Acrylic, dye, ink, and paint marker on 24″ x 24″ wood
Buddy Rogers will forever be in the history books as the first WWWF/WWF/WWE Champion, as well as the first wrestler to hold both that and the NWA World Title. Born Herman Gustave Rohde Jr in 1921, he began wrestling professionally at the age of 17 under his real name, scoring a notable win over Ed ‘Strangler’ Lewis. Upon moving to the Houston territory, he took on the name of Buddy Rogers and began his long in-and-out of the ring rivalry with Lou Thesz. With help from promoter Jack Pfeffer in the Ohio territory he completed his signature look by bleaching his hair and becoming first ‘The Nature Guy’ and later ‘The Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers. His look, physique, athleticism and microphone skills made him an instant star in the early days of televised wrestling.
In 1961 he defeated Pat O’Connor for the National Wrestling Alliance World Heavyweight Title in a then record-setting match attended by nearly 39,000 fans, a feat which stood until 1984. In early 1963 he lost the title to Lou Thesz, as promoters within the NWA became frustrated that Rogers would largely only work in the Northeastern US. A few months later, the World Wide Wrestling Federation broke away from the NWA, not acknowledging Rogers’ defeat by Thesz and declared him their champion. Less than a month later he lost the title to Bruno Sammartino, in what may have been a shoot match, or at least a threatened one if Rogers did not play along.
He largely worked as a manager for the remainder of his career, along with a brief feud against the new ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, who had integrated Rogers’ bleached hair, strut, and figure-four leg lock into his persona. He passed away in 1992. Rogers is remembered as one of, if not the first total package wrestler. His look, persona, wrestling ability and promo skills were all there, and he is acknowledged as one of the first to use a large combination of aerial maneuvers in his matches. In his prime, he was not very well-liked by his contemporaries and seen as a schemer and manipulator, but in his later years that was toned down and he became a respected veteran and ambassador of the sport.
About the piece: I decided to have a lot of fun on this portrait and forced myself to use techniques I hadn’t before. First, I watered down some dye in spray bottles and sprayed them on the background, as well as some ink. I then came in with paint markers and some watered-down gesso putting in the graffiti-like marks and drips. I then did the figure with a mix of acrylics, paint marker and house paint, and framed him with some more house paint. My goal of having fun with it? Achieved.