Monday, April 26, 2010
Let me take you back, way back, when men proved they were men by crushing an apple in one hand. Now, there's a strong, confident handshake! Danny Hodge, 5'10", 220#. Heard of him? He'll be 78 next month, but in his day he was my kind of man. This Oklahoman was an amateur wrestler and boxer, turning to pro wrestling at the age of 27. And, yeah, he could do the trick with the apple. The rumor was he could break pliers. Let me repeat, "break pliers."
Twice an Olympian, in Helsinki and Melbourne (silver medalist). The only amateur wrestler ever to make the cover of Sports Illustrated. The prestigious Dan Hodge Trophy is named after him. Chicago Golden Gloves champion, who ended his amateur boxing career 17-0, with 12 wins by knockouts. Five-time pro wrestling tag-team champ with Skandor Akbar. He held the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship eight times over ten years--an unbeaten record.
For almost sixteen years he was the toughest man in professional wrestling. He liked a good fight too. When opponents rolled over and played dead in one of his savage holds, he would let the guy up, just to keep the battle going. Catch and release. "If you don't move," he once said, "I'm going to stomp you." Catch and release, and then stomp.
He was never a pretty boy, but he had a brutish virility that made up for his lack of classic symmetry. Hairy chest and forearms were pluses, too. He was a no-nonsense, get-the-job-done sort of fighter--shady and heroic at the same time. Like most "golden age" wrestlers, his style was grim, violent, stoic, cunning, businesslike, in short "dangerous," in a way charismatic by sheer virtue of his rejection of charisma. In every way the opposite of the preening, showy, mouthy, but inescapably fake wrestlers who arose in his wake.