Daniel Allen Hodge (May 13, 1932 – December 24, 2020) was an American professional wrestler, amateur wrestler, and boxer. He is renowned for his wrestling career, where he competed both as an amateur and professional. A three-time NCAA champion, a middleweight Olympic silver medallist and a seven-time NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, Hodge is widely considered to be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.

Danny Hodge
Danny Hodge crushing an apple.jpg
Hodge, then aged 80, crushing an apple with one hand at the Oklahoma House of Representatives in May 2013
Personal information
Full nameDaniel Allen Hodge
Born(1932-05-13)May 13, 1932
Perry, Oklahoma, U.S.
DiedDecember 24, 2020(2020-12-24) (aged 88)
Perry, Oklahoma, U.S.

He was born and raised in Perry, Oklahoma, where he continued to live. He was famous for the ability to crush apples with one hand,[1] a feat which he demonstrated live on ESPN during the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships. He said his strength was due to having double tendons in his hands.[2]

Early lifeEdit

Daniel Allen Hodge was born on May 13, 1932. Born and raised in Perry, Oklahoma, he was the son of an alcoholic father and a mother who dealt with severe depression. Hodge picked cotton and plucked chickens in his early years. His home burned down when he was 9, and his mother suffered severe burns over 70 percent of her body, necessitating blood transfusions. He was raised by his grandfather in later years.[3]

Amateur wrestling careerEdit

At Perry High School in Oklahoma, Hodge won the 165-pound title at the state tournament in 1951. As a collegiate wrestler for the University of Oklahoma, Hodge was undefeated at 46–0, with 36 pins and reportedly was never taken off his feet during his collegiate career. He was a three-time Big Seven conference champ at 177 pounds (1955–1957), and won the 177-pound title at the NCAA championships those same three years, pinning all three of his finals opponents. (Hodge is only one of two three-time NCAA Division I champs to have done that, the other being Oklahoma A&M's Earl McCready in 1928–1930.) He is the only amateur wrestler to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.[4]

 
Hodge in 1956

His reputation as a high school wrestler preceded him when he joined the US Navy in 1951. At Ames, Iowa, in April 1952, Hodge survived the US Olympic Trials, and was coached by Naval Academy Instructor Ray Swartz in the 174-pound division.[5] At the Helsinki Olympics, Hodge was defeated by USSR's David Cimakuridze. Going into May 1956 wrestling trials for US Olympic team, Hodge was middleweight favorite. He was eliminated on May 2 by William Smith. Smith was embroiled in controversy with the Central AAU and Hodge was his substitute.[5] After two Olympics appearances, Hodge placed 5th in 1952,[6] and won the silver medal in 1956, in Melbourne, Australia after being defeated at the final by Bulgarian Nikola Stanchev.[7]

The Dan Hodge Trophy, named after him, is the amateur wrestling equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.[8]

Professional wrestling careerEdit

Danny Hodge
 
Hodge in 1972
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Danny Hodge
Billed height6 ft 0 in (183 cm)[9]
Billed weight227 lb (103 kg)[9]
Trained byEd "Strangler" Lewis[9]
Leroy McGuirk
DebutOctober 7, 1959[9]
RetiredSeptember 1, 1983

Trained by Leroy McGuirk and Ed "Strangler" Lewis, Hodge made his debut as a professional wrestler in October 1959.[5] Hodge's first major feud was with National Wrestling Alliance Junior Heavyweight Champion Angelo Savoldi. Hodge's rivalry with Savoldi led to a bizarre event. Hodge's father entered the ring during a boxing match on May 27, 1960, between Hodge and Savoldi, and stabbed Savoldi with a penknife.[5] Savoldi required 70 stitches at a local hospital, while Hodge's father was arrested.[10] On July 22, 1960, Hodge defeated Savoldi for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship at the Stockyards Coliseum in Oklahoma City. Hodge became McGuirk's principal headliner, and by 1962, Hodge was making upwards of $80,000 a year.[10]

Hodge was a perennial NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, holding the title eight times for a total of over ten years, longer than anyone else.[11] After holding the title for over four years, he eventually dropped the title to longtime rival Hiro Matsuda. Six months later, he defeated Matsuda to regain the title.[11] He held the belt for several months until he lost it to Lorenzo Parente; they both continuously lost and regained the title in the span of a year during their feud.[11] After Parente lost the belt to Hodge again, Hodge held the belt for another four months until eventually losing it to Sputnik Monroe on July 13, 1970.[11] Once again regaining the title a few months later, Hodge found himself as an ex-champion again when he eventually faced "Nature Boy" Roger Kirby. He was separated from the title until he defeated Dr. X, who was holding the title, and Hodge held his title once again for two more years before being upset by Ken Mantell on December 19, 1973.[11] Mantell eventually lost the title to Hiro Matsuda, Hodge's rival. Matsuda eventually faced Hodge again and lost, where Hodge defeated him for the championship on March 2, 1976.[11]

On March 5, 1976, from which caused his retirement from professional wrestling, and just three days after defeating rival Matsuda for the championship, Hodge was driving his car when he fell asleep at the wheel causing him to crash through a bridge and into a lake. The car flipped, and the crash broke his neck and shattered his teeth upon impact. Hodge was able to escape by punching out his car window and safely swimming back to shore.[12] On September 1, 1983, Hodge returned to the ring facing against SWCW USA Junior Heavyweight Champion Eric Embry which Embry won.[13] In 2007, he was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He made appearances in WWE on Raw in 2005 and 2012 in which he honored fellow Oklahoman Jim Ross.[14] WWE Hall of Famer and seven-time world champion Bret Hart has referred to Hodge as "one of the greatest wrestlers in pro wrestling or amateur wrestling there’s ever been",[15] and described being in the same room as Hodge at the 2008 National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum's award ceremony as "a big, big honor for me".[15]

Boxing careerEdit

Danny won the 1958 Chicago Golden Gloves at Heavyweight, then won a Chicago-NY Intercity bout in October, beating Charley Hood. He finished his amateur career with 17 wins, no losses and 12 KO's. Convinced by boxing manager Art Freeman that he was a better prospect than Rocky Marciano, Hodge decided to become a professional boxer rather than pursue the opportunity to compete as a boxer and a wrestler at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy.[5] In his professional boxing debut, he scored a first-round knockout victory over Norm Jackson.[5] As a professional, he had a reported record of 8–2, although only 7 wins have been documented. He retired on July 9, 1959.[5]

Personal lifeEdit

Hodge and his wife, Dolores, had three children, Linda Marie and Danny Hodge Jr.

On March 29, 2005, Hodge was honored by Oklahoma state lawmakers as an "Oklahoma Sports Hero".[16] He served as chairman of the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Commission, which regulates professional boxing, wrestling, and mixed martial arts in Oklahoma.[17] There is a statue in his honor at the Perry Wrestling Monument Park in Oklahoma, unveiled in 2016.[18][19]

DeathEdit

Hodge died at the age of 88 on December 24, 2020.[20] He made fewer appearances in public as it was announced that he suffered from dementia in his later years, starting in 2018.[21]

Championships and accomplishmentsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Fairley, Tim (May 15, 2013). "Attempting a reversal: Oklahoma's wrestling greats grapple with the International Olympics Committee to return the sport to the games". Oklahoma Gazette. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
  2. ^ Melok, Bobby (2013-03-27). "The Most Badass Wrestler Stories Ever Told". WWE. Archived from the original on 2020-04-16. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  3. ^ Mooneyham, Mike. "Beloved wrestling legend Danny Hodge lived the American dream". Post and Courier. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  4. ^ Palmer, Mark (2017-04-01). "Hodge is Still the Only Wrestler on Sports Illustrated Cover". National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 224, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6
  6. ^ "Hodge, Dan Allen". The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  7. ^ Snowden, Jonathan (2012). Shooters: The Toughest Men in Professional Wrestling. ECW Press. p. 118. ISBN 978-1770902213.
  8. ^ Scovel, Shannon (2020-06-24). "Dan Hodge Trophy: History, Winners, and How It Works". NCAA. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  9. ^ a b c d Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Danny Hodge". Cagematch.net. Retrieved January 5, 2021.
  10. ^ a b National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 225, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6
  11. ^ a b c d e f Slagle, Stephen Von (2019-12-03). "Danny Hodge". History of Wrestling. Retrieved 2021-05-24.
  12. ^ "WWE - Badass Wrestler Stories". Archived from the original on 2016-03-16.
  13. ^ https://www.cagematch.net/?id=2&nr=2739&page=4&year=1983&promotion=681. {{cite web}}: External link in |last= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help); Missing or empty |url= (help)
  14. ^ Martin, Adam (October 1, 2012). "WWE posts video of Jim Ross Appreciation Night". WrestleView. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
  15. ^ a b Eck, Kevin. "Transcript of Bret Hart's Hall of Fame speech". baltimoresun.com.
  16. ^ Mooneyham, Mike (May 10, 2009). "Hodge has lived the American dream". The Post and Courier. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  17. ^ "Oklahoma State Athletic Commission- Commissioners". Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  18. ^ "Danny Hodge". Perry Wrestling Monument Park. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  19. ^ "Hodge, Vanbebber to be honored with statues in Perry Wrestling Monument Park". InterMat. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  20. ^ Nason, Josh (2020-12-26). "Danny Hodge Passes Away at 88 Years Old". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  21. ^ "Legendary Danny Hodge dies at 88". Slam Wrestling. 2020-12-26. Retrieved 2021-04-27.
  22. ^ Oliver, Greg (April 18, 2004). "Heenan given CAC's top honor". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  23. ^ Nation, Ryan (April 18, 2007). "Don Leo Jonathan earned CAC's top honour". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  24. ^ "Honorees". Cauliflower Alley Club. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
  25. ^ "Ventura given Museum's top honour". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. August 4, 2003. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  26. ^ "Induction Class 2021 | Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame". IPWHF.
  27. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2000). "Japan:All Japan International & World Tag Team Titles". Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 369. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  28. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2000). "Tennessee: U.S. Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 194. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  29. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2000). "Japan: TWWA Trans-World Wrestling Association Title (Isao Yoshihara)". Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 365. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  30. ^ Puroresu Dojo. "NWA North American Heavyweight Championship (Tri-State/Mid-South)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
  31. ^ Duncan, Royal; Will, Gary (2000). "NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title". Wrestling Title Histories (4th ed.). Archeus Communications. p. 12. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
  32. ^ Laurer, Karl. "Danny Hodge". Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum. Archived from the original on 2009-04-18. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  33. ^ "Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Retrieved 2020-12-26.

External linksEdit