In the early 90s, Wahoo McDaniel was no longer on TV. I wondered if there would ever be another great Native American wrestler to put on great matches for the masses. I thought maybe the Ultimate Warrior might be native, but he was something else, to this day I’m not sure what he was supposed to be.
One day on WWF Superstars on Saturday, there was this spectacular individual, majestically running to the ring with colourful feathers. He was not just any wrestler or just any Native American, he was heavily built like a bodybuilder. He looked awesome: muscles, power and speed. I could tell he would be a big star. He made short work of many of his opponents.
I had seen him before, but he had a different name, “The War Eagle” Chris Chavis. I read about him on the old Apter mags such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated. At the time, I wondered if he would make it to the big leagues at some point because there were no prominent Native American wrestlers on TV. I was happy to see Chris Chavis become the great Tatanka.
His first two years, he went undefeated. He had feuds with Rick “The Model” Martel, Bam Bam Bigelow, and won the 40-man Bashed in the USA battle royal. I was proud of the man for his place in the wrestling industry. I was witnessing his career going so well after missing much of Wahoo McDaniel’s wrestling career. I thought Tatanka would become a champion for sure.
“At WrestleMania IX, Tatanka received his first televised title shot in the WWF, against Shawn Michaels for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Tatanka won the match by countout.” This was another win, but unfortunately, titles cannot change hands on a countout. I was happy for the win but disappointed at the outcome of no championship.
Vince McMahon and his company should have just given him the title. It would have been “over” because the fans were so into the Native American. If Vince had any concerns, he should have thought about the merchandise money that would have come flooding in for him and Tatanka. Tatanka would have looked awesome with the belt strapped around his waist. A missed opportunity from WWE (WWF, at the time).
I remember as a boy watching wrestling with my parents, along with nisīmisak – my younger siblings. There was this Hawaiian wrestler named Dean Ho and his buddy Moondog Moretti. Dean was an old man by that time, but he was the main good guy. I must have been 5 years old at the time, it is mostly a blur but the times he won his matches were exciting because we were all cheering for the good guy.
There was another wrestler, but I cannot remember his name. He was an “Indian” wrestler, an Indian or First nations. He would get the beat down but then a drum would start beating in the background and it would give him “power” to get out of the hold. Great times to be a wrestling fan. This was all on a channel from British Columbia called All-Star Wrestling.
As I got older, I noticed another Native wrestler, his name was Wahoo McDaniel. He had a spectacular presence and a “tomahawk chop” that almost broke the sternum of any hapless man to get in the way. In 1986, he had this memorable feud with a Russian wrestler named Nikita Koloff. The feud was called the “tomahawk” vs. the “sickle,” which was a reference to the Russian sickle on the flag. I searched for this match online to no avail, so sad.
They both had their titles on the line, the National Champion, Wahoo and the United States Champion, Nikita. The winner would then amalgamate the titles into one because the company thought there were too many belts on TV, WTBS channel. I personally thought Wahoo should have kept the title because it was cool to have an “Indian” as champion. I could not find a free image of Wahoo, but at the bottom of this blog, there is an embed video of Wahoo vs Ric Flair in a “chop” battle.
I had such high hopes for a Wahoo win, but he was beaten. Wahoo was in the twilight of his long successful career and the so-called, Russian Nightmare, Nikita Koloff, was hotter that a firecracker on the fourth of July. He was being groomed for bigger things and Wahoo was used as a steppingstone, which I am sure he gladly did because even he knew that he had to job to the raising young star.
He wrestled 10 more years until his retirement in 1996. Unfortunately, he died of kidney failure “on April 18, 2002 at the age of 63” (https://wrestlerdeaths.com/wahoo-mcdaniel-death/). He left a great legacy for other Native American wrestlers such as Tatanka, who went on to became one of the most recognizable wrestlers in the 90s.