|Copyright Â© Georgia Wrestling History, Inc.
All rights reserved.
The strut. The blond streak. The profile. Put them all together and you have one of the roughest, toughest, meanest, and most colorful
wrestlers to pack out Southern arenas, Sputnik Monroe!
Sputnik was born Rocco Monroe DiGrazio in Dodge City, KS. His father had been killed in an airplane crash a month before his birth and
his first seven or eight years were spent living between grandparents. His stepfather, a Brumbaugh, adopted him at age 17. His name
became Rock Monroe Brumbaugh. The Brumbaughs moved to Wichita, where he spent his childhood years hanging around the local
YMCA after school. Privileged to watch pro wrestlers like Everett Marshall, John Pesek, and Eddie Virag working out at the Y, young Rock
noticed their tailor-made suits, their big cars, and all the ladies nearby. He decided then and there that pro wrestling was the life for him.
Brumbaugh wrestled in the U.S. Navy and weighed only around 180 pounds upon his discharge, too light for a pro. Traveling the
Midwestern carnival circuit, he took on all comers at rodeos and county fairs, admitting the pay was not the best: â€œIt was chicken one
day, feathers the next!â€� There were times when he even had to pick a fight to get a match. He would either insult some guyâ€™s
girlfriend, or slug a truck driver only to be chased around the ring. After working with Jack Nazworthy, perhaps the most powerful figure in
the circuit ranks, Rock finally got his big break and debuted as a pro in 1947 in his birth town of Dodge City. He wrestled Charlie Ludkee.
After awhile, Monroe appeared in rings around Toronto, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, but with a new identity. Wearing suede
shoes, dark glasses, thick sideburns, and even carrying a guitar, he worked as Elvis Rock Monroe. This came about after doing a stint in
Louisville, KY, behind the Fairgrounds building as a decoy for Elvis. After an Elvis concert, Brumbaugh, dressed as Elvis, would run to a
waiting limo with screaming girls on his heels, giving Presley the chance to get away.
Working mostly as a babyface, Rock finally tried his hand as a heel. At the urging of promoter Johnny Doyle, he became manager of the
Bat (Joe Tomasso). He later worked in pink shoes and sequined robes as Pretty Boy Roque.
A wooden chair across the head in Chicago left a deeply embedded splinter and a bad infection. Monroe recalls, â€œWhen the hair
started to come back, it came back real silky and white. It stayed that way until the late sixties, then it started to change color â€¦ kind of a
yellow color. By that time, it was my trademark, so I began bleaching it out.â€�
History was made at a Mobile, AL, TV taping. An old lady in the audience became livid at Rockâ€™s disregard for the rules, cursing and
calling him everything she could think of, including â€œSputnik,â€� that evil satellite that had just been launched by the Russians.
Monroe liked it, as did ring announcer Clem Courtney. That night in 1957 â€œSputnikâ€� Monroe was born, a name that would
eventually become a household name throughout the South.
Sputnik Monroe doesnâ€™t mind taking credit for integrating wrestling in the South. Working in Memphis for Buddy Fuller, Monroe would
go down to Beale Street and give away coupons for discounted wrestling tickets. After a few days, his crowd grew from a hundred to a
thousand. â€œI would slip â€™em to my black friends like it was a big deal. â€˜Donâ€™t tell nobody where you got these.â€™â€� He
threatened to walk out if they turned his black friends away at Ellis Auditorium. They had to continue to open new wings to accommodate
Monroe met Sailor Bill Fletcher and noticed their resemblance. The blond streak was put in Fletcherâ€™s hair and the two became
Sputnik and Rocket, the Brothers Monroe. They worked in Las Vegas, New York, and Nashville. Sputnik remembers, â€œWe were just
absolutely a perfect team, but when we put my blood brother Gary in as Jet Monroe, that put the icing on the cake.â€� The threesome
did not remain together for long. â€œGary and I went to Atlanta, while Bill went to Phoenix. That was in â€™64 and I had fantastic
success that year in Georgia.â€�
Until that time, Georgia did not have a state title. A Cadillac tournament ran for several weeks to determine who the first champion would
be. During his TV interviews, Sputnik boasted and bragged how he had won Cadillacs all over the South and he proceeded to defeat
everyone put in the ring with him, including big names brought in for only one appearance. On August 9, 1964, Sputnik defeated Dick the
Bruiser at the Atlanta Raceway on a Sunday afternoon to win the pearl gray Cadillac and to become the very first Georgia Heavyweight
Champion. Throughout his career in the Peach State, Sputnik had some unforgettable feuds with Don Fargo, Buddy Fuller, and Mario
A few years later in Florida, Sputnik was again having great days. Eddie Graham heard of another Sputnik look-alike, Maury High, and
brought him from Tennessee to Tampa as the new Rocket Monroe. They took Gentleman Saul Weingeroff as manager and soon
became World Tag Team Champions.
Throughout his career, Sputnik has held numerous titles: Tennessee (1959), Texas (1961), Texas Brass Knuckles (1960s), Texas Tag
with Danny McShain (1960), with Bill â€œRocket Monroeâ€� Fletcher (1961), Georgia (1964), World Tag with Maury â€œRocket Monroeâ
€� High (1967), Southern Tag with Maury â€œRocket Monroeâ€� High (1967), Georgia Tag with Maury â€œRocket Monroeâ€� High,
NWA World Junior (1970), Southern Junior (1971), Southern Tag with Norvel Austin (1971), Tennessee Tag with Tommy Gilbert (1972),
and Florida Tag with Norvel Austin (1972).
Sputnik has always been known as a brawler, sustaining many injuries and receiving thousands of stitches, and he has been stabbed
numerous times by outraged wrestling fans. He knew how to make the crowd mad, the goal of every villain wrestler.
Monroe's health continued to decline over the past few years. He underwent several cancer surgeries including the loss of part of a
lung. On November 3, 2006, in a New Smyrna Beach, Florida nursing home, Sputnik Monroe passed away in his sleep at the age of 77.
A graveside service was held November 19 at a national cemetary in Pineville, Louisiana with about sixty people in attendance. There
will never ever be another Sputnik Monroe. "I'm rough, tough, and hard to bluff. 235 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal. The
heavenly body that women love but men fear."