Saturday, October 03, 2015

Football Visits Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

With the 2015 National Football League season in full swing now, it reminds me of an interesting “contest” involving football that appeared nearly forty-one years ago on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television. Yes, in November of 1974, just a few weeks before a one hit wonder named Clint Longley would break the Washington Redskins’ heart on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas (it still haunts me George South!), “football” visited Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling!

At the time, the top former professional football player on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling roster was none other than “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel. Wahoo was still a relative newcomer to the Mid-Atlantic area in November of 1974, and according to him, had only been out of professional football for about four years at that juncture. While Wahoo played pro football over a number of years with several teams as a linebacker, his most noteworthy stint on the gridiron occurred in the mid 1960’s when he and flamboyant quarterback Joe Namath were both on the roster of the New York Jets.

In what appeared to be an innocuous television match pairing Sonny King and Wahoo McDaniel as tag team partners against Chuck O’Connor and Mike Paidousis, the masked Super Destroyer came to the ring to decry the lack of competition in the territory. The Destroyer went on to say that the competition had gotten so slack and that nobody he wrestled in Jim Crockett Promotions had any kind of reputation, that he might be forced to stop putting up his mask as a stipulation to be removed if he lost a bout by pinfall or submission. Wahoo listened to as much as he could stand, but finally had enough of the Super Destroyer’s mouth. McDaniel said he came to the Mid-Atlantic area looking for competition, and if the masked man wanted some competition, he didn’t need to look any further than the six foot two and 265 pound Indian standing before him.

The Super Destroyer didn’t care for Wahoo’s response, and used it as an excuse to bring Wahoo’s football background into the conversation. The Super D. dismissively told Wahoo that in the 1960’s the Chief’s partner Sonny King shinned Wahoo’s shoes so Wahoo could be a well dressed chauffer as according to the Destroyer, McDaniel drove Joe Namath around New York City in Namath’s luxury limousine. Wahoo angrily retorted to the masked man, “What team did you ever play for.” Rather than answer the question, the Destroyer instead told Wahoo that he had a lot of respect for Joe Namath, and as to where Wahoo measured up to Joe Namath’s reputation, the masked man said that Wahoo came up only about a quarter inch off of the ground.

Wahoo now seemed determined to bring the Super Destroyer into his world of football. The big Chief remarked that the Destroyer was a “big boy,” but it took more than being a big boy to be a good football player. And if the Destroyer thought he was so tough, he could make an easy $500 by going through Wahoo to get the money. The Super D. said he was a six foot five and 280 pound human specimen of muscle, and he was delighted for Wahoo to put up something and that he didn’t have to put his mask up for a change. In fact, the masked man said if he couldn’t get through Wahoo for the $500 that he would give McDaniel an extra $500!

So the following week on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV show, that aired in many markets on November 9, 1974, “football” came to the WRAL studios in Raleigh, North Carolina. Joe Murnick introduced this contest in the ring as a very special event…a five minute football match! The Super Destroyer said that “Wahoo was supposed to be a great football player; maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t…but let him prove it some way.” And indeed, the big Indian came up with an ingenious way to do this within the confines of a professional wrestling ring! Wahoo taped five $100 bills to a ring post and would go to the ring post diagonally across the ring, get into a football stance and would attempt for five minutes to keep the Destroyer from reaching the $500.

The Super Destroyer was confident Wahoo was going to lose an easy $500, and commented that “little boys play football, and big boys wrestle.” The masked man vowed to embarrass Wahoo in front of his football fans and his wrestling fans. As it turned out, it would be the Super Destroyer who was embarrassed! While Wahoo did start out the five minute challenge in a three point football stance, the popular Indian immediately used quite a few wrestling maneuvers to keep the masked giant at bay. The five minutes of TV time went by rapidly, with the Destroyer by the end being tantalizingly close to grabbing the money taped to the ring post. However, with a series of vicious chops and elbows that found their mark, and by surviving a short stay in the Destroyer’s claw hold, McDaniel withstood the five minute time limit and the Super Destroyer never got his hands on the cash! But the masked man got SOOOO close, and this setback surely left him angry, frustrated and probably an even more dangerous opponent in the future.

While this “football match” was more of a spectacle for the entertainment of the television fans in the Mid-Atlantic area, it did expose the Super Destroyer as a beatable commodity. For nearly a year, the Destroyer had dominated all Mid-Atlantic opponents with pinfall or submission wins, with an occasional disqualification result thrown in. After making jest about Wahoo on the football field, the Super Destroyer learned the hard way in front of a couple of million TV viewers that Wahoo was no joke, either as a wrestler or a football player. When football visited Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in this most unique way in November of 1974, the Super Destroyer left the ring with his reputation taking its first serious hit in Jim Crockett Promotions, while the athletic legend of the great Wahoo McDaniel grew even larger.

David Chappell
September 2015