By anyone’s estimation, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is a WWE legend. He started his wrestling career all the way back in 1979, when he had his first pro match against a wrestler by the name of Gino Hernandez. Duggan quickly rose through the ranks; although he began life as a heel, he would quickly find fame as a face, and a legendary career with the WWE would follow. Here are 10 things that you might not have known about James Edward Duggan, also known as “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan!
1. He was the first Royal Rumble winner
The very first WWE Royal Rumble competition was held in 1988, and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, who had found favour with the fans as a Springsteen-style American everyman, was its first winner. In a Betway casino interview, Duggan explained that he was able to win the competition because he was fast, aggressive, and – more to the point – stayed to the corners of the ring, where other wrestlers couldn’t reach him. Maximising ring time is important, says Duggan, and that’s how you win.
2. Before he was a face, he was a heel
For anyone who’s familiar with Duggan’s American gimmick, it’s pretty much unimaginable to think of him as anything but a hero. However, during a long-forgotten period in the early 1980s, Duggan wrestled as “Big” Jim Duggan, a fairly bland and forgettable heel. He tussled with the likes of Hulk Hogan, who was at that point nowhere near the level of fame he would eventually achieve, but this era of Duggan’s career is perhaps best left behind.
3. Duggan battled Ted DiBiase in an insane MSW in the early 80s
If you’ve never seen Hacksaw wrestle anyone outside the WWE, it’s an experience well worth hunting down. His fury and ferocity are unbridled, and nowhere is this more apparent than in his match against Ted DiBiase in the Mid-South Wrestling promotion in 1982. The two feuded for a while, culminating in a match that was, well, insane. Almost any gimmick for a match you can think of is in here; cages, tuxedos, loser-leaves-town stipulations…it’s ridiculously entertaining and well worth a watch.
4. His 2×4 was originally to move fans out of the way
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is pretty much inseparable from his 2×4 in the minds of fans everywhere, but he had to get it from somewhere, right? Well, the iconic Bruiser Brody (who also suggested Hacksaw’s name, interestingly enough) posited that Duggan carry his plank into the ring so that rowdy, uncooperative fans would move out of the way. Needless to say, this gambit worked, and Duggan had found himself a gimmick that was worth hanging onto.
5. Duggan and the Iron Sheik were instrumental in WWE drug testing
Thanks to “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan and fellow legend the Iron Sheik, WWE drug testing became a lot more stringent. Duggan and Sheik were pulled over by the police in 1987 while driving. A search of their car found that it contained marijuana and cocaine, which upset the WWE greatly and arguably led to a downturn in both of their careers. Duggan maintains that the marijuana was his responsibility, but that he had no idea the Sheik was carrying cocaine.
6. Duggan once played a janitor in the WCW and hated it
You might remember Hacksaw’s face from a few WCW promotions, and you’d be right to; he was booked onto that promotion in the late 90s after an absence from professional wrestling in order to battle a bout of cancer. He beat it, and rejoined the wrestling scene with the WCW, where Vince Russo cast him as a janitor attempting to re-enter the ring. Duggan hated this angle and publicly criticised Russo for leaving his veteran talent in the dust.
7. Duggan broke character for a slap
At one stage, Jim Duggan was slapped by “Sensational” Sherri Martel as part of an ongoing storyline. However, Duggan wasn’t told that the slap was going to be real, so when Martel let loose, Duggan was so momentarily stunned that he broke his character and showed what appeared to be genuine anger. For her part, Martel was a professional, so she incorporated it into the routine, but it remains one of the few moments a pro has memorably broken kayfabe in the ring.
8. Duggan has never won a WWE championship
Even though Jim Duggan is one of the WWE’s most memorable and well-liked legends, the fact remains that he has never actually won a title in his career. He’s been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame and has won two WWE Slammy Awards, but he’s never actually managed to scrape a title win for himself. He’s one of a few wrestlers who never won a title, alongside Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Jimmy Snuka, and Jerry “The King” Lawler, to name but a few.
9. He was in his chess club at school
Looking at Jim Duggan now, it’s hard to believe that his academic life was essentially clean-cut and straight-laced, but that’s the truth. He was a member of his school’s chess club, would have undoubtedly been a fan of Chessable, and sported a conventionally handsome face, a short hairstyle, and the kind of good looks that would be perfect on a prom king. He was also the son of a very religious conservative mother and a police chief, so perhaps the fact that he was so well-behaved at school is not surprising.
10. He was drafted by a major American football team
Before Duggan pursued a career in wrestling, he could have been a major football star. He played for his university in a college football league, and was eventually drafted by none other than the Atlanta Falcons. However, injuries to his knees pretty much put paid to his football career. He played for a Canadian team briefly, but it wasn’t long before he started pursuing wrestling as a professional career, where his knee injuries actually helped him to develop an iconic approach to the sport.