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Carl Donald Bell (August 25, 1925 - March 17, 1966), better known by his ring name Chief Don Eagle, was a Mohawk Native American professional wrestler during the 1950s and 1960s. Originally from Kahnawake, Quebec, Eagle became an AWA Boston World Champion.
Don Eagle began his boxing career in 1945, after a brief time working in the steel and construction industry. He had been trained solely by his father, Chief Joseph War Eagle (John Bell, who died from natural causes on August 27, 1979 aged 80), a former ring veteran and former Junior Heavyweight Champion himself, although Joe War Eagle never gained the attention his son later achieved.
In his first year, Eagle competed in 22 contests and won 17. He beat the established Red Dawson by pinfall in just under 16 minutes.
Being something of a rarity in Canada, Eagle quickly gained attention as a superb technical and innovative wrestler, renowned for escaping from and reversing many holds placed on him. Traveling from area to area, Eagle was known for his flamboyant longCadillac which housed a 20-foot canoe on top. His passion for outdoor sports, fishing and hunting was well-known among his fellow wrestlers.
Eagle competed with and knew some of the greatest and most proficient wrestlers of his day, regularly tangling with the likes of Buddy Rogers and Lou Thesz. In early 1950, Eagle became the first person to throw World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Primo Carnera off his feet. He fought Antonino Rocca to a titanic 60-minute draw on May 19, 1951 at the Chicago Stadium.
Controversy over AWA World Title (Boston)
Eagle's biggest match was arguably on May 23, 1950 when he wrestled and defeated Frank Sexton at the age of 23 in a best-of-three falls. Sexton was just over a year into a near-four-year reign of the Boston version of the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.
Three days later, Eagle appeared on television without the championship belt to face Gorgeous George in another best-of-three falls match in the Chicago area. Eagle put in an extremely impressive performance, dominating George and quickly making him submit to the vaunted death lock, making a swift end to fall one.
For the second, Don continued to dominate and launched himself outside the ring with a flying shoulder block. He was then counted out by an arguably fast-counting Earl Mullihan, the appointed referee, to level proceedings at one fall each.
In the final fall, George managed to catch Eagle with a backyard cradle. Mullihan, who could clearly see that Eagle had a single shoulder off the mat, proceeded to administer another fast count and declared the match over. The crowd was furious and began to riot, throwing objects into the ring. Eagle punched Mullihan with considerable force while Mullihan hastened to leave the ring and the arena. As Mullihan ran up the aisle, Eagle hit him forcefully again between the shoulderblades. Gorgeous George was clearly unprepared for the animosity of the crowd and waited for police assistance to escort him from the ring.
Eagle was suspended by the Illinois State Athletic Commission for putting his hands on a referee, but managed to regain the title on August 31, 1950. The title was declared vacant in November 1950 due to Eagle's inactivity because of injury and was replaced by the AWA Eastern Heavyweight Title.
Despite the controversy and subsequent suspension, Eagle's match against Gorgeous George gave him guaranteed main-event status for several years at promotions across the country.
During a 1953 match with the notorious Hans Schmidt, Eagle was thrown over the top rope and into the ringside chairs, damaging several spinal discs and breaking two ribs. This left him in a full-body cast and doctors told him that he would never wrestle again. But Eagle's belief, faith and love of wrestling pulled him through this time; as he recuperated, he created new moves in his mind which he believed would make him even more technically competent than before. He took a year off in total, during which time he began training a teenage Billy Two Rivers. Eagle gave Two Rivers a further year's training after he himself had returned to wrestling, occasionally tagging with the young wrestler. Billy Two Rivers made his full debut in 1953.
Due to continuing back problems, Eagle became semi-retired and wrestled infrequently in various regions over the next three years, still maintaining a big following wherever he travelled. In the end, Eagle decided that he could take no more and decided to retire permanently in 1963. He was 38 years old.
Don Eagle began to fade from the public eye and lost touch with a great many friends and colleagues. Wrestling Revue reported Don Eagle's death on March 17, 1966, stating that it appeared the Native American had died from a self-inflicted gun wound. Contemporary newspaper reports indicated that he had been despondent over some construction project setbacks: namely, a Logan County (Ohio) Indian village, an expansion program in the Zane Shawnee Caverns, and a $12 million Indian Center near Montreal. Billy Two Rivers was the last professional wrestler to visit him shortly before his death, noting that he was still suffering from his previous back injuries and that he struggled with retirement. However, those closest to him doubted that he took his own life to this day.
Don Eagle will be known as one of the most popular Native American wrestlers of all time. His influence, training and guidance of many of the leading lights of the day, includingChief Jay Strongbow, Edward "Moose" Cholak, Billy Two Rivers and many more, will be remembered and appreciated for many years to come. Even today, people refer to his trademark Mohawk hairstyle as a "Don Eagle" haircut.
His selfless charity work, traditional costumes, competitive spirit and showmanship live on in the hearts and minds of those who saw him compete.
Chief Jack (his eldest son) is based in Anaheim, California and runs the successful Mohawk Radio Show. However, the relations of Chief Jack has yet to be biologically proven and stands questionable. Don Eagle was never an Iroquoian chief, only referred to the Chief Don Eagle in the wrestling ring... and "that's showbiz." To this date, the eldest, legally remains John Kim Bell. His youngest, Flint Eagle, is a well-known stuntman who has worked on many major motion pictures of the last 20 years.
Biological children of Donald Carl Bell Eagle are as follows by first name to date: John Kim, Kevin Hamilton, Lance, Hunter, Star Louise, Pam, Flint Tecumseh.
Championships and accomplishments
- Cleveland Golden Gloves Heavyweight Title (1945)
- American Wrestling Association (Boston)
- AWA World Heavyweight Championship (Boston version) (1 time)