Chief Wahoo McDaniel

One of The Family Passes Away

 

by David Chappell


  I received a late night telephone call recently from Dick Bourne, and was concerned immediately from the time of the call and the initial tone of his voice that something might be amiss. In those milliseconds before he broke the news, my mind raced as to who might have possibly passed away. My first thought was that, heaven forbid, it was a member of his family. Then, in an almost inaudible voice, somber in tone, he informed me of the passing of Edward "Chief Wahoo" McDaniel. I had not heard the news previously, though I knew Wahoo was in poor health. We spoke for several minutes, neither of us wanting to believe what we both now knew was a hard reality-Wahoo had died. When we got off the telephone, it dawned on me that my initial thoughts about the nature of his call had been correct. A family member had in fact passed away. I'm not ashamed to say that I consider Wahoo one of my extended family, someone who I looked up to and grew up with on a weekly basis as my junior high years moved to high school days then on to college and beyond. Many things changed during those years in the 1970's and 1980's, but Chief Wahoo was a constant. It speaks volumes about Wahoo's charisma, ability and professionalism that he could have such a profound impact on the life of one, who was to him, a complete stranger. I have absolutely no doubt that Wahoo touched many, many others in the same way that he made a lifelong impression upon Dick and myself.

Wahoo McDaniel had a noteworthy life that stretched far beyond the wrestling rings of Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Thoughts and reflections about his many successes and exploits in other aspects of his life are much better left to others who better knew Wahoo during those times. For those of us who got to know Wahoo through his association with Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, the love affair began in earnest in the summer of 1974.

Chief Wahoo was arguably the greatest star in the history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. Only Ric Flair could make a reasonable argument to the contrary. As far as sheer popularity is concerned, no other grappler came close to Wahoo. He was the perfect fan favorite of his era, but a "good guy" with an edge to him. You cheered for the Chief because he was a good man, but he could get down and nasty when the circumstances dictated.

As a good guy for most of his Mid-Atlantic years, Wahoo had to take his share of beatings to set up many of his classic feuds. Who can forget the table leg and forty stitches match in Charlotte in May of 1976, which set up the classic feud with Ric Flair over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title? Or the television match in September of 1977 where Greg Valentine broke Wahoo's leg, setting up great battles between those two? One of Wahoo's most appealing qualities was his ability to take these injustices in style, not complain or "cry" about them, and come back and teach the villain a lesson he would never forget!

Wahoo did not have a great physique, the best physical ability in the ring nor did he possess overwhelming skills on the microphone. But with Wahoo, the sum was far greater than all of those individual parts. Perhaps what put McDaniel on a plane above all of his contemporaries was his all out effort and intensity in every match. I can honestly say that I cannot recall any match involving Wahoo where I left feeling that Wahoo was not at his best or did not put out maximum effort. In many of his interviews, Wahoo was proud to say that he gave his best in every match, regardless of whether the bout was in a big Coliseum or in a tiny high school gym. This dedication to his craft showed itself, night in and night out throughout the Mid-Atlantic circuit.

The big Chief wore his Indian heritage proudly, and in one of his first interviews in the Mid-Atlantic area, said that Indians had been pushed around for many years, but now "the pushing is over." He lived up to those words, and then some. Wahoo's trademark Indian headdresses were a sight to behold outside of the ring, as were his fierce tomahawk chops inside the ring. Without a doubt, this was one tough Indian!

There was scarcely a feud or angle that took place in the Mid-Atlantic glory days that Wahoo did not have a role in. McDaniel was the last in a fantastic series of top notch singles wrestlers that Jim Crockett Promotions brought in from mid 1973 to mid 1974 that would soon transform the Mid-Atlantic area from a sleepy tag team territory to one of the major hotbeds of wrestling in the United States. Wahoo hit the area running in August of 1974, immediately targeting established heels in the area such as Johnny Valentine, the Super Destroyer and Ivan Koloff. It did not take but a couple of weeks for Koloff and the Super Destroyer to respond by ripping up Wahoo's beautiful headdress, and the battle lines were immediately drawn! To fight these battles, McDaniel formed solid tag teams right off the bat with the likes of Paul Jones and Sonny King. Wahoo did not taste any titles during the year of 1974, but his matches with Johnny Valentine and the Super Destroyer were true classic encounters. The battles with Mid-Atlantic Champion Johnny Valentine during 1974 were particularly rugged and stiff encounters, ones that earned Wahoo the undying respect of many fans for his unflinching ability to stand toe to toe with "The Champ." As 1974 drew to a conclusion, Wahoo in less than six months time had established himself as the most popular wrestler in the Mid-Atlantic area, and the number one contender in the territory to NWA World's Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco.

McDaniel's Mid-Atlantic star continued to burn brightly in 1975. The Chief headlined nearly every card he was on, and turned to doing a little more tag team wrestling when Gene and Ole Anderson brought the NWA World Tag Team Titles to the area in late January of 1975. By the time spring rolled around, Wahoo and popular Paul Jones upended the Anderson's and became the World Tag Team Champions! The team of Wahoo and Jones was a real "dream team" for Mid-Atlantic fans, but the title reign lasted only several weeks as the Anderson's regained the belts in a memorable match on Mid-Atlantic TV where Ole Anderson "sacrificed" his brother Gene by ramming Gene's head into Wahoo's head and capturing the winning pinfall against McDaniel. Wahoo and Jones had some of the greatest matches ever in the promotion, attempting to win back the titles from the Anderson's in the summer of 1975. Many of these matches were sixty and ninety-minute time limit draws that kept fans on the edges of their seats from beginning to end. While ultimately Wahoo and Jones never won the World belts back from the Anderson's, these bouts were true tag team classics for the ages.

The second half of 1975 was just as successful for Wahoo as the first half was, maybe even more so. The Chief went back to wrestling primarily singles, and had a number of outstanding bouts with NWA kingpin, Jack Brisco. While the bouts with Brisco were "Indian versus Indian" battles, Wahoo also had a brief but successful program with Mid-Atlantic newcomer Blackjack Mulligan in a classic confrontation between Cowboy versus Indian!

During this same general time frame, Rufus R. Jones came onto the set of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV, saying that he, Paul Jones and Wahoo had unmasked the legendary Super Destroyer. Rufus even showed a picture of Don Jardine to the audience without his mask on. Earlier in 1975, Wahoo vowed on an interview he would take the Destroyer's mask off before the end of 1975. However, Wahoo never himself took credit for this unmasking, and Jardine has insisted in later years that this unmasking never occurred.

Wahoo certainly cemented his Mid-Atlantic legend forever when he did what many thought was impossible on July 26, 1975, by defeating Johnny Valentine for the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title, a belt that Valentine had held continually for the prior year and a half. This title victory was a slugfest that Wahoo prevailed in just prior to the hour time limit expiring. Upon Wahoo's victory, there was a wild celebration in the ring that Saturday night in Greensboro, North Carolina that just went on and on! Wahoo held the Mid-Atlantic title until September 20, 1975, when he lost the title to a very young Ric Flair in Hampton, Virginia. In this match, Flair promised to shave his head if he lost, and resorted to knocking Wahoo out with a foreign object to take the belt and hold onto his blonde hair. This defeat was only the beginning of the epic feud between Wahoo and arch- rival "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.

The last few months of 1975 saw Wahoo's role in the promotion become more important than ever. On October 4, 1975, the promotion lost several wrestlers due to a horrific plane crash that occurred in Wilmington, North Carolina. Two of Wahoo's top rivals, Johnny Valentine and Ric Flair, were in that crash. Wahoo was instrumental in helping the promotion through these difficult days, headlining cards against newcomers Superstar Billy Graham, Steve Strong and Angelo Mosca during late 1975. The bouts against Mosca were particularly interesting and entertaining, as they were promoted as bouts between former football stars. Both Wahoo and Mosca put on outstanding performances in these bouts. Wahoo even had a brief feud with "Professor" Boris Malenko during this time period, where Malenko claimed Wahoo broke his teeth in a match and presented Wahoo with a $3,000 dental bill on Mid-Atlantic TV. Predictably, Wahoo tore the bill to shreds and handled the challenge of Malenko!

1976 was arguably Wahoo's finest year in the Mid-Atlantic area, and was defined in large measure by the feud between Wahoo and Ric Flair over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title. The feud began anew when Flair returned from his injuries occasioned by the plane crash, and wrestled his first match back on January 31, 1976 against Wahoo in the Greensboro Coliseum. At this time, Wahoo actually was holding one half of the NWA World Tag Team Titles with Rufus R. Jones, but this reign would be just over a week in length, and Wahoo would immediately return his focus to singles competition.

The Chief and Flair began a series of legendary of bouts, which extended into the spring of 1976 when Wahoo finally got the better of Ric and captured the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title on May 3, 1976 in Charlotte, North Carolina. During this general time frame, McDaniel also wrestled new NWA World Champ Terry Funk in several terrific matches, including a non- title victory against Funk that was contested on Mid-Atlantic television in the WRAL studios in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The most famous match of 1976 in the Mid-Atlantic area involved Wahoo, and will always be remembered by Mid-Atlantic fans as the "table leg and forty stitches" match. This bout between Wahoo and Ric Flair occurred on May 24, 1976 in Charlotte, and saw Ric take the Mid-Atlantic Title back from Wahoo. In the process, Ric hit Wahoo with a table leg that had a nail in it that caused Wahoo to end up in Mercy Hospital in Charlotte with a gash on his head that required forty stitches to close. This bout was a rallying point for Wahoo, as he and Flair had amazing grudge and fence matches throughout the summer of 1976 as Wahoo sought his revenge against Ric.

Wahoo even had an indirect role in bringing in a new star to the area at the end of the summer. Claiming that Wahoo had broken his teeth again, Professor Malenko wanted revenge so he set up Wahoo to face Bolo Mongol in a Loser Leave Town, Hair versus Hair match. In Greensboro, Wahoo "scalped" Bolo Mongol, forcing him to leave the area. But the next week a new star, the Masked Superstar, made his first Mid-Atlantic appearance, and was also managed by Malenko. As it turned out, while looking completely different, Bolo Mongol and the Masked Superstar were the same person, Bill Eadie!

Wahoo finally won the Mid-Atlantic belt back by summer's end, beating Flair in Greenville, South Carolina on September 11, 1976. The two continued to battle and trade the belt, with Ric coming back again to claim the title on October 16, 1976 in Greensboro where two other major titles changed hands the same night. Wahoo was out briefly with a back injury, but continued to battle Flair into the cold weather months of 1976. Wahoo finally ended this feud with Flair over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title on December 27, 1976, when he defeated the Nature Boy in the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Virginia for the belt. Ric Flair would never hold the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title again. Perhaps it was fitting that Wahoo scored this historic title victory against Flair so close to the end of the year 1976, as his feud with Ric Flair over the Mid-Atlantic belt clearly defined Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling in 1976.

McDaniel's most significant reign as a titleholder while in the Mid-Atlantic area occurred during the first half of 1977. To me, this time frame was Wahoo's "high water mark" while with Jim Crockett Promotions. During this time period, Wahoo had a multitude of successful Mid-Atlantic Title defenses, and participated in a particularly entertaining program against the "Korean Assassin," Kim Duk. Matches between these two featured some of the best chops ever thrown in any Mid-Atlantic feud! Wahoo also wrestled new NWA World's Heavyweight Champion Harley Race during this time period, and these bouts were always terrific matches.

In the spring of 1977, the promotion also interjected Wahoo into the middle of a feud in a most unusual way. Gene and Ole Anderson had returned to the area and were making a run at NWA World Tag Team Champs, Ric Flair and Greg Valentine. Jim Crockett Promotions assigned Wahoo as "Special Referee" in many of these matches. While Wahoo certainly had a history with the Anderson's, the bouts were promoted in a way that tried to give an indication that Wahoo the referee would side with the Anderson's and against Flair and Valentine. Sure enough, with Wahoo functioning as a special referee, the Anderson's defeated Flair and Valentine for the World's belts on May 8, 1977 in Charlotte. Flair and Valentine claimed Wahoo tripped the Nature Boy, allowing the Anderson's to steal the belts. This "mishap" was the genesis of a feud that Wahoo would soon enter into with Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. This, along with Valentine tearing up a portrait that was presented to Wahoo for being named the wrestler of the year in 1976!

Wahoo continued to hold the Mid-Atlantic Title until June 11, 1977, when he was defeated by Greg Valentine in Greensboro. Valentine's title victory was tainted however, as Ric Flair attacked Wahoo prior to the match which considerably weakened the Chief. A long running feud with Greg Valentine started in earnest after this episode in Greensboro. Wahoo won the title back from Greg in early August, but the feud with Valentine was about to get MUCH hotter.

On September 7, 1977 on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV, Wahoo agreed to put the Mid-Atlantic Title on the line against two thousand silver dollars of Greg Valentine. This was a classic confrontation, and a terrific back and forth battle, with Valentine ultimately abruptly catching Wahoo's leg, falling back on it and breaking it. Wahoo was out of the area until November, but would periodically send in taped interviews vowing revenge against Valentine. In the meantime, Valentine was carrying around the Mid-Atlantic Title, continually boasting about putting Wahoo out of wrestling.

The "revenge" bouts between Wahoo and Valentine started in November, usually beginning as tag matches. By December of 1977, Wahoo and Greg were going one on one for the Mid-Atlantic Title in some heated bouts. These bouts were even headlining cards over U.S. Title matches on the same card! Wahoo slowly began to get the better of this feud, and finally regained the Mid-Atlantic Title from Greg in February of 1978. All appeared to be well with the world, with Wahoo winning his title back, but little did we know that Wahoo's days were numbered in his first, and most memorable, stint with Jim Crockett Promotions.

Wahoo continued to wrestle well and defend his title in early 1978, but was not placed in any significant angles by the promotion. Inexplicably, at this time, the promotion was starting angles between mid-carder Johnny Weaver and Baron Von Raschke and newcomer Tony Atlas and another mid-carder Cyclone Negro. For some reason, Wahoo had appeared to fall off the promotion's radar screen. Wahoo's diminished role with the promotion seemed cemented when Wahoo lost his Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Title to Ken Patera on April 9, 1978 in Charlotte. Patera had only recently returned to the area with a new heel persona, and had little trouble dispatching the Chief in the title victory, and in several title rematches around the area in the month or so thereafter.

With his role with the promotion clearly fading, Wahoo would only wrestle in the Mid-Atlantic area regularly until June of 1978. While not being pushed in his last few months with the promotion, Wahoo did have some interesting tag matches with fellow Texan's Dick Murdock and former rival Blackjack Mulligan in these final days. Clearly Mulligan's babyface turn against Ric Flair was the area's top drawing card at this time.

In his last interviews before leaving the area, Wahoo said he was tired of being a nice guy and that a nice guy attitude doesn't get you anywhere. It certainly appeared that there was at least a tease of a heel turn by the Chief, but then June came and the weeks came and went, and there was no Wahoo. Eventually it became clear that Wahoo had left the Mid-Atlantic area, and as was usual in wrestling, there were no formal goodbyes. To Wahoo's many fans in the Mid-Atlantic area, the summer of 1978 was our summer of discontent.

We would not see Wahoo wrestle regularly in the Mid-Atlantic area again for three years. In my view, the promotion, while having its share great moments after Wahoo left, was never quite the same again. It spoke volumes to the impact that Wahoo left on the Mid-Atlantic area, that in the three years he was away his name was mentioned often on Mid-Atlantic TV by both announcers and wrestlers alike. This was despite the fact that Wahoo had absolutely no ties to the area during this time period! Clearly, if Wahoo never came back to Jim Crockett Promotions, his legend was secure here.

It took a long while, but Wahoo would in fact return to the Mid-Atlantic area! We shoot ahead to May of 1981, and anyone watching the promotion saw the taped promo on Mid-Atlantic TV that we all had hoped we would see again: Wahoo announcing that he was coming back to the area!! On his "comeback" promos, Wahoo put himself over as the wild and crazy Indian and hinted that he was forced from the area in 1978 due to some of his own wild actions. This line of thought was never specifically elaborated on by Wahoo or the promotion in the days that followed.

Wahoo re-entered the Mid-Atlantic area during a time when the promotion was bringing in a multitude of stars from other parts of the country. During this same general time frame, Jim Crockett Promotions was introducing its fans to new performers such as Austin Idol, Jimmy Valiant, Mr. Wrestling II, Ernie Ladd, "Bad Bad" Leroy Brown, and Dusty Rhodes to name a few. While these others did not necessarily overshadow Wahoo's return, it did seem that Wahoo was in some ways just another of many newcomers to the area.

Wahoo came in on top immediately though, and was wrestling in main events right off the bat. His early matches back had him going after NWA World Tag Champs Gene and Ole Anderson with partners such as the Masked Superstar and old partner Paul Jones. These matches teaming with Jones were particularly interesting, renewing a feud with the Anderson's that had been so spectacular six years previous. Despite the aging of all four, the matches between Wahoo, Jones and the Anderson's in mid 1981 were excellent.

Wahoo also teamed in his early matches back with fellow Indian Jay Youngblood, who had entered the Mid-Atlantic area in 1978 just as Wahoo was leaving. Perhaps the most unusual teaming that Wahoo had upon his return was with his former most hated rival, Nature Boy Ric Flair! This pairing took some getting used to, but with Flair turning babyface in 1979 after Wahoo had left, it made sense for the promotion to have its two most popular performers share some interviews and matches together. But what a strange sight to see these two on the same side!!

While tag team matches got Wahoo back into the swing of things in the Mid-Atlantic area, the Chief soon turned his attention to the major singles title he never achieved in his earlier Mid-Atlantic run, the United States Heavyweight Title. In the summer of 1981, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper held the U.S. Title; another new face that had come on the scene while Wahoo was out of the area. These two presented a complete contrast of styles, yet their matches against each other were very good. During this hot summer, these two battled in a number of specialty matches, with Wahoo finally capturing that elusive first U.S. Title from Piper on August 8, 1981 in Greensboro.

The maniacal Piper didn't take this defeat lightly, and immediately plotted how to take revenge on Wahoo. Within several weeks, the fans would see Piper's revenge, and one of the most infamous sequences ever on Mid-Atlantic television. While Wahoo was wrestling what appeared to be a normal "squash" match on television, out of nowhere came Abdullah the Butcher who attacked Wahoo under the direction of Roddy Piper. Abdullah had some sort of foreign object (Wahoo would later call it a coat hanger) that he ground into Wahoo's face and eye causing Wahoo to bleed profusely. The promotion continued to show the match, but purposely distorted the video of the match so you couldn't make out the extent of Wahoo's injuries. In the following weeks, the promotion would harp on how ruthless and brutal this attack was, yet persisted in rerunning this "distorted" piece of tape.

In a manner of speaking, Piper got his revenge because Wahoo was unable to defend his belt due to the injuries sustained in this attack, and the promotion in September put the U.S. Title up for grabs in a one-night tournament. Mid-Atlantic newcomer Sergeant Slaughter captured the tournament and U.S. belt on October 4, 1981 in Charlotte, a tournament that Wahoo did not participate in. When Wahoo and Slaughter would later feud in 1982 over the U.S. Title, it was always a sticking point for Wahoo that Slaughter had never beaten him for the belt.

Wahoo did not reemerge to any degree in the Mid-Atlantic area during the rest of 1981, and when he did make his presence felt again in early 1982, it was under an unusual scenario. The NWA had stripped Gene and Ole Anderson of the NWA World's Tag Team Titles, and put in place an elaborate worldwide tournament to crown new champions whereby the Eastern and Western Division winners would compete in a best of seven series for the belts. Wahoo emerged with an unusual partner, Don Muraco, in this tournament. While still a "good guy," Wahoo more than ever was promoted as a wild and crazy Indian during this time frame. Muraco was promoted as a wild man as well, and in fact Muraco was principally a rule breaker in other parts of the country. Wahoo and Muraco blew through the tournament and were declared the Western Division winners, and were prepared to face Ole Anderson and Stan Hansen for the Titles, when Muraco turned against Wahoo and short-circuited Wahoo's quest for tag team gold. But Wahoo would quickly rebound from this double-cross, and once again turn his attention to the United States Heavyweight Title.

During the spring of 1982, the Chief was fond of letting everybody know that U.S. Champion Sergeant Slaughter never did beat him for the U.S. belt, but rather merely won a tournament that he didn't participate in. Slaughter took exception to this, and called Wahoo a loudmouth and challenged him in May to a non-title match on Mid-Atlantic TV. Under the hot television lights in the Charlotte television studio, Wahoo won a grueling bout that took nearly the entire hour television program to decide. This was as good a match as was ever seen on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television. Wahoo quickly followed up this masterful performance with a title win over the Sergeant, beating Slaughter for the U.S. Title in Richmond, VA on May 21, 1982.

Wahoo remained in the U.S. Title picture for most of the rest of 1982. He quickly lost the belt back to Slaughter on June 7, 1982 in Greenville, SC. After coming back from yet another injury, the Chief finally took the measure of Slaughter once and for all on August 22, 1982 in Charlotte. Wahoo then held the U.S. belt through to November 4, 1982, when an old nemesis, Greg Valentine, returned to the area and defeated Wahoo for the title in Norfolk, Virginia. The buildup for the matches with Valentine were intriguing, with the promotion referencing the prior feuds between these two, and even showing the famous clip from 1977 where Valentine broke Wahoo's leg.

During the time Wahoo was in the middle of the U.S. Title picture, he also had a great series of matches with now NWA World Champion Ric Flair. Ric was now wrestling back as a heel, even in his home area. The two had classic confrontations during the summer and fall of 1982 over the NWA Title, with Wahoo coming up just short of taking the title from the Nature Boy. Included in this series were some great old style two out of three fall matches. At one point, Flair's actions against Wahoo became so vicious that NWA President Jim Crockett resigned as President of the NWA, hoping this drastic action would force the NWA Board of Directors to take some consequential action against Flair. Unfortunately for Wahoo's fans, nothing really changed, and he became more and more frustrated with his failure to capture the World's Heavyweight Championship.

After the loss to Valentine in November, Wahoo made no further waves of note in the area for the rest of 1982, and Mid-Atlantic fans would not see Wahoo as a significant Mid-Atlantic regular again until the summer of 1983. When Wahoo came back this time, it was with far less fanfare than before. In fact, McDaniel was in no major angles when he came back, but he did wrestle main events and teamed up again frequently with Ric Flair. By this time, Harley Race had defeated Flair for the World's Title, and Ric was wrestling as a "good guy" again and was fighting off Dick Slater and Bob Orton, Jr. who had collected a $25,000 bounty from Race. Wahoo and Flair teamed in many a tag match against Orton and Slater during the fall of 1983. This was also the time period right before the first Starrcade, and Wahoo assisted Flair in his training for his return match with Harley Race on November 24, 1983 in Greensboro.

Wahoo also wrestled on the card in Starrcade 1983, as he did in the first four Starrcade's. Wahoo teamed with fellow Indian and Mid-Atlantic newcomer Mark Youngblood in a rather uneventful bout against Bob Orton, Jr. and Dick Slater. The bad guys prevailed, with Orton capturing the fall against Youngblood. Despite the loss, the Wahoo/Youngblood team showed promise and the promotion would continue to tag the Indians together over the next several months into early 1984.

As 1984 dawned, the world of professional wrestling was about to change dramatically. The WWF and Vince McMahon were starting to unleash an all out blitz to obliterate the old territorial system, and become the country's national promotion. The Mid-Atlantic area started to directly feel this early in 1984, with a drain of its talent base slowly beginning. In fact, a strong argument could be made that 1984 was the last true year of the strictly regional Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling promotion.

Against this backdrop, by early 1984 the area's World Tag Team Championship had gone into the hands of Don Kernodle and Bob Orton, Jr., hardly the strongest team to ever hold these coveted titles. While not getting a vocal push, the Indian duo of Wahoo and Mark Youngblood took the titles on March 4, 1984 in Charlotte. This set up an entertaining, but far too short, program between the Indian teams of Wahoo and Mark, and Jack and Jerry Brisco over the NWA World's Tag Team Titles. The Brisco's had turned heel the previous year, and were close to bolting to the WWF themselves. Wahoo and Mark lost the straps to Jack and Jerry in Spartanburg, SC a month after winning them, but came back strong and reclaimed the gold from the Brisco's in Richmond, VA on April 27, 1984. However, Wahoo's last reign as a World's Tag Team Champion was a short one as the promotion put the belts on the tandem of Don Kernodle and Ivan Koloff a short time thereafter. With the tag team belts gone, Wahoo would now shift gears and take a career path that nobody was expecting!

As the spring of 1984 wore on, it was clear from his television interviews that Wahoo was clearly frustrated by his inability to capture the NWA World's Heavyweight Championship. At this point in time, the World's Title was held by Ric Flair, who Wahoo had considered in recent months to be a friend. Wahoo became disenchanted by Flair's apparent reluctance to give him an opportunity to wrestle for the World's belt. Flair heard several of these public statements by Wahoo, and confronted the Chief on Mid-Atlantic television telling Wahoo that instead of complaining to Bob Caudle about it, that he should talk with him man to man. Before this issue could be aired fully, Mid-Atlantic newcomer Tully Blanchard interrupted the interview and attacked Flair. Wahoo stood by and refused to assist Flair, and Ric was livid that Wahoo didn't help him as Blanchard was attacking him. Wahoo was just as livid, screaming at Flair that he had sacrificed to make Flair a World's champion, and that Flair didn't have the guts to give him a title match. Amazingly, this was the first major incident leading to Wahoo becoming a "bad guy!"

During the next few weeks, Wahoo's style in the ring became more aggressive and his interviews had a much sharper edge to them. Claiming that Flair was still afraid of him because he held more wins over Flair than any other wrestler, Wahoo once again turned his attention to the U.S. Title, now held by former friend Ricky Steamboat. He challenged Steamboat to a U.S. Title match, which took Ricky aback but Steamboat accepted the match, all the time wondering out loud why Wahoo's attitude seemed so different. Wahoo gave credit to Steamboat for having the guts to face him (unlike Flair), but warned Steamboat that he would take the title from Ricky "any way he could."

Wahoo and Steamboat met in a memorable U.S. Title match in Greensboro on June 24, 1984. This was an amazing match, seeing these two former friends really go after each other. The match was lengthy and evenly fought, until Tully Blanchard snuck in the ring and knocked Ricky cold while Wahoo was away from the action. Of course, the referee saw none of this, and from the film it appeared Wahoo did not see Blanchard's interference either. All Wahoo saw was a prone Steamboat, who he proceeded to cover and got the three count, and with it the United States Title.

Wahoo's heel turn was cemented the next week on Mid-Atlantic television, when he was presented with the film from the Greensboro match. Wahoo told the world that he had not seen Blanchard's interference at the time nor had he requested it, but that he had no reservations winning the belt from Steamboat under those conditions. Essentially he told Steamboat, "tough luck." Soon thereafter, the promotion also showed Wahoo a clip of another match where he interfered on Tully Blanchard's behalf in a match Tully was having with Ric Flair. At the end of that clip, Wahoo attacked Flair with a shoe as Blanchard held Ric down. When the announcers pressed Wahoo about his actions, Wahoo responded that Flair had it coming because Ric was gutless in failing to put his NWA World Title on the line against him.

The NWA didn't think much of the manner in which Wahoo won the U.S. Title from Steamboat, and upon review of the films of that match stripped Wahoo of the Title and declared the U.S. Title vacant. Wahoo was incensed, becoming more bitter than ever, believing he had been singled out unfairly. The Chief told anyone that would listen that he had not changed his style, but that he had merely "sped it up."

Wahoo would eventually win a tournament held in Charlotte later in the year to win the vacated U.S. Title (beating Ragin' Bull Manny Fernandez in the tournament finals), but in the meantime he cut a wide path as a rule breaker, teaming frequently with the sneaky Blanchard. The Chief also finally got a number of World Title matches with Ric Flair in the late summer and fall of 1984. These matches were entertaining, most of all because they pitted a babyface Flair against a heel Wahoo! Who would have ever thought THAT would happen! Of course, Wahoo did not capture the gold, and physically Wahoo was no match for Flair anymore, but the Chief's new heel persona gave these bouts some intrigue.

As the year of 1984 wore on to conclusion, Wahoo dominated the thinning Mid-Atlantic talent roster as United States Champion. McDaniel had a match near the top of the card at Starrcade 1984 in November, defeating Superstar Billy Graham in an extremely disappointing bout that lasted scarcely four minutes. Around the same time, Wahoo prevailed in a feud with "Avalanche" Buzz Tyler, who had recently come into the area and immediately challenged Wahoo for the U.S. Title. McDaniel dispatched Tyler with ease, and looked ahead to 1985 and several more World Title shots with Ric Flair, and his last major angle while with the promotion.

A hotshot newcomer named Magnum T.A. made his way to Jim Crockett Promotions, and was clearly the area's fastest rising young star as the year 1985 dawned. Magnum was put over by the promotion early on by beating opponents on TV over and over with his belly-to-belly suplex in scant seconds. By the time March rolled around, the young star was ready to challenge the great Indian veteran for the United States Heavyweight Title. In a memorable match that was shown in its entirety on the promotion's World Wide Wrestling TV show, Wahoo and Magnum put on a marvelous contest for all to see. This was Wahoo's last true hurrah in the Mid-Atlantic area. While Wahoo passed the torch to Magnum, and Magnum got his hand raised and was awarded the U.S. belt, the Chief was outstanding in defeat. And to the credit of Jim Crockett Promotions, after the match Magnum and every other wrestler who was interviewed in Magnum's dressing room gave Wahoo his due as being on of the sport's true legends.

After the defeat at the hands of Magnum, Wahoo quietly faded away and was not heard from for several months. When we heard from Wahoo again in mid 1985, it was getting hard to distinguish the Mid-Atlantic area from a Jim Crockett led promotion that was expanding outside of the old territorial boundaries of Virginia and the Carolinas and had its own national aspirations. When Wahoo resurfaced, it was the "old" Wahoo, not the bitter man we had seen the year previously, on a TV tape saying that an old friend Dusty Rhodes had called him and asked him for assistance in some troubles Dusty was having. This was the closest we would see Wahoo to "apologizing" for his heel turn, but he more so focused on his need to help an old friend out. But this was a Wahoo who did not have the presence he did in year's past, and he was more of a mid-card babyface when he returned to the Mid-Atlantic states and was not involved in major angles here, and in fact spent more time in 1985 in Florida where he still headlined cards for the dying promotion down there. The Chief did appear in Crockett's Starrcade 1985 in November, teaming with Florida partner Billy Jack Haynes in a losing effort against National Tag Team Champions Ole and Arn Anderson.

The Mid-Atlantic area ceased to have a real identity of its own as the year 1986 arrived and progressed. Wahoo came back into the Jim Crockett Promotions ever expanding family during 1986, but he could not find a real niche in an environment dominated by the Four Horsemen, the Rock and Roll Express, Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff. So, Wahoo settled for being more of a role player. In April of 1986, Wahoo did participate in the first Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Tag Team Cup, advancing to the second round with old partner Mark Youngblood. In 1986, the Chief also had an entertaining mid-card feud with "Gorgeous" Jimmy Garvin, thrashing him in a number of his patented Indian Strap Matches, which Wahoo excelled in throughout his career. Wahoo wrestled Nikita Koloff in a National Heavyweight Title versus United States Heavyweight Title unification match in September of 1986, dropping this bout to his much younger opponent. Wahoo did close out 1986 in style, defeating Rick Rude in another Indian Strap Match in Starrcade 1986 in November. In fact, Wahoo wrestled for Jim Crockett Promotions into early 1987, appearing in the second Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Tag Team Cup in April of 1987, with partner Baron Von Raschke where the "old timers" took a quick exit against the "Mod Squad." Unfortunately, the Wahoo of late 1986 and early 1987 bore little resemblance to the Wahoo that stormed into the Mid-Atlantic area in 1974. But Wahoo's legend in the Mid-Atlantic area was just too large to ever be diminished, even when "father time" was clearly getting the better of him.

No matter how much you write about Chief Wahoo McDaniel, it seems inadequate to do justice to arguably the greatest star in the history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. For me, it is impossible to envision any significant part of the history or lore of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling and not have Chief Wahoo front and center stage. To me, he will always be the tough guy with the edge, the larger than life grappler with his chop or Indian strap that would always find a way to vanquish the evil foe. With his passing, I will always feel like a family member has left my life. As with a family passing, sadness will inevitably be replaced with a lifetime of special memories, memories that Wahoo left for all of us that were fortunate enough to see and hear him over the years. Memories that can never be taken away, nor time can ever fully diminish. 

Thank you for everything Chief, and goodbye..

 

David Chappell

Richmond, VA