He was one of the most popular stars of the 1990′s in WWF and has been one 3 WWE runs in total during his career. He was unique to the company given he was one of the only Native American wrestler to ever wrestle for WWE. Tatanka was one of the biggest names in the company when he first came in, setting an unprecedented feat in the first two years of his career. However, despite his success he never won a major championship within WWE. I look back over the three runs Tatanka had in WWE and what I think of him overall.
Tatanka first joined the WWF in 1991, coming in under his real name, Chris Chavis. He soon became known as Tatanka in the WWF in February 1992 and became unique in the fact he performed a war dance on the Lumbee tribal war cry that preceded his entrance to the ring, and had a red stripe dyed in the middle of his hair. Tatanka was undefeated on WWF television with his earliest rivalry on television against Rick Martel that culminated in Tatanka’s pay-per-view debut at WrestleMania VIII, with Tatanka winning the match.
At WrestleMania IX, Tatanka received his first televised title shot in WWF against Shawn Michaels for the WWF Intercontinental Championship. Tatanka won the match by count-out. Since a title could not change hands on a count-out, Michaels retained the title. On an October 1993 edition of Superstars, Tatanka suffered his first televised defeat in the WWF, losing to Ludvig Borga when Borga hit Tatanka in the back with a steel chair while Mr. Fuji distracted the referee. After the match, he was attacked by WWF Champion Yokozuna and was subsequently out of action for three months.
Tatanka returned to the WWF in 1994 and engaged in a storyline feud with Irwin R. Schyster, who insisted he pay a gift tax on items given to him by previous Native American professional wrestlers Chief Jay Strongbow and Chief Wahoo McDaniel and Lumbee tribesman Ray Littleturtle of a full length Lumbee tribe Chief Headdress. During the summer of 1994, Tatanka accused Lex Luger of selling out to Ted DiBiase, which resulted in a match between the two. Afterward, DiBiase entered the ring with a red, white and blue bag full of money. Luger kicked the bag out of DiBiase’s hands resulting in Tatanka attacking him and turning him into a villain at Summerslam, joining DiBiase’s Million Dollar Corporation. Tatanka would later leave the WWF in the spring of 1996, citing family and spiritual issues.
Chavis returned to a full-time schedule for WWE as “Tatanka” at the tail end of 2005 and engaged in a few brief feuds, turning heel in the process. He asked for, and was, released from his WWE contract in 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 requested to be released and mentioned he was not done with WWE as he would like to return someday.
It was great how WWE built up Tatanka back in the day when he first came into the company, and how he went undefeated for the best part of 2 years. However, I feel it was a poor decision to end such a prolific streak on a television show such as Superstars. Granted, WWF only had four Pay Per Views in 1992 and five in 1993, but I feel they would have been a better place for the loss to come. I also feel Tatanka was served an injustice by not ever holding a championship during his time in the WWF. He certainly was one of the better performers and wrestlers of his era, and if anything, deserved to defeat Shawn Michaels for the Intercontinental Championship. He was never going to be WWF Champion in my mind, but certainly I would have had no argument with him as Intercontinental Champion.
Sadly following the undefeated streak Tatanka suffered in WWF. Although I did enjoy the heel turn when he became part of the Million Dollar Corporation it just didn’t seem to be something he was comfortable being and I believe this contributed to him leaving originally in 1996. It was great to see him return to WWE again in 2005 but I feel that once again he suffered when he was turned heel. Tatanka just isn’t a confident heel for me, and it is a shame he was not allowed to continue as a face.
Tatanka is without a doubt a sure fire Hall of Famer in WWE and I hope we will see him once again on our screens in a few one off appearances, maybe even another short come back. As always, I would like to hear your thoughts on Tatanka. Do you feel he was a great star who deserved better in terms of championships and a better end to the televised undefeated streak? Or do you feel WWE handled him right throughout the runs he had in WWE. I very much look forward to reading your thoughts.