One of the most popular Latin stars in wrestling history, he would become not only champion of his fans but also champion of the world.
Real Name: Pedro Morales
Stats: 5′ 11″ 240 lbs.
Born: November 3, 1942
By Steve Slagle
Of the numerous Latino pro wrestlers to have competed in North America — men like Jose Lothario, The Guerrero Family, Al Perez, Gino Hernandez, Pepper Gomez, and so many other greats from “south of the border” — Pedro Morales is perhaps the most famous and successful of them all. As a beloved multi-time World champion and main event performer, Morales was a role model for millions. A man with ample “cross-over appeal,” Morales was a hero not only to his fellow Latin Americans, but also to wrestling’s vast North American fanbase. A top box office draw throughout the 1960’s, 1970’s, and into the 1980’s, Pedro Morales was one of the most in-demand performers of his era, and a true Hall of Fame legend…
Morales began his pro wrestling career in the early 1960’s, working mainly on the West Coast, primarily in Los Angeles. During his stay in L.A., Morales left an indelible mark on the territory, and proved to many onlooking NWA promoters that he had what it took to be a top star. The 6`2, 250 lb. Latino sensation made his first big waves when he captured the prestigious W.W.A. World Heavyweight title from The Destroyer in L.A. on March 12, 1965. The popular young champion held the title for four months before being defeated by a member of one of wrestling’s greatest “families,” the unpredictable “Crazy” Luke Graham. Morales rallied to win his title back from Graham, though, less than three months later. Once Pedro had his WWA World title belt back, his was determined to keep it. Although he was still relatively inexperienced (compared to the many veterans he competed against) Morales was more than able to keep up with his more seasoned competition. He defeated all comers (which included Fred Blassie, John Tolos, The Destroyer, and many other Los Angeles-area legends) until finally being toppled by Buddy Austin on August 5, 1966 — 10 months after his 2nd WWA title reign began. Following his run as the WWA champ, Morales concentrated on the WWA Tag Team gold, again with enormous success. Between 1966-68, he wore the WWA tag belt four times, with four different partners — Luis Hernandez, Mark Lewin, Victor Rivera, and Ricky Romero.
But with the new decade came new challenges for Morales. Having dominated the WWA, Morales took an offer to work for Vince McMahon’s World Wide Wrestling Federation and moved to the East Coast. Once there, Morales immediately established himself as a serious contender for Bruno Sammartino’s unshakable position as the WWWF’s top babyface. When “The Russian Bear” Ivan Koloff shocked the world by defeating the “unbeatable” Sammartino, Morales’ fate was sealed. On February 8, 1971, after a matter of only a few days as champion, Koloff was defeated by Pedro Morales, and history was once again made in the hallowed halls of New York’s Madison Square Garden. As the WWWF champion, Morales was popular and respected, however, he could never totally escape the long shadow of former WWWF kingpin, Bruno Sammartino. Fans had been clamoring for a Bruno-Pedro bout since the day Morales entered the promotion, but various circumstances kept the dream-match from happening. Finally, though, in 1972, the two Kings of the WWWF met head-on, at Shea Stadium before over 20,000 rabid fans. That night, the fans in attendance received their “match of the century,” a grueling, incredibly hard-fought one hour time limit draw.
Pedro Morales held his WWWF Heavyweight title for nearly three years before finally being defeated by The Grand Wizard’s latest protégé, Stan “The Man” Stasiak on December 1, 1973. In the months following his loss, the former champ remained a top attraction, but eventually began to fade out of the WWWF picture. After a few years of accepting various bookings around the country and in Puerto Rico, Morales went into a state of semi-retirement. Throughout much of the late 1970’s, little was heard from the superstar wrestler, and he maintained a very low profile. But, as was the case 10 years earlier, with the start of the new decade came a fresh beginning for Morales, and he made a triumphant return to wrestling (and the WWF) in 1980.
Morales picked up right where he’d left off — at the top of card. On August 9, 1980, he made history by teaming with then-WWF champion Bob Backlund to defeat Lou Albano’s Wild Samoans at the same site as his historic match with Bruno, Shea Stadium. Since the WWF’s “rule book” states that a WWF champion cannot wear the Tag or I-C belt at the same time he is WWF Heavyweight champion, the team of Morales & Backlund had to forfeit their championship days later.
But that renewed taste of championship gold was only the beginning for Morales, and on December 8, 1980 he defeated the rugged Inter-Continental champion Ken Patera to become the new I-C champ, only the 3rd in history at that point in time. The enormously popular Morales held the I-C title for six months, holding back the challenges of former champ Patera, as well as title threats from Greg Valentine and “Magnificent” Don Muraco. It was Muraco who would end Morales’ 1st I-C title reign, defeating him in New York on June 20, 1981. Morales and Muraco had a particularly intense, bloody rivalry during this period of time, one that sold-out arenas all across the WWF’s still regional (at that time) territory. Morales would eventually regain his title from Muraco, to the delight of his many fans, on November 23, 1981. After regaining his Inter-Continental belt, Morales spent all of 1982 defending his title against the top challengers, primarily Muraco and the recently returned “Superstar” Billy Graham. Over a year into his 2nd I-C title reign, Pedro was again defeated by arch-nemesis Don Muraco.
This defeat marked the end of Morales’ 20-year championship run, as he never wore another title belt again. He did, however, remain a top-level performer, often headlining WWF arena cards. But after more than 20 years in the wrestling ring, Morales began to contemplate his retirement. With the rise of Vince McMahon, Jr’s incredibly popular WWF, Morales quietly exited the sport that he meant so much to, and meant so much to him. However, Morales did not disappear entirely from the wrestling world, or the WWF. After leaving the ring, Morales took a high-profile position as the lead commentator on the WWF’s popular Spanish-speaking TV programs. Although he often had trouble giving interviews (mainly because English was his 2nd language) Morales excelled at his new position as a commentator.
In many ways, commentating gave Morales a 2nd chance in wrestling, allowing him to earn a comfortable living in the only business he’s ever really known. In addition, it has exposed a whole new generation to the great Latin wrestling legend, fans who otherwise likely would not be familiar with Pedro. Fittingly, Morales is once again a bridge between two cultures, a role he has embraced for more than 30 years now. We at the Ring Chronicle proudly induct this important figure from wrestling history into his much-deserved place within the TRC Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame… s