October 16, 2003
The Beginnings Of A Genius And The Night A Dream Became Real
Ernie Roth had quite a resume. He had previously worked in other territories under colorful monikers like J. Wellington and Mr Kleen. But he was probably most notorious for being The Shiek's manager Abdullah Farouk before heading up to the North East to work for Vince McMahon Sr. So it was no surprise, then, that the boss assigned him to a pretty decent job right away; to lead his new protege, Stan "The Man" Stasiak, to the world title in Philadelphia.
According to this online account from Stan himself, it had been his second or third tour with WWWF. Each time he went to New York it would be the same thing: three weeks of tv matches and a tour around the house show circuit to collect a win to set up the main event for the next card in town. After that, it was in the main event against Pedro Morales for the title. He wrestled Morales dozens of times and never won. It didn't bother him at all. He was main eventing in one of the meccas of wrestling, getting paid very well and, according to him, had no problem doing business.
He was sitting in the dressing room in Philadelphia and the road agent came in to discuss the match. Stan considered this a formality as he had been having the same discussion, over and over, in every major city for the last two months. And now, here from wrestlingclassics.com, is a transcript of a conversation Stan had that night in Philadelphia:
WWE official: Pedro makes the big comeback and gives you a belly-to-back.
Stan (bored): Uh-huh
WWE official: The referee will go down to make the count.
Stan (paying about half attention while he tied his boots): Right.
WWE official:The referee will count "one, two."
Stan (matter-of-factly): Of course.
WWE official: At two, you roll your right shoulder.
Stan now looks up to pay attention realizing this must be a false finish leading to another spot after which Morales would hit the top rope splash for the win.
WWE official (matter-of-factly): Pedro's shoulders will still be down and the referee will hit three.
Stan completely stopped what he was doing as he took a long look at the official.
After a long pause that seemed like several minutes, the official offered nothing else so Stan spoke.
Stan (somewhat confused): You mean I win?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
WWE official (matter-of-factly): Yes.
Stan:Is this a title match?
WWE official (matter-of-factly): Uh-huh.
Stan was really confused now as the official just stared at him blankly.
Stan (in disbelief): You mean I win the title?
WWE official (somewhat impatiently):Yes.
And so, on that winter night in 1973, Stan Stasiak lived out a dream that few others do in the company and won the title from Pedro Morales with the guidance of Ernie Roth, the Grand Wizard of Wrestling. But the dream was to be short lived, as Stasiak was to lose his belt to Bruno Sammartino a mere nine days later, thus making his reign the shortest in the company's history for many years (that record was beaten by others over the years, the last being Andre The Giant). The company wanted a "transitional" champion; someone to seamlessly shift the belt between combatants for one reason or another. Why was Stasiak used to transition Morales out and Sammartino in as champion? It was partly due to the fact that Morales' opponents were just not of the same quality as the ones Sammartino had. One other attempt to put him over in a big match against Bruno himself failed, as well. Hence, the transition with Stasiak.
As for The Wizard, he was to wait another five years before seeing his next champion in "Superstar" Billy Graham. He would also find Intercontinential gold in Pat Patterson, Ken Patera, and Don Muraco. But I think behind the scenes, what he was famous for most was his tremendous heart and generous spirit. Even today, he is missed by so many, and he gains fans by the minute, and deservedly so.
Rest in peace. We love you, Ernie.