Buddy Landel
Birth nameWilliam Fritz Ensor
Born(1961-08-14)August 14, 1961[1]
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJune 22, 2015(2015-06-22) (aged 53)
Chilhowie, Virginia, U.S.
Cause of deathComplications after a car accident
Spouse(s)
Tuesday Smith
(m. 1975; div. 1976)

Donna Landel
(m. 1981)
Children3
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Buddy Landel
Billed height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Billed weight235 lb (107 kg)
Billed fromJacksonville, Florida
Trained byBoris Malenko[1]
Bob Roop
Bob Orton Jr.
Debut1979[2]
Retired2010

William Fritz Ensor (August 14, 1961 – June 22, 2015) was an American professional wrestler better known by the ring name "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel. He was best known for his work in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territories.[3]

Early life

Landel first became interested in professional wrestling when a friend of his sister, Lou Anne Smith, introduced him to Bob Orton, Randy Savage and Boris Malenko. Landel was an amateur wrestler in high school, but dropped out during his junior year.[1][2] While he was training with Boris Malenko, Landel lived in an apartment with Olympian Bob Roop.[1]

Professional wrestling career

Early career (1979–1981)

Landel started his career in 1979. In 1980 he worked for Angelo Poffo's International Championship Wrestling in the Mid-East.

National Wrestling Alliance (1981–1986)

He started his career in 1981 in Bill Watts's Mid-South Wrestling.[2] Landel made his debut on May 25, 1981 in New Orleans, LA and defeated Kelly Kiniski. The young wrestler was quite active, wrestling Ken Mantell, Carl Fergie, Jake Roberts, and The Great Kabuki.[4] On August 18, 1981 he received his first title opportunity, but fell in defeat to Mississippi Champion Bob Orton.[5] On September 29, 1981 he teamed with Jim Garvin in an unsuccessful challenge to MSW Tag-Team Champions The Wild Samoans, and after this moved on to Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.[6]

Less than two weeks later Landel surfaced in Jim Crockett's Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, defeating Mike Miller in Asheville, NC.[7] He was largely victorious against a number of opponents, including Charlie Fulton, Mike Miller, and Jeff Sword.[8]

Landel returned to Mid-South Wrestling on March 3, 1982, defeating Bob Orton in a match held in Baton Rouge, LA.[9] He stayed in Bill Watt's territory for the next few months, facing Rick Ferrara, Paul Orndorff, and One Man Gang.[8] After several months in the promotion, Landell jumped to the Continental Wrestling Association on August 30, 1982. Teaming with Mike Graham, they battled Spike Huber and Steve Regal to a double count-out.[10] After several months in the CWA, Landel returned to MSW and would split time between several National Wrestling Alliance promotions, including Mid South, the CWA, and Houston Wrestling.

On March 8, 1983 he traveled to Capitol Sports Promotions and defeated Pierre Martel to win the WWC North American Heavyweight Title. This was Landel's first title, and he held the belt until June 25, 1983 when he lost to Pedro Morales in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.[11] That summer Landel defeated Dutch Mantell to win the NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championship in Memphis, TN.[12] He held the title until August 29, 1983 when he was defeated by Koko B Ware. Landel regained the title on September 10, then holding it until he was defeated by Terry Taylor on December 1, 1983 in Lexington, KY.[13] Landell spent all of 1984 splitting time between Mid South and Houston Wrestling, facing competitors such as Terry Taylor, Jose Lothario, and Brickhouse Brown.

In 1985 he returned to Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling (Jim Crockett Promotions), defeating Denny Brown at "MACW Title Night '85" in Raleigh, North Carolina on March 6.[14][15] Landel joined manager J. J. Dillon's stable,[2] and he unsuccessfully challenged Magnum T. A. for the United States Heavyweight Championship on March 29, 1985.[16] He would wrestle Magnum several more times that spring but was unable to gain the title. On June 15, 1985 Buddy Landell received his first ever shot at the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, falling in defeat to "Nature Boy" Ric Flair in Greensboro, NC.[17] A wrestling card with a Landel-Ric Flair main event on July 31, 1985, drew an overflow crowd at J.S. Dorton Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina.[18] (Landel often claimed this crowd broke Elvis Presley's attendance record at the arena, but this has not been independently confirmed.[19]) He won the NWA National Heavyweight Championship from Terry Taylor at Starrcade '85 in Greensboro, North Carolina.[2]

Landel was set to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Flair in 1985. However, Landel had a falling out with the management of Jim Crockett Promotions and left the company after dropping the National Heavyweight Championship to Dusty Rhodes on December 19, 1985.[20][2][21]

He resurfaced in the Continental Wrestling Association January 4, 1986 and defeated David Haskins at a television taping in Memphis, TN. Seventeen days later he retook the CWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championship from Koko B Ware,[22] although his reign was brief as he was defeated for it by Dusty Rhodes on February 2. Landel regained the championship sixteen days later and held it until April 7, when he lost to Dutch Mantell.[13] On April 19, 1986 he made a one-off return to Jim Crockett Promotions, teaming with Bill Dundee to participate in the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup. The duo was defeated in the first round by Steve Williams and Terry Taylor.[23] On June 2, 1986 he defeated former partner Bill Dundee to win the AWA Southern Championship in a barbed wire match held in Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee.[24] He briefly vacated the belt that month, then regained it in a tournament finale over The Flame (Roger Smith).[22] With Bill Dundee, Dutch Mantell, and Jerry Lawler, he headlined the last sold-out show in the Mid-South Coliseum.

On July 27, 1986 Buddy Landel returned to Mid Atlantic Championship Wrestling and defeated George South at a television taping in Atlanta, GA.[25] Accompanied by former foe turned partner Bill Dundee, Landel and Dundee both attacked South after the match.[26] On the July 12th episode of "World Championship Wrestling", announcer Tony Schiavone conducted a sit-down interview with Buddy Landel who claimed that he and not Ric Flair was the real "Nature Boy". In his first month back he was programmed against opening level competition on house shows, facing and defeating Rocky King, Sam Houston, and Todd Champion. While Landel remained undefeated, Flair would not respond until the September 6th episode of NWA Pro, where he stated that he was "Space Mountain" while Buddy was "Ride the Wild Mouse". That same weekend on NWA Worldwide, Landel and Dundee claimed that Flair would only wrestle an injured competitor like Dusty Rhodes. Landel, however, would never wrestle Flair in this time period and instead faced Magnum T. A. and NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion Ron Garvin, wrestling each to a draw when they faced off.

Universal Wrestling Federation (1986)

Buddy Landel joined Bill Watt's Universal Wrestling Federation on October 10, 1986 and defeated Jeff Raitz at a house show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Landel was unbeaten, defeating Joe Savoldi, Jeff Gaylord, and Chavo Guerrero.[27]

Continental Championship Wrestling (1987)

He next jumped to National Wrestling Alliance affiliate Continental Championship Wrestling in February 1987, winning the NWA Southeastern Heavyweight Championship. During the first half of the year he would face The Tennessee Stud (Ron Fuller) and Wendell Cooley.[27]

American Wrestling Association (1987)

Landel joined Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association on September 18, 1987, defeating ML Williams at a TV taping in Las Vegas, NV.[28] His stay was short-lived and consigned only to that TV taping, where he also defeated Lance Allen and Chris Bassett.

All Japan Pro Wrestling (1988)

Buddy Landel made his first trip to an overseas promotion in January 1988 when he joined All Japan Pro Wrestling. His first appearance came at the "All Japan Pro Wrestling 100 Million Yen Capture 16 Man Battle Royal" on New Year's Day in Tokyo, Japan.[29] During the tour Landel faced Akira Taue, Tiger Mask, Akio Sato, Hiroshi Wajima, John Tenta (Earthquake), and Jumbo Tsuruta.

Continental Wrestling Association (1988–1990)

He returned once more to the CWA on August 1, 1988 and unsuccessfully challenged AWA World Heavyweight Champion Jerry Lawler in Memphis, TN.[30] While appearing in the CWA he also wrestled for Capitol Sports Promotions, and on August 20 defeated TNT (Savio Vega) for the WWC Caribbean Heavyweight Champion.[31] He held the belt until September 17 when TNT regained it.[32] Landel returned to the CWA and remained with the company as it transitioned into the United States Wrestling Association.[27]

Global Wrestling Federation (1991)

Following a stint in the Tri-State Wrestling Alliance, Landel joined the newly created Global Wrestling Federation on June 28, 1991 and defeated Gary Young. He would lose to The Patriot in the finals for a tournament to crown the GWF Television Champion.[33] Landel also continued to wrestle for the TWA, and was going to wrestle "Nature Boy" Buddy Rogers for his Tri-State Title in early 1992 but the promotion folded before the match could happen.

Smoky Mountain Wrestling (1991–1992)

Buddy Landel joined Jim Cornette's new promotion Smoky Mountain Wrestling for its inaugural TV taping on November 27, 1991 in Morristown, TN. Landel stated that he had refused to do favors for major promotions and had joined SMW to hurt people. His first wrestling match would not come until April 18, 1992 however; he defeated Reno Riggins on SMW television in his debut match. Landel feuded with Tim Horner that spring but was generally unsuccessful.[34]

United States Wrestling Association (1992–1994)

He rejoined the USWA on August 17, 1992, teaming with Brian Christopher, Doug Gilbert and Eddie Gilbert to defeat Bill Dundee, The Rock 'n' Roll Express and Tommy Rich.[35] On November 22, 1993 he defeated Jeff Jarrett to win the vacated USWA Heavyweight Championship.[36] He would lose it to Brian Christopher on December 11, 1993.[37] In 1994 he unsuccessfully attempted to regain the title from Tommy Rich and later Sid Vicious.

Return to Smoky Mountain Wrestling (1994–1995)

On December 25, 1994 Landel appeared at Christmas Chaos '94, defeating SMW Heavyweight Champion The Dirty White Boy via disqualification.[38] Landel became one of the main eventers managed by Jim Cornette. Buddy held the SMW Heavyweight Championship and the SMW Television Championship in 1995. In August 1995 he earned a role in the movie Box of Moonlight, appearing in a scene wrestling Headbanger Thrasher.[39] He remained a heroic character until the promotion folded in late 1995.[2] Landel and Shawn Michaels set a record house at the Knoxville Coliseum.[2][40]

World Wrestling Federation (1995–1996, 1997, 1998, 1999)

After Cornette closed SMW, both Cornette and Landel went to the World Wrestling Federation.[40] Working without a contract, Landel began wrestling for the WWF on December 17, 1995 at In Your House. It would be his only WWF pay-per-view match. It was not a favorable debut though as he was defeated quickly by Ahmed Johnson in only 45 seconds. He continued to use a very similar image to Ric Flair, even using Flair's early 90s WWF entrance music. He made his Raw debut the next night, defeating Bob Holly.[40] He also defeated Matt Hardy on the December 23, 1995 episode of Superstars.[41] It was right after this match that Landel suffered a serious injury outside of the arena, slipping on ice and tearing his right quadriceps. He was out of action for six months as a result.[1][40] Landel wrestled Bret Hart in a WWF World Heavyweight Championship match shown on Mania on January 13, 1996, although the match was taped prior to Landel's injury.

Landel returned to the WWF for a one-night appearance on February 20, 1997, wrestling against TL Hopper.[42] On May 19, 1998 he worked a dark match against Edge.[43] He had one last short run with the WWF in 1999, wrestling two matches on Shotgun Saturday Night, first on February 20, 1999 against The Godfather and then on February 27, 1999 against Triple H.[40][44]

Late career (1996–2010)

After leaving WWF and recovering from his quadriceps injury Landel began wrestling on the independent scene, appearing first for Tennessee Mountain Wrestling and competing for them on multiple occasions. Landel also returned to the World Wrestling Council.[45] In 1997 and 1998 he would wrestle for numerous other promotions as well, including IWA Mid-South, Ohio Valley Wrestling, NWA New Jersey, and the National Wrestling League. He retired in 2003 where he teamed with Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Valiant defeating Bill Dundee, Mabel, and Jimmy Hart for Memphis Wrestling on September 28, 2003. In 2005 he worked at NWA Rocky Top promotion in Knoxville doing color commentary with Tony Basilio. Following a six year absence from the ring, Landel returned at the XCW Mid-West: Legends Of The Louisville Gardens on March 3, 2009 to wrestle Flash Flanagan for the XCW Heavyweight Championship. On October 24, 2009 Landel appeared at the TWA Reunion Show in Vorhees, NJ. Still holding onto the TWA Heavyweight Championship, he then lost the title to Glen Osbourne.[46]

Landel was honored as Most Influential WWF/WCW Wrestler from Kentucky by the state's governor and made a Kentucky Colonel in 1990.

He wrestled his final match at the NWA Wrestle Birmingham: The Big Bang event on November 19, 2010, where he teamed with Cameron Valentine and Greg Valentine to face Brutus Beefcake, Brickhouse Brown, and Jake Roberts.[47]

On August 27, 2011 Landel was inducted into the Legends Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Personal life

Landel acknowledged that in 1985 he began abusing drugs, using them for 10 to 15 years.[1] He hoped by talking about the rampant drug abuse in pro wrestling, that he could help newcomers to avoid the trials he went through. He also had some trouble with the IRS, but wrestling promoter Jim Crockett helped him pay the tax bill.[2]

Death

On June 21, 2015, Landel was involved in a car crash. He was hospitalized and reportedly checked himself out against his doctor's wishes, eventually returning to his home in Chilhowie, Virginia.[48] He told his wife Donna that he was "feeling bad", and she found him dead the next morning.[49][1][50]

Championships and accomplishments

References

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