Forgotten legends of WWE - Tatanka
Probably the most well known native American professional wrestler ever to step foot in the four sided ring, Chris Chavis aka Tatanka made his wrestling debut in 1991.
Initially a body builder by profession, he won many competitions making a name for himself . He switched through many careers early on like being an accountant, a footballer and even a divisional manager at a tennis corporation before turning to professional wrestling.
He met “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers at Florida video store while looking for wrestling tapes and through a fortunate turn of events, took to professional wrestling and defeated Ken Shamrock to become the ‘South Atlantic Heavyweight Champion and was soon rewarded with a WWF contract.
After wrestling in tryout matches, Tatanka made his TV debut as a ‘face’ on February 1, 1992 episode of Superstars, defeating Pat Tanaka. The highlight of Tatanka’s entrance was perhaps his war dance and war cry that preceded his entrance to the ring. He also sported a red stripe dyed in the middle of his hair giving him a proper native American look.
Tatanka’s earliest rivalry was against Rick ‘the model’ Martel, a feud that culminated in a match at WrestleMania VIII that Tatanka eventually won. On May 18, 1992, Tatanka became a household name in the industry winning the 40-man Bashed in the USA Battle Royal. He feuded once again with Martel, this time at Survivor Series emerging victorious for the second time.
Tatanka received his first ever title shot against the ‘Heart Break Kid’ Shawn Michaels for the WWF Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania IX. Tatanka won the match by means of a count-out. However, since a title could not legitimately change hands on account of a count-out, Michaels retained the title much to Tatanka’s dismay.
Tatanka was honored by previous Native American professional wrestlers Chief Jay Strongbow and Chief Wahoo McDaniel who presented him a Chief Headdress.
In the early half of 1994, Tatanka turned his attention to Lex Luger accusing him of selling out to Ted DiBiase, which resulted in a feud between the two. Tatanka turned heel and joined DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. He spent the remainder of the year feuding with Luger which resulted in a cage match on Raw that saw Luger emerge victorious.
On March 19, 1996, Tatanka wrestled his final WWF match, losing to the WWF Champion Bret Hart. He left the WWF citing family and spiritual issues but continued appearing in independent promotions, which allowed him to wrestle while maintaining a lighter schedule.
In 2005, he returned to Raw once again to face Eugene in the “Eugene Invitational”, a three-minute match with Kurt Angle‘s Olympic gold medal on the line, which he lost after Angle interfered.
Tatanka returned to a full-time schedule for WWE at the tail end of 2005. He participated in the Royal Rumble match at the January 2006 event before moving full-time to the SmackDown brand.
As face, Tatanka engaged in a mini-feud with Sylvain Grenier and Simon Dean before he was involved in an angle where he entered into a losing streak due to, what he perceived to be, poor decision-making by referees during his matches. Later on that year, Tatanka, alongside his partner Bobby Lashley, lost a match to William Regal and Dave Taylor when a wily Regal pinned Tatanka by illegally using the ropes. After the match, an upset and frustrated Tatanka turned heel by attacking the referee and then his partner Lashley.
He asked for his WWE release and was subsequently released by the company on January 2007. WWE.com noted this event with these parting words: “Tatanka is an accomplished veteran of the squared circle. The Native American made a splash upon his entrance to the WWE in the early 90s, remaining undefeated for 2-years.” Tatanka stated on his official website that he quit on mutual consent and that he was not done with WWE yet and would certainly like to return to the ring someday.
Even though he was not the most accomplished WWE wrestler, he was indeed a true champion in his own rights. With his body paint, his hair dress and his war cries, Tatanka certainly made a name for himself and his community in the WWE, and we are proud to honour this Native American legend.