“To a nicer guy, it couldn’t happen!” Most people nowadays only know Buddy Rogers as the first man to hold the WWE Title as well as the first to use the “Nature Boy” moniker. What they didn’t know, however, was that Rogers was an exceptionally fantastic worker inside the ropes, having influenced hundreds of wrestlers from future generations. If you’ve seen the original Nature Boy in action at least once before, you can clearly see the traits and qualities of his being adopted and borrowed by the likes of Ric Flair, Buddy Rose, Buddy Landell, and many, many more.
In this article, we will take you through the absolute best matches from Buddy Rogers’s long and illustrated career, which will include classics against legends like Lou Thesz, Pat O’ Connor, Killer Kowalski, and many, many more. Please note that matches that lacked a severe amount of footage won’t be included. So don’t you be expecting the 1979 Clash of the Nature Boys against Ric Flair! With all that said, it’s time we move on to the top 10 best matches of Buddy Rogers’s career!
10) Vs. Bruno Sammartino (WWWF World Heavyweight Title) – WWWF MSG, May. 17th 1963
The existing footage of this match only consists of a few images with Vince Jr.’s commentary in the background. However, the picture you see above is more than enough to paint a thousand words. Without this, there would be no Hulkamania. Without this, there would be no Attitude Era. Without this, there would be no WWE today. Rogers was forced to submit to Bruno’s crushing bearhug in a mere 48 seconds to reportedly keep him safe from his heart issue. And with that, we have a rising new star, Bruno Sammartino, standing tall over the fallen Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers, in one of the most impactful moments of our industry. I was skeptical about putting this one on the list at first. But looking back, its historical impact simply cannot be understated.
9) Vs. Ash Mahoney – NWA Chicago, 1944
The exact date of this one is unknown. But what we do know is that this was Rogers’s first-ever match caught on tape. This is presumably the only time we will get to see the original Nature Boy as a babyface before his heel turn, and it was indeed a fascinating watch looking back. Rogers was presented as the exciting youngster here, whereas Ash seems to be the more experienced competitor. Although the younger of the two, Rogers wasn’t reluctant to land some nasty blows on the bigger athlete, showing that he can play rough even at a younger stage. The clever finish saw Buddy patting Mahoney’s back while in a pin to trick him that he won the match before blasting him with a barrage of offenses for the win.
8) w/ Jimmy Snuka Vs. Ray Stevens & Capt. Lou Albano – WWF on PRISM Network, Nov. 25th 1982
Buddy Rogers’s last-ever match to be telecasted, and I don’t think the man himself even knew it at the time. This was a fairly generic tag formula, but I would be lying to say it didn’t work. They smartly positioned Rogers as the face-in-peril to save his energy, but he sure wasn’t afraid to throw a dropkick or two when given a chance. Stevens & Albano kept him in their corner for the majority until he made a hot tag to Snuka that triggered one hell of a pop! It was a simple story but effectively told. And I bet Rogers must be having the time of his life in there, working a match this long and participating this much in what was probably forever.
7) Vs. Haystacks Calhoun (NWA United States Heavyweight Title) – NWA Chicago, Apr. 14th 1961
While Haystacks Calhoun was never known for being a technical wizard inside the ring, his size and visual are more than enough to make him go far in the business. Here, he went one-on-one with the original Naitch for the US Title in what was a decently fun match overall. Rogers knew exactly how to work around Calhoun’s limitations, and he possibly gave him the best match of his career. There was one spot where Rogers tried escaping a headlock by shoving Calhoun to the rope, but he ended up getting his head hauled over instead! Rogers had to be extremely smart in order to outwit his much-larger opponent, and we got a scrap of those brain v. brawn bits here. This was lengthened out to a little over 10 mins, and it definitely benefited Haystacks by preventing him from gassing out first. Buddy won this oddball contest after firing away two frenetic dropkicks to send Calhoun out to the floor (and breaking the ring ropes!) for a cheap count-out victory.
6) w/ Johnny Barend & Magnificent Maurice Vs. Bobo Brazil, Dory Dixon & Art Thomas (2-Out-Of-3 Falls) – IWA, Mar. 15th 1963
Now here’s a match you might not think of. A six-man tag team bout contested under a best two-out-of-three falls rules! There’s a fascinating pool of talents in this one, and they actually got to mix and match very well too. Rogers, in particular, stood out in this one, though you have to give credits to Dixon as well; the man was flying all over the place like he was a WCW cruiserweight! The action here was certainly way ahead of its time, even featuring a headscissors (IN 1963!!!) from Bobo Brazil that literally had my jaw dropped. The finish was unfortunately anticlimactic, but so it goes in this era. Granted, it’s the only multi-man match on this ranking (and the only multi-man match involving Rogers, for that matter), but it was still a pretty darn great one. Give it a look, it’s worth it.
5) Vs. Cyclone Anaya (2-Out-Of-3 Falls) – NWA Chicago, Jan. 5th 1951
Looks like we found ourselves with another best two-out-of-three falls bout. Don’t be surprised if you see this a lot, though, as this stipulation was used frequently for most of the 20th Century. This was a very mat-heavy contest, but the mat wrestling that was presented is more than worth your time. These two worked holds quite like no one else, and you can see them trying to crank it on with as much pressure as possible. Cyclone won the first fall via a Cobra Twist submission after a fast-paced action sequence. However, Rogers retaliated with a nasty-looking piledriver that unfortunately forced a referee stoppage, as Anaya couldn’t continue anymore. Buddy’s piledriver was put over huge as a result. Both men put in a great effort, but it was Buddy Rogers who really shined in this one with his incredible mat-game and star aura. Afterward, Rogers showed a (surprising) sign of sportsmanship by helping Anaya up to his feet, signaling that he’s not a full-fledged heel… at least not yet!
4) Vs. Killer Kowalski (World Heavyweight Title, 2-Out-Of-3 Falls) – NWA Chicago, Feb. 22nd 1963
This was a 2-out-of-3 falls match with only 12 minutes of runtime, but they managed to fill in all the action and falls without ever making it feel rushed. Kowalski went to town on Buddy’s leg right from the get-go, and he immediately scored a fall with a stacked pin. From there, Rogers was extra careful after the development of the first fall, working cautiously before coming back with a forearm smash to win the second fall. After Kowalski missed a flying knee drop on the last fall, Rogers quickly hit a brutal piledriver to wrap things up. The dynamic played out between the two was a real treat to watch – Rogers as the smug, unsportsmanlike sleazebag; Kowalski as the pissed-off, no-nonsense killer. Rogers could’ve sold his leg a bit more, but he made up for it with his feeding of Kowalski’s offensive onslaught. All in all, a great match that took place just a few months before Buddy’s unfortunate heart attack in May.
3) Vs. Lou Thesz (NWA World Heavyweight Title, 2-Out-Of-3 Falls) – NWA Chicago, Jan. 26th 1951
This is a rematch from their June 1950 encounter – more on that one soon – and it’s definitely a step down from that one. The matwork was full of struggle, extremely rugged and forceful. The transitions between each sequence were very rhythmic and compelling. The actual work was very good for the most part. With all that said, however, the meat of the match couldn’t grab much of my interest, by association with the aforementioned match. The pacing was off as they spent too much time in holds. It was a great idea to let things breathe, but this felt a little too much. God bless Buddy for always trying to keep things interesting with his heel shenanigans. And God bless Thesz for upping the intensity when needed. But this was easily underwhelming to me. Thesz won the first fall with an airplane spin, while Rogers bounced back with a piledriver. They went to a full-hour time limit draw and shook hands afterward, which seems like diminishing returns. As great as this was, I can’t help but feel disappointed by it, especially when compared to their 1950 classic. Hence, the relatively “low” ranking on this list.
2) Vs. Pat O’Connor (NWA World Heavyweight Title, 2-Out-Of-3 Falls) – NWA Chicago, Jun. 30th 1961
Buddy Rogers’s increasing popularity amongst fans allowed him to get voted into winning his first and only NWA Heavyweight Championship by the booking committee. Dubbed “The Match of the Century“, this famous title change took place at the Comiskey Park in front of over 38 000 fans, setting a new record for professional wrestling attendance that wouldn’t be broken until 1984. There was a big-match feel to this one right off the bat. The first fall was highlighted by Buddy’s continuous cheating and dirty tactics throughout. He blocked a charging Pat with a knee to score the first fall. The second fall, on the other hand, was the Pat O’Connor match. He controlled in large part with a toehold before tying the score up with his signature O’Connor roll. The third fall was more competitive than the two prior falls, with a more competitive back and forth nature. Rogers constantly getting his feet on the ropes to escape getting pinned was a nice way to put his ring awareness over, and it perfectly played right into the finish. Pat lost his cool after multiple failed pin attempts, went to the well once too often, and paid his price by missing a dropkick and crashing to the rope, giving Rogers the victory and the belt as a result.
1) Vs. Lou Thesz (NWA World Heavyweight Title, 2-Out-Of-3 Falls) – NWA Chicago, Jun. 21st 1950
Seeing two wrestlers continuously doing everything in their power to win is literally my cup of tea, and that’s exactly what I got here. Rogers was the man in this match. His heel work was spectacular, doing little things like adding a closed fist while in a headlock, faking a clean break only to sucker-punch Thesz, bickering with the referee, etc. Thesz, on the other hand, was the badass defending champion, not hesitating to fight dirty too if the situation called for it. I’ve never seen a collar-elbow tie-up being done in a manner as violent as Rogers and Thesz; it was like two bulls locking horns in a wrestling ring! These two worked super-stiff here, as can be seen from Buddy’s vicious uppercuts and Thesz’s brutal knee lifts. It all came down to the third and final fall in the end, which saw Buddy being sidestepped by Thesz, crashing and burn into the rope, hanging himself out in a spot which Mick Foley would go on to replicate a couple of decades later. This was absolutely stellar, possibly one of my all-time favorite matches ever, as well as Buddy Rogers’s greatest match of all time.
And that will be it for today’s post. Thank you very much for reading, and make sure to stay tuned for my next work right here on the blog. Until then, have a wonderful day!
Make a one-time donation
Make a monthly donation
Make a yearly donation
Choose an amount
Or enter a custom amount
Your contribution is greatly appreciated!
Your contribution is appreciated.
Your contribution is appreciated.DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly