|Died||20 August 2011|
Bnei Brak, Israel
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Rafael Halperin|
|Billed height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
|Retired||September 20, 1973|
Born in Austria, Halperin moved to Israel with his family in 1933. The Halperin family moved to Bnei Brak the following year, and Rafael studied in Haifa and Jerusalem as a teenager. He also excelled in several athletic pursuits, including weightlifting and karate. He entered competitions and became the national champion in karate, boxing, and bodybuilding.
In the 1950s, he worked in the United States as a professional wrestler in Vince McMahon Sr.'s Capitol Wrestling.In America he fought as “Mr. Israel” and "The Rasslin’ Rabbi," and won 159 consecutive bouts. He refused to follow the “scripts” used in professional wrestling and declared that he “came to America to wrestle representing the State of Israel and the Jewish people and could not fake or be phony.”
Halperin died of cancer on 20 August 2011 at age 87.
In 1950, Halperin organized Israel's first "Mr. Israel" bodybuilders competition.
Professional wrestling career
Halperin decided that he wanted to open a chain of athletic facilities, so he began wrestling professionally to earn the necessary money. His career took him to the United States, where he was reported to have won 159 consecutive matches. In 1954, Toots Mondt signed him up as a wrestler. In his matches, he wore a blue and white costume emblazoned with the Jewish star.
He earned the displeasure of some promoters and fellow wrestlers because he treated his matches as legitimate athletic contests rather than a scripted performance. He refused to yield, however, as he felt that he was upholding the dignity of his country. He also wrestled as a face (fan favorite), refusing to break any rules, for the same reason.
Halperin continued to wrestle in the United States and Canada into the 1960s. During this time, he faced such opponents as Antonino Rocca while competing for Capitol Wrestling. After Rocca canceled three times, the two finally met at Laurel Gardens in Newark, New Jersey, before 15,000 fans. The match went back and forth but ended in a draw.
His most well known matches in Israel were against Achmad Fuad and the "Jordanian Tiger" Abu Antar. The match with Fuad took place on 18 June 1966 in front of 6,000 fans at the Bloomfield Stadium and caused the police to use tear gas after a big riot broke out immediately after Fuad attacked the victorious Halperin.Apparently it was a staged act, but Halperin had not informed anyone in advance. The match with Abu Antar took place on September 20, 1973 and was the most successful local wrestling match seen in the country, as the Yad Eliyahu Arena was sold out to witness Halperin defeat the "Jordanian Tiger". This was Halperin's last match and after he retired from professional wrestling, he started to study karate and mixed martial arts in Japan.
After retiring from wrestling, Halperin fulfilled his dream of opening a chain of gyms. He went on to earn a rabbinical degree and wrote several religious books as well as an encyclopedia and a weight-loss guide. During the Yom Kippur War, he served in the Israel Defense Forces. Halperin also founded a chain of 120 optical centers, selling glasses at affordable prices. In 2008, he and his wife Bertie decided to divide the optical business among their five children.
Because of his orthodox Jewish beliefs, he was opposed to businesses operating on Shabbat. To combat this "desecration" of the holy day, Halperin led an initiative to create a credit card containing a chip that renders it inoperable on Saturday. It was also designed not to function in stores known to operate on Shabbat.
- Arena of My Life (autobiography) [Hebrew]
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