Presented by Kayfabe Commentaries
Hosted by Sean Oliver
The “Royal Rumble” was a whole new concept for the WWF wrestlers. Jim Duggan had taken part in a lot of battle royals, including a Mid-South match where everyone wore hoods over their heads. At the end of the day, wrestling is wrestling and you just did what you were told. The WWF only had top of the line talent, so ultimately everyone knew how to step it up and make the show work.
Duggan first debuted in the WWWF in October of 1979, downing Moose Monroe in Glens Falls, New York. Duggan was from the area but actually made his wrestling debut down in Texas a bit earlier.
Hacksaw had been a football star in high school and his shot put record still stands from 1973. He was also an amateur wrestling champion.
Being a stud player set Duggan up to be recruited by Ohio State, Penn State and other big time football programs. The offensive line coach from Southern Methodist University came up and schmoozed Duggan’s mother and she convinced Jim to play down there.
Frtiz Von Erich saw Duggan play and mentioned to him that he might have a shot at being a wrestler with his size. Duggan was not a fan of the sport, so he blew Fritz off.
Ultimately the NFL came calling and the Atlanta Falcons picked up Duggan. He suffered an injury and missed the season. After a run with the CFL, Duggan was ready to give Fritz’ idea a shot.
The first gimmick Duggan used was as clean shaved “Big” Jim Duggan. Gino Hernandez was a youngster then too and he took Duggan under his wing to help him learn the ins and outs of the sport.
Jim’s dad knew Arnold Skaaland and he ended up getting Hacksaw a chance with the WWWF.
The WWWF used Duggan as a jobber, with Sgt. Slaughter, Ken Patera, Hulk Hogan and others scoring wins on TV over “Big” Jim.
Breaking into the business was still tough in the later 70’s as the business was protected.
Going from competing in full pads to being in front of an audience in your underwear took a period of adjustment.
Duggan was a tough guy on top of being a legit athlete, so the concept of having to lose to someone he could probably have whipped in a bar fight was another mental obstacle to overcome.
Being new to the sport also meant Duggan tended to work stiff, which caused him to bust some guys open accidentally.
Stan Hansen worked in the WWWF at the same time as Duggan and they became close friends.
Jim’s mom sent him crackers and peanut butter to help him survive the lean years as he learned and developed at wrestling.
Gorilla Monsoon didn’t say much to the jobbers past “your losing to ______tonight”. Arnie Skaaland wouldn’t even bother to take the cigar out of his mouth and would just give Jim a “thumbs down” to let him know he was losing.
Angelo Mosca stretched Duggan out while working with him in the ring. Jim was too green to even realize he was being taken advantage of.
Duggan had barely been trained in Texas. Ref David Manning showed him how to run the ropes a little bit, and then not too long after he was in the ring, working as a substitute for an injured worker.
Vince McMahon Sr. and some others in the office felt Duggan had potential and sent him to Hawaii for seasoning. Haku was one of the youngsters working there and he and Jim became lifelong friends thanks to the experience.
Duggan was working as “The Convict” under a mask. He got the chance to work with Andre the Giant in Hawaii.
Afa and Sika was nice to some of the young guys and would treat them to steak dinners since the opening match guys were all starving.
Vince McMahon Jr. would wear slippers instead of dress shoes for comfort while at the TV tapings.
Hulk Hogan’s a good guy despite what the press promotes. He supported his son after the tragic accident that crippled another kid in the car with him during a wreck. Any father worth his salt would back his child in the hour of need.
Bruiser Brody helped Duggan develop his “Hacksaw” persona. (Duggan flat out stole a few of Brody’s mannerisms.)
Bill Watts used Duggan as his top babyface after the JYD was swept up by the WWF. Duggan had a lot of loyalty to Watts because of how well Watts took care of him finanancially and otherwise.
Jake the Snake and other Mid-South talents headed to the WWF and put the word out to Duggan that he needed to get up north to the big show.
Ultimately, Jim was signed by the WWF in February of 1987.
The locker room of the era was full of roided up men, giants, big fat monsters and other goofy gimmicks. Now the locker room is full of talents that all look the same for the most part.
Ted Dibiase, Matt Bourne and Duggan were Mid-South’s top heel trio. The fans were rabid and wanted to fight the heels. Watts would occasionally take loud mouth fans and put them in the ring with Dr. Death in order to show them they were not so tough.
Upon returning to the WWF, Duggan was placed into a feud with the Iron Sheik.
The long days at the TV tapings gave the guys a chance to play cards. Sgt. Slaughter would draw up an elaborate double bracket tournament for the winners and losers to compete in.
One night Duggan tucked some cards into his knee pads and worked a TV match, While delivering a knee drop, the cards plopped out and spilled on the canvas. Agent Chief Jay Strongbow was waiting to scold Duggan when he made it back in through the curtain.
Jake the Snake, Hawk, the Nasty Boys and others were all party and drug guys and Duggan fell right into that group. Hawk was too intense for Hacksaw. The Nasty Boys picked on everyone from the rookies to the superstars.
Nikolai Volkoff was depressed when the Berlin wall went down as that marked the end of his gimmick.
Jim believes the WWF may have been grooming him for a world title run before he wound up getting arrested while riding with the Iron Sheik in between shows.
Louisiana had bars you could drive up to and get alcohol. In New Jersey the standard drinking and driving laws applied. Hacksaw had a beer between his legs when the cop pulled them over. Once the vehicle was inspected, 3 joints were found that were Duggan’s. Sheik had cocaine.
When the guys got released by the cops, they went to the show and played it cool, hoping no one would find out.
Duggan’s dad was a police chief and he chewed Jim out. Vince McMahon asked him “What have you done to us?” He fired both Duggan and the Shiek.
After sulking for a few weeks Duggan called Dusty Rhodes to see if he could get in to Jim Crockett Promotions. McMahon called Hacksaw up soon after and told him to lay low and he’d be brought back soon enough.
Promoter Paul Boesch had a falling out with the WWF after only working with them for a brief time. Boesch was given the chance to have a “retirement” card and hand pick much of the talent that he wanted to appear on the WWF sponsored show. Duggan was one of the talents he picked, which opened Duggan up to the chance to return to the WWF full time.
Hacksaw was put into a program with Harley Race, which was a thrill for Duggan who had worked on several shows when Race was the top star in the world.
Pat Patterson created the “Royal Rumble” concept. The guys were going through a constant brutal road schedule and the “Rumble” didn’t mean anything special to them.
The WWF never mentioned Jim Crockett Promotions on the air because giving them the time of day would legitimize them as competition. The Rumble was created to give fans a free option to watch a battle royal on TV on the same day that JCP was hosting a steel cage battle royal on PPV.
The office guys in the WWF might have wanted JCP to go out of business, but the wrestlers wanted them around to give them an option to work somewhere else and hopefully land a bigger contract.
The security at the Canadian border loved to go through all the WWF guy’s bags because the drugs and booze usage was rampant and they’d often find naughty items.
If you could score a deal at a hotel or restaurant, a lot of the other wrestlers would follow your lead. This was only good until a goof like Brian Knobbs decided to take a dump in the hotel elevator and get everyone banned or something equally crazy.
Duggan used steroids like just about everyone else. He had a 500-pound bench press in his prime.
The roid monsters were often mocked by the Nasty Boys due to the fact that they were able to secure a constant push despite being fat.
At the TV tapings, the WWF generally wanted you to arrive by 1 in the afternoon. All the free time meant the locker room played cards and goofed off.
During one of his last runs with the WWE, Duggan went to a hotel bar and couldn’t find any wrestlers. He went upstairs to where the WWE had a level of rooms blocked off and found most of the roster playing video games.
The WWF had another show running in a different town the same time that the “Royal Rumble” special was airing on the USA network.
Jesse Ventura’s heel schtick on commentary upset Duggan’s sisters. Duggan knew it was all about getting heat.
Chris Jericho went to Duggan before he was to cut a promo on Hacksaw on RAW. He was concerned about the nasty comments about Hacksaw he was scripted to make, but Duggan told him that getting heat would get both guys over.
We now get into the Royal Rumble card itself:
Ricky Steamboat vs. Rick Rude: Both men were good technical workers and ladies men. They were pretty boys and Duggan didn’t hang out with them.
Bobby Heenan tried to convince McMahon that Duggan needed to have a live eagle to complete his gimmick. Duggan already had to carry around a flag, 2X4, a crown, a cape and other such things and didn’t want any more hassle to deal with at the airports.
As far as Duggan knows, Dino Bravo was legitimately lifting the 700-pound weights that he attempted as part of the live program.
The Barbarian once tore both his pectorals due to lifting extremely heavy weights.
Frenchy Martin would load his suitcase full of coins and tiny knick knacks in order to set up intentionally spilling it out at airports and other places in order to cause a big scene to pop the boys. (Bruce Pritchard or perhaps a different podcast host recently told a similar story about Martin, except his story was that Martin had the case loaded with sex
The Jumping Bomb Angels vs. The Glamour Girls: The lady wrestlers like Sherri Martel were every bit as tough as the guys.
Hulk Hogan and Andre contract signing: Andre had issues with a lot of little things that “normal” people take for granted on a day to day basis.
Duggan was afforded a big push by Andre and the office in 1988 when Andre attacked Duggan on TV, accidentally busting his mouth open and causing blood to flow. Hacksaw finished the segment by grabbing his 2X4 and knocking out the Giant.
Magnum T.A. was full of himself in Mid-South and he had his locker room mates wanting to knock him out. (Magnum also had the habit of sleeping with other wrestler’s women as some sort of macho one-upmanship)
Jack Tunney was an influential promoter in Canada, so he was given a role on the air as the WWF president. His straight-laced delivery worked well in contrast with the bombastic WWF promos.
The Rumble: The One Man Gang was an awesome heel. He’s a bonafide Hall of Famer. He embraced the Akeem gimmick and got himself another run on top using it. Others, like Terry Taylor, did not go along with the WWF’s visions and their runs failed.
Tito Santana saved his money and ended up having about as “normal” of a life as any wrestler could.
Bret Hart was in the wrong when it came to Montreal. A wrestler should not refuse to lose.
Sean Oliver jokes Jim Neidhart has not been interviewed by him yet because no one is sure what his mental state will be.
Jake the Snake was one of the best of his era. Damien was a great gimmick.
Jim Brunzell was always happy and up beat.
Danny Davis was an all purpose gopher for the WWF and earned a push for it.
Boris Zuhkov had a huge head.
Don Muraco was not around Duggan enough to comment on.
Hillbilly Jim and Duggan had some heat because both men had similar gimmicks.
Tony Atlas irritated everyone in the “Legend’s House”.
The Ultimate Warrior was not personable. He demanded his own locker room once he became a star. Duggan would rather be around the boys and goof around.
The Rumble had a natural setup that allowed guys to back off to the ropes and rest without making it look like they were actually doing so.
Being live on cable meant that the office forbid the guys from doing goofy spots or playing around, which was otherwise common in battle royals.
Everyone knew who they were to throw out and who was throwing them out. It wasn’t too hard to keep track of. One Man Gang tossed the most guys out.
Hulk Hogan had incredible charisma and had the fans in the palm of his hands. How anyone can question Hogan being able to “work” is beyond Jim’s comprehension.
Hogan would sit down in the corner of the locker room and a bunch of the guys tended to go over and jest around a bit or gossip with him.
Duggan’s hangover philosophy was “If you’re going to feel bad, you may as well feel horrible.”
Jim was a set up guy for top heels to move up to the main event level talent.
Oliver and Duggan share a “Hoooooo!” and we’re out.
Final thoughts: I knew from listening to other interviews and podcasts with Duggan what to expect. He wasn’t going to deliver any sort of in depth history or comprehensive talking points. But he is without a doubt entertaining and definitely has a manic energy and a desire to make his audience enjoy themselves.