Rogers vs. O’Connor Sets A New Standard

by Stephen Von Slagle

June 30, 1961, Chicago, Illinois

Buddy Rogers -

“Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers

In one of the most famous matches of wrestling’s television era, “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers defeats reigning National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight champion Pat O’Connor, two falls to one. “The Match of the Century” (as it was billed) was promoted by legendary Chicago wrestling mogul Fred Kohler and took place at the home of the White Sox, Comiskey Park.

Pat O'Connor -

Pat O’Connor

The much-anticipated title bout, which saw Rogers take two of the three falls and marked the end of O’Connor’s 903 days as NWA World champion, drew over 38,600 spectators and set an attendance record that stood in the U.S. for over twenty years.

Buddy Rogers - Pat O'Connor -

O’Connor Throws Rogers

Additionally, the O’Connor-Rogers encounter at Comiskey Park set a new record at the gate, drawing over $148,000 ($1,282,506 in 2020 currency) and eclipsing the previous record of $103,277 that was set by Lou Thesz vs. Baron Michele Leone in 1952.

A testament to the popularity and box-office appeal of their rivalry, as well as Kohler’s exceptional promotional ability, the rematch between Buddy Rogers and Pat O’Connor was held three months later, again at Comiskey Park, and the event (which resulted in the Nature Boy successfully defending his new championship) drew another 30,000 spectators.

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