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Don Muraco

Sweet Lu

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Don Morrow[2] (born September 10, 1949),[1][2] better known by his ring name "The Rock" Don Muraco, is a retired American professional wrestler. Wrestling from the 1970s to the 1990s, Muraco is a former two time WWF Intercontinental Champion, a former two time ECW Heavyweight Champion, one Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship, and was the 1985 King of the Ring, the first-ever in WWE history.[2]

Wrestling in the U.S. and Canada (1970-1981)

A former state champion in amateur wrestling in Hawaii in 1967,[4] Muraco chose professional wrestling over football and spent the first year of his career learning the ropes in Vancouver, Portland, Florida and Los Angeles before he got his first break, accepting an offer from Verne Gagne to work in the American Wrestling Association (AWA).[5] A fan favorite at this early stage of his career, Muraco formed a tag team with Jimmy Snuka and squared off many times with the likes of Larry Hennig, Ivan Koloff and Dusty Rhodes.[6] In 1973 Muraco left the AWA for the San Francisco territory, having become tired of life in Minneapolis.[5]

In 1974 Muraco moved to Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF), where he continued to build a name for himself. He was frequently compared to the NWA World Champion Jack Brisco, due to the strong physical resemblance between both men.[5] In a match between the two on May 28, 1974, Muraco famously reversed Brisco's deadly figure four leglock. Though Muraco lost the match by disqualification, the feat nevertheless made him a star.[7] After brief stops in Texas and Georgia, Muraco returned to California in 1975 where he would claim his first gold, holding the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship and then co-holding the San Francisco version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship. It was during this stint in San Francisco working for promoter Roy Shire that Muraco learned to work as a villain.[8]

From 1977 through 1981, Muraco shuttled several more times between Florida, San Francisco, and his native Hawaii. He was involved in two well-known angles, both in Florida, during this era. In 1979 a masked villain known as "The Magnificent M" first appeared in the territory. Though it came as little surprise when he was eventually unmasked as Muraco, his totally bald head completely shocked the audience.[9] Then in 1980 he had a famous feud with Barry Windham, with the bigger and more experienced Muraco unforgettably piledriving the rookie on the concrete floor.[8] Windham would eventually get his revenge, however, and in the process become a credible wrestler and legitimate star in the eyes of the fans. This feud is now remembered as among the promotion's greatest.[10]

World Wrestling Federation (1981-1988)

In 1981, Muraco first appeared in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where he would have his greatest success. Managed by The Grand Wizard, Muraco captured the Intercontinental Championship on June 20, 1981 from Pedro Morales, though he lost it back to Morales five months later on November 23 in a Texas Death match, capping a bloody feud. During this year, Muraco battled WWF World Champion Bob Backlund to several 60-minute draws, including two in one day and in two different cities. Muraco spent part of 1982 in Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, where he partnered with Roddy Piper for a time, before returning to the WWF that fall.

Now managed by Captain Lou Albano, Muraco recaptured the Intercontinental belt from Pedro Morales on January 22, 1983. That year Muraco had a feud against Albano's former protégé "Superfly" Jimmy Snuka. The feud culminated on October 17, 1983 in a steel cage match at Madison Square Garden. The match ended in a loss for the Superfly, but he managed to drag Muraco back into the ring and connect with the most famous Superfly Splash of his career, off the top of the 15-foot high steel cage.

Over the span of his two Intercontinental reigns, Muraco also had bloody feuds with Bob Backlund, Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson. Muraco's character was based on being an arrogant villain who angrily demanded respect while engaging in low-class behaviour himself; in one match, he brought a submarine sandwich to the ring and ate it during the match as a show of disrespect to his opponent. Later, he would preface his matches by dedicating his impending piledriver (his finisher at the time) to either the heel commentator or the person with whom he was feuding with at that time. Wrestling fans, for their part, regularly mocked Muraco and his Hawaiian origins with derisive chants of "beach bum".

On February 11, 1984, Muraco's second Intercontinental reign came to an end when he was defeated by Tito Santana. After unsuccessfully challenging Santana in a series of rematches, Muraco faded from the WWF spotlight before coming back in 1985 with yet another colorful manager, Mr. Fuji. In the aftermath of the first WrestleMania, Muraco co-headlined three consecutive cards at Madison Square Garden against World Champion Hulk Hogan, climaxing in a bloody steel cage match on June 21 in which Hogan was victorious. On July 8, Muraco won the promotion's first King of the Ring tournament, and spent much of the remainder of the year feuding with Ricky Steamboat. Also that year, Fuji and Muraco debuted Fuji Vice, a soap opera starring them (and parodying Miami Vice) on Tuesday Night Titans (Fuji General, a parody of the ABC soap General Hospital, followed soon after).

In 1986, Muraco became aligned with "Adorable" Adrian Adonis and "Cowboy" Bob Orton in their feud with Roddy Piper. This led Orton and Muraco to become a regular tag team, until a falling out between the two brought about Muraco's turning face in July 1987 and feuding with Orton. In a TV taping aired that November, Muraco would come to the rescue of "Superstar" Billy Graham, who would soon become his new manager. Muraco would adopt his new mentor's tie-dye attire and change his name from Magnificent Muraco to "The Rock" Don Muraco. Muraco would replace Graham on the team led by his former rival Hulk Hogan at the 1987 Survivor Series and would reach the quarterfinals of the WWF World Title tournament at WrestleMania IV. Muraco later said that he did not enjoy his WWF face run, believing he was more effective as a heel.[9] His final months with the company were decidedly lackluster, feuding with Greg Valentine and losing to Dino Bravo at the inaugural SummerSlam.

Muraco was fired in late 1988. After that, he split his time between Stampede Wrestling (where he defeated Makhan Singh to win the North American Heavyweight title), the AWA, and Herb Abrams' UWF, where he feuded with Cactus Jack.

Eastern Championship Wrestling (1992-1993)

In the early 1990s, Muraco was one of the first to hold the ECW Championship, before it became Extreme Championship Wrestling. During his time there, Muraco rekindled some old wars with Jimmy Snuka and Tito Santana.

Muraco often wrestled as a villain in New York and Philadelphia during his career. Along with Ric Flair, Jake Roberts, Roddy Piper, and Randy Savage, Muraco was a precursor to the 1990s Attitude Era, when lines were blurred between villains and fan favorite. He was the first wrestler to be known as "The Rock",[3] simply as a play on his last name. His finishing maneuver, a reverse piledriver, is now commonly called the Tombstone Piledriver due to its familiar use as the finisher of The Undertaker.

RetirementAfter retiring from the ring, Muraco returned to Hawaii. In 2003 he was named co-founder of Hawai'i Championship Wrestling which ran from 2003-2008 along with local Hawaii TV producer Linda Bade. He served as on screen commissioner of Hawaii Championship Wrestling until 2006. He also worked as a longshoreman.[11] In 2004, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Mick Foley, who, like others such as Tommy Dreamer, Bubba Ray Dudley, and D-Von Dudley, credits the 1983 Intercontinental Championship steel cage match between Muraco and Snuka he attended at Madison Square Garden as his inspiration for breaking into professional wrestling.[12] He also appeared in WXW managing his son Joe.

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Championships and accomplishments

All-California Championship Wrestling

ACCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[13]

Championship Wrestling from Florida

NWA Florida Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[2]

NWA Florida Television Championship (1 time)

NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Florida version) (1 time) - with Jos LeDuc

Eastern Championship Wrestling

ECW Heavyweight Championship (2 times)

Georgia Championship Wrestling

NWA Macon Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Robert Fuller

NWA Hollywood Wrestling

NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[2]

NWA Mid-Pacific Promotions

NWA Pacific International Championship (1 time)

NWA New Zealand

NWA British Empire/Commonwealth Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

NWA San Francisco

NWA United States Heavyweight Championship (San Francisco version) (1 time)[2]

NWA World Tag Team Championship (San Francisco version) (1 time) - with Invader #1

Pacific Coast Championship Wrestling

PCCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)[13]

Stampede Wrestling

Stampede North American Heavyweight Championship (1 time)

World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment

WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2004)[2]

WWF Intercontinental Championship (2 times)[2]

WWF King of the Ring (1985)[2]

Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards

Best Heel (1981)

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