…And The Indians (Or Native Americans, if you prefer)
Jay Shannon draws upon his almost 40 years of experience as a devout wrestling fan to look at the past, present and future of pro wrestling. This week, he presents Part Two of his Western Themed Wrestlers series.
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard
Last week, I looked at the “Cowboys” of wrestling. Many of us, as kids, played “Cowboys and Indians”. Ok, I realize that Native American is the new preferred term. Being 1/8th Choctaw, myself, I have nothing but the highest respect for the Native Americans. This week’s column is presented with honor and respect to those men and women who have paid tribute to their ancestors (ratjer real or created) with their in-ring characters. This column is dedicated with much respect in love to my Great- Grandfather, Jess, who was full-blooded Choctaw. He was the man I was named after (Jess being my actual given name). I hope this column make “Pa” smile down from “the other side of the mountain” (his term for the after-life).
Ed McDaniel grew up in Oklahoma and entered the world of sports at a young age. He played pro football with numerous teams, including the Dallas Cowboys. Ed began wrestling in his off-time to stay in shape (and make a few extra dollars). Eventually, he left football to take on wrestling, full-time. He worked for most of the major organizations during his career. He came close to winning the NWA World title, several times, but never quite reached that goal. He did, however, hold dozens of other wrestling titles in multiple organizations. Wahoo almost always came tothe ring in the ceremonial headdress to pay tribute to the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, from which he was decended. Wahoo left us April 18, 2002 due to renal and diabetes related issues. He was one of the most beloved men in the sport and very much missed by his legions of fans, including myself.
Chris “Tatanka” Chavis
Chris had a good run in the indies under his given name. When he arrived in the WWF in 1991, he underwent a dramatic transformation. The WWF, at the time, was going through it’s “larger-than-life character” phase where many wrestlers portrayed almost cartoon-level characters (ie…Repo Man, Koko B. Ware,Akeem, etc…) Chavis drew upon his Lumbee heritage to create “Tatanka”. The name comes from the Lakota tribe’s word for a male buffalo. Chavis dyed a bright red mohawk streak in his hair, again in tribute to his ancestors. Tatanka went on an extended winning streak in the WWF but faded from the scene by 1996, when the “attitude era” kicked in. Almost a full decade later, Tatanka returned for a second run with the company. He worked with Matt Hardy in an unsuccessful bid to take the tag titles from MnM. Tatanka did a one-shot appearance on TNA as part of Jay Lethal‘s “Black Machismo Invitational”. Tatanka defeated Lethal, rather easily. Tatanks might show back up at any time.
His biggest match, no pun intended, was as one of the midget partners of Hillbilly Jim at Wrestlemania III. Beaver, who’s real name was Lionel Giroux, was from Canada. In fact, he is a member of the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame. He died on December 4, 1995 from emphysema. He was one of the longest working wrestlers in the industry, as he worked for nearly 40 years (starting in 1950).
Sky Low Low
The long-time friend (and occasional tag partner) to Little Beaver was also born and raised in Canada. The 42-inch tall grappler’s real name was Marcel Gauthier. Sky Low Low’s biggest feuds were against Little Beaver and Farmer Brooks. Sky Low Low and Little Beaver wrestled each other for the enjoyment of Queen Elizabeth II of England and King Farouk of Egypt. Marcel passed away on November 6,1998 from a heart attack. He is also a member of the Canadian Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Chief Jules Strongbow
Frank Hill is a WWE Legend that has yet to join his “brother” in the Hall of Fame. Usually just known as Jules Strongbow, he occasionally used the “Chief” title. He formed a brother tag team with Jay Strongbow (Joe Scarpa). He actually began wrestling in the 1970s under his given name. The WWF brought him in as the “brother” of Jay Strongbow. The brothers only worked together for only a couple years. They did manage to take the WWF World Tag Team titles from Mr. Fuji and Mr. Saito, twice in the span of four months. On March 8, 1983, the Strongbows were defeated by The Wild Samoans. Jules left the WWF shortly after the loss and wrestled in the indies for a few years before retiring.
Chief Jay Strongbow
Jay began his wrestling in 1947, under his given name of Joe Scarpa. He worked for the NWA during the earliest stage of his career. He worked mostly in the Florida and Georgia markets for the next 23 years. He was a solid fan favorite along the Southern Corridor. In 1970, Joe took an offer from Vincent J. McMahon to join his WWWF. He was given the Native American character of “Chief” Jay Strongbow. Jay employed a Sleeper Hold as his finisher. He was a top contender for the WWWF title. Jay held the tag team titles twice, between 1970 and 1977. Jay left the WWWF in 1977 after his tag team partner, Billy White Wolfe (Adnan Al-Kaissie). was injured by Ken Patera. He moved over to Detroit to work for The Sheik‘s promotion.
Jay returned to the WWF in 1979 and immediately went into a nasty feud with Greg Valentine. Valentine broke Jay’s leg with the Figure Four and Jay wanted revenge. He continued to work as both a singles and tag team performer. He retired, the first tine, in 1985. That didn’t last long. Jay made occasional appearances, including a memorable storyline where he mentored the rising star Tatanka. Gorilla Monsoon inducted Jay in the Hall of Fame in 1994.
Billy White Wolf:
Billy White Wolf was not a Native American. He was, in fact, born near Baghdad, Iraq. Younger fans are much more familiar with White Wolf under the name used in the AWA and WWF, General Adnan Al-Kaissie. which is the wrestling legend’s actual given name. White Wolf was a much-loved face in the WWWF but one of the most hated men in the AWA and WWF. Adnan made the transition from wrestler to manager with ease. His life was threatened, more than once, during the first Gulf War due to his anti-American character.
Alere Little Feather:
She is one of the next generation of female Native American wrestlers. She currently works the indy scene on the East Coast and Southern Corridor. Her ring name is somewhat based on a series of children’s books published between 1944 and 1953.
Apache Lou (Luis Martinez)
this Native American wrestler came to the states from Mexico City. He was a fabulous tag team specialist, winning tag titles with no less than six different partners. The biggest title that he held was the Detroit version of the NWA World Tag titles with Fred Curry. Sadly, Martinez is now confined to a nursing home where Alzheimer’s Disease has all but wiped out all of his memories of his wrestling days.
The Native American from Minnesota was trained by the legendary Eddie Sharkey. Norris had a mid-level run in WCW during the late 80s. He did manage to win the PWA heavyweight title on five occasions and the tag belts, twice. Charlie retired by 2001. There were a few occasions were fans confused Charlie Norris with actor Chuck Norris. It did cause a few headaches for promoters who had to explain it was the wrestler, not the actor, who would be performing.
Chief Big Heart:
After Buddy Rogers left for the WWWF, Chief Big Heart stepped in to become Johnny Valentine‘s US Tag Team Championship partner. Big Heart rarely left the Southern Corridor during his career.
He was the son of Ricky Romero. He worked with his brothers in Jim Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic area. He worked as both in singles and tag team matches. He tagged with his brothers, as well as Ricky Steamboat. During a tour of the South Pacific in 1985, Jay died under mysterious circumstances. The official report was that he died of a ruptured spleen, following a rather brutal match.
Mark Youngblood aka Nikona
Mark teamed with numerous stars during his career to win titles. His favorite partners were his two brothers, but he also teamed with Wahoo McDaniel and Mike George. Mark wrestled under three different names: Mark Romero, Mark Youngblood and Nikona.
Chris Youngblood aka Brave Sky
He’s the youngest of the Romero Brothers. He’s worked most of his career in the Puerto Rico-based, WWC. He also teamed with his brother, Mark, in WCW. They changed their names to Brave Sky (Chris) and Nikona (Mark). He still wrestles occasionally.
Suni War Cloud
There were actually three men who used Suni/Sunni War Cloud as the in-ring persona. The most well-known was one of the many tag team partners of Chief Big Heart. That was the same man who portrayed Mr. Denny in the Burt Lancaster film, Jim Thorpe, All-American. The second Suni worked with Steven Little Bear in the Los Angeles market. There was a third, using Sunni War Cloud as his name who worked the Quebec area. Sunni War Cloud actually still wrestles in Canada.
Steven Little Bear
Partner of the second Suni War Cloud, Steven worked in Los Angeles in the early 70s. The two also worked in hawaii for awhile.
Oddly enough, there were two men who used this character. Neither were actually Native American. Both were actually Italian American. The original, George Mitchell was from Oklahoma but had no direct connection to the Sioux Indians, which he the tribe he claimed as his own. The second Chief was Lenny Montana (Passofaro), better known to fans as The Zebra Kid. Neither version of this character made dramatic impacts on the business, although they were very much adored by the fans.
Chief (Robert) Coy
He was from the early days of wrestling. Coy was assaulted by his father as an infant and one side of his face was paralyzed from the vicious beating. Coy worked in the 30s as both a wrestler and boxer. All records point to him being undefeated in both arenas.
Chief Jay Eagle
The North Carolinian worked for a few years (2005-08) in the Carolinas area. His biggest feud was against Greg “The Hammer” Valentine.
Chief Kit Fox
This Oklahoman was an occasional tag partner of Chief Big Heart. Fox was trained by Leroy McGuirk. The list of men he feuded with is staggering: Buddy Rogers, Lou Thesz, Danny Hodge, The Brisco Brothers, Verne Gagne, Freddie Blassie, Bobby Heenan and dozens more. Fox’s career was cut short due to a car accident, which also ended Chief Big Heart’s wrestling career.
Chief Little Eagle
Yet another of Chief Big Heart’s numerous tag team partners. Little Eagle was the right-hand man for Georgia promoter, Ray Gunkel, for many years. His active wrestling career ended in 1972 after an attack by The Assassins.
Chief Little Wolf
He was one of the most popular wrestlers in 1950s Australia. He worked there for five years, until a series of strokes sidelined him. It was always believed that the strokes were caused by impacts in the ring. He returned to the United States in 1984 to die. He had spent the last decade or so of his life in a nursing home in Melbourne, as further strokes had forced the need for round-the-clock care.
Chief Lone Eagle
Lone Eagle (who’s first name was Eddie) was the older brother of Chief Little Wolf. Lone Eagle had a moderately successful career in North America. He passed away in 1989, at age 81.
He wrestled in North America and Australia for many years. He was a very out-spoken advocate of the rights of Native Americans in North America. He came to national fame in the US as one of the close circle of friends of actor Marlon Brando during Brando’s crusade for Native American rights.
This tag team specialist worked the 70s and 80s for Sandy Barr in the Pacific Northwest and Jerry Jarrett in the CWF. His son, Chuck Little Fox, is also a wrestler. Thundercloud, real name Jesus Lopez, is retired and living in the Nashville area.
Chief Thunder Mountain
The massive New Jersey native was one of the early students at Larry Sharpe‘s Monster Factory. Sadly, he died of a heart attack on Labor Day Week-end, 1991, before he career could really get off the ground.
Chief War Eagle
War Eagle had a decent solo career in the South. After retiring, he manged his nephew, Don Eagle War Eagle was often billed as Don Eagle’s father. The two were very close. War Eagle died in August, 1979, at the age of 80.
Chief White Eagle
He worked the Southwest and Mexican territories in the 1960s. He was often the top talent in the Phoenix area. He had quite a fan following in both Phoenix and Mexico.
Chief White Owl
Tag team partner to Apache Lou and Chief Kit Fox, White Owl wrestled for over 30 years (1950-1983). He held many regional titles and a few tag belts, as well. He retired to Florida, where he lived until his death in 2998.
Danny Little Bear
He worked mostly in the Central States area. He wrestled as both Danny Little Bear and Chief Little Bear. He held both tag team and singles title during his 20+ year career. His career was cut short due to “ALLEGED” inappropriate interaction with under-age females. That was never proven and no charges were never filed. Danny died on May 12, 1991 from issues related to diabetes.
Chuck Little Fox
As mentioned above, Chuck is the son of Chief Thundercloud. He has had a good run in the indies.
One of the most popular wrestlers of the 1950s. He often drove to shows in a Cadillac with a canoe tied to the roof. He often faced Gorgeous George during George’s heyday. He won the Boston version of the World title, twice, once defeating George for it. Don also did several years work as a boxer.
Dances With Dudley
The Oklahoman started out as Dancing Wolf. When he entered ECW, he was made a member of the “unique” Dudley clan. He first came in a ‘Snot Dudley but later took on the name Dances with Dudley. The name was a take-off on the Kevin Costner film, Dances With Wolves. Due to potential copyright infringement, Dances’ name was adjusted to just “D.W. Dudley”. After the death of ECW, DWD worked a few indy cards and then retired.
He worked his way up from Talent Enhancer to mid-card in the Jim Crockett Promotion. He often teamed with other Native American stars in tag team matches.
He primarily worked the Southwest Strip from Texas through Arizona to Southern California. He partnered with Ghost Walker as Native Blood. He also did a short stint in WWF’s Raw.
He both worked with and feuded with Navajo Warrior. In addition to his Native American character, Walker also worked the rings as G.Q. Gallo. He has held numerous titles in regional promotions. He has also made multiple appearances on Raw.
Billy and Beverly Blue River
He was the son of Karl Shneider, who was a bare knuckles grappler that worked the old carnival circuit. Beverly Shade adopted her husband’s Native American persona when they worked mixed tag matches, which were somewhat rare in the 1960s and 70s. When they retired, they promoted shows in the Southern Corridor and the Carribean for many years. Beverly had a stroke in 2007, which severely limited her speech. They are both now retired. Beverly’s health did, somewhat, improve after her initial strokes.
Billy Red Cloud
Billy began working in 1960 under his given name, Bill Wright. He worked in the Hawaii. As Billy Red Cloud, he moved to the midwest to feud with Mad Dog Vachon and Baron Von Raschke. He also did a short run as Killer Kane, based on a character from Flash Gordon.
Bobby Red Cloud
Bobby Bold Eagle
There were two versions of Bobby Bold Eagle. One was based in the US and portrayed by Bob Boyer. The other worked England and the European theater, as well as the WWWF. Robert Cortes, the European version, retired back to the US and trained several wrestlers, including Jason Knight, Billy Firehawk and Rocco Rock of Public Enemy. Boyer’s verison of Bobby worked mostly in Mississippi and surrounding states, holding numerous titles.
Al Bold Eagle
Al was a man of many nations. He portrayed characters of Italian, Native American, Middle Eastern and Hispanic heritages. He was one of the early students of Johnny Rodz. He worked a tag team program with his “brother” Bobby Bold Eagle. He still wrestles occasionally, usually under a Middle Eastern gimmick.
Chief Jay Strongbow, Jr.
It’s not fully clear if Jay, Jr. is the real-life son of Jay Strongbow or just a stryline off-spring. They do tend to resemble each other. Jay worked the West Coast from Pacific Northwest down through the California markets. He also worked the Pacific Islander territories. He wrestled mostly in the early to mid 80s.
Billy Two Rivers
One of many Native American tag team specialists of the 1970s. Worked primarily with Don Eagle and Jean War Eagle. First taste of fame came in the late 50s when he started wrestling in England. After a successful wrestling career, Billy spent the next 20 years (beginning in 1978) in politics. He caused a major uproar when he helped to head the Oka Crisis, which blocked Montreal’s Mercier Bridge.
Jean War Eagle
The French Canadian had two main partners, Billy White Wolf (Adnan Al-Kaissie) and Billy Two Rivers. Jean held tag gold with both men. His biggest feud was against the Vachon Brothers.
It is possible I might have missed a few Native American grapplers. I apologize to anyone that I missed. This column was one of my most enjoyable, if not a tad involved. I want to send a special thanks out to a new friend, Jody. who is from my old hometown in Texas. She, like me, has the greatest respect for Native Americans. She was a great inspiration for this column. Thank you, my friend.