Native wrestling legend Wahoo McDaniel has died of complications from renal failure and diabetes. The former pro football player, who lost both his kidneys four years ago, passed away April 18 at the Cy-Fair Medical Clinic in Houston, Texas.
The five-foot-eleven, 280-pound Chickasaw Indian juggled careers as a pro fotball player and wrestler starting in 1960. Originally drafted by Los Angeles, McDaniel also played football for the Houston Oilers, New York Jets, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins. Wherever his football career took him, Wahoo would wrestle during the off-season.
“I played football half a year and I wrestled half a year for 10 years, which worked out good for me,” McDaniel told an interviewer some years ago. “I went from football to wrestling and from wrestling right back into football.”
With a reputation for being intense and violent in the ring, Wahoo McDaniel played both good guys and bad guys in a professional wrestling career that spanned more than 20 years. Whether he was the hero or the villain, Wahoo’s immense popularity always drew in big crowds wherever he wrestled.
A household name in places like Texas, Florida and Georgia, Wahoo McDaniel won countless titles in the wrestling circuits of the southern U.S. throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. His list of bitter rivals included the likes of Harley Race, Terry Funk, Sgt. Slaughter, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Ric “Nature Boy” Flair, Arn Anderson and Rick Martel. Wahoo was known as the master of the Indian Strap Match, and nearly all of his violent contests inevitably ended with a leather thong tied to the wrist of his opponent.
Throughout his career as a professional athlete, McDaniel took his position as a role model for Native Americans very seriously. He was 63 years old at the time of his death.