Danny Hodge, NWA Legend, Passes Away at 88

Danny Hodge, considered by many to be one of the greatest technical wrestlers in the history of amateur and professional wrestling, passed away late on Christmas night. No cause of death has been given for the Oklahoma star, although he had been battling dementia in recent years. The former 7x National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) Junior Heavyweight Champion was 88 years old.

A standout high school and collegiate wrestler with the University of Oklahoma, Danny Hodge was a 3x NCAA Division I Champion and went undefeated at 46-0 during his collegiate career. Due to his collegiate wrestling accomplishments, in 1995, the Danny Hodge Trophy was created to recognize the nation’s top collegiate wrestler, similar to football’s Heisman Trophy. His mat wrestling brought to him to two Olympics Games –  he placed 5th in Finland in 1952 but captured the Silver Medal in 1956 in Australia. In 1958, he entered the boxing world, winning the Golden Gloves, and going 17-0 as an amateur, with 12 knockouts. He went pro, but after an 8-2 start to his pro boxing career, he retired from the sport, opting to try his hand in professional wrestling instead. He was trained by former NWA champions Leroy McGuirk and Ed “Strangler” Lewis and debuted in October of the same year.

Danny Hodge became a mainstay in McGuirk’s NWA Tri-State territory (that encompassed Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, and became Mid-South in 1979), as well as competing in other NWA territories such as Sam Muchnik‘s St. Louis Club, Ed McLemore‘s Southwest Sports in Texas (better known as WCCW in the 1980s), and Cowboy Luttrall‘s Championship Wrestling From Florida. Hodge became a huge star in the NWA’s Junior Heavyweight division throughout the 1960s and 1970s, capturing his first NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship in 1960, defeating champion Angelo Savoldi for the title less than a year into his pro wrestling career. He would hold the title for 1,450 days, finally losing it in 1964. His fourth reign would prove to be his longest, at 1,532 days, when he won it in 1966 and held it until into 1970. He would win his seventh and final NWA Junior Heavyweight title in March of 1976 and two weeks later, retired from the sport still champion. He was also a 6x NWA United States Tag Team Champion and NWA Tri-State North American Champion.

One of Danny Hodge’s most famous abilities was that of his vice-like grip, attributed to the fact he had double tendons. His grip was so severe that he could crush whole apples in one hand in seconds, a feat he would continue to accomplish well into his 80s. Hodge was also a continuous mentor to other aspiring pro wrestlers, training at the UFWi Snake Pit in Tokyo alongside Billy Robinson.

Last Word on Pro Wrestling sends its condolences to Danny Hodge’s family, friends, and fans during this time.

Stay tuned to Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. 

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