Pedro Morales, who holds the distinction of being the first triple crown winner in WWE history, has died at the age of 76, WWE confirmed on Tuesday. According to PW Insider, Morales had been battling Parkinson’s Disease during the later stages of his life. Former WWE announcer Hugo Savinovich was first to report the sad news of Morales’s passing on Tuesday.
Morales, from Culebra Island, Puerto Rico, began his professional wrestling career in 1959 and would enjoy his first stint with the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation from 1970-75. In February 1971, Morales would etch his name in history when he defeated Ivan Koloff inside Madison Square Garden in New York to claim the WWWF heavyweight championship. Beloved by the massive Puerto Rican population in the New York area, Morales was a successful draw for Vince McMahon Sr. and his northeast territory. He would go on to hold the WWWF heavyweight title for 1,027 days before dropping it to the heel Stan Stasiak in Philadelphia in December 1973. Stasiak would only hold the championship for nine days, losing it to the legendary Bruno Sammartino who was returning to serve as the marquee star of the promotion once again.
Upon leaving the territory in 1975, Morales enjoyed time with the likes of the AWA and New Japan Pro-Wrestling but would return to the northeast area in 1980, with the promotion officially having been re-branded to the World Wrestling Federation. In August of 1980, Morales won the WWF tag team championship with partner Bob Backlund, though the duo would be forced to vacate the titles the next day due to Backlund’s status as reigning WWF champion. In December 1980, Morales became the first triple crown winner in WWE history when he defeated Ken Patera to win the Intercontinental championship. This was the first of two IC title reigns for Morales, with the other coming in November 1981 with a victory over Don Muraco.
Morales entered retirement in 1987 and proceeded to keep a rather low profile during his time away from the ring. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.