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Chief Little Wolf (1911-1984)


Real NameVentura Tenario

Lifespan - 11/25/11 - 11/13/84

5’9” 244 lbs. - Hoene, CO


Athletic BackgroundWrestling, Boxing

Teacher(s) - n/a

AliasesBenny Tenario, Ben Tenario, Big Chief Little Wolf

Peak Years1930s

Place in HistoryWhile the Old West was basically gone by the time Ventura Tenario was born, it was still celebrated in movies, comic books, radio stories and other media up into the mid-twentieth century.  Many countries outside of the Americas developed a fascination with the Native American peoples.  Tenario, born of Mexican and Navajo parents, grew up in a adobe and joined the carnivals at a young age.  His backstory was ideal for a career in pro-wrestling.  After earning his lumps in wrestling and boxing matches, he had an opportunity to train with Everett Marshall.  Within a few years, Little Wolf was under the guidance of Toots Mondt, who liked the youngster’s colorful personality.  Little Wolf’s stocky, powerful build, his energetic in-ring style, his war cries and his trademark Indian Deathlock was perfect for those fans in California.  Wins over Man Mountain Dean, Gus Sonnenburg and Milo Steinborn had him primed for a championship match with Jim Londos.  However, it never happened.  While he did have a big match with Danno O’Mahoney, Little Wolf never won a version of the world title.  He spent some time on his ranch and then headed to Australia.  The country immediately fell in love with the charismatic American Indian who became known as “Big Chief Little Wolf.”  He wrestled all the country’s top names as well as some imports, particularly the Texas roughneck “Dirty” Dick Raines, who is his most notable adversary.  Save his time in the Army during the Second World War, Little Wolf returned to Australia every year and fell in love with the country.  In 1952, Little Wolf relocated to Melbourne and began promoting a tent show that traveled all over the country.  He told Navajo stories, demonstrated pro-wrestling holds and horse-riding tricks.  Until a stroke ended his career in 1958, Little Wolf’s show was a cultural institution and claims were made that three-quarters of the population saw the show.  He remained in the country until 1984 when he returned to the US shortly before his death.  Chief Little Wolf may not be the most well-remembered Native American wrestler in the United States, he has an impressive legacy in Australia and his accomplishments in the States are exceptional as well.

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