Recently, the world of professional wrestling was informed of the tragic news that former WWWF (World) Heavyweight Champion Pedro Morales passed away on February 12, 2019, at the age of 76.
Pedro was an incredible talent who had a career that lasted for 28 years! Not only was he the first Latino WWE Champion, but he was also the first Triple Crown Champion (World Champion, Tag Team Champion, and Intercontinental Champion), and stayed the only Triple Crown Champion in WWE for 12 years. Pedro was a true inspiration to many, especially to all of the Hispanic wrestlers. Today, I take a look into the life of Pedro and the legacy he left behind.
Pedro made his debut in 1959 in New York City in a winning effort against Howard LaVine. Throughout the next few years, Pedro toured around the East Coast and even teamed with inaugural WWE Tag Team Champions Miguel Pérez Jr. and Argentina Apollo. Pedro’s career started to pick up in 1965 when he started to wrestle full-time for Worldwide Wrestling Associates (WWA) based out of California.
He defeated many credible challengers before winning the WWA World Heavyweight Championship from Dick Beyer on March 12, 1965, just months after his WWA debut. Pedro continued to pick up a lot of consecutive victories, including a rematch against Dick Beyer within the next few months. On July 23, 1965, Morales dropped the WWA Championship to Luke Graham before winning it back on October 17, 1965. During his WWA Title reign, Pedro claimed his first of four WWA World Tag Team Championship with Luis Hernandez. On August 5, 1966, Pedro dropped the World Championship to Buddy Austin. After dropping the WWA World Heavyweight Championship, Pedro stayed in the midcard and tag team division for his remaining two years in the WWA.
In late-1968, Pedro started with Mid-Pacific Promotions. He started on a roll by quickly winning the Hawaii Heavyweight Championship in 1969. He also won the Hawaii Tag Team Championship three times with Ed Francis twice and Bing Ki Lee once.
Pedro Morales made his first full-time debut with the WWWF in November 1970.
Pedro made his first full-time debut with the WWWF in November 1970 by teaming with Chief Jay Strongbow against The Mongols, a match that ended in a draw. On January 7, 1971, Pedro defeated Freddie Blassie to win the vacant WWWF United States Heavyweight Championship (not to be confused with the current WWE United States Championship, this title was deactivated in 1976) This title reign didn’t last very long though, because Pedro won the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship a month and one day later. On February 8, 1972, Pedro defeated Ivan Koloff in Madison Square Garden to become the WWWF World Heavyweight Champion, the first Latino Superstar to claim such an honor.
Unfortunately, Pedro lost the right to be able to call himself “World Champion” after the WWWF rejoined the NWA hours later and the NWA forced the WWWF to drop the “World” from the title, making him the WWWF Heavyweight Champion. He went onto hold the title for 1,027 days.
Pedro’s reign included defenses against George Steele and an incredible defense against Bruno Sammartino in a match that last over an hour at the 1972 Showdown at Shea event. Eventually, Pedro’s amazing reign came to an end when Stan Stasiak defeated him on December 1, 1973. Through the next year-and-a-half, Pedro stayed dominating through the upper-midcard before eventually leaving the WWWF in March of ’75.
Throughout the next five years, Pedro Morales went to San Francisco, Florida, Canada, Japan, and minor stints throughout the entire world. In San Francisco, Pedro won the NWA San Francisco Tag Team Championship. In Florida, he won the NWA World Tag Team Championship. Pedro toured the world, usually winning, the only notable loses he had was the multiple times he challenged for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship, losing each time. If anybody didn’t know who Pedro Morales was before his world tour, they did now.
In 1980, Pedro returned to the WWF (The WWF dropped the second W, “Wide”) and quickly won the WWF World Tag Team Championship with WWF Heavyweight Champion Bob Backlund, although due to Backlund being Heavyweight Champion, Morales and Backlund had to vacate the titles. On December 8, 1980, Pedro won the WWF Intercontinental Championship from Ken Patera, making himself the first Triple Crown Champion in WWE history.
Pedro had a long on-and-off rivalry with Don Muraco for the title through the next two-and-a-half years, which included two title changes, Muraco winning the belt, and Pedro winning it back, making him the first two-time Intercontinental Champion. On January 22, 1983, Muraco got the last laugh when he won the Intercontinental Title from Pedro, and Pedro never took it back.
Throughout the next five years, Pedro spent a lot of time doing international tours for the WWF, most notably in Puerto Rico and in New-Japan Pro Wrestling. He stayed in the upper-midcard for the next five years, his only WrestleMania match was at WrestleMania 2 in the WWF vs. NFL Battle Royal. His final match was a Battle Royal on November 16, 1987.
Pedro was a part of the Class of 1995 WWE Hall of Fame.
Pedro was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995. He moved away from pro wrestling in the 2000s, blaming the over-characterization of today’s content as the reason. Pedro lives on forever in the hearts of every wrestling fan. He left his legacy as the first Latino WWE Champion, and the first WWE Triple Crown Champion. He is an incredible inspiration to many Latino (and just in-general) Superstars in this business.
To Pedro: You were a man who turned a dream into a reality, a reality into a lifestyle, a lifestyle into a legacy, and a legacy into something to aspire to be. You will be missed by everyone who ever laid their eyes on you. May you forever Rest in Peace.
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