Danny Hodge Death – Undisclosed Causes

danny hodge death

Wrestling legend Danny Hodge dies at 88.

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.

Grappling Greatness

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.

danny hodge hiro matsuda

Danny Hodge battles rival Hiro Matsuda

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.

danny hodge eddie graham sportatorium

Legends of the territories: Danny Hodge (left) with Eddie Graham, outside the Sportatorium in Dallas.

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.

danny hodge nwa junior heavyweight champion

Danny Hodge with the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship belt

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.

What are your favorite memories of Danny Hodge? Let us know in the comments below.