Former WWE World Champion Pedro Morales Passes Away at 76

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Photo: PWI

It was revealed today by the WWE that former WWE World Champion and WWE Hall of Famer Pedro Morales has passed away at the age of 76. He had been battling Parkinson’s disease for the past few years. Pedro Morales was the first Triple Crown Champion in WWE history, holding the World, US and Tag Team titles.

Arguably the most successful Puerto Rican wrestler to work in the US, he began training to be a wrestler at 17 and took to it quickly. By the end of the year, he was on his first card in a match in New York City. He would spend the next few years working his way from the bottom of the card to the midcard, throughout various National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories in the Northeast, Mid Atlantic, Pacific Northwest and Hawaii. He also worked matches with Capitol Wrestling in New York (which would rebrand as the World Wide Wrestling Federation during his first tenure there).

Winning the WWA World title, 1965

In 1965, he headed to Los Angeles and joined the World Wrestling Alliance, where his stardom exploded. He would become a 2x WWA World Heavyweight Champion during the 1960s, feuding with the likes of The Destroyer (Dick Beyer), The Butcher (Don Jardine aka The Spoiler), Luke Graham and Gorilla Monsoon.

In 1970, he returned to the WWWF. Gone were the days where he was opening the cards, as Morales returned a huge attraction. With the Bruno Sammartino experiment proving to be a huge success for the WWWF – appealing to the ethnic minorities of New York – Morales became another star that appealed to the blue collar immigrants of the Big Apple. Within a year, he was the WWWF United States Champion and when Bruno had to step away from the sport to recuperate from niggling injuries, Morales was just the man to step in. On February 8, 1971, he defeated Ivan Koloff to become the new WWWF World Heavyweight Champion.

He held the title for over 1000 days, from the beginning of 1971 until the end of 1973, defending against such challengers as George “The Animal’ Steele, “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, Freddie Blassie, Mr. Fuji, and Blackjack Mulligan, but it was Stan Stasiak who finally pinned him in December of ’73. By 1975, he departed the company once again.

He headed back to the NWA territories, working with Championship Wrestling From Florida, where he formed a 2x NWA Florida Tag Team Champion team with a young wrestler named Rocky Johnson, as well as working for the American Wrestling Association (AWA), NJPW and others.

In 1980, he returned to the WWWF (now shortened to just WWF), where he immediately won the WWF World Tag Team titles with WWF World Champion Bob Backlund. He broke off after dropping the titles and added legitimacy to the WWF’s new Intercontinental Championship picture, holding it on two occasions during the early 1980s – his second run was nearly 500 days, and he fought off challenges from Sgt. Slaughter, Larry Zybszyko, Adrian Adonis, Buddy Rose and Bob Orton, including a classic rivalry against Don Muraco. He remained with the WWF until his retirement in 1987.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995. We send out our condolences to the Morales family and his fans and peers worldwide.

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