Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Betrayal of Chief Wahoo McDaniel (Part One)

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway


Wahoo McDaniel
United States Champion (1981)
From 1981 through 1985, Wahoo McDaniel held the NWA United States Heavyweight championship on five (5) different occasions. But over half of those title reigns came to an end, not when Wahoo was defeated in the ring, but when he was defeated in the NWA boardroom.

Three different times between the years 1981 and 1984, Wahoo was stripped of the title by the NWA, either as a result of ruling or dubious rule enforcement.

Never has one wrestler's title history been so adversely impacted by a governing body in pro wrestling.

Now of course, this is all part of the story told at the time, but still you have to admit that a guy who fights and wins his championship fairly in the ring and then has it taken from him by "legislation" could reasonably be expected to carry a really big chip on his shoulder.

In Wahoo's case, it was part of the reason he finally "turned bad guy" in the summer of 1984, although one might reasonably take the position that it was the NWA and the fans that turned on him. The system betrayed Wahoo McDaniel for the third time. And the Chief had clearly had enough.

My book "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship" takes a close look at every U.S. title reign and title change during its 13-year history for that company.  From those pages, I'll summarize the the three instances where "the system" took the title from Wahoo McDaniel.

The Roddy Piper Conspiracy

In 1981, Wahoo McDaniel made a successful return to the Mid-Atlantic area after a multi-year absence. As Roddy Piper's feud with Ric Flair over the U.S. title came to an end, Wahoo became Piper's new challenger, and he defeated Piper for the championship in a brutal bout on August 8 in Greensboro, NC.

For that match on 8/8, Piper demanded that a special 20-day return clause be inserted into his contract. (The typical return clause in NWA title contracts at that time was 30 days.) After Wahoo won the belt that night, he was willing to defend the title against Piper any time he wanted his rematch. But strangely, Piper didn’t sign for his rematch right away. He had another strategy to get the title back.

Finally, Jim Crockett signed Piper to his rematch on "World Wide Wrestling" taped 8/26 in Charlotte’s WPCQ-36 studios, the new home of Jim Crockett’s television programs. Hosts Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver announced they had cleared the entire 1-hour program for this one title bout. At that point, there were only two days left in the contractual time period.

As was the usual procedure, "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling" was the first hour to be taped, followed by "World Wide Wrestling." On that fateful Wednesday night (8/26) in Charlotte, the match schedule for the Mid-Atlantic show included a non-title match between Wahoo McDaniel and Sgt. Jacques Goulet. Wahoo would wrestle Goulet first, and then would defend the U.S. title the next hour against Piper on the taping of "World Wide Wrestling."

Abdullah the Butcher attacks Wahoo McDaniel just before
Wahoo was set to defend the U.S. title vs. Roddy Piper
Knowing only two days remained for Wahoo to contractually defend the title against him (deadline 8/28), Piper paid the “Madman from the Sudan” Abdullah the Butcher to attack Wahoo during his match with Goulet on "Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling." Abdullah did indeed “butcher” Wahoo, so badly in fact that the original airing of the match caused a flood of complaints to pour in to local stations over the bloody scene. Subsequent replays of the match were altered to obscure Wahoo’s bleeding from Abdullah’s foreign object that was repeatedly jabbed into Wahoo’s forehead.

Wahoo was injured so badly he had to be taken to the hospital, and when it came time for the World Wide taping later that night, Wahoo was not in the building. It suddenly became apparent what Piper's devious plan was: he had waited until the very end of the contractual 20-day period to sign for his rematch for the title, and now Wahoo wasn't able to defend. 

As Rich Landrum and Johnny Weaver opened the "World Wide Wrestling" show less than an hour later, David Crockett, the co-host of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, joined them and explained that Wahoo had been injured on their earlier program and would not be able to defend the U.S. title. Roddy Piper protested that Wahoo had failed to give him his contractually obligated rematch within the 20 day period, and should be stripped of the title and the title returned to the rowdy Scotsman.

The NWA reviewed the original contract for the 8/8 match in Greensboro and ruled that Piper’s 20-day return clause in his contract was iron-clad, but because he was involved in paying Abdullah the Butcher to attack Wahoo, the title would not be returned to Piper. Instead, they held up the championship.

Wahoo protested that decision, reasonably arguing that he was set and signed to defend the title within the 20 day period, and that met the terms of the 20-day clause in the contract. Since he was attacked at the direction of the very person demanding the rematch,he should be allowed to keep the championship.
Every title reign. Every title change.
All five belts.
The NWA would have had every right to arbitrarily void the 20-day return period stipulated in the contract based on these circumstances but, for whatever their reasons, chose not to. Wahoo had lost his title by an arbitrary ruling of the NWA. And sadly, it would not be the last time this would happen to him.

The NWA set October 4 as the date for a one-night tournament to determine a new champion. And to rub salt in Wahoo's wounds, Wahoo was not even allowed to be in that tournament because of the trouble he had subsequently caused NWA officials as a result of the out-of-control brawls he and Abdullah had been involved in during grudge matches that followed the bloody attack on "World Wide Wrestling."

Yes, the title was taken from him by the NWA by virtue of a questionable decision on the contract, and now he couldn't even compete for the vacant title in the upcoming tournament. It's not hard to understand how Wahoo started to feel like someone in the NWA hierarchy was out to get him.

The tournament was won by Sgt. Slaughter, who had just arrived in the Mid-Atlantic territory and had taken the area by storm. Now Wahoo had to put the injustice of the Piper situation behind him and begin his chase of Slaughter to regain his championship.

As we roll into 1982, Wahoo fights through adversity to win the U.S title for a second time. But another betrayal was on the horizon.