Friday, February 07, 2020

The Awesome Twosome is Born

The Story of the Heel Turn of Chief Wahoo McDaniel (Part 3)
Part Three in a Four-Part Series
by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Catch up on the earlier parts of this series:
PART ONE: Wahoo's Black Saturday
PART TWO: The Conspiracy

"Bob Caudle, I think the wrestling world is in for the biggest surprise they have ever seen."   - Tully Blanchard

Even though Wahoo McDaniel was no longer the automatic #1 contender for the NWA World title after being stripped of the U.S. belt, Ric Flair made good on the promise he made in Raleigh's Dorton Arena back in June when the two of them had their memorable confrontation. "You want a title shot," Flair asked? "You got it!"

The match took place in the Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, SC. It was on the same night that Wahoo McDaniel had been notified that the the NWA was stripping him of the United States title and holding up the United States belt.

Fans were still somewhat torn over who they supported in the match. Wahoo still had his share of fans, despite his apparent recent change in attitude. But as the match wore on, fans seemed to firmly settle on the side of the Nature Boy. Wahoo was ferocious in his attack, likely still furious over being stripped of his U.S. title just hours earlier. Flair had been battered by Wahoo's trademark tomahawk chops, and seemed exhausted.

At one point Wahoo had the champion pinned cleanly, but Flair was able to put his foot on the bottom rope to break the count. Tully Blanchard, who was at ringside, came past quickly and knocked Flair's foot off the rope. Referee Tommy Young saw this and immediately disqualified Wahoo for the outside interference of Blanchard.

Wahoo looked very angry at that moment, glaring at Blanchard. His interference had just cost him his shot at Flair's title. Flair was furious as well, and attacked Blanchard and the two of them slugged it out in a wild brawl.

For several moments, Wahoo stood aside and just watched as the two went at it, similar in some ways to when he stood back and let Flair and Blanchard fight that night on the TV stage in Raleigh. Fans screamed at Wahoo to go over and help Flair. But just as it appeared Flair might be gaining the advantage, pummeling Blanchard in the corner, Wahoo walked over, paused for a brief moment, and then grabbed Flair's arms from behind.

Fans were shocked. It was one thing when Wahoo hadn't taken sides in the earlier disputes between Blanchard and Flair. It was another thing all together to actually see Wahoo helping Blanchard against Flair.

Wahoo held Flair as Blanchard removed a shoe and blasted Flair with the heel, knocking him to the mat. He then tossed the shoe to Wahoo, grabbed Flair, and held him as Wahoo continuously whacked Flair with the shoe, too. The blows opened Flair up, and he was soon a bloody mess. Fans were furious that Wahoo had now aligned himself with the hated Tully Blanchard.

Dusty Rhodes and Bob Caudle reviewed the tape of the match on TV the next week, and Dusty observed how Wahoo had turned to the dark side. "It's clear to me now, Chief," Dusty said, "that you ain't nothing but a yellow, no good, rotten dog!"

At first, in the weeks that followed, Wahoo and Tully didn't make much out of their new association, neither one making much of a big deal out of it. They hadn't appeared together in interviews yet. But there was no denying that where you saw one, the other was close by.

There were increasing indicators of their growing affection and respect for each other. Tully pointed out how Wahoo was one of the toughest men he had ever been in the ring with, and what a great pro-football player he was in the NFL. Wahoo bragged about Tully being a star quarterback at West texas State, a breeding ground for great champions.

Wahoo also mentioned how, just as he had been involved in training Ric Flair in his early career, he had also been instrumental in training Blanchard early on, calling back to the days the two of them worked together for Southwest Championship Wrestling out of San Antonio, Texas. Indeed, it was Tully's father Joe Blanchard who operated that promotion and who booked Wahoo against his son almost every night for months in hopes Tully would gain great experience and toughness as a result.
However, the biggest indicator of their growing friendship, especially to the fans, was when Wahoo beat Sam Houston in a TV match using Tully's signature "slingshot suplex", which Tully chuckled over and seemed delighted with as he observed it while doing commentary with Bob Caudle.

"Tully Blanchard, that sure is a surprise right there," Bob Caudle told him. "Bob Caudle," Tully replied, "I think the wrestling world is in for the biggest surprise they have ever seen."

Fans now really hated Wahoo. For his part, Wahoo no longer seemed to have much respect for the fans anymore, either. He told Bob Caudle he had tried all his life to make the fans happy, but you can't make them happy. "If I lost all my fans in one night," he said, "then they weren't that great of fans to begin with."

While Wahoo and Tully seemed to always be talking about each other, they hadn't really appeared together on TV yet. That all changed in mid-August when the two appeared together for the first time in a TV interview. And there was a noticeable change in Wahoo's appearance - - he was wearing a suit! From that point forward over the next many months, if Wahoo wasn't dressed in his ring gear, he wore a suit. It was a very tangible change that the fans could see. Wahoo certainly had changed, in more ways than one.

Tully called him the "Super Chief" and Wahoo announced they had formed "the most awesome tag team wrestling has ever seen."

The "Awesome Twosome" was born.

They began a reign of terror as a tag team. Wahoo and Tully even jumped Flair after a match in Charlotte and gave Flair a "stuff-piledriver."  Flair was stretchered out of the building. It was reminiscent of (and certainly a call-back to) the same move Bob Orton, Jr. and Dick Slater did to Flair a year earlier, nearly putting him out of wrestling.

Flair clearly needed help to battle the Awesome Twosome. He decided to travel to the swamps of Florida and recruit his old friend and partner Blackjack Mulligan to come back to the Mid-Atlantic area and team up with him. He also teamed with longtime rival Ricky Steamboat, and even formed the unlikely alliance with Dusty Rhodes. Between the four of them, they did battle with the Awesome Twosome over the next weeks.

Wahoo liked pointing out that they could take on any and all of them. "Looks like everybody is after us. Steamboat goes and gets Flair, Flair goes and gets Mulligan. They all go get Dusty Rhodes," he laughed. "Well, it's just me and Tully right here."

The summer of 1984 finished out with lots of crazy tag team battles, with Wahoo and Tully battling the various combinations of Flair, Steamboat, Mulligan, and Rhodes.

But as fall approached, there was still the matter of the held-up U.S. championship. And Wahoo wanted his title back. Jim Crockett and the NWA were about to finally make a decision on how the whole matter would be resolved.

Wahoo wants his title back. In the final installment in this series, we'll look at the tournament to name a new United States Champion, plans for Starrcade, and how those plans all eventually changed.

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"David Crockett, you've been making mistakes for so long, it's almost irreputable how your brother can keep putting you on television. 
The Awesome Twosome!  Awesome.  Twosome." 
- Tully Blanchard

"You said "gruesome." I guess it is a little gruesome when they are layin' down lookin' up and we're pounding on them."
- Wahoo McDaniel 

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Series Breakdown:
Part Three: The Awesome Twosome (This Article)
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