Date: July 1989
Location: LaSpada’s Original Hoagies in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, FL
Soource: Chicago Tribune, Sun Sentinel, Wrestling Observer Newsletter
Buddy Rogers is a bonafide wrestling legend, one of the top attractions and best wrestlers of the 1960s. He was the first ever WWWF champion, and his gimmick, mannerisms, and “Nature Boy” moniker were all stolen by Ric Flair a decade later.
Rogers passed away in 1992, but a few years before that, at age 68, he had a physical altercation with a man four decades his junior, and four inches taller. The whole scene was straight out of a SuperMan movie, with a happy ending.
Rogers was at a sandwich shop called LaSpada’s Original Hoagies, not far from his house. He was either waiting for a turkey hoagie, or already eating it, depending which newspaper story you want to believe. An angry, 29-year-old man burst through the front door. He used vulgar language and called the female employees terrible names.
Rogers had just undergone a hip replacement and also a heart bypass operation. Sometimes he’d walk with a cane, and his body was overall in bad shape from his years in the ring. Still, he felt the need to stand up to the bully.
One report said Rogers asked the man to quiet down so he could eat in peace. Another report said the man asked Rogers, “What are you looking at?” and that Rogers told him he was being rude to the women.
The man apparently cursed at Rogers and said, “If you want a piece of me, old man, let’s go.”
Rogers estimated him at 6’-2” and 230 lbs in one story, and 6’-4” and 235 lbs in another story. Regardless, he was described by the other patrons as a large man, although Rogers by this point was not small, at 6’-0” and 200 lbs himself.
Rogers claimed the man lunged at him, so Rogers pushed him against the wall. The man then picked up a metal folding chair and either swung it at him, or threw it at him. The chair did make contact with Rogers in the mouth, who said he was “Bleeding pretty bad.”
Rogers then unloaded on him. He first slugged him the solar plexus, and flew almost two yards into the refrigerator. He then punched him again in the stomach, sending him flying into the kitchen and landing against a sink. He grabbed him again, and the man held onto Rogers’ hair and screamed, “Please! Stop it!” Rogers was fired up and ready to go for more, saying the guy was all mouth and couldn’t fight. As soon as Rogers let go of him, the man fled.
Rogers ended up needing 14 stitches to close the wound in his mouth, but he was the local hero and the women in the shop were grateful. Employee Cynthia Marshall told reporters that “Buddy was definitely a gentleman,” and came to their aid.
Rogers said it was being called an “old man” that really set him off. He told the press after he punched the bully that, “I’m an old man, right?”
It’s a great story, but it’s hard to say how much is true. Two local newspapers did talk to the employees, so if Rogers’ version was too off the mark, they’d have said so. But that wasn’t the case, so it likely played out as Rogers described. It’s hard to believe a man that young and big would’ve been begging after a few shots to the stomach from a guy nearing 70 years old, but the witnesses didn’t dispute the story.
This tale is a heart warming victory for all wrestling fans, and it was noted in some obituaries when Rogers passed away a few years later. LaSpada’s still stands today, and here are some modern pictures of the place where the original Nature Boy lay the smack down on that 29-yr-old’s candy ass.