Friday, May 01, 2020

The 1984 U.S. Title Tournament: Vindication for Wahoo McDaniel

The Story of the Heel Turn of Chief Wahoo McDaniel (Part 4)
The Finale: Part Four 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
PART THREE: The Awesome Twosome

As summer turned to autumn in 1984, the "Awesome Twosome" of Wahoo McDaniel and Tully Blanchard were blazing a trail of terror through the Mid-Atlantic area, but it became clear that Wahoo wasn't interested in long term tag team action. He wanted his U.S. title back. The NWA held up the belt back in August and Jim Crockett Promotions had been dragging its feet on figuring out how the whole situation between Wahoo and Ricky Steamboat would be settled. Each wrestler made a credible claim to the title.

Eventually, the decision was made not return the title to either Wahoo or Steamboat, and the issue would be resolved in a tournament to be held in Charlotte, NC on October 7, 1984.

Charlotte had hosted a United States title tournament once before, back in October of 1981 when Jimmy Snuka won the honors after, interestingly enough, Wahoo McDaniel had been stripped of the same title under questionable circumstances in a wild feud with Roddy Piper that involved Abdullah the Butcher. The fact that the title had been taken from him again and put in a tournament obviously angered and frustrated the Chief, and he made that point abundantly clear to David Crockett and Bob Caudle on the two JCP television programs.

Initially sixteen wrestlers were entered in the tournament. Barry Windham, one of the original 16,  defaulted by no-showing the event, having left days earlier to enter the World Wrestling Federation.

The tournament featured three wrestlers from outside of the territory. Superstar Billy Graham came in from Florida and Carlos Colon flew in from Puerto Rico. The third outsider was Manny Fernandez, who had arrived full-time a few weeks earlier and who would stay with the promotion for the next several years.

The Charlotte card was part of a huge weekend for Jim Crockett Promotions. The night before in Greensboro was the big “Starrcade Rally” show, with a concert and autograph signings, and where announcements of the big matches would take place for the upcoming mega-event Starrcade ’84. Originally, the card was to have been the launching point for a big push for Barry Windham, who had recently arrived to the territory from Florida. Instead, Barry and his father, Blackjack Mulligan, jumped ship to the World Wrestling Federation. The defection left a big hole in Jim Crockett’s long-term plans moving forward.

History will never know for sure what the original plans for the tournament were and how the departure of Barry Windham might have affected them. There seems little doubt that the finals would have come down to Windham and Wahoo McDaniel, building toward a title match between the two at Starrcade ’84. However, it’s less certain who would have won that final match in the tournament had Windham stayed with Crockett.

The likelihood is that Wahoo McDaniel would still have won this tournament, which would have set up Windham winning the U.S. title from him at Starrcade ‘84. Windham had been introduced on television in early August as having signed the most lucrative contract in pro-wrestling history (!) with Jim Crockett giving him the keys to a brand new sports car as well. He was clearly in line for the huge push, and would have no doubt been the top contender in the area for Ric Flair’s NWA world championship, just as he had been in Florida over the last couple of years. The other less likely possibility was to put Barry over strong by having him win this tournament and then defeat Wahoo again at Starrcade.

Manny Fernandez assumed Barry Windham’s spot in the tournament. He defeated Superstar Billy Graham and reigning TV champion Tully Blanchard before eventually losing to McDaniel in the  finals.

Wahoo defeated former tag-team partner Mark Youngblood, as well as Mike Rotundo, and  finally Fernandez on his way to his 5th United States championship.

 First Round Matches
• Wahoo McDaniel defeated Mark Youngblood
• Mike Rotundo defeated The Assassin #1 (Jody Hammilton) by DQ
• Ivan Koloff defeated Brian Adias
• Dusty Rhodes defeated Don Kernodle
• Superstar Billy Graham defeated Carlos Colon by count-out
• Manny Fernandez received a bye when Barry Windham defaults
• Tully Blanchard defeated Jimmy Valiant
• Ricky Steamboat and Ron Bass wrestled to a draw – Both eliminated

Second Round Matches - Quarter Finals
• Wahoo McDaniel defeated Mike Rotundo
• Dusty Rhodes and Ivan Koloff double-DQ – Both Eliminated
• Manny Fernandez defeated Superstar Billy Graham via DQ
• Tully Blanchard received a bye due to Steamboat/Bass draw.

Third Round Matches – Semi Finals
• Wahoo McDaniel received a bye due to the Rhodes/Koloff double DQ
• Manny Fernandez defeated Tully Blanchard

Final Round – Tournament Championship
• Wahoo McDaniel defeated Manny Fernandez to win the U.S. Championship

Needless to say, after Wahoo had regained the title by winning the tournament, he was on cloud nine and cocky as ever. But you really couldn't blame him. It had been a long, hot, controversial summer, and he had finally been vindicated.

Wahoo went on to defend the U.S. title Thanksgiving night at Starrcade '84, soundly defeating Superstar Billy Graham. As 1984 came to a close, a new challenger appeared on the horizon.  Magnum T.A., having just arrived from the Mid-South territory, quickly established himself as the number one contender for the United States Championship and eventually defeated Wahoo for the title in a dramatic moment on "World Wide Wrestling" taped March 23, 1985 in Charlotte.

Wahoo immediately left the Mid-Atlantic area after the loss to Magnum, and became the booker for the Florida territory, as well as its number one popular star. When he entered the sunshine state, he left his "bad guy" days behind him.

Later that summer, Dusty Rhodes would recruit Wahoo to return to the Mid-Atlantic area for a few select appearances over the next months. He asked Wahoo to be his partner against Tully Blanchard and his paid henchman Abdullah the Butcher.  Wahoo sent in a tape from the set of "Championship Wrestling from Florida" asking Dusty for his forgiveness and his trust, and telling him he would be there if he needed him. Wahoo received a heroes welcome when he did return.

In the early fall, Wahoo returned once more to team with Dusty and Magnum in their battles with Tully Blanchard and the Andersons, only a few months before the latter would join NWA Champion Ric Flair and form the Four Horsemen.

Also republished 8/25/2020

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For more on the history of the United States title, check out our book "Jim Crockett Promotions' United States Championship."

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