A Hall of Famer and a couple of Browns have birthdays today.
Former WWWF champion and WWE Hall of Famer Pedro Morales turns 76 today. He started his career in 1959 at 17 years old. He wrestled in numerous Pacific coast territories before heading east and joining the WWWF in 1970. He won his first championship on January 7, 1971 by defeating Freddie Blassie in a tournament final for the vacant WWWF United States Championship. One month later, he defeated Ivan Koloff to become the WWWF World Heavyweight Champion. He held the belt for 1,027 days before dropping it to Stan Stasiak on December 1, 1973.
He left the WWWF in March of 1975 and wrestled for NWA San Francisco, the AWA, and CWF before returning to the renamed-WWF in 1980. He and Bob Backlund won the WWF Tag Team Championship, but had to drop the belts a day later because Backlund was also the WWF Champion, and wrestlers could not hold two championships at the time. On December 8, 1980, Morales defeated Ken Patera for the WWF Intercontinental Championship, making him the first Triple Crown Champion in WWF history. During his 1980s WWF run, he often feuded with Sgt. Slaughter, and dominated Hulk Hogan in a March 26, 1981 match, ultimately winning by count out.
He had a memorable feud with Greg “The Hammer” Valentine, wrestling him four times, with one of those matches being a Street Fight and another a Brass Knuckles Alley Fight. Morales was no stranger to these hardcore-type matches in a time well before they became popular. He also feuded with Superstar Billy Graham, Jimmy Snuka, George “The Animal” Steele, Jesse Ventura, Bob Orton Jr., King Kong Bundy, Jake Roberts, The Iron Sheik, and Randy Savage. Morales made a final in-ring appearance by participating in a battle royale held on November 16, 1987.
Following his retirement from the squared circle, Morales became a road agent and later commentator for the WWF’s Spanish-language programming, the first time that a Puerto Rican performed this duty for an international promotion. He returned to this role working for World Championship Wrestling during the 1990s, narrating Nitro and pay per views along Miguel Alonzo. Often considered the best Puerto Rican wrestler in history, he was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995. Happy birthday Pedro.
D’Lo Brown turns 48 today. Born Accie Connor, the name “D’Lo Brown” came as a reference to Connor’s high school friend Darren Lewis (“D. Lewis Lo”, Connor called him), who died of cancer. Connor asked Lewis’ mother if he could use the name as a tribute to her son. Connor began his wrestling career in New Jersey as “Ace the Animal”. He then wrestled Earthquake in the WWF in 1994 under his given name as a jobber. This led to his first widely known accomplishment in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, as he became the head of security for The Gangstas. When the Gangstas left SMW in 1995, he signed a deal with the WWF and was sent to the Heartland Wrestling Association for more training while also continuing to make more appearances as a jobber on WWF television. D’Lo also spent most of 1996 wrestling in Puerto Rico for the World Wrestling Council.
He made his official WWF debut in 1997 as a member of Faarooq’s Nation of Domination, debuting as one of several non-descript people in suits that accompanied the group to the ring. During this time, his most notable moment was when Ahmed Johnson slammed him onto the roof of a car during Shotgun Saturday Night. His first televised match as a member of the Nation was on the April 26, 1997 episode of Shotgun Saturday Night, as he, Crush, and Savio Vega defeated Aldo Montoya, Steve Corino, and Freddie Joe Floyd. On May 26, 1997 he had his first match on Raw is War, defeating Bob “The Spark Plugg” Holly. After the King of the Ring 1997, Faarooq fired the rest of the Nation’s members, except for D-Lo, who was later joined by Ahmed Johnson (himself replaced by Rocky Maivia), Kama Mustafa, and Mark Henry. In early 1998, the group turned on Faarooq, allowing Maivia, now going by the name “The Rock”, to assume leadership. During this period Kama also changed his name to “The Godfather” and began portraying a pimp character. D’Lo and Henry eventually turned on both Rock and Godfather separately, moving into a feud with the Rock before finally branching out as a moderately successful tag team, later turning face along the way. Prior to the face turn, Brown had started wrestling with a chest protector, supposedly for a torn pectoral muscle sustained in a match against Dan “The Beast” Severn. Instead, he used the chest protector to his advantage, making his finishing move, the “Lo Down”, more effective.
In 1998, he feuded with X-Pac over the WWF European Championship. His career peaked when he held the European and Intercontinental Championships simultaneously during a feud with Jeff Jarrett and Mark Henry. This feat has only been duplicated by Jeff Jarrett, Kurt Angle, and Rob Van Dam, all of whom became world champions in some form later in their careers.
Unfortunately the moment Brown is most known for is one of the most tragic in wrestling history. He was involved in inadvertently ending the career of Droz on October 5, 1999 when a running powerbomb was botched due to Droz’s baggy shirt. The match was filmed for the October 7 edition of SmackDown!, but was never aired. Droz suffered a severe neck injury, rendering him a quadriplegic. During an interview with Title Match Wrestling, D’Lo dispelled a popular rumor that a fan had thrown an object into the ring which caused him to slip and badly injure Droz. D’Lo took responsibility for botching the move, stating that the accident could have happened to “any” wrestler he had been in the ring with that night. He also said the accident caused him to “wrestle differently” and to second guess every move he performed in the ring from that day forward. Droz has maintained that he does not blame Brown for his injuries and he believes that the incident was an accident.
After this incident, Brown’s career never recovered. He stayed in the WWF/E until 2003, but wrestled mostly on Heat and Jakked. In late 2002, Theodore Long retired as a WWE referee and managed D’Lo, who had complained about acts of racism during his matches. D’Lo started Long’s group Thuggin’ and Buggin’ Enterprises which eventually turned into a group of African Americans who worked an angle in which they felt they were victims of racism and were being held down by the “white man.” With Long’s managerial services, D’Lo Brown went undefeated for several weeks.
Brown faced Booker T in a losing effort on the February 10, 2003 episode of Raw. His involvement with Thuggin’ and Buggin’ Enterprises was brought to a close when footage was shown on the February 16 episode of Heat of Theodore Long kicking D’Lo Brown to the curb and introducing his replacement Rodney Mack. He was then released from his WWE contract on February 14, 2003.
He wrestled for TNA and in Japan from 2003-07. In 2008, he began wrestling in a number of dark matches for WWE. On June 5, WWE announced that Brown had been signed to a contract, and he began working more dark matches for the company. He made his television return on the July 21, 2008 edition of Raw, defeating Santino Marella. Following this, Brown’s appearances on television became more sporadic, and on January 9, 2009, it was announced on WWE’s official website that he had been released from his contract due to cost-cutting measures. He had some success in TNA and on the independent circuit until entering a semi-retirement in 2015. Happy birthday D’Lo.
Allen Coage, who wrestled as Bad News Brown, Buffalo Allen, and Bad News Allen, would have turned 75 today. Trained as a judoka, he won a bronze medal in judo at the 1976 Summer Olympics. His victory made him the first African American to win a solo Olympic Games medal in a sport other than boxing or track and field. He’s also the second American to win an Olympic medal in Judo. Coage retired from competitive judo following the 1976 Summer Olympics due to frustrations around internal politics. He went on to hold a number of other jobs, including briefly working as a bodyguard for Aretha Franklin, before deciding to train as a professional wrestler.
After starting in NJPW in 1977, Coage made a one-off appearance in the World Wide Wrestling Federation in February 1978, defeating jobber Frank Williams at a live event under his birth name. He returned to the promotion in January 1979 and wrestled for the WWWF for the remainder of the year, appearing on several episodes of WWF Championship Wrestling. Late in 1979, at Madison Square Garden, teaming with JoJo Andrews, Coage challenged for the Japanese Tag Team Championship against Riki Choshu and Seiji Sakaguchi. Coage’s team was unsuccessful when Andrews submitted to a Boston crab in a match that lasted just under 10 minutes.
He then wrestled in Stu Hart’s Stampede wrestling from 1982-88. Allen returned to the World Wrestling Federation in early 1988 as Bad News Brown, and it was during this time that he achieved his greatest notoriety. His trademark characteristic as Bad News Brown was never smiling. He either he kept an angry face, or he “laughed loud” at the expense of opponents’ misfortunes. While the roster was mostly filled with ultra-virtuous babyfaces and cowardly and monster heels, Bad News was something entirely different: a tough loner. While other heels were likely to form alliances with one another, Bad News was reclusive. He didn’t respect anybody, and was just as likely to attack heels as faces (character traits that would later be employed to great fame by Stone Cold Steve Austin).
His dislike for all fellow wrestlers was clear when he abandoned his teams at the Survivor Series of 1988 and 1989. Some memorable moments from his WWF tenure included winning the battle royal at WrestleMania IV by last eliminating Bret Hart, who was then a heel, after a sneak attack, followed by a brief feud with champion “Macho Man” Randy Savage in early 1989 that led to more main-event matches. On the March 11, 1989 edition of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Bad News memorably took a microphone towards the end of his match with Hogan and told him that it was time for the Ghetto Blaster (his finisher). As he was getting ready to execute it however, Hogan got out of the way, leading him to miss the move terribly and suffer an eventual loss. Subsequently, Bad News also had a brief run challenging Hulk Hogan for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship but never beat Hulk.
His next feud was with “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, starting at the 1990 Royal Rumble when he was eliminated by Piper, then illegally eliminated Piper. This led to Brown being ridiculed which he would counter by calling Piper out for wearing a “skirt.” This culminated at WrestleMania VI in match where both men were counted out. Brown was initially planned to continue this feud with Piper but since neither man would agree to lose to each other, their program was scrapped and instead Brown was assigned to work with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, where Bad News used a sewer rat against Jake’s snake. Around this time, Brown was worked into a story where he attacked WWF President Jack Tunney on The Brother Love Show.
Bad News eventually left the WWF after SummerSlam 1990, claiming Vince McMahon failed to live up to his promise to make him the company’s first black champion. As written in the autobiography of the Dynamite Kid, Coage’s legitimate toughness was displayed in a confrontation involving André the Giant, who allegedly made a racist comment on a tour bus for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Coage overheard it and made the driver stop the bus, walked off and demanded the Giant get off and fight him one on one. André did not move from his seat and later apologized for the remark.
Coage continued to work in independent promotions for several more years, including Japan’s shoot wrestling UWFi promotion. He retired in 1999 due to knee damage. Coage died of a heart attack on the morning of March 6, 2007, at Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, minutes after being rushed there due to chest pain. He was 63.
The Crusher was born Reginald Lisowski on July 11, 1926. His early career included wrestling three to four nights per week at a Chicago armory, typically earning $5 a night. To support himself and to stay in shape, Lisowski worked various blue collar jobs by day, from meat packing to bricklaying. Decades before Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Sandman, Lisowski perfected the gimmick of the beer drinking tough guy. To further his career he bleached his dark hair blonde and started to get over as a strongman heel, famous for his bolo punch as well as a devastating full nelson. This eventually led to him winning the Chicago-area NWA World Tag Team Championship with partner Art Nielson.
After having much success throughout the 1950s as a tag team wrestler, he embarked on a successful solo career in the 60s. He won the AWA World Heavyweight Championship three times. He was skillful at cutting promos, as he would brag about his “100 megaton biceps” and offer to pummel “da bum” he was facing in the ring with ease, and he often delighted in calling opponents “turkeynecks.” His most quotable and famous phrase though was: “How ’bout ‘dat?” When asked how he trained for a match, he’d claim he ran along the waterfront in Milwaukee carrying a large full beer barrel over either shoulder for strength (and longtime AWA announcer Rodger Kent often noted that by the end of the Crusher’s training run, the beer was gone), and that he’d dance polka all night with Polish barmaids to increase his stamina.
He also had a successful run in the WWWF in the early 1960s where he was a nemesis of Johnny Valentine and a very young Bruno Sammartino, primarily in the Pittsburgh promotion. He drew very large crowds to Forbes Field with battles against each man.
In the mid-1980s, seeing that the AWA promotion with which he had the most success over the years was crumbling, particularly when Hulk Hogan and many of the other top talent jumped ship to the WWF, Crusher went to work for Vince McMahon on a part-time basis, appearing at WWF house shows all over the Midwest. Lisowski claimed that he made more money working part-time for McMahon than he did working for the frugal Vern Gagne on a full-time basis. The Crusher’s last match was at a WWF house show in Omaha on February 15, 1988. He replaced Billy Jack Haynes to team with Ken Patera and face Demolition, who were disqualified when Mr. Fuji tripped Crusher with a cane about three minutes in.
The Crusher’s last television appearance was at WWF’s 1998 pay-per-view Over the Edge: In Your House where was shown sitting alongside Mad Dog Vachon in the front row. Jerry Lawler made fun of the two men’s age, and tried to steal Vachon’s artificial leg, but Vachon hit him over the head with it, and Crusher punched him. As Lawler bailed, the two former enemies shook hands. Lisowski died of a brain tumor on October 22, 2005, at age 79.