Says he can still put on a show
© Colin Squires
'Hawksaw' Jim Duggan
‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan may have turned 60 this year, but the World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. (WWE) hall of fame inductee is showing no signs of slowing down.
Duggan, who has been a fan-favourite most of wrestling career, will be taking his two-by-four and American flag on a spring tour of Newfoundland and Labrador.
He will be touring with Legend City Wrestling, an independent circuit based in Newfoundland. Between May 20 and May 26, Duggan will be making four stops in the province, including shows in St. Anthony (May 20), Happy Valley-Goose Bay (May 22) and Labrador City (May 24), and Gander (May 26)
This will be Duggan’s second year in a row doing shows in Newfoundland. He had such a great time with wrestling fans from this province in 2013 that he jumped at the opportunity to come back.
“The fans are the motivating factor,” said Duggan on why he still loves doing tours.
“It’s great to get out there at this stage of the game and still be able to entertain the crowd.”
Newfoundland and Labrador wrestling fans can thank a sharpshooting Canadian legend, and member of the Hart Foundation, for introducing Duggan to Legend City Wrestling and this province.
“I was recommended by a good friend of mine, Brett Hart. He told me he had such a good time up there with them and they treated him so well,” said Duggan.
“But I didn’t see a moose. I was really disappointed.”
Putting on a show
Duggan promises his fans that independent wrestling company can still entertain like World Wrestling Entertainment can. WWE may have the big bucks, but people who tour the independent circuit have a love of wrestling, and a love of pleasing the crowd.
“The WWE, it’s a huge show. It’s not just the wrestlers anymore. It’s the music, it’s the fireworks, and it’s the costumes. It’s like a huge production coming into town.”
“These local productions are the people who really love wrestling, and there’s probably a few superstars in this group who will blossom and may be able to move up to the next level. These are the guys who got regular jobs, but they’re out there, they’re practicing all the time.”
Duggan claims that, even after 30-plus years of professional wrestling, he can still put on a good show.
“I may not have the ability I had as a young man. But, put me in some tag team action or give me the right opponent, I can give you a pretty good match,” said Duggan.
“I may not be as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was. Ho!”
Developing a character
After spending five years with Mid-South Wrestling, aka Universal Wrestling Federation, Duggan debuted with the WWE (than known as the World Wrestling Federation) in 1987.
It didn’t take long for Duggan to become one of the most popular faces in the industry. Marching down the aisle with a two-by-four in one hand and an American flag in the other, Duggan portrayed himself as a loyal patriot.
It was a time in the industry when wrestlers were encouraged to have an entertaining character or gimmick. Duggan, like many other wrestlers, enjoyed the he entertainment involved in having a unique persona.
“Back then, no one gave us those (characters),” said Duggan.
“We were our characters, which is an extension of everyone’s personality. There’s a lot of ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan inside the Jim Duggan. And there was a lot of the ‘Junkyard Dog’ inside of Sylvester Ritter.”
It’s hard to picture Duggan entering a ring with his signature two-by-four slung over his shoulder. Many wonder why he started carrying it in the first place. Well, it started off as a practical tool during wrestling’s roughest years.
“Out in west Texas, it was a really rough atmosphere back in the early 80s. Just getting back and forth to the ring was a challenge. People would punch you. It was just a different era in the business,” recalls Duggan.
“’Bruiser’ Brody told me, ‘kid, if you’re going to carry something into the ring, carry something you can use. So, I’m like, ‘well, there’s a piece of wood.’
“So I picked that up and I hit the door and I started yelling and waving that board. It was like parting the red sea, those people scattered.”
Moment in the spotlight
Today, the Royal Rumble is a famous event, and held by the WWE on a regular basis. But, in the 80s, no one had ever heard of it, until Duggan won the very first Rumble in 1988.
In the first Royal Rumble, 20 wrestlers all entered the ring at different intervals. The goal was to eliminate the other wrestlers by throwing them over the top rope. The last one standing would be the winner.
Duggan, who was the 13th person to enter the ring, won the Royal Rumble when he eliminated an opponent called the One Man Gang.
“It was a pretty unique idea,” said Duggan. “Of course, Vince McMahon (chairman and CEO of WWE) is a groundbreaking guy. He comes up with a lot of ideas, some work, some don’t, like the XFL.”
The Royal Rumble was certainly one of the ideas that worked. It’s still one of the most popular wrestling events amongst fans. For Duggan, who never became world champion with the WWE, it’s something that ensured his wrestling legacy would last.
“It something I can still hang my hat on,” said Duggan. “I was never world champ, I was never tag team champ, I was never intercontinental champ. But people remember that Royal Rumble winner thing.”
Going to the WCW
In 1994, Duggan, like many other wrestling superstars, left the WWE for its rival, World Championship Wrestling.
The WCW was able to lure away some of WWE’s biggest talent, including Hulk Hogan and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage, with more money and better contracts.
“The WWE did not have contracts, we were on a nightly contract. If you wrestled you got paid. If you didn’t wrestle, you didn’t get paid,” said Duggan.
“Ted Turner wanted to compete with McMahon, so he offered no-cut contracts. Even if you get hurt, you knew what you were going to make. He revolutionized the business in that way.”
Duggan enjoyed his time with the WCW. But towards the end, things got strange in the wrestling company.
Those who called the shots began making head-scratching decisions, which angered many loyal wrestling fans. One of the most infamous was having actor David Arquette win the world heavyweight title.
Duggan wasn’t immune to controversial decisions by the WCW. He was made to change his gimmick from the two-by-four wielding patriot to the WCW’s janitor.
Duggan claims that Vince Russo, who called the shots in the later years of the company, was trying to embarrass him.
“What they were trying to do was make me quit,” claimed Duggan.
In his final WCW gimmick Duggan, who was always known as an American patriot, turned heel and became part of “Team Canada.”
“They brought me back up and said ‘we’re going to turn you against America. I’m thinking ‘Iraq, Iran, where are they going to go with this?’”
“They said, ‘well, we’re putting you with Team Canada.’ And I said, ‘well, there’s not a lot of heat there really.’”
Life after the WCW
Even after his WCW days, wrestling stayed in Duggan’s blood. He returned to the WWE between 2005-2009. He evened appeared in the 2009 Royal Rumble, where ‘Big Show’ eliminated him.
He is now wrestling with independent circuits, like Legend City Wrestling, and hoping that people can watch the performers with respect for the skill and dedication involved.
“People have no conception of how professional wrestling and the WWE actually is. I tell kids, there are probably 1,500 NFL football players, maybe 1,000 NHL hockey players. There are only 120 WWE wrestlers. It’s a very, very, competitive business,” said Duggan.
“People sometimes don’t see that part of our business. It takes more than just athletic ability.”
Duggan’s status as a wrestling legend keeps him busy outside the ring as well. He is making an appearance on the most recent episode of Duck Dynasty, just filmed a movie called Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies, and will be appearing on a reality TV show called WWE Legend’s House.