Monday, June 11, 2018

Wahoo McDaniel Talks Wrestling, Football, and Scary Airplane Flights

Note: This article and interview with Wahoo McDaniel was published in Wahoo's hometown newspaper in 1962 during his first year in pro-wrestling. Wahoo, at the time in the off-season from playing football for the AFL's Denver Broncos, was making a return to West Texas, wrestling for Dory Funk's Amarillo territory.

by Spec Gammon, Sports Editor
The Odessa American 
March 27, 1962

Rough and tough pro wrestlers and pro footballers he can take in stride, but he's more than just a little gun shy of riding airplanes that bounce around in high winds.

Pro Football Journal
"It was the first time in my life that I was really and truly scared," Edwin (Wahoo) McDaniel related as he thought back on last Saturday's airplane flight from Denver to Lubbock. "I was supposed to be in Amarillo for a wrestling date Saturday night. All was fine until our plane was within 10 minutes of Amarillo and we ran into this storm. Man, was it ever rough. I'll swear that at times that plane was sitting sideways, one wing straight up. Food and coffee was spilled all over the place, women and girls were screaming and crying. I was really scared."

The pilot didn't attempt to land at Amarillo but pushed on to Lubbock. "It wasn't calm there, either, by any means," Wahoo said. "They were afraid the wind was going to blow the plane over on the ground so they unloaded two passengers at a time, out the back end, too, and took on two new passengers."

Wahoo parted company with the plane in Lubbock. He rented a car and drove on to his home in Midland. He'll be in Odessa tonight, headlining promoter Pat O'Dowdy's star-studded professional wrestling card in the Ector County Coliseum.

How did the former Midland High football standout get interested in pro wrestling? "Well, Jim Barnett, who books wrestlers out of Indianapolis, called me and said he wanted an Indian wrestler. So, I met with him, liked the deal and now I'm a pro wrestler."

Actually, the 23-year-old Choctaw-Chickasaw Indian is a combination pro wrestler-pro footballer. "I'm going hack to the Denver Broncos (in AFL) when practice starts in July," Wahoo explained. "I'll continue wrestling in the off season."

Wahoo's first wrestling match came last December 27, against Dan O'Shocker, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He won and now after some 60 matches he still is undefeated.

Which is the rougher sport, football or wrestling? "I don't know for certain. I've gotten a few stitches from wrestling already, and a few broken bones from football. They're big and rough in both sports."

This is a busy week for him in Texas wrestling rings. He was in Abilene Monday night, here tonight, in Lubbock Wednesday and Amarillo Thursday. "Then I fly (he shuddered) to Detroit where I wrestle Saturday night."

What kind of money does this football and wrestling bring in? Wahoo hesitated on that one for a moment, grinned and replied, "Just say that my pro football salary is in excess of $10,000 and that I'll surpass that figure for wrestling from December through June."

What about the future of the American Football League? "It's good and will get better every year. Two teams, Houston and San Diego, made money last year. The play was twice as good last year as it was the first year. Houston could have played a lot of the NFL teams to a standstill last year."

Wahoo is a defensive specialist for Denver, playing middle linebacker. "It's not so tough because I have Bud McFadin in front of me. He's about the finest man I've ever met. He has more friends than anyone I've ever met."

At 6-5 and 285 pounds, McFadin isn't apt to have many enemies—at least not any who'd admit it, anyway.

Looking back on his football careers at Midland High and the University of Oklahoma, Wahoo says his greatest high school football thrill was "beating Odessa my senior year. It was the first time Midland had won in I don't know how many years. It was the best game I ever played."

How about the year before? "Man, the Broncs nearly killed me. Don Phillips was all over me all afternoon but it was Don Hitt who really racked me up!"

At OU, he had two big moments. "Against Oregon my junior year I had a real good day and was runner-up as the nation's lineman of the week (he played end at OU). Then, against Iowa State that year I got off a 91-yard quick kick which was the longest punt in the nation."

A season later, when OU met Kansas, the Jayhawks' quarterback, John Hadl, erased Wahoo's record with a 96-yard punt. "I was sick," Wahoo said. "The ball would have rolled into the endzone, but one of our halfbacks picked it up and was tackled immediately."

Wahoo, now is a 240 pounder. He weighed about 195 when playing fullback at Midland. At OU his playing weight for three seasons was 183, 193 and 203. "At OU they assign you a playing weight and you'd better report to practice within two pounds of that figure, too."

Who is the best back he's faced in the AFL? "Well, Abner Haynes of Dallas is real elusive but Billy Cannon of Houston is a better all-around back. He's just as fast and a lot bigger and more powerful."

Right now he has other things on his mind—like facing The Viking here tonight . . . and boarding that airplane in Amarillo later in the week.

Originally published in the Odessa American newspaper, March 27, 1962

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