One of the greatest Native American wrestlers in professional wrestling history, he followed up a successful career in professional footbal by making his mark inside of the squared circle.
Real Name: Ed McDaniel
Stats: 5′ 11″ 280 lbs.
By Steve Slagle
Wahoo McDaniel’s story is one of the most interesting in the sport, as the Oklahoman was a standout performer not only in professional wrestling, but also as a member of several successful NFL squads. And although he didn’t have to, throughout his entire career as a professional athlete, Wahoo always took his position as a role model for Native Americans very seriously. This multi-time champion was also one of the sport’s most travelled, as he wrestled in virtually every territory within the NWA or AWA at one point or another. Although he was a hugely popular fan favorite throughout the majority of his 20+ year long career, Wahoo was also one of the most intense and violent. Occasionally, this intensity led fans to view Wahoo as a “heel” and he “crossed the fence” more than once during his lengthy career. Still, his drawing power and sheer popularity (whether it be as a “good guy” or a “bad guy”) was undeniable, and he wrestled most of his career as a beloved hero. As a champion, there were few who were more prolific. And as a performer, few could get their story across inside the ring the way Wahoo did. Simply put, “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel was one of the most important wrestlers of the late 20th century…
After enjoying considerable fame as a defensive player in the NFL (for the NY Jets and Miami Dolphins, among others) Wahoo decided to try his luck in the pro wrestling business. For the first few years of his “rasslin” career, Wahoo wrestled part-time, competing during the NFL’s off season. The great Dory Funk, Sr. took Wahoo under his wing, and trained the young, large football player for a career in the ring. Funk also made sure Wahoo was not taken advantage of by other promoters, and taught the 260-lb. rookie about the pitfalls of the business. Wahoo learned a great deal from Mr. Funk, knowledge that would serve him for over 20 years as a pro wrestler.
Once Wahoo became a full-time wrestler, his career truly skyrocketed. Already a famous “mainstream” sports celebrity, Wahoo capitalized on his big name by demonstrating that he could wrestle as well as many of the more established veterans of the time. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, promoters were well aware of McDaniel’s drawing power. After establishing himself in rings across Texas, it didn’t take long for the championships to add up…
Among various titles, Wahoo won the Florida Heavyweight title in 1967, the Texas Heavyweight title in 1970 by defeating Johnny Valentine, 2 NWA American Heavyweight championships, 5 Mid Atlantic Heavyweight titles between 1975-78, 3 NWA American Tag Team titles (one w/Thunderbolt Patterson, and two with former rival Johnny Valentine), 2 Southwest Heavyweight championships, a Southwestern Championship Wrestling Tag title (with Terry Funk), 2 NWA Southern Heavyweight championships, 2 Georgia Heavyweight titles and a Georgia Tag title (w/Tommy Rich) in 1979. the Florida TV Title in 1981, 5 NWA United States Heavyweight championships between 1981-84, and the NWA National Heavyweight title in 1986.
His list of hated, bitter rivals is even longer than his impressive list of championships, as Wahoo (whether as a face or heel) faced off against a plethra of top competition over the years…Johnny & Greg Valentine, The Great Malenko, Harley Race, Terry Funk, Dory Funk, Jr., Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, Sgt. Slaughter, Roddy Piper, Ole Anderson, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Nick Bockwinkle, Rick Martel, The Masked Superstar, Magnum T.A., Paul Jones, Blackjack Mulligan, Paul Orndorff and many others all engaged in bloody, long-running feuds with the firey Chickasaw Indian. His campaigns throughout Texas, Florida, Georgia, the Mid Atlantic, the Mid South-Tri State territory, and other regions always resulted in sold-out crowds and plenty of “traditional” tough-as-nails wrestling action. For nearly 20 solid years, Wahoo was at the top of the NWA’s mammoth talent roster, and one of the biggest wrestling stars in the country, particularly in the Southeast, where he was a household name. Although he never won a World championship, McDaniel was a perenial NWA and/or AWA World championship contender.
One of the few things Wahoo never did in his wrestling career was travel North to the World (Wide) Wrestling Federation and add a WWF tenure to his resume. This was perhaps because the WW(W)F already had a Native American superstar in the form of “Chief” Jay Strongbow, and there was only room for one “Chief” in the regional (at that time) promotion. The two Indian greats were often compared, though, and fans envisioned a “dream match” between the two, allowing the imagination to determine who came out on top. To his credit, McDaniel met and defeated countless opponents while in the NWA, before they ventured to the WW(W)F. This “fact” strengthened his fans’ claims that Wahoo (pictured, left) was “better” than “Chief” Jay (pictured, right). Of course, with pro wrestling being “structured” the way it is, the point was moot. Still, fans of the 1970’s and early-mid 1980’s often argued this fruitless, but fun, debate.
Wahoo was known as the master of the Indian Strap Match, and nearly all of his many violent feuds were inevitably ended with a leather thong tied to the wrist of his opponent. The great Native American was also known worldwide for his blistering Tomahawk Chops, once a very unique and devastating move that has now become commonplace. Wahoo, along with Strongbow, truly upheld the tradition and pride of the ‘indian” wrestler for nearly 30 years. Without him, men like Jules Strongbow (who wore the WWF tag title with the elder Strongbow), Jay Younblood, Mark Youngblood, Tatanka and other native American performers may not have had a place in the wrestling business. This all-time great, now in his 60’s, is still involved, to some degree, in the Carolina independent scene. A member of the WCW Hall of Fame, we at the ring Chonicle also want to honor the high achievements of McDaniel, and award him his rightful spot within the TRC Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame…