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Life Turns on Some Funny Points
Why Lou Thesz Never Liked Buddy Rogers

By Lou Thesz

It has been no secret over the years that there was a great deal of animosity between Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz.  Rogers has passed away, so there’s no way to get his side of the story, but in his book Hooker this is how Lou Thesz says it all started.

 “My quarrel with Rogers dated back to a single incident occurring during my Army days, shortly before I was discharged.  I was on a two-week furlough and had lined up some wrestling dates in the St. Louis territory.  Rogers, who wasn’t yet wrestling his rough style, was the top attraction in the territory at the time, and we were scheduled to wrestle the main event on my very first night back, in Louisville, Kentucky.  Since I didn’t have any transportation, Rogers met me at the train station in St. Louis and I hopped in his car.

As we were driving to Louisville, Rogers started talking about what we could expect that night.  He was a very hot card, and since I was well-known to fans as a two-time world champion, it looked like a sell-out, a good payoff for both of us.  Then he started bitching.

 ‘The promoter has even brought in Ed Lewis to referee our match,’ he said.  “Why do we need that fat old bastard?  The money they’re paying him should be going in our pockets."

I stared at Rogers for a couple of moments before asking him what he had been doing before he broke into professional wrestling.  He said he’d been a cop in New Jersey.

 ‘Let me tell you something, kid,’ I said.  ‘If it wasn’t for Ed Lewis you’d still be walking a beat.  None of us would be making any money at this if he hadn’t paved the way.  Don’t ever talk that way, in front of me or anyone, about the man who’s (sic) the foundation of our industry – it’s disrespectful.  What’s more, he’s a very dear friend of mine.’

 Rogers could see that he’d screwed up, and tried to recover by insisting that he was kidding, but I wasn’t buying it.  He’d said enough to make me uneasy about trusting him.

 So we got to Louisville and I sat down with the promoter.  The logical progression, since I was still in the Army, would have been for Rogers to win.  He was the big draw, and a win over me would have only made him hotter at the box office. If Rogers hadn’t made those comments about Ed Lewis, I might have gone along with it.  I had learned to live with the success Rogers had been give while so many of us worked hard for a sport we loved.  But the knowledge of his contempt for Ed and true wrestlers was more than I could tolerate.

 I wouldn’t let Rogers win, and he certainly couldn’t beat me, so he had no alternative but to go along with whatever I wanted to do.  At least that was some satisfaction for me.  We ended up wrestling a one-hour draw, and I really turned on the gas, just to punish him.  I talked to him in German throughout the match, telling him to hurry up, go faster, setting a pace that had him breathing hard before we were halfway though.  He was absolutely drained by the end.

Buddy Rogers and I were to wrestled many more times in the coming years, always as the main-event attraction, and we made an awful lot of money together.  One thing fans never saw in any of those matches though, was Buddy Rogers with his hand raised at the end – I never let him win, just on principle.  A fan of his put together a Buddy Rogers record book several years ago, and it listed close to 50 Thesz-Rogers matches, every one of them ending in either a draw or a Rogers loss.  (What the record book doesn’t reveal is whether the matches were any good, but I can tell you, simply by looking at the results. If the match was a draw, it was almost always a good match; if I was the winner, however, Rogers wouldn’t put any effort into it, cheating the fans of any flair or excitement, and that only served to make me angrier with him than I already was.)

In later years I realized that every industry has its equivalent of Buddy Rogers – someone who reaches the top but never understands the objective.  Buddy and I finally made peace a few years before his death in 1992, but it’s hard to forget all that happened between us.  Life turns on some funny points, and who knows what Rogers’ career would have looked like if he hadn’t made that crack to me about Ed Lewis.”

This story was take directly from Lou Thesz' book, Hooker. The book has over 200 pages filled with stories about every wrestler from Frank Gotch to Ric Flair. It's available now  Wrestlingclassics.com by clicking here.

Lou Thesz is arguably the greatest professional wrestler of all time. He held the World heavyweight championship six times in four different decades. He is the only wrestler to ever compete in seven different decades. His book, Hooker details the history of professional wrestling through his perspective as the top wrestler in the business. He has just released a Collector's Edition Photo Biography. 

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