Pedro Morales, a former two-time holder of the WWA World Championship and the first triple-crown winner in WWF history, died earlier today at age 76. The news was first reported by former WWE announcer Hugo Savinovich on Facebook and later confirmed by WWE.
Morales was born on October 22, 1942, on Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, and moved to New York as a teen. At 17, he began training under Barba Roja to become a wrestler and made his debut as a professional in New York in 1959, earning a victory over Howard LaVine. Throughout the early 1960s, Morales wrestled throughout the east coast and Texas, including with the then WWWF.
In 1965, he moved to Los Angeles and began wrestling for the Worldwide Wrestling Associates, who had split off from the NWA several years before and recognized their own world champion. Morales defeated The Executioner in his first match in the territory.
Throughout the early months of 1965 Morales continued to rack up victories, and on March 12, 1965, he defeated “The Destroyer” Dick Beyer to win the WWA World Heavyweight Championship in two out of three falls at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Morales lost the title to Luke Graham on July 23, 1965, but was able to reclaim the title on October 17, 1965. Morales’ second reign as WWA World Heavyweight Champion lasted 292 days, the second longest reign in the title’s history to that point. On June 24, 1966, Morales along with his tag-team partner Luis Hernandez won the WWA World Tag-Team Championship, making Morales a dual champion, a rarity in the Los Angeles territory.
He finally lost World Heavyweight Championship on August 5, 1966 to Buddy Austin. Morales and Hernandez then lost the tag-team titles to Hard Boiled Haggerty and El Shereef on October 28, 1966, in Los Angeles. Morales then teamed with Mark Lewin to recapture the WWA World Tag Team Championship on December 10, 1966. Throughout the next couple years Morales would win the WWA World Tag Team Championship two more times, once each with Victor Rivera and Antonio Pugliese as his partners. In all, Morales held the WWA World Tag Team Championship four times with four different partners.
With the Los Angeles territory rejoining the NWA on October 1, 1968, Morales unsuccessfully challenged for the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship against Gene Kiniski at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles on November 7, 1968. Morales would wrestle regularly in the Los Angeles territory until 1970.
Morales returned to WWWF on November 21, 1970, by teaming with Chief Jay Strongbow in a draw against The Mongols, Newton Tattrie and Josip Peruzovic. On January 7, 1971, Morales won the vacant WWWF United States Championship in a tournament, defeating Freddie Blassie in the finals. Then on February 8, 1971, Morales defeated Ivan Koloff to become the first Latino WWWF World Heavyweight Champion.
Over 22,000 fans turned out to Shea Stadium in 1972 to watch what would later be known as “The Match of the Century” when he wrestled former champion Bruno Sammartino in the main event of the inaugural Showdown at Shea. The match was ruled a draw after 75 minutes due to the state athletic commission’s 11:00 p.m. curfew.
He held the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship for 1027 days before losing it to Stan Stasiak in December 1973. His reign is still the fifth-longest reign in the title’s history. He left the WWWF in 1975 for the San Francisco territory.
In San Francisco Morales teamed with Pat Paterson to win the NWA San Francisco World Tag Team Championship on October 29, 1975. Between 1976 and 1980 Morales also wrestled for AWA, Championship Wrestling from Florida, and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
On May 6, 1980, Morales returned to the renamed World Wrestling Federation. During his second run with the promotion, he won the World Tag Team Titles with Bob Backlund and then the Intercontinental Title to become the first Triple Crown Champion in WWE history. His 425 combined days as Intercontinental Champion are still the second most all-time.
Morales retired from wrestling in 1987 but would go on to do commentary for both WCW and WWE’s Spanish announce teams. In recent year Morales has been battling Parkinson’s Disease. He was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1995, the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2015, and the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2017.