Donald "Don" Muraco (September 10, 1949), nicknamed "The Magnificent Muraco" and "The Rock", is a retired American professional wrestler. Wrestling regularly from 1970 to 1988, and sporadically after, Muraco is a two-time WWF Intercontinental Champion, a two-time ECW Heavyweight Champion, one-time Stampede North American Champion and the first WWF King of the Ring in 1985.
Wrestling in the U.S. and Canada (1970-1981)
A Hawaii state amateur wrestling champion in 1967, Muraco chose professional wrestling over football. He spent the first year of his career learning the ropes in Vancouver, Portland, Florida and Los Angeles before getting his first big break, for Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association (AWA). Wrestling as a face, he often tag teamed with Jimmy Snuka, against wrestlers such as Larry Hennig, Ivan Koloff and Dusty Rhodes. In 1973, tired of life in Minneapolis, he left the AWA for Roy Shire's San Francisco NWA territory.
In 1974, Muraco moved to Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF). He was frequently compared to the NWA World Champion Jack Brisco, who he physically resembled. In a match between the two on May 28, 1974, Muraco reversed Brisco's finishing move, the figure four leglock. Though Muraco lost the match by disqualification, this feat made him a star.
After brief stints in Texas and Georgia, Muraco returned to California in 1975 and won his first singles title, the NWA Americas Heavyweight Championship. He then won the San Francisco version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship with Masked Invader #1. In San Francisco, Muraco learned to work as a heel.
From 1977 through 1981, Muraco shuttled several more times between Florida, San Francisco and his native Hawaii. In Florida, he was involved in two high-profile angles. In 1979, a masked villain called "The Magnificent M" appeared in the territory. Though it came as little surprise when he was eventually unmasked as Muraco, his bald head shocked the audience. Then, in 1980, he feuded with Barry Windham, in which the bigger and more experienced Muraco piledrove the rookie on the concrete floor. Windham eventually got his revenge, in the process becoming a credible wrestler in the eyes of the fans.
World Wrestling Federation (1981-1988)
In 1981, Muraco debuted in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), where he would have his greatest success. Managed by The Grand Wizard, he captured the Intercontinental Championship on June 20, 1981, from Pedro Morales. He lost it back to Morales on November 23 in a Texas Death match, capping a bloody feud. That year, Muraco wrestled WWF World Champion Bob Backlund several times, including a 60-minute draw on October 24. He split 1982 between Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling (where he partnered with Roddy Piper for a time), Georgia Championship Wrestling (where he also wrestled under a mask as Dr. X) and New Japan Pro Wrestling (where he wrestled in the annual MSG League tournament), before returning to the WWF that fall.
Now managed by Captain Lou Albano, Muraco regained the Intercontinental title from Morales on January 22, 1983. That year, Muraco feuded with Albano's former protégé, Jimmy Snuka. The feud culminated on October 17, in a steel cage match at Madison Square Garden. Snuka lost the match, but afterward dragged Muraco back into the ring and hit his finisher, the Superfly Splash, from the top of the 15-foot cage.
During his two Intercontinental title reigns, Muraco had bloody feuds with Bob Backlund, Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson. He portrayed an arrogant villain who angrily demanded respect, while engaging in disrespectful behaviour himself; in one match, he brought a submarine sandwich to the ring and ate it while dominating his outmatched opponent. Later, he would preface his matches by dedicating his impending finishing move, the piledriver, to either the heel commentator or whomever he was feuding with at the time. Audiences regularly mocked Muraco and his Hawaiian origins with derisive chants of "beach bum".
On February 11, 1984, Muraco lost the Intercontinental title to Tito Santana. After an unsuccessful series of rematches, Muraco took a hiatus from wrestling in August, before returning in 1985, managed by Mr. Fuji. After the first WrestleMania, Muraco headlined three consecutive Madison Square Garden cards against WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan, climaxing in a bloody steel cage match on June 21, which Hogan won. On July 8, Muraco won the first King of the Ring tournament. In addition to feuding with Ricky Steamboat for much of the remainder of the year, Fuji and Muraco debuted Fuji Vice, a series of skits parodying Miami Vice), on Tuesday Night Titans (Fuji General, a parody of the ABC soap General Hospital, followed soon after).
In 1986, Muraco allied with Adrian Adonis and Bob Orton, Jr. in their feud with Roddy Piper. This led to Orton and Muraco becoming a regular tag team. In July 1987, a falling out led to a feud between them and a face turn for Muraco. In a TV taping aired that November, Muraco saved Billy Graham from a beating by Butch Reed, and taking him as his new manager. Muraco adopted Graham's tie-dye attire and changed his nickname from "Magnificent Muraco" to "The Rock". Muraco replaced Graham on the team led by his former rival Hulk Hogan at the first Survivor Series and reached the quarterfinals of the WWF World Title tournament at WrestleMania IV. Years later, out of character, Muraco said he did not enjoy his WWF face run, and believed he was more effective as a heel. In his final months with the WWF, he feuded with Greg Valentine and lost to Dino Bravo at the inaugural SummerSlam.
Muraco was fired in late 1988. He then split his time between Stampede Wrestling (where he defeated Makhan Singh to win the North American Heavyweight title), the AWA (where he wrestled AWA World Heavyweight Champion Larry Zbyszko to a double disqualification) and Herb Abrams' UWF (where he feuded with Cactus Jack).
Eastern Championship Wrestling (1992-1993)
On October 24, 1992, Muraco became one of the first to hold the ECW Championship, before the promotion was renamed Extreme Championship Wrestling. During his time there, he rekindled old feuds with Jimmy Snuka and Tito Santana. often wrestled as a villain in New York and Philadelphia during his career.
Wrestle Association R (1994)
Muraco, as Aka Oni, debuted for Wrestle Association-R (WAR) on August 25, 1994, defeating Takashi Ishikawa. He had twelve more matches with the promotion, culminating in a tag loss (with Ai Oni) to Animal Hamaguchi and Ryuma Go on December 4, at WAR Mega Power in Sumo Hall.
After retiring from the ring, Muraco returned to Hawaii. In 2003, he co-founded Hawai'i Championship Wrestling with local TV producer Linda Bade, which ran from 2003 to 2008. He was the storyline commissioner of Hawai'i Championship Wrestling until 2006. He also worked as a longshoreman.
In 2004, Muraco was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Mick Foley, who, like Tommy Dreamer, Bubba Ray Dudley and D-Von Dudley, credits the 1983 steel cage match between Muraco and Snuka at Madison Square Garden (which he attended) as his inspiration for becoming a wrestler.
Muraco often induct superstars and other legends into the WWE Hall of Fame, most notably in 2009, when Muraco inducted former manager, Mr. Fuji into the WWE Hall of Fame.
- Entrance themes
- During his time as a protégé of "Superstar" Billy Graham, Muraco used an instrumental version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Superstar".
Championships and accomplishments
- All-California Championship Wrestling
- ACCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- NWA San Francisco
- Pacific Coast Championship Wrestling
- PCCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Wrestling Federation / World Wrestling Entertainment