On this day: Danno O’Mahony makes American wrestling debut
The legendary Cork strong man first appeared on the US professional wrestling circuit 86 years ago today
Today marks 86 years since professional Irish wrestler Danno O’Mahony first made his American debut, bringing down two members of the legendary Dusek family, brothers Ernie and Rudy, as well as the referee of the match in front of a cheering crowd.
Later in the same year, 1935, the Cork native won the National Wrestling Association’s world heavyweight championship against Ed Don George in Boston. He continued to remain undefeated, in over 70 matches, until November of that year and went on to have a huge impact on the sport over a short career.
Originally from Ballydehob, O’Mahony has been described as one of the greats in the world of wrestling, inspiring a generation of future athletes and a bronze statue in his home village in West Cork.
“He was like a meteor,” wrestling historian and journalist Dave Meltzer told The Southern Star last year. “He was big and had a good look. He was promoted very heavily as the strongest man in the world.”
O’ Mahony was born in 1912 and while he was considered a fierce athlete, winning multiple throwing competitions and setting military records while serving in the defence forces, he had little experience in wrestling.
That was before a promoter found him through Irish Olympian Patrick O’Callaghan and brought him to the US. Within a few years, he was drawing the biggest crowds the sport had ever seen and became a household name in many Irish American communities.
“He was a gigantic celebrity. He would have been bigger than the biggest baseball players. My perception would be that he would be at the [Hulk] Hogan and Rock level as far as like a real superstar,” Meltzer said.
O’Mahony was just 22 at the time of his match against the Dusek brothers and his world heavyweight championship title, making him the youngest in history to be crowned. Today, he remains the second-youngest to hold the title behind Lou Thesz, who won the championship in 1937 at the age of 21.
O’Mahony returned to Ireland in 1936, after receiving a bad blow earlier in the year at Madison Square Garden courtesy of an opponent trying to injure him. The sport’s popularity started to wane around the time as controversies shrouded matches.
Thousands of fans attended his homecoming at Cobh, where the athlete arrived before being escorted home to West Cork with a hero’s welcome.
The star returned to the US after, running a restaurant and wrestling locally in L.A., before sadly passing away in a car accident in Ireland at age 38.
His signature move, the Irish Whip, is still used by wrestlers around the world to this day and his grave in West Cork is a frequent stop for wrestling fans.