Magnificient Don Muraco

Name: "Magnificent" Don Muraco
Year Inducted: 2014

"Magnificent" Don Muraco

Don Muraco totally went to his own beat, which was pretty much dictated by the surf. “He really was born in Hawaii and his beach bum character was not a gimmick,” wrote Jack Brisco in his autobiography. “He loved the surf and when it was up he would take off to wherever it was, regardless of what program he was involved in. He would call Eddie Graham and say, ‘Don’t book me for the next two weeks, I’m going surfing.’”

Muraco was a wrestling fan growing up in Hawaii but not a huge one (even though his parents once rented an apartment to Freddie Blassie). He left the island to go to college at Glendale in California as a chiseled 265 pounder on a 6-foot-2 body, but dropped down at school. “Living on my own, college food, busted vein and my nose bleeding like crazy, I was down to about 210, 215. Living with four other guys in a surf hut didn’t bulk me up either.” The next year, he went to Santa Monica City College and technically studied sociology, “but mostly football and surfing though.”

Like most stars from Hawaii, it was Lord James Blears who convinced him to give wrestling a try— Muraco had gone to school with Blears’ son Jimmy—and Blears dispatched him to Vancouver in 1970. Muraco, who used Don Morrow as his name in the early going, was a fast learner. “As soon as I started it, I was into it. I pretty much thought it would be a career.”

A handsome babyface for the first few years, Muraco worked Los Angeles and returned to Hawaii before venturing to the AWA for the first time, where his name was adjusted to Morocco. Florida was the scene of some of his most memorable clashes with heels such as Ivan Koloff and Dusty Rhodes and where he first hit his stride as a “Magnificent” heel.

After putting in time in far-off locales such as Australia, New Zealand and Japan, Muraco was ready for the spotlight when the WWWF brought him to the Northeast. Both of his Intercontinental title wins came at the expense of Pedro Morales and his memorable string of bouts with Superfly Snuka led to a spectacular leap by Snuka off the top of a cage in Madison Square Garden. But it’s Bob Backlund for whom Muraco has the most praise. “I always thought that he represented the belt and that image as world champion, and the stuff he did, maybe not as dynamic and exciting and charismatic as a lot of guys. But at the time, and in the position he was, he was an excellent, great representative with the WWWF title,” Muraco said. “I wrestled him for hours and hours, up and down, all over the world.”

With the changeover from WWWF to WWF, a new booker in George Scott started bringing in his own talent. Muraco was shuffled downcard. “I just didn’t fit into the guys he had. … He had his crew of guys. That’s neither here nor there. I still made money after that.” Muraco would work on top with Hogan, team with “Cowboy” Bob Orton, and have a weak face push under the tutelage of Superstar Graham that died when Graham needed surgery. “I probably could have done more than what I did,” Muraco said. “At that time, I wasn’t too enthused. I was burned out. Being a babyface was an awkward position there.”

As the 1980s came to a close, Muraco hit the few remaining territories and was North American champion in 1988 in Stampede Wrestling before returning to live in Hawaii. He also held the forerunner of the ECW World title on two occasions in 1992-93 and was flown in for shots. In 1991, he started working as a longshoreman to support his two daughters and one son from two marriages.

 

- Greg Oliver



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