Grappling With Tragedy: Danno O’Mahony

Brian Damage

Grappling with Tragedy is a series of articles that deal with unfortunate, tragic incidents that have occurred throughout the history of professional wrestling. It is unlike the ‘Wrestling with Sin’ series that deals more with the seedier side of wrestling like arrests, murders and suicides. Grappling looks more at particular tragic incidents that have in some instances altered pro wrestling in some way.

Danno O’Mahony

In 1932, a northeast wrestling promoter named Paul Bowser was looking for a pro wrestler of Irish decent to become a star for him in his territory. Places like New York City, Boston and other New England cities that Bowser promoted in had a dense Irish population. After numerous attempts and failures to find that Irish superstar in the United States….Bowser looked at finding that star overseas in Ireland. He was directed at a young man who was serving time in the Irish army named Daniel “Danno” O’Mahony.

Danno was a poor farmer who joined the army to make money to help support his six brothers and one sister making 15 dollars a month in the army. Despite having no experience wrestling, the offer to become rich and famous was too good to pass up. He began training to become a wrestler on his army downtime and ultimately traveling to London, England to further his training after his army discharge.

Danno O’Mahony had his debut match in 1934 against the legendary Ed ‘The Strangler’ Lewis in London and was pinned in just under 5 minutes. More intense training was needed for O’Mahony to be considered a legit wrestling star. Eventually, Danno and his trainer/manager Jack McGrath arrived in the United States in 1935, where Danno was signed to a five year 100,000 dollar contract by Paul Bowser. Danno would have his debut match in the States at the Boston Gardens where he was victorious.

Danno would go on to have a 62 match undefeated streak and was crowned a version of the world champion for a New York territory. A month later in July of 1935, Danno wrestled another world champion named Ed Don George in a world title unification match at Braves Field in Boston, Massachusetts. Over 45,000 fans witnessed Danno defeat Ed Don George in an hour and 30 minutes to become the unified world heavyweight champion.

Danno would return to his native Ireland as world champion and was greeted by hundreds of thousands of his adoring fans. He had become a national icon in Ireland. Danno would continue to wrestle for another few years until his retirement in 1948 at the age of 36. After retirement, O’Mahony opened a pub named O’Mahony’s Irish Whip which was the name of the move he innovated and is commonplace in pro wrestling to this day.

In November of 1950, Danno returned to Ireland to visit family and friends. While driving on a dark, unlit road in the evening, Danno rear ended a disabled truck with a flat tire. Danno suffered multiple injures including two broken legs, broken ribs and a ruptured liver. He was dragged out of his vehicle by good Samaritans and rushed to a local hospital. A couple of hours later, O’Mahony succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead.

His wake and funeral was like a national day of mourning in Ireland with thousands, upon thousands of people attending from several towns across the country. Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the New York Times simply had a blurb about his death. Danno O’Mahony was just 38 years old at the time of his death.

In 2001, a statue of Danno was erected in his hometown of Ballydehob.

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