The Golden Age of Wrestling - Flying Don Eagle

Saturday Afternoon Sports

When I was a kid, two things drew my attention to Saturday afternoon television: Roller Derby and Big Time Wrestling. The professional wrestling program was local and often filmed in Veteran's Memorial Hall downtown on the Scioto River.

Other towns in the Greater Columbus Area received local wrestling shows from Dayton and Cincinnati, making Ohio a pretty popular place for wrestling shows on broadcast TV. This was long before cable TV and pay-per-view bouts. Folks could go downtown to Veterans Memorial hall and see the shows live in Columbus.

Occasionally on the local shows and in special television productions with bigger names in pro wrestling, Flying Don Eagle would compete, wearing a Mohawk hairstyle.

At some point in the match, Eagle would perform a war dance and use a flying drop kick to his opponent.

Later I learned that this technique is what martial artists call the twin-foot jumping side kick (using both feet). It was great to watch! Little did I imagine that I would be teaching this technique one day, but it was always my favorite move.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kahnawake, Quebec in 1907. Joseph War Eagle was Chief. Don Eagle was born in 1925.Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) Indians at Camp, painted by Cornelius Krieghoff
Kahnawake, Quebec in 1907. Joseph War Eagle was Chief. Don Eagle was born in 1925.
Kahnawake, Quebec in 1907. Joseph War Eagle was Chief. Don Eagle was born in 1925. | Source
Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) Indians at Camp, painted by Cornelius Krieghoff
Caughnawaga (Kahnawake) Indians at Camp, painted by Cornelius Krieghoff | Source

Real First Nation

Chief Don Eagle was a member of the Mohawk Nation on the Kahnawake Reserve in Quebec, Canada. The more I learned about the Chief as I grew older, the better I liked him.

Standing 6'2", the Chief was born in 1925 on the Kahnawake Reserve, but unfortunately died in the spring of 1966 in his early forties. He had enjoyed fame, a big box office take, and even regional championships.

Billy Two Rivers, from the same reserve, looked up to Chief Don Eagle and the inroads he'd made not only into pro wrestling, but into understanding between First Nations and whites.

The Chief would have been pleased to be on Earth to see the active partnership of the First Nations in planning and implementing the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. His work in the 1960s was a part of bringing First Nations a larger voice in Canada in 2010.

Billy Two Rivers also became a professional wrestler because Chief Don Eagle brought him to my childhood home of Columbus, Ohio and Big Time Wrestling in order to train.

If the two Mohawks were in Columbus today, Vet's Memorial would be deluged with wrestling fans, given the play they'd have from digital media and the popularity of current wrestling federations in America. As it is, Billy Two Rivers was born in 1935, making him 76 at this writing. He had a successful quarter-century career and 5 years as Chief Don Eagle's tag team partner.

Having Mohawk heritage, I'm distantly related to both these two wrestlers and Chiefs, but Don Eagle was my favorite many years before I learned about my heritage.

Canadian Wrestlers Were Golden

The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians
The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Canadians

Many famous wrestlers from a golden time in professional wrestling show up in this book to bring you memories and fun. Canada probably contributed the largest number of well known wrestlers to the sport, including several First Nations members.

 

From Kahnawake to Quebec

show route and directions
A markerKahnawake, Quebec -
Kahnawake, QC J0L, Canada
[get directions]

B markerColumbus, Ohio -
Columbus, OH, USA
[get directions]

Don Eagel vs. Dan Miller in Buffalo, 1959

Two-time AWA world Heavy Weight Champion. he stood 6'2" and weighed 222 pounds.
Two-time AWA world Heavy Weight Champion. he stood 6'2" and weighed 222 pounds. | Source

He Was Called a "Colorful Character"

Don Eagle was trained in wrestling by his father, Chief Joseph War Eagle. In addition to this sport, Don Eagle also trained in Jiujutsu and Fencing, (both of which I enjoy doing) and also Boxing. In fact, he was the champion of the Cleveland Golden Gloves Heavyweight tournament in 1945. In his years of wrestling, he suffered many injuries including damage to the vertebrae (back injuries).

Don Eagle's back pain and death were similar to those of actor George Reeves (died in 1959). Some of the media reported that Don Eagle shot himself in 1966, while other sources adamantly denied this.

Since Don Eagle lived in Columbus, the people there talked a lot about his match with Gorgeous George for twenty years after the 1950 fiasco. Having done a flying shoulder block to George, Don Eagle landed prone on the floor -- The referee, Mullihan, called Don Eagle out and gave the point to George. In another round, Don Eagle was counted out while one shoulder was still off the mat, planned according to the match promoter's scheme with George. Having been a boxer, Don got up and punched Mullihan out and was suspended from the sport in Illinois.

This all sounds like another sportsman from Columbus - Woody Hayes, who punched a photographer and more in 1956, 1971, 1973, 1977, and 1978, all with fines, suspensions, probation, and a firing (References: OSU Archives; and ESPN Classic at espn.goDOTcom/classic/s/add_hayes_woody.html and quoted in Comments below). Some opinions are that Don Eagle should have punched out the promoter and Gorgeous George as well.

Don Eagle continued to wrestle and draw big crowds, then brought Billy Two Rivers down from the reserve to Columbus to become another wrestling star. I wish I'd been old enough to talk to both of them.

Chief Don Eagle will always be my favorite wrestler.

Chief Don Eagle's Descendants

  • Flint Tecumseh Eagle - War Chief Don Eagle's (Carl Donald Bell's) youngest son is a well respected stuntman in Hollywood who has worked on films like Pacific Rim.
  • Chief Jack Eagle - Don Eagle's oldest son lives in Anaheim CA and operates the Mohawk Radio Show.
  • John Kim Eagle (Bell) - John is a well known composer who has received the Officer of the Order of Canada for his combined works. In 2010, John and his wife made a TV Documentary of Don Eagle's Life.
  • Kevin Hamilton Eagle
  • Lance Eagle
  • Hunter Eagle
  • Star Louise Eagle
  • Pam Eagle

More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

Patty,

I grew up watching wrestling and roller derby with my dad. I liked wrestling a lot, but loveddddd roller derby, which is making a come back and gaining in popularity in local fringes. One of my cousins back home has been skating on a local RD team for a couple of years now.

I remember Gorgeous George, but not Chief Don or Two Rivers - sadly.

And when I read the account of Chief Don being unfairly ref'd ... I'm in agreement with the ones who think he should have punched the ref, GG and the promoter.

I love to play sports ... STILL! But there is nothing fun or impressive about an unfair win.

Thanks for the introduction of these two gentlemen. I'm interested to learn a little more about both of them. :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for enjoying this article, flemmeflashpoint. -- I've been searching for years for info on Don Eagle, but little is available. Hopefully, my plan to go up and visit the reserve will happen in the spring or summer and I can ask questions. Until then, I am going to look at eBay for vintage wresting magazines. I wish someone would write a related book.


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

I agree about the related book, and think you should get to work on it right away, lol!


Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

I grew up with wrestling.. we really liked the local.. and Roller derby was the best... LOL. I didn't know about Don Eagle.. Great article and great research done.. I voted up and awesome


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

femme - lol indeed. It could be a 10 page eBook, but that would be good. I'll get started.

Deborah Brooks - wish I could have written more, He really died too soon.


femmeflashpoint 5 years ago

Patty,

If I were back home, I would LOVE to help on a project like this. But my schedule is so tight here, I couldn't pull it off and do it justice.

However, if you come up with even a 10 page book, I'll be sure to buy it and spread the word.

femme


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks! - I'll see what I can do.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you so much for such a wonderful hub. It was a feast for me, as you know. Beautiful and such proud people. We could have learned a lot from them, if not the lot.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thank you very much, Hello hello. We could have done more for Don Eagle when he lived here.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Paddy, those were the days, wrestling and roller derby was on our TV has well enjoyed watching both of them, my mom was a big roller derby fan .I just watched a movie about roller derby called Whip It, it was a very fun movie. Thanks for the memories .


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

I like those memories too and miss the Bay Area Bombers!


Interior Salish One 4 years ago

There was a fabulous documentary on Reel NW about John Kim Bell the composer and his dad Don Eagle and Grandpa Chief Joseph War Eagle. Wonderful information for those who want more info on the wrestlers, atheletes. Highly enjoyable. Was just on last night.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

Thanks very much for that information.I will look for that to play again. John Kim Bell is still around, although his website says nothing of his relatives.


lynne c. 4 years ago

Ms. Inglish, here's the correct quote you're looking for, from the same news ad, near the end:

QUOTE "Bauman wasn't the first person Hayes swung at on the football field. At the 1973 Rose Bowl, he hit a Los Angeles Times photographer and at the 1977 Michigan game, he punched an ABC cameraman." UNQUOTE


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

OK, thanks, and there's more in the OSU archives. Hayes punched a bystander in 1956, was restrained from starting a fight in 1965, threw an on-field fit of destructive rage in 1971 and was fined $1,000 with a 1-game suspension; punched or shoved a camera into the face of a photographer in 1973 and was fined $2,000 with a 3-game suspension; and accosted an ABC cameraman in 1977 and was fined $2,000 with a Big 10 probation.


joe 3 years ago

nice article i live in his famly home in kanawake


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks Joe. How do you like Kanawake?


trusouldj profile image

trusouldj 2 years ago from Indiana

Never heard of this guy. But if you have a book in you, write it.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 2 years ago from North America Author

I wonder if there are any books on Don Eagle? I have not seen one. Probably, there is plenty of info at the Six Nations Reserve. I wish I'd known at the time that he lived in my hometown when I was in elementary school.


muffinrw 12 months ago

I grew up with Don and Billy Two Rivers. Don Trained Billy and my 1st cousin Nelson Royal. I have lots of memories. I thought about writing a book on the 3 of them. Maybe I will.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 12 months ago from North America Author

@muffinrw - I would love to see that book! I remember the name Nelson Royal, too.

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