Wrestling autobiographies are not exactly a scarce commodity nowadays. Between tomes written by grappling luminaries like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, and Bret “Hitman” Hart, pro wrestlers chronicling their wild and frenzied days as kingpins of the squared circle have certainly cultivated a crowded field in the genre in the last 15 years or so. For former World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now known as World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE) superstar Danny Davis, however, the decision to put his own life story to paper wasn’t an easy one.
“I wasn’t interested at first. There were so many others in the [wrestling] business who were writing them,” recalled Davis in a recent chat with Royal Flush. But a constant pitch by persistent author Kenny Casanova ultimately wore the ex-wrestler down. “One day, during a phone call, he suggested we give it an inspirational theme and that excited me,” he continued. Two years later, after grueling rounds of back-and-forth edits and transcripts, Mr. X – The Real Life Story Of Dangerous Danny Davis came to fruition – and Davis couldn’t be more satisfied with the finished product. “It’s a book about living your dream, whatever it may be.”
While Davis’ greatest success in professional wrestling occurred during the Hogan-led 1980s boom period of the WWF, his beginnings in the industry were much less glamorous. Spending much of his time as a youth on the streets in the suburbs of Boston, he eventually became hooked on the sport after attending a random Friday-night spot show at Jack Witchi’s Sports Arena in North Attleborough, MA, a now-defunct venue that was well known in the New England area for featuring top stars such as George “The Animal” Steele, Chief Jay Strongbow, and Gorilla Monsoon.
Davis became determined to somehow get his foot in the door and his opening materialized in the form of putting up and taking down the ring at local events, a tedious yet integral task that paid little money but was necessary to prove one’s dedication. It’s an aspect of the business that Davis feels is lacking today.
“I had no qualms about doing whatever needed to get done. I’d do what was asked of me and that even included setting up the chairs and helping at the concession stand,” remembered Davis. “I never missed a show due to weather, distance, or anything. I was always there. And that’s what’s missing today. Nobody pays their dues anymore. These days, guys put on tights and a pair of boots and the next day, they’re in the ring. No one wants to start at the bottom,” he added.
Training is another facet that Davis has strong opinions on. “There’s so many more horrible injuries now and that’s because of inexperience and improper training,” he described. “That doesn’t go for everybody, of course, but it’s just become standard. Everyone needs to start somewhere but you should go through the proper channels.”
It’s a stance that’s hard to debate as Davis’ work ethic landed him a referee job with Vince McMahon’s WWF in 1981, a gig he excelled at, and he quickly became one of the company’s most respected mat officials. In his spare time on the road, he spent several years learning the ropes, and eventually debuted as a competitor as the masked Mr. X, a strategy that allowed the versatile Davis to perform both assignments, frequently on the same night.
While Mr. X was mostly an enhancement talent, meaning his primary role was to put over, or lose to, the upper echelon of the roster, like Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Tito Santana, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, and Hogan, Davis played the part perfectly and had no issues with “doing the job.” “I was just happy to be working and contributing,” he acknowledged.
But it wasn’t until many years later that Davis’ star-making break came in a strictly organic way. While most referees tended to subtly side with the “babyfaces,” Davis, on the other hand, didn’t discriminate against the “heels,” and he’d give the “good guys” just as much of a hard time as he would the “bad guys.” It was a tactic that caught on.
“Somebody backstage must’ve noticed my style and came up with the idea for me to play it up and go full heel. And it worked! We’re still talking about it today,” he emphasized. “It really got over. It was just a natural thing for me to be a prick,” he joked.
Davis’ full-fledged conversion to the dark side infamously took place during an early 1987 televised match between the then-WWF Tag Team Champions, the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and Dynamite Kid), and the Hart Foundation (Hart and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart). Dubious officiating on Davis’ part allowed the challengers to illegally score the win, an incident that led to the crooked referee unofficially joining the team, under the tutelage of manager “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart. This started a two-year run in which the ref-turned-wrestler adopted his “Dangerous” moniker and became one of the most hated performers in the promotion.
Davis’ alliance with his cohorts proved to be an important factor in his rise to fame as their undeniable chemistry was tough to ignore. “Without those guys, I wouldn’t have been nearly as successful,” he believed. His debut match with the gimmick, a six-man tag in which he teamed with Hart and Neidhart against Smith, Dynamite, and Santana, took place before approximately 78,000 people in Pontiac, Michigan, at WrestleMania III (most remembered for the famous Hogan/Andre the Giant main event and the captivating Steamboat/Randy “Macho Man” Savage technical modern era masterpiece), a spectacle that many historians consider to be the greatest wrestling event of all time. Davis concurs with that assessment. “The feeling, the excitement, everything. It’s indescribable,“ he contended. “Unless you were there, you can’t even imagine.”
Perhaps most impressive about Davis’ legacy is that although he wasn’t the first individual to portray the corrupt authority character in pro wrestling, he was absolutely a prototype for others who came after him in the industry with similar personas, including referee Nick Patrick in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), who joined the evil New World Order (NWO) faction in 1996, as well as official Earl Hebner in Total Nonstop Action (TNA, now known as Impact Wrestling) who displayed favoritism on behalf of female competitor Madison Rayne in 2012. “Whenever something is successful, there will be imitations,” he stressed.
As the saying goes, nothing lasts forever, and Davis’ time as “Dangerous” was no exception. By the end of the decade, the character had run its course and he quietly reverted back to his original unassuming role as a law-abiding arbitrator, which he did for a handful of years before finally departing the WWF in 1995. The decision was mutual and Davis accepted his exit from public life. “When your time in the business was done, that was it. So I went on my way and became a regular person,” he stated matter-of-factly.
Reflecting on his career, Davis has no regrets and he’s adamant on where the period he performed in ranks in wrestling history. “It was the greatest era and there will never be another like it again,” he proclaimed. As for whether or not a WWE Hall of Fame induction is in his future, he’s modest but hopeful. “So many others deserve it more than me but I’d love for that to happen in my lifetime. It would be a dream come true,” he noted.
But while a Hall of Fame nod is out of his control, his message to the fans is not. “Without the people who spend their hard earned money on tickets to come out and see us entertain them for a few hours, we wouldn’t be here. There should be a hall of fame for the fans,” he mused. “My book has helped me give back to everyone who supported me over the years. I really hope it inspires everybody who reads it.”
Connect with Danny Davis on Facebook. To purchase Mr. X – The Real Life Story Of Dangerous Danny Davis, click here.