He might have won no titles during a run with the WWF which, including sporadic appearances, lasted between 1991 and 2016, Tatanka proved to be a hugely popular superstar amongst the WWE faithful. Today, we ask ‘Whatever Happened to’ Chris Chavis, the man under the red mohawk.
Ah, Tatanka. It is only really through making my way through the 1993 episodes of ‘Monday Night Raw’ for our ‘Raw Rewind’ series that I realised just how over Tatanka was with the WWF fans. It’s quite remarkable the reaction he got, not only upon his entrance but also his no-sell comeback spot towards the end of his matches.
Born 8 June 1961, Christopher Chavis started powerlifting and bodybuilding early in his career before receiving numerous NFL tryouts.
While trying out a career in accountancy, a chance encounter in a video store, whilst looking at wrestling tapes, with ‘Nature Boy’ Buddy Rogers resulted in Chavis contacting Larry Sharpe, who ran a wrestling school. Soon after, he began competing in the ring, including a stint for former WWF booker George Scott.
In early 1991, he began receiving tryouts for the WWF, including wins over the Brooklyn Brawler, Skinner and Dale Wolfe, all while wrestling under the name ‘The War Eagle’. Adopting the name ‘Tatanka’, a Lakota word that means ‘buffalo’, Chavis started appearing on TV as a fan-favourite.
As Tatanka, Chavis performed a war dance to the Lumbee tribal war cry, he is part of that tribe, that preceded his entrance to the ring, and had a red stripe dyed in the middle of his hair.
His TV debut came in victorious fashion over Pat Tanaka on the 1st of February 1992 edition of Superstars. He would proceed to be undefeated, on TV anyway, until the 30th of October 1993 edition of Superstars where he lost, via pinfall, to Ludvig Borga, thanks, in no small part, to steel chair shots.
During the following summer, he aligned himself with the ‘Million Dollar Corporation’ and engaged in a feud with Lex Luger, which he lost. In late 1995, he was suspended by the company as a pre-emptive measure ahead of a lawsuit he was to be named in stemming from an assault on a female, however, it was later determined he was not involved and he returned at the 1996 Royal Rumble, where he was eliminated by Diesel. That same year, he left the company citing family reasons and spiritual causes.
Although the war was heating up between WWF and World Championship Wrestling, Chavis rebuffed Eric Bischoff’s advances, to, instead, wrestle on the independent scene in order to maintain a lighter schedule.
In fact, it wasn’t until 2005 when he returned to our screens, as a supposed one-off deal in a programme involving Eugene. In the end, this run lasted until 2007 although, ironically, it came to an end following a losing streak, during which time Tatanka began painting the top half of his face black and the lower half white. Chavis claimed he asked for his release, via his website, although stated he wasn’t yet done with the WWF.
So, Whatever Happened to Chris Chavis. To this day, he continues to make in-ring appearances, including several in the WWE, the most recent being in 2016 at WrestleMania 32 where he appeared in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal. He lives in Spring Hill, Florida with his wife Michelle and their four children – two daughters and two sons.
You can read all previous ‘Whatever Happened to’ pieces here.