Considering the ups and downs the industry has gone through over the years, I think a nice little look back at the some of the more illustrious and obscure men and women to hold the gold would be nice. And starting this little quest off is a belt that, while lacking the linage (and some would argue prestige) of some of the other titles belts, it has been around the waist of some of the best the wrestling world has to offer.The WWE Title
First, let's have some background on what would become the WWE. Starting out as the northeastern branch of the National Wrestling Alliance, Capitol Wrestling (although some argue that the name was World Capitol Wrestling) was by all accounts a successful promotion. Run by former grappler Joe 'Toots' Mondt and Jesse McMahon, the company was given to Jesse's son Vince in 1952. One of the younger McMahon's first acts was to change the name to the Capital Wrestling Federation.
Of course, Vince did more than that later on, as in 1963 the newly renamed World Wide Wrestling Federation left the NWA. Now, I could give you readers a thousand reasons for this, and truth be told I don't think anyone of them would be right. But one (semi) official reason for the spilt is this:
On January 24, 1963 Buddy 'the Nature Boy' Rodgers was facing current NWA World champ Lou Thesz in a title match. The rules for a title match at the time stated that the title must be defended in a best two out of three falls. While Thesz won, he only scored one pinfall before the final bell rang.
In either March or April that same year, Rodgers was awarded the newly made World Wide Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Title. Officially, Rodgers beat Antonio Rocca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in a tournament during March for the title.
An interesting bit trivia concerning the tournament: Rodgers suffered a heart attack in early '63 and checked himself out of the hospital to go and fight. The official time of Rodgers's reign was April 1 1963 to May 17 1963, barely a month. Another bit of trivia is the location of the tournament, as supposedly Rogers was meant to defeat Bobo Brazil in the tournament. Brazil refused, so Mondt changed the name to Rocca. He did however, stress that Rocca was beaten in BRAZIL, so perhaps he got the last laugh after all.
Now, although Rodgers was pretty much forgotten by the crowd nowadays, here's a profile at this amazing man
"The Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers
Real name: Herman Rohde
Date Of Birth: Unknown date, 1922
Date Of Death: June 26, 1992
Martial state: Unknown
Gimmicks used: Herman Rohde, Buddy Rhode, The Original Nature Boy
Feuded with: Lou Thesz, Bruno Sammartino, Ric Flair
Finishing move: the Figure-Four leglock
WWWF World Heavyweight title (4-1-63)
NWA World Heavyweight title (6-30-61)
WWWF United States Tag Team titles [2 times] (w/ Johnny Valentine, 11-19-60; w/Johnny Barend, 1-11-62)
Without a doubt we all owe something to Rodgers. His flamboyant persona paved the way for many great heels, and I think the wrestling world lost something the day he died.
During his title reign- Born: Actor/comedian Eddie Murphy; future Freebird Terry "Bam-Bam" Gordy; actor Robert Carlyle; actor George Clooney; Kids in the Hall star Kevin McDonald; actress Brigitte Nelson; and pop singer Enya.
Important events: General Hospital aired it's first episode and in baseball news the Mets purchase Duke Snider away from the Dodgers for a cool $40,000 dollars.
For info on this, I would like to thank the Obsessed with Wrestling website for the personal info on Mr. Rohde, and a deeply heartfelt thanks to John-Peter Trask over at 411 wrestling for his amazingly detailed look at the wearers of the WWE gold.
And now a look at what is quite possibly the most convoluted history of any title I can think of.The WWE Women's Championship
The background on this almost makes my head hurt, but let's give it a go. Now, according to both the Guinness Book of World Records and the WWE, the first woman's champ was the Fabulous Moolah, who won the title on September 18, 1956 and she held the title until 1984. Wait, 1956? You say, but I thought the WWWF didn't form until 1963? Well folks, you would be right. Now, as best as I can figure, here is what has happened.
The date is right, in that Moolah won the title (in a real tournament held in Baltimore, Maryland. She beat Judy Grable in the final match to win the NWA Women's World title). So Moolah was the champ, just not the WWWF's. When the WWWF spilt in '63, the Women's title stayed with the NWA, where Moolah lost it (and gained it back) from a variety of opponents until 1978, when the WWF (they had dropped the extra W by this point) returned to the NWA, thus bringing Moolah back. They stayed until 1983, by which point the WWF had purchased the rights to the NWA belt from Moolah (who had purchased the belt in 1976). As far the WWF was concerned, Moolah was, and had always been, the champ. Moolah had been billed as the Undisputed Women's champ since 1964. Her first reign last from September 18 1956 to September 17 1966, just about ten whole years. Which is no mean feat I can just tell you.
Now here's a profile of this woman. An interesting bit of kismet in this is that Moolah started out as a valet to various wrestlers, Buddy Rodgers being one of them!
The Fabulous Moolah
Real name: Lillian Ellison
Date Of Birth: July 22, 1923
Hometown: Tookiedoo, South Carolina (although she is also credited as hailing from Columbia, SC as well)
Marital state: unknown
Gimmicks used: Slave Girl Moolah, Spider Lady
Feuded with: Pretty much every female face in North America at one point or another.
Finishing move: The Schoolgirl
NWA Women's World title [5 times] (9-18-56; 9-??-66; 4-2-68; ??-??-76- disputed; 10-10-78)
WWF Women's World title [3 times] (11-25-85; 7-9-87; 10-17-99)
An interesting tale, made more so when you considered that the Fabulous is still alive and even occasionally grappling at her age! Truly inspiring, although I think she really should quit by now.
Important events: Wagon Train debuted on TV, Get Smart debuts as well.
Will we ever see these two in the pages of this WWE fan comic? Moolah-maybe. I'm tossing some ideas around for her character for the SUPERSTARS books, as she was still competing in the 80's. Rodgers? I would like to use him in a flashback tale perhaps, but since I've never seen so much as a single match with him in it, so I would be rather hesitant to use him.
Anyway, we are all out of time here tonight folks.
Just let me know what you guys and gals think