most of the wrestlers wee saw in central Ohio where not marquee names — we’d get guys like Frankie Talaber and Leon Graham and Fritz von Goering and Oyama Kato. And then Nature Boy himself would show up in town, and Old Memorial Hall in downtown Columbus — site of “Lex’s Live Wrestling,” home of the 50-cent-ticket — would feel like Madison Square Garden.

Make that Carnegie Hall — the thrill of a Nature Boy performance was so sublime that it belonged there, not in some mere sports arena. Unfortunately, this was a minority opinion — wrestling had no cachet back then, it was considered a gutter entertainment — and Nature Boy was virtually unknown to the more educated echelons of society.

But has there ever been a studlier human being? I got to know Nature Boy in his later years (he died at the age of 71 in 1992) and even then that sneer, that strut, that voice . . . he sounded like Robert Mitchum, but Buddy’s voice had even more authority, if you can imagine that. near the end of Nature Boy’s life we went to dinner in a south Florida restaurant near his home, and on that night I found out that even a man using a cane can strut like an ego crazed pony through a crowded room, turning heads with every step.

That Classic Sports cable TV network occasionally fills the early-morning hours on weekends with old wrestling matches, and Nature Boy’s power is undiminished over the years. The video advances utilized to gives sports events high impact today had yet to be developed then — there was no color, no crystal-clear closeups, no slow-motion replays. The wrestlers were mostly seen from middle distance in black, white and gray. Yet Nature Boy still in that grainy old footage, burns through the screen like a hypnotic flame.

The coolest person of the century?

Nature Boy’s only real competition would seem to be Elvis himself — and an impartial judge long ao awarded the title to Buddy. That judge was Debbie Rogers, Nature Boy’s wife. as a young woman, she dated both Elvis Presley and Buddy Rogers (what a woman — it staggers the imagination). She chose Nature Boy. She thought he was cooler.

Meanwhile, the Black Hills are lovely this time of year, but the professional wrestlers are all gone from Sturgis now, having been wise enough to arrive and depart before the airline strike. I look at the hills and try to imagine what Nature Boy would have made of Dennis Rodman.