In 1963, Buddy Rogers debuted and won a tournament to become the first ever WWWF (WWE) Champion. Rogers' reign was cut short by a mild heart attack that greatly hindered his endurance. Physically in decline, Rogers was matched against the hugely popular and immensely powerful Bruno Sammartino. Rogers was beaten by Sammartino on May 17 of that year, in a match that lasted a mere 48 seconds. Stunned and disheartened, Rogers quickly left the ring.
After losing to Sammartino, Rogers stayed on top, in anticipation of a rematch. He defeated Hans "The Great" Mortier in less than a minute with the Figure-4 in Madison Square Garden, and teamed with Handsome Johnny Barend to take 2 out of 3 falls via pin from Sammartino and Bobo Brazil, with Rogers pinning Sammartino for the final fall.
The big rematch was to be held October 4, 1963, at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey. The tickets were printed with Rogers–Sammartino on them. However, it was announced that Rogers was retiring, and Gorilla Monsoon, who had won a Ring Wrestling TV tournament, got the title shot that night.
In the early 1980's, he moved back into WWF where he was a babyface manager and part-time wrestler who also hosted the interview segment "Rogers' Corner." During a feud teaming with his old protégé Jimmy Snuka against Lou Albano and Ray Stevens, Rogers broke his hip and retired from wrestling for good.
Rogers died on June 26, 1992.