Submitted by Dan Marsiglia for F4WOnline.com
Induction into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame isn’t easy, nor should it be. This is necessary to separate “the men from the boys" and to encourage lasting and constructive discussion on wrestlers and wrestling history.
I am adding to that discussion that Pedro Morales deserves enshrinement. The man’s title history speaks volumes in and of itself. At a time when belts were an emblem of a promoter’s confidence in a wrestler’s ability to draw money, Morales’ stack of gold would sink a battleship.
By the mid 1960s, Morales was becoming a huge star on the west coast. In Cal and Aileen Eaton’s Worldwide Wrestling Associates based in Los Angeles, he became a two-time world heavyweight champion, beating the Destroyer and Luke Graham, respectively. Between March 1965 and August 1966, he held the top prize for 425 days.
His success was not stalled when he moved up the California coast to the Bay Area. Pedro (along with Pepper Gomez) was a multiple-time tag champion in the San Francisco territory, once beating the legendary duo of Pat Patterson and Ray Stevens en route to a 399 day title run from May 1967 to April 1968.
Pedro’s next venture was even farther west – Hawaii – and he thrived there too. Between June 1969 and September 1970, Morales thrice won the promotion’s top singles title, defeating Gene Kiniski, King Curtis Iaukea, and Johnny Barend along the way.
Now firmly ensconced as a major player in wrestling, Vince McMahon Sr. of the WWWF brought in Pedro to be his next ethnic babyface champion following the gigantic successes of Bruno Sammartino.
In many ways it was a perfect fit, especially in the territory’s center stage – Madison Square Garden in New York City. Not only was Morales born in Puerto Rico, of which there are (and were) heavy numbers of immigrants in New York, but he was raised in the city borough of Brooklyn, giving him even stronger ties to the locals.
And, they loved him. The only person in the history of the Garden with a higher sellout percentage is legendary Hall of Famer "Superstar" Billy Graham. The difference, however, is that Morales has the second most appearances in the Garden all-time with 111, second only to Sammartino's 159. According to Wrestling In The Garden, Graham does not even crack the top 26 in terms of overall appearances.
Morales’ reign as WWWF Champion began on February 8, 1971, with a raucous victory over Ivan Koloff, who had recently stunned New York with his victory over Sammartino. After a double pin sequence in which both men’s shoulders were down, Morales was able to raise one shoulder before the count of three. MSG erupted.
As Jeff Bukantz recalls, “Whereas the Koloff win was met with eerie silence, the Morales win was met with a two-tiered pop. The crowd popped, but not a mega-pop, as the double pin looked like a potential screw-job and the fans weren’t quite sure the title changed hands. Then, referee Terranova raised Morales’ arm and a guttural and cathartic roar erupted. Then Bruno ran in to congratulate Morales and the roar continued. The only time I heard a roar like that in Madison Square Garden was when the Rangers won the (Stanley) Cup in 1994. Backlund’s pop (for beating Superstar Billy Graham in 1978) was huge. Hogan’s pop (for beating Iron Sheik in 1984) was unreal. But the second part of the Morales pop, the roar, had them both beat.”
Morales finally went down to defeat on December 1, 1973, in Philadelphia, after holding the WWWF title for 1,027 days. Morales stayed with McMahon until 1975, and then bounced around for a few years with stops in San Francisco, the AWA, and Florida. Wrestling for Eddie Graham, Morales found himself as the Florida promotion’s top champion in 1977.
Morales rounded out his Hall of Fame career with a resurgence in the renamed WWF. Within a couple years Pedro, already a United States champion in his first run with the WWWF, won the tag team championship and the Intercontinental championship, not only becoming the first triple-crown champion but the first quadruple-crown champion in WWE history.
Morales' combined 619 days as IC champion remains a record to this very day.
When looking at the top draws of the 1970s, it is impossible to ignore Pedro Morales’ place. Between 1971 and 1973, only the Sheik drew more gates of 10,000 of more. Looking at the decade as a whole, Morales ranks 5th. The top four (Sammartino, the Sheik, Graham, Andre the Giant) and six through ten (Harley Race, the Crusher, Dory Funk Jr./ Ernie Ladd, and Dick the Bruiser) are all in the Observer Hall of Fame. Morales is not.
Several years ago, Dave Meltzer did a study to try and determine the top contenders for a “real” WWE Hall of Fame based on merit. Several metrics were used to determine who, in general, were on top for the longest and drew in that position. Morales finished in the top ten. The other nine wrestlers (Sammartino, Hulk Hogan, Bob Backlund, Argentina Rocca, Triple H, Undertaker, The Rock, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels) are all in the Observer Hall of Fame.
Morales is not and it’s about time that changed.
He is a top five draw of the 1970s, a top ten performer in the history of WWE, a heavyweight champion in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Florida, New York, and Puerto Rico, and a major tag team champion in the Stevens/Patterson dominated San Francisco territory. He was an above average worker in his day by most accounts, and even something of a renowned high flyer in the 1960s. He is one of the biggest draws in the history of Madison Square Garden and has the highest sellout percentage of any babyface champion in company history.
Pedro Morales is a Hall of Famer.