Friday, July 17, 2015

Wahoo's First Visit to the Richmond Coliseum

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As fans of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling, we all can think back to certain things that hooked us on Jim Crockett Promotions. My full-blown love affair with Mid-Atlantic Wrestling didn’t blossom in total until June of 1975 with the “Supreme Sacrifice” angle on television involving the Anderson brothers winning back the NWA World Tag Team Titles. However, about a year earlier, a major hook increased my interest in Mid-Atlantic Wrestling to levels it had never gotten to before then. That “hook” was the entry into the area of “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel. Wahoo’s first match in my wrestling hometown of Richmond, Virginia was on August 23, 1974.

During the early summer months of 1974, Wahoo was introduced to the Mid-Atlantic television viewing audience as a great wrestler in other parts of the country, and as a former outstanding linebacker in the National Football League. And, of course, he was brought to us as an American Indian, sporting the most beautiful Indian Headdress one could imagine. At the time I followed the NFL, but I couldn’t honestly remember Wahoo McDaniel the football player. Likewise, Wahoo McDaniel the professional wrestler was a complete unknown to me. But it didn’t take long to see that Wahoo was special…very special.

When Wahoo entered the Mid-Atlantic area, the lineup of “villains” on the other side of the fence was imposing. Rip Hawk, a very young Ric Flair, Chuck O’Connor and Ivan Koloff were worthy adversaries for the Chief to be sure. However, the two grapplers who were causing the most havoc around the area were Johnny “The Champ” Valentine and the masked Super Destroyer. Valentine, the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Champion, had held that prestigious belt for six months with an iron grip with absolutely no signs of letting up. The Destroyer just as tenaciously had held onto his prized mask through the year, dispatching such talented foes as Johnny Weaver and Swede Hanson in the process. Really, no one seemed capable of threatening these monsters. That is, until Wahoo McDaniel came on the scene.

As Wahoo started to appear regularly on Mid-Atlantic television as the summer of 1974 heated up, the Indian drew the attention of both Valentine and the Destroyer. A couple of impromptu incidents on TV with both bad guys showed that McDaniel was not going to back down from anybody physically. And it soon became crystal clear that when Wahoo said something, he meant it. Wahoo’s straightforward but believable style of interviews and promos would prompt me to record wrestling on audio tape for the first time on Saturday August 17, 1974. That first audio tape covered local promos for Wahoo’s first Richmond match the following Friday night, a grudge battle between the Chief and Sonny King against, you guessed it, the Super Destroyer and Johnny Valentine.

Wahoo had no love for the Super Destroyer or Johnny Valentine, but his real goal and purpose in his first Richmond appearance was to help out his friend Sonny King. About the time Wahoo arrived in the Mid-Atlantic area, Sonny King entered the territory as well. Sonny came to the area because his brother, Bearcat Wright, had been injured at the hands of the Super Destroyer and Johnny Valentine. Specifically, Valentine put a $7,500.00 bounty on Bearcat, and the Destroyer collected it by putting out Wright with a number of vicious chair shots to the head. King wanted to even the score for his brother, but he needed a great partner for that to ever have a chance of happening. Enter front and center….Chief Wahoo McDaniel.

Wahoo told the Richmond TV viewing audience in a pre-match promo with King that,

“I don’t like to use the word revenge, but we’re going to save a little face, because these guys are going around, Destroyer and Valentine, bragging about hurting poor Bearcat. I know how Sonny feels; he calls me and says he needs a partner…somebody he knows will be in his corner and will be down there with him, fight with him and help him, and that’s why I’m here. I’m new to the area and I came to this area because there’s a couple of guys around here I don’t like too well….Super Destroyer, Valentine, Koloff, Ric Flair. You can’t take anything away from them; they’re all top notch athletes but they win any way they can. But Sonny and I have it together, and boy, we’re gonna get ‘em.”

And get ‘em they did! The Richmond faithful saw Johnny Valentine and the Super Destroyer take a clean loss, but more importantly take a thrashing that was almost beyond belief. While Sonny King got his licks in to avenge his brother, the star of the show was Wahoo McDaniel. The Chief exhibited a fury, fire and sense of purpose that immediately captured the crowd and kept the bad guys on their heels…when they weren’t outright running! McDaniel’s tomahawk chops could be heard to the upper reaches of the Coliseum, and his Indian war dance set the fans off into a frenzy. But as much as anything, the fans seemed to immediately realize that they were watching a special wrestler…someone who would take on the baddest of the bad, back up from nobody and help his friends out without a moment’s hesitation. Somebody the fans in Richmond wanted to see a lot more of.

And luckily for all us fans, Wahoo told the bad guys through announcer Bob Caudle on TV that same week that he wasn’t going anywhere.

“If you don’t think there’s any good competition around here, you just come poking your nose in my business. That’s the reason I came here, because there’s some good wrestlers here. But if you want some completion, I’m here, and I’m here to stay. They’re a lot of Indians around this area, I have a lot of pride…they’ve been pushing Indians around for many years, well, the pushing is over. I’m stopping right here, the Carolinas, and I’m going to spend a long two or three years here, playing golf and wrestling. Destroyer, Valentine, Koloff, any of them, bring ‘em on, because I’m here to stay!”

After Wahoo’s first match in Richmond I went back and listened closely to those words I heard the Chief say on TV just six days before…that interview and promo that was my first wrestling audio tape recording ever. I knew for sure that I had just seen and heard someone that was “once in a lifetime” special. Only one Richmond match in the books, and I already couldn’t imagine Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling without Wahoo McDaniel.