Pedro Morales, the former WWE Champion, has died at the age of 76 following a battle with Parkinson’s disease. Reporter Hugo Savinovich was the first to report that Morales, a one-time champion of the WWWF, had passed away on February 12. Morales spent over 1,000 days as the company’s champion between 1971, after he defeated Ivan Koloff, until 1973, when he would drop the belt to Stan Stasiak.
During his career, Morales also held the Intercontinental title and the tag-team titles, alongside Bob Backlund. This made him the first Triple Crown Champion in the company’s history. Some of those who would follow him in this regard include Bret Hart, Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Morales Was ‘Arguably’ Puerto Rico’s Greatest Ever Wrestler
Morales was a native of Puerto Rico who grew up in Brooklyn. Morales has been referred to in the past as, “Arguably the greatest wrestler to ever come out of Puerto Rico.” In his storied career wrestled for World Wrestling Associates, New Japan Pro Wrestling, Mid-Pacific Promotions and NWA San Francisco.
In retirement, Morales, his wife, Karen, and their son Pedro Junior, settled in the Woodbridge Township of New Jersey where he adopted a less hazardous hobby in gardening.
2. Morales Was at the Center of What Many Wrestling Fans Believe Was the 1st ‘Face v Face’ Feud
Morales will forever be remembered by fans for his battles with Stan Stasiak, Larry Henning and Mr. Fuji, during the 1970s. During one battle, alongside Bruno Sammartino, with Mr. Fuji and Professor Tanaka at Shea Stadium, a misunderstanding between the two “good guys” led to what many believe to be the first feud between two “good guys” in professional wrestling.
3. Morales Was Inducted Into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995 & the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2017
Morales was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995. More recently, in December 2017, Morales was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame. According to his official profile on the WWE website, Morales made his professional wrestling debut in 1959 when he was still a teenager. That bio describes him as a “workmanlike” wrestler who adopted the Boston Crab as his finisher. It goes on to say that his conditioning would often seem him outwork his opponents.
The final paragraph of that tribute reads, “Because Morales was a soft-spoken man who didn’t do outrageous things, he is sometimes overlooked when the names of the all-time greats are mentioned. However, in addition to being one of the greatest to ever set foot in a ring, Morales was loved by the public and well-respected by his peers.”
4. Some Viewed Morales as ‘Never Clicking’ With Fans While He Was WWE Champion
In April 2018, one of Morales’ contemporaries, Bruno Sammartino, died. A Ringer tribute to him mentioned that Morales was the “paradigm of the scientific wrestler.” The same piece mentions that the reason Morales run at the top wasn’t very long was because he didn’t “click” with audiences in the same manner as Sammartino.
5. Morales’ Death Has Led to an Outpouring of Emotion Among Wrestling Stars Past & Present
As news of Morales tragic passing spread, many current and former professional wrestling stars took to Twitter to pay tribute to the legend. Here are some of the most poignant messages: