Danny Hodge Death – Undisclosed Causes
1932-2020 (Age 88)
Never judge a book by a cover is sound advice (or as Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu argued, know your enemy). After all, who would expect an 80-year-old man to be capable of crushing an apple with one hand? Such was the case with Danny Hodge, an unassuming man who became one of the most decorated amateur and professional wrestlers of all time.
Professional wrestling has seen some incredible amateur wrestlers make the transition to the pros, but few with as decorated a wrestling background as Danny Hodge. Born on May 13, 1932 in Perry, Oklahoma, Hodge was a standout as a high school wrestler and was only getting started.
There is simply no denying Danny Hodge’s greatness as an amateur wrestler. Hodge wrestled for the University of Oklahoma, earning a 46-0 record that included three “Big Seven” wrestling championships and three NCAA wrestling championships.
Legend has it that he was never taken off his feet during his amateur days, an amazing feat if true. As of this writing, Hodge is the only amateur wrestler to be featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which should tell you all you need to know about how big he was as an amateur competitor.
The accomplished athlete competed in wrestling at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, winning the silver at the ’56 event. Despite no training in boxing, Hodge decided to learn the sweet science, winning the Golden Gloves title in 1958, becoming the first amateur athlete to win a national title in wrestling and boxing.
Hodge’s amateur skills made him a natural for the pro ranks and he proved to be a talented performer in the ring, finding stardom. Hodge held the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship an amazing eight times and by the early 1960’s, was earning over $80,000 a year, quite the sum for the time.
Titan in the Territory Era
Hodge was renowned for his technical skills and traveled the world, competing in Japan and other wrestling hotspots outside the United States.
Like many NWA Champions, Hodge knew how to make an opponent look like a million dollars yet still emerge from a match victorious, setting up a future rematch as fans wondered how the local hero might fare on another occasion.
It’s important to remember that the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship was a prestigious title when Hodge held it and should not be seen as a low-card title.
A Career Cut Short
On March 15, 1976, Hodge was driving his car when he fell asleep at the wheel, crashing through a bridge and into a lake.
Hodge broke his neck and shattered his teeth but the double-tough Hodge wasn’t tapping out to the Grim Reaper. Hodge punched out his car window and swam to safety, holding his neck in place until he could get help.
While the accident forced him to retire from wrestling, Hodge had already made his mark with a phenomenal career.
A Highly Respected Name
Long considered one of the toughest men in the sport, Hodge’s amateur and professional accomplishments were lauded by anyone who followed his career, including fellow Oklahoman Jim Ross.
Even after retirement, Hodge made occasional appearances in wrestling, including two on RAW. He also served as the chairman of the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Commission, which regulates all combat sports in the state.
The prestigious Dan Hodge Trophy is named after Hodge and recognizes the nation’s top collegiate wrestler.
Hodge’s accomplishments led to his induction into the George Tragos / Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, and several awards from the Cauliflower Alley Club including its Art Abrams Lifetime Achievement Award.
Danny Hodge Death
According to wrestling journalist Greg Oliver, Hodge died on December 24, 2020 (other reports have it as Christmas Day) and had been suffering from dementia. He was 88.
Danny Hodge was married to his wife Delores and had three children.
The WWE issued a statement honoring his life and career while wrestlers and others in the industry took to social media to applaud him, including William Regal, Jim Ross, Ted DiBiase, Edge, and the Iron Sheik.
Very saddened to learn of the loss of Danny Hodge. I always absolutely loved spending time with him and sitting under his learning tree. From speaking to him you’d never know all that he accomplished. Please do yourself a favor and look it up. Truly legendary. Rest in power. pic.twitter.com/aoBmcIYtmG
— Adam (Edge) Copeland (@EdgeRatedR) December 26, 2020
IT BREAK MY HEART TO SAY GOODBYE TO THE LEGEND DANNY HODGE. DANNY BUBBA YOU WERE AS GOOD IN THE RING AS IT GETS AND AN EVEN BETTER FRIEND OUTSIDE OF THE RING. A REAL SHOOTER AND WORLD CLASS GENTLEMAN. GOD BLESS YOU FOREVER. https://t.co/SDrmnjZw6g pic.twitter.com/3Ewb6DrEsh
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) December 26, 2020
One of the best professional and amateur wrestlers ever, has passed away. Danny Hodge is gone to be with the Lord. Our loss, Heaven’s gain. RIP my friend. pic.twitter.com/hM99cY8fYE
— Ted DiBiase (@MDMTedDiBiase) December 26, 2020
I’ve just seen the saddening news from my friend @Fgbrisco that the legendary Danny Hodge has passed away. Please take the time to google this incredible man and his career both in Wrestling and Boxing. I always loved talking to him. My deepest condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/NToh6LuGnc
— William Regal (@RealKingRegal) December 26, 2020
Hard to believe that my boyhood hero, riding partner, and mentor, the great #DannyHodge has passed away.
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) December 26, 2020
What are your favorite memories of Danny Hodge? Let us know in the comments below.