Former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion Danny Hodge passed away on December 25, 2020, at the age of 88. Eight-time NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, was the living embodiment of an MMA fighter, maybe 40 years too early. Hodge was the definition of a shooter and hooker. The man had an ungodly hand grip, he’d regularly squish apples with his barehand. Professional Wrestling Fans will remember Danny Hodge as one of the greatest to ever lace up a pair of boots.
The Grandfather of MMA
Bruce Lee is considered to be the grandfather of MMA, it should have been Danny Hodge. Long before the likes of Brock Lesnar, Kurt Angle, or even Dan Severn, Danny Hodge had competed in boxing and wrestling. The man wrestled at the 177 weight-class for the University of Oklahoma, Hodge won 3 NCAA Championships. Hodge was never taken down during his collegiate career, as a result, he never lost. While competing in College he also joined the Olympic Free-Style team in 1956 in Melbourne, Australia. Those who witnessed the match said Hodge was robbed of the Gold Medal. The referee called for a pinfall while he was rolling with a move, as a result, Hodge would win a silver medal. After his career in College Wrestling, he turned his attention to boxing. As an amateur, he won 17 bouts, with no losses and 12 knockouts. Hodge won the National Golden Gloves championship at the Mecca of pro wrestling, Madison Square Gardens.
World Junior Heavyweight World Champion
Danny Hodge held the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Championship more times than anyone else, longer than anyone else. He was World Jr. Heavyweight Champion for a combined 4,141 days. To put that into comparison, the champion with the 2nd most days as champion was Mike Quackenbush, who held the belt for 1275 days. The combined reigns of his 2 biggest rivals Angelo Savoldi and Hiro Matsuda aren’t even half as long as Hodge’s reign.
Rivalry with Hiro Matsuda
Hodge and Matsuda would face each other 26 times from 1964 to 1976, with five of those matches been for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title. The two would battle in Championship Wrestling from Florida, NWA Tri-State, Georgia Championship Wrestling, Gulf Coast Wrestling, and in Japan for IWE and JWA. Hodge was one of the few that worked quite regularly in Japan.
Always a Champion
The dominant champion also held the NWA Pacific Northwest Tag Titles with Shag Thomas, the NWA Missouri Junior Heavyweight Championship and was a five-time NWA US Tag Team Champion with Lorenzo Parente and would go on to win those titles with Luke Brown and Jay Clayton, he was the Mid-South North American Champion and would hold the NWA Tri-State Tag Team Titles with Scandor Akbar and again with Jose Lothario. Briefly, Hodge teamed with Wilbur Snyder to win the NWA International Tag Team Titles by defeating the duo of Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki in Hiroshima Japan, those titles would be retired in All Japan Pro Wrestling in 1988.
Hodge passed away at 88 years of age. The former Jr. Heavyweight Champion is celebrated by the Cauliflower Alley Club for the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Lou Thesz Award. Hodge was inducted into the NWA Hall of Fame back in 2010. He is in The National Wrestling Hall of Fame “Dan Gable Museum” in Waterloo, Iowa. He is also slated to be inducted into the International Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame next year as well.