Edward "Wahoo" McDaniel (June 19, 1938 – April 18, 2002) was a Choctaw-Chickasaw Native American who achieved fame as a professional American football player and later as a professional wrestler. He is notable for having held the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship five times. McDaniel was a major star in prominent National Wrestling Alliance affiliated promotions such as Championship Wrestling from Florida, Georgia Championship Wrestling, NWA Big Time Wrestling (which would eventually be renamed World Class Championship Wrestling) and Jim Crockett Promotions (which would ultimately become WCW after being purchased by media mogul Ted Turner in 1988).
Wahoo was born in the small town of Bernice, Louisiana in 1938. His father worked in oil and he moved to several towns before settling down in Midland, Texas while Wahoo was in middle school. One of his baseball coaches was George H. W. Bush. The name "Wahoo" actually came from his father who was known as "Big Wahoo". He was a problematic teenager but he was accepted to the University of Oklahoma. There he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity and he was also a part of Bud Wilkinson's Sooners football program. After his retirement from wrestling he became an avid fisherman. He enjoyed fishing Lake Amistad in Del Rio, Texas, which was one of his favorite fishing spots.
Wahoo wrestled during the off-season, a common practice at the time due to low player salaries, for Dory Funk in Amarillo, Texas while he played for Houston and Denver. When he was playing for the New York Jets, Vince McMahon, Sr. brought him in for a run in the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF). During his run, he wrestled with stars like Boris Malenko, Cowboy Bill Watts, Dr. Jerry Graham and Waldo Von Erich. When he played in Miami, Eddie Graham booked him and used him as a tag team wrestler with Jose Lothario. His Madison Square Garden debut was January 25, 1965, where he defeated Boris Malenko. Malenko at the time was essentially a preliminary wrestler. Nonetheless, the match got some strong local media coverage due to McDaniel's football career.
After leaving football, Wahoo wrestled some in Hawaii but really made his mark and had his greatest success in Houston. He feuded with Boris Malenko, eventually winning his hair, and was a frequent challenger for Dory Funk, Jr.'s NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The feud sold out the Sam Houston Coliseum on several occasion with Wahoo going time limit draws with the champ but ultimately coming up short. After Houston, he went to the American Wrestling Association and had a very successful feud with Superstar Billy Graham after Graham could not defeat Wahoo in an arm wrestling challenge and attacked him. Eventually, the feud turned into a tag feud with Wahoo teaming with the Crusher (another legitimate tough guy) against Graham and Ivan Koloff.
In 1974, Wahoo came to Mid-Atlantic to wrestle for Jim Crockett Promotions and help build up the territory as a singles territory in a feud with a rival from Texas, Johnny Valentine. The feud evolved into a tag feud with Wahoo and Paul Jones taking on Johnny Valentine and Ric Flair, who Wahoo met in the AWA.
McDaniel and John Valentine went on to have a feud remembered to this day for the sheer force of their punch/chop exchanges, both men widely known for their hard-hitting style. Wahoo won the Mid-Atlantic title from Valentine on June 29, 1975, in Asheville, North Carolina.
McDaniel and Flair entered into a legendary feud over the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship title throughout 1975 and 1976 after Johnny Valentine's career was ended in a plane crash. Flair won the title for the first time on September 20, 1975, in Hampton, Virginia. Wahoo regained the title in the Charlotte (NC) Coliseum in May of the following year.
Flair regained the title three weeks later in a match remembered as the "table leg" match. Wahoo and Flair shattered a table at ringside, and Flair picked up one of table legs to hit Wahoo in the head, not realizing a nail was sticking out of the table leg. McDaniel was legitimately injured and the match quickly ended with Flair pinning McDaniel for the title.
McDaniel and Flair would swap the title one more time before the final exchange of the Mid-Atlantic title between the two happened on December 27, 1976, when Wahoo defeated Flair for the belt in a "No Disqualification" match in the Richmond (VA) Coliseum. Flair went on to win the United States title and matches for the U.S. belt between Wahoo and Flair drew huge houses, with Flair holding on to the championship.
In 1977, Johnny Valentine's son Greg Valentine attacked Wahoo and broke his leg in an angle to establish Greg as Johnny's successor. Greg Valentine originally won the title on June 11, 1977, with Wahoo regaining it in Raleigh, NC two months later. On September 7, 1977, Greg Valentine regained the title at the WRAL-TV studio tapings, breaking Wahoo's leg in the process. This angle is particularly remembered for a follow-up interview weeks later with Flair and Valentine throwing change at Wahoo, and Valentine asking Wahoo if he needed a custom-made wheelchair for his fat body. Valentine then infuriated fans (thus building up the demand for a rematch) by parading around in T-shirts which read "I Broke Wahoo's Leg" and "No More Wahoo."
Wahoo won the Mid-Atlantic title for the final time in a match against Valentine in Greensboro, NC on April 2, 1978. Unusually enough for that decade, the title reign lasted only a week, with Wahoo dropping the title to Olympic weightlifter Ken Patera in Charlotte, NC.
Other than his work in Mid-Atlantic, he wrestled in Florida, usually against then NWA World champion Harley Race. He also split his time wrestling in Georgia and the AWA. He went to Japan several times but never really caught on although he did wrestle major names like Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki and Jumbo Tsuruta. By 1980, he was wrestling in San Antonio in a feud with Tully Blanchard and his regular tag partner, "Georgous" Gino Hernandez. When the promoter in Houston broke away from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and recognized the AWA World champion Nick Bockwinkel, Wahoo was the regular challenger.
He returned to Mid-Atlantic in 1981 and feuded with Roddy Piper over the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship which ended when Piper brought in Abdullah the Butcher and Abby put Wahoo out on injury. Wahoo returned and had another bloody feud with Sgt. Slaughter for the U.S. title when Slaughter won the title while Wahoo was injured. In 1984, he turned on Ricky Steamboat, taking the U.S. title for the fourth time when Tully Blanchard came to Wahoo's assistance with a steel chair. He was stripped of the title but regained it in a tournament later that year. Wahoo successfully defended it at Starrcade of that year against Billy Graham but lost it to Magnum T.A. in early 1985 in a steel cage match. Wahoo feuded again with the now babyface Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight title at various times before Flair turned heel again. After losing the U.S. title, he booked and wrestled mostly for Championship Wrestling from Florida. He made a tag team with Billy Jack Haynes which won the promotion's version of the NWA United States Tag Team title from Rick Rude and Jesse Barr (aka Jimmy Jack Funk). Wahoo wrestled some high-profile matches in Florida like an unsuccessful world title bid against Ric Flair and a draw against Bruiser Brody at the Florida promotion's nationally syndicated big show, Battle of the Belts.
In 1986, he returned as a face to Mid-Atlantic wrestling in some of his famous Indian Strap Matches with Jimmy Garvin and Rick Rude. He won the NWA National Heavyweight Championship from Tully Blanchard in front of a packed house of 11,000 fans in Los Angeles at The Forum (Inglewood, California) on August 28, 1986 during a wild and bloody match, but lost a unification match against NWA U.S. champion Nikita Koloff.
For the rest of the 1980s, he wrestled mainly for the AWA and for WWC in Puerto Rico. He was a perennial top contender for the AWA World Title from 1987–1989, challenging Curt Hennig, Jerry Lawler, and Larry Zbyszko during that time. McDaniel initially retired following a match against Mike Enos and Wayne Bloom, where he supposedly suffered a detached retina.
But his retirement was brief and he returned to wrestling the following year. He continued to wrestle into the 1990s mostly for independent promotions throughout the south. In 1993 he teamed with Jim Brunzell and Blackjack Mulligan against Don Muraco, Jimmy Snuka, and Dick Murdoch in a legends match at the inaugural WCW Slamboree: A Legend's Reunion. The following year, he participated in an angle where he and Chief Jay Strongbow supposedly passed the torch to WWF's Tatanka. Had a notable feud on the indie circuit with Ivan Koloff and a series of matches with an unknown wrestler named Mean Marc Ash, which signaled to many long time observers that Wahoo's career was nearly over. He wrestled until 1996 when he officially retired.
Wahoo is often compared to Chief Jay Strongbow, who played a Native American wrestler at the time. Wahoo was respected by other wrestlers and football players for his toughness, physical style and his crazy antics outside of the ring. The respect as a legitimate athlete made it easy for him to go to different territories and be successful when many babyfaces had trouble doing so. Although his playing ability in football is often overshadowed by his wild lifestyle. Joe Namath and Larry Csonka, who played with him early in their careers, both printed stories about him in their autobiographies. Along that same line, Len Dawson has been quoted as saying "The hardest hit I ever received on a football field was by Wahoo McDaniel"
In 1995, he was also inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame.
McDaniel was married five times to four different women. With his first wife, Monta Rae, he had two daughters, Nikki, born in June 1963 and living in Houston and Cindi, born in October 1965 and living in Rowlett, Texas. He has four grandchildren, Dustin and Brittany through Nikki and twins, Morgan and Taylor, through Cindi.
McDaniel's health started to deteriorate in the mid-1990s, which led to his retirement in 1996, and he eventually lost both kidneys. He was awaiting a kidney transplant when he died of complications from diabetes and renal failure on April 18, 2002.
- Managers and Valets
Championships and accomplishments
- Championship Wrestling From Florida
- Georgia Championship Wrestling
- International Wrestling Enterprise
- IWA World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling / Jim Crockett Promotions
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI Most Popular Wrestler of the Year (1976)
- PWI ranked him #289 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1991
- PWI ranked him #231 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1992
- PWI ranked him #194 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1993
- PWI ranked him #199 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1994
- PWI ranked him #269 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1995
- PWI ranked him #306 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 1996
- Southwest Championship Wrestling
- Ultimate Championship Wrestling
- UCW Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- World Class Wrestling Association