Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Playboy Buddy Rose RIP

Playboy Buddy Rose, born Paul Perschmann, a local wrestling institution in the Pacific Northwest who later garnered a national following with stints on national TV with the WWF and AWA, passed away on 4/28 at his home in Vancouver, WA. He was 56, born November 15, 1952, always noted as being the same day Randy Savage was born.

Rose, who had complained to friends of late about having blood sugar issues related to diabetes, brought on because he was so heavy, was found dead by his wife of 18 years, Tammy Perschmann at 4 p.m. when she got home. He had apparently passed away in his favorite chair while watching television. She had seen him a few hours earlier when she came home for lunch. Rose was best known as a comedy jobber in the WWF at the tail end of his career when he weighed well over 320 pounds. His gimmick was that they would announce him at a certain weight, in the AWA it was 271 pounds and later 317 pounds when he got heavier, and he would then correct the ring announcer, saying, “I do not weigh 271 pounds,” telling the announcer he read a digit wrong, or the digits were transposed, and that he was, “A slim, trim 217 pounds.”

But in his prime in Portland, between 1976 and 1984. including setting gate records in virtually every city in the circuit when he feuded with Roddy Piper, he was one of the best main event heels in the industry. Piper used to nickname him both the Pillsbury Dough Boy and the Michelin Tire Dummy after pear shaped figures in TV commercials, while Rose set Piper’s kilt on fire once, and the two had hair vs. hair and loser leaves town matches.

Rose was unique in that even when he was younger, he could play the part but he didn’t look the part. He has bleached hair and called himself a Playboy, but he hardly looked the part, but could get serious heat doing so because people didn’t buy the idea he really had women all over him. During his WWF run when he worked on top against WWF champion Bob Backlund and Intercontinental title holder Pedro Morales in 1982, at major shows he would have pretty women with him (for a trivia note, one of his valets during that period later became known as Sensational Sherri Martel), which got him even more heat. Besides working with Piper, one of his most memorable feuds was with Matt Borne, particularly after, in real life, he married Matt’s sister, and later divorced her, which was worked into an angle, which was groundbreaking in wrestling at the time.

He also could be described as, perhaps similar to Ray Stevens (when he first came to San Francisco in 1978, promoter Roy Shire billed him as reminding him of a young Ray Stevens, the area’s wrestling legend with the idea of building to a program between the two), as a great athlete who looked anything but athletic. Rose was the scheduled opponent of U.S. champion Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne at the Cow Palace in a match where Rose was going to win the title when Mayne passed away a few days earlier in an auto accident driving to the TV tapings in Sacramento.

The relationship between Shire and Rose turned sour after a dispute between the two which saw Rose grab the mic at a show at the Cow Palace on June 8, 1979, and told fans that pro wrestling was fake and that Shire picked who would win and lose every match. Security, thinking it was a bizarre part of the show, did nothing, while an enraged Shire came out of the back and pulled the power on the mic. For all the talk of how something like that would get you blackballed out of the business or worse 30 years ago, Rose never believed he got any heat over it, although it did end the business relationship between Shire and the Portland office and Rose never worked for Shire again.

Rose played Ice Hockey and baseball and was good in both sports, but even when he was on top had what could be called an unathletic physique, which later went to overweight and by the latter stages of his career, and in his post- wrestling career, had to be pushing 400 which led to the onset of diabetes. He was a great natural worker, and could do everything he needed to do with a perfect sense of timing. He never went to the gym and rarely watched his diet, yet had an open challenge to wrestlers to race him and even at 240 pounds, it was four years in the Portland territory before someone beat him in a sprint. Even when he was close to 300 pounds, he’d do a series of one-arm push-ups in the ring as part of his heel gimmick.

Rose, by the time of the national expansion was relegated to working as a prelim guy even though he was one of the most talented wrestlers on the roster, because his physique was such they felt they couldn’t push him in the bodybuilder dominated era. But he holds the distinction of being in the first Wrestlemania match ever, under a mask as The Executioner, losing to Tito Santana in the opening match at Wrestlemania I on March 31, 1985, in Madison Square Garden. He received a $700 payoff for the match and quit the promotion over it.

Besides being one of the favorite wrestlers of Dwayne Johnson (Rocky Johnson worked a headline program with Rose in Oregon in 1982), he was also instrumental in the early career of Shawn Michaels. Michaels’ first national exposure would have been in the AWA, teaming with Marty Jannetty as the Midnight Rockers, and they had a great series of matches against Rose & Doug Somers for the AWA tag team titles in 1986 when the AWA aired weekly on ESPN. It was one of those matches, a bloodbath from Las Vegas, that got Michaels & Jannetty their first WWF contract, even though they only lasted a day or two before they were fired.

One of the funniest comedy segments in the history of Saturday Night’s Main Event was when Rose was well over 330 pounds, and they did a mock diet commercial on the show called the Buddy Rose “Blow Away” Diet, where he had Tide detergent blown on him.

As Paul Perschmann, he grew up in the Minneapolis area and was a long-time AWA fan, growing up friends with Mick Karch, who later became a TV announcer and ran Nick Bockwinkel’s fan club. Perschmann was a referee in the AWA starting in 1971, and was invited to break in the next year going through the brutal Verne Gagne and Billy Robinson training camp. He was in the same camp/torture session with Ric Flair, Greg Gagne, Jim Brunzell, The Iron Sheik and Ken Patera, but the camp was brutal and like Flair, he quit. Billy Robinson roughed everyone up in camp, but it was said that Robinson took special delight in humiliating him and bullying him. But he came back a year later in the 1973 camp that included Sgt. Slaughter and the late Chris Taylor, and started working in the AWA. His first pro match was later that year against Bob Remus, who became Slaughter.

Buddy Rose, a takeoff on Buddy Rogers, was a wrestling name that others in small territories had used before him (there was a Buddy Rose that worked both California circuits as a job guy and Arizona in the early 70s), although no other wrestler became famous with it. After breaking in the AWA, he went to Kansas City, where he met long-time tag team partner Ed Wiskoski (Col. Ed DeBeers) for the first time. He also went to Texas, and was the opponent in Kevin Von Erich’s pro debut. Fritz Von Erich had a good relationship with Don Owen and opened the door for him to go to Oregon in 1976, where he took the Playboy Buddy Rose name, billed himself as being from Las Vegas, and got his career break, quickly forming a tag team with Jesse Ventura and feuding with local favorites Dutch Savage & Jimmy Snuka on top.

He was so successful in the area, earning in excess of $50,000 per year in the late 70s, which was big money for a small territory wrestler, that he made Portland his home and worked most of his career there. By the mid-90s, with no full-time promotion in Oregon, he was working part time and hadn’t wrestled in several years. In recent years, he Wiskoski ran a wrestling school and a large percentage of the current area independent talent came through the school. The school closed a few months back.

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