PWInsider - WWE News, Wrestling News, WWE

 
 

FORMER WWWF CHAMPION PEDRO MORALES PASSES AWAY

By Mike Johnson on 2019-02-12 14:41:00

Former WWWF Champion Pedro Morales, the first man to accomplish the WWF Championship Triple Crown and hold the WWWF title, the WWF Intercontinental and the WWF Tag Team Championship, has passed away at the age of 76.   Morales passing was first announced by former WWF announcer Hugo Savinovich.  Morales had been battling Parkinson's disease in recent years.

Morales, an extremely popular competitor, was such a beloved, fiery babyface that there was a legitimate sense of fear the audience would riot when he lost the WWWF title to Stan Stasiak in Philadelphia, the ring announcer simply said, "Let's hear it for Pedro Morales" and then the next day, the title change was reporting in newspapers.  On another occasion, a fan stabbed Blackjack Mulligan in the back with a butcher knife as he was on his way to the ring to challenge Morales for the title in Boston.    His bond with the audience, especially Latin fans, was massive and when he would make comebacks, the venue would explode with insane levels of emotion.  While Bruno is always remembered at the first WWF superhero, Morales was perhaps even more loved, to the point that he proved there could be life after Bruno in that territory.

Morales, a native of Puerto Rico was a baseball prospect who fell in love with pro wrestling and broke in the business working in the New York City area in the late 1950s, originally wrestling under the name Buddy Gilbert.  He worked a number of different areas and territories over the early part of his career, including New York, California, Florida, Hawaii, North Carolina and Virginia, working as an undercard babyface.

Morales first big singles push came in California’s WWA, where he defeated The Destroyer (Dick Beyer) to win the promotion’s World title, holding it for several months before losing it to Crazy Luke Graham as part of a longer feud with the brawler.  He regained the title in October 1965 and was used as a top star, only taking breaks to tour to Japan.

Although he had worked the New York territory in the early 1960s, it was Morales’ run in the early 1970s that cemented his fame and legacy in the world of professional wrestling.  He returned to the area as a babyface, teaming with the likes of Jay Strongbow in November 1970.  He was earmarked for a top role immediately as the promotion was looking for a new ethnic superhero to replace Bruno Sammartino.  Bruno shockingly dropped the belt to Ivan Koloff with Morales winning it shortly thereafter in February 1971.

Morales, as noted, was extremely loved, and would easily fill up venues for main events against Bulldog Brower, Fred Blassie, Blackjack Mulligan, King Curtis, Ernie Ladd, George Steele, Tarzan Tyler, Luke Graham and others often managed by Captain Lou Albano.

Morales would also become one half of what was billed as the Match of the Century, when he faced Bruno Sammartino to headline a live card at Shea Stadium brought on by a tag match where blinded by salt thrown in their eyes by Mr. Fuji and Professor Toru Tanaka, the two heroes began brawling with each other.  Bruno Sammartino said often that had it not been for terrible weather leading into the date, he believes they would sold out and turned away fans that day.  As it turned out, the babyface vs. babyface bout didn’t sell out the stadium for what turned out to be the only in-ring meeting between the two most popular WWF Champions up until that point but did bring in an impressive 22,000 fans.  Morales and Sammartino wrestled for 75 minutes before the New York State Athletic Commission called for curfew and it went to a draw.  Video of the match, if there is any, has never been released, giving the match an additional legendary aura.

Morales title run continued for 1,027 days before losing the title to Stasiak in Philadelphia.  It still stands today as the 5th longest title run in company history.  During that run, Morales sold out MSG over 20 times.

After the WWF run, Morales returned to California, working the San Francisco territory as a partner for Pat Patterson, one of the biggest stars in the area and feuding with Don Muraco.  Morales then moved on the AWA, where he teamed with Peter Maivia and feuded with The Super Destroyer, among others.  As he was moved down the card, he shifted over to Eddie Graham’s Championship Wrestling from Florida, once again feuding with Pat Patterson and working against Superstar Graham.  In Florida, Morales challenged Harley Race for the NWA title several times as well. 

After bouncing around Canada and touring New Japan Pro Wrestling, Morales returned to what was now known as the WWF, teaming with Bob Backlund (then the WWF Champion) to win the WWF Tag Team titles from the Wild Samoans.   Morales was a top talent for the territory, feuding with Ken Patera for the Intercontinental title before moving on to feud with Sgt. Slaughter and Killer Khan, among others.  Morales would lose the title to Don Muraco, eventually regaining it to become the first two-time Intercontinental Champion.

In the WWF, Morales’ tenure with the promotion would continue with feuds against Greg Valentine and Bob Orton before he settled into a respected mid-card veteran’s role, teaming with upstart Latin star Tito Santana to help give him credibility.  Morales would get regular wins on TV over lower card talents but be used to help push newer heels.  His lone Wrestlemania appearance would be in Chicago at Wrestlemania 2, competing in the combined NFL-WWF battle royal that would also feature Bruno in Bruno Sammartino’s lone Wrestlemania match.

Morales would work with Adrian Adonis, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, Dino Bravo and a number of other heels on live events, even challenging The Honkytonk Man for the IC title before opting to retire in 1987, wrestling a Battle Royal in November 1987 in his final WWF in-ring appearance.

Morales worked as a commentator for WWF after retiring as well as working behind the scenes as a road agent.  After his WWF run as Spanish language announcer ended, he worked for WCW in a similar capacity.  In recent years, Morales had quietly lived in New Jersey, occasionally making convention and signing appearances, but began to shy away from such bookings as his health issues became greater.

In 1995, Morales was fittingly inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame, inducted by Savio Vega.  Morales became the first Latin wrestler to be inducted into the Hall.

On behalf of everyone associated with PWInsider.com, we'd like to express our deepest condolences to the family, friends and fans of Pedro Morales.

If you enjoy PWInsider.com you can check out the AD-FREE PWInsider Elite section, which features exclusive audio updates, news, our critically acclaimed podcasts, interviews and more, right now for THREE DAYS free by clicking here!