Wrestler of the Day – January 14: Jim Duggan

This one is an upgrade over Snitsky. Today it’s Hall of Famer Hacksaw Jim Duggan.

Jim got his real start in the Mid-South territory where he debuted as part of the heel Rat Pack stable. One of the other members of this stable was Ted DiBiase, who eventually left to join Skandor Akbar and invited Duggan to join him. Jim said no, turning him face. This set off a huge feud with DiBiase, culminating in a Coal Miner’s Glove Steel Cage Tuxedo Loser Leaves Town match on March 22, 1985 in New Orleans (the commentary says the SuperDome but the WWE Mid-South DVD says Houston). I’m actually not making that up.

Jim Duggan vs. Ted DiBiase

Inside of a cage with a coal miner’s glove (meaning it’s loaded, a signature weapon of DiBiase) on a pole with both guys wearing tuxedoes for reasons not explained and the loser leaves the area with falls coming by pin or submission. Got all that? Just to further confuse me, JR (commentator) says we’re in the SuperDome before saying we’re in the Sam Houston Coliseum. How confusing was this promotion? Apparently this has been brewing for two years.

DiBiase, called the Big Cheese here, refuses to get in the cage. He’s given a ten count to get in and makes it at nine so we can get started. The cage is barely above the wrestlers’ heads and is probably seven feet above their heads. We get further clarification as the loser only leaves for thirty days. Ted tries to get in a cheap shot but gets thrown into the corner and punched down.

Duggan is all BRING IT ON and punches DiBiase down before raining down right hands. Ted begs off long enough to send Duggan into the cage twice in a row. We get our first blood of the match as DiBiase tries to rip the jacket off of him. After taking his own jacket off, Ted goes for the glove but Duggan is right there for the save. Duggan is sent into the cage again and there are the DiBiase fist drops. Ted still can’t get up top but he avoids a charge in the corner and pounds away.

A piledriver stops Duggan’s comeback attempt and more fists are dropped. DiBiase goes up again but gets crotched and dropped face first onto the buckle. Duggan wins a slugout and starts the beating before ramming Ted into the cage. Jim’s face is COVERED in blood but he climbs the pole and gets the glove.

He pulls back a right hand but DiBiase throws powder in his eyes to save himself. Ted puts on the glove but misses a big right hand and collides with Duggan to put both guys down. DiBiase misses a middle rope glove shot and Jim takes the glove away. A BIG right hand to the forehead knocks DiBiase out cold for the win.

Rating: B+. This is all spectacle and that’s all it needed to be. These guys beat the living tar out of each other and the blood makes it better here. Notice something interesting here: there’s no swerve at the end and there’s no waiting for the next big match. Instead it was the face beating the tar out of the heel to end their feud and the reaction was great. Why is that so hard?

Duggan would jump to the WWF in 1987 and would spend most of the year feuding with foreigners and Harley Race while squashing jobbers. He would be in the first Royal Rumble in January of 1988 which had 20 entrants and aired on free TV.

Royal Rumble

Okerlund explains the rules and the intervals are every two minutes here. If you don’t know the Rumble rules, you have no business reading this. It’s a battle royal, people come in every two minutes, there are 20 people in it (this year only) last man standing wins. #1 is Bret Hart and #2 is Tito Santana, and wouldn’t you know it their tag teams are feuding right now. I mean what are the odds?

They slug it out to start with no one having any kind of advantage. Bret finally takes him down and heads towards the rope as Butch Reed comes in at #3. This is a different kind of Rumble as heels don’t fight heels and faces don’t fight faces yet. They just kind of work together as you would expect them to. Tito is almost thrown out by Reed but he escapes and beats on both heels for a bit.

It’s Neidhart in at #4 as not a ton is happening so far in this match. This leaves Santana more or less down 3-1 and everyone pounds away on him. The clock is pretty lenient so far as there’s no way they’re going two minutes between each of these entrants. We get some slow triple teaming and after a choke on the ropes, here’s Jake Roberts in at #5 to quickly toss out Reed. We’ve got Roberts/Santana vs. the Hart Foundation which is quite the tag match when you think about it.

The Harts get beaten down and then thrown into each other but Neidhart breaks up the DDT. Bret piledrives Santana down and Harley Race is in at #6. The crowd is staying way into this which is a good sign for the future. Things kind of slow down a bit as the faces and heels beat on each other for a little while. Here’s Jim Brunzell at #7 to make it a six man tag for all intents and purposes.

Roberts goes EVIL by pulling on Neidhart’s beard. Only Reed has been eliminated so far. The good guys are in control at the moment with Race almost being thrown out. Here’s Sam Houston, Jake’s real life half brother, coming in at #8 to beat on everyone in sight. Well every heel at least. The Harts finally get together and throw out Santana to get us down to six people in the ring.

After about 90 seconds, here’s Danny Davis at #9. To be fair he’s barely a jobber so it’s not like this is going to give the heels any significant advantage. Oh wait he’s fighting Sam Houston so yeah, the heels are in control. Race gets caught in the ropes and Jake keeps knocking him back and forth in a funny bit. Davis tries to kick Jake and gets his leg caught, followed by a suplex from Roberts.

Danny escapes a DDT as we get Boris Zhukov at #10, maybe 80 seconds after Davis came in. Things continue to go slow as we’re trying to build up to a regular battle royal. Race goes after Boris in the first instance of heel vs. heel in this match. Race and Hart double team Brunzell for a bit as this continues to be slow. Don Muraco comes out as #11 but Nikolai Volkoff follows him out, apparently thinking he’s #11. Now there’s a story you don’t see that often but which could work.

Brunzell puts out Zhukov and apparently Nikolai is going to be #12 in a few moments. After way too long of nothing happening, Nikolai is officially #12. Brunzell is put to the apron but gets back in just as Race is eliminated by Muraco. We’ve got eight in there at the moment, which would be Hart, Neidhart, Roberts, Brunzell, Houston, Davis, Muraco and Volkoff. Race won’t leave ringside so as Duggan comes out at #13, he beats Race up on the way. This would lead to one of those so ridiculous it’s hilarious moments at the Slammys.

Duggan goes right after Neidhart because HE wants to be the Jim in this match. The place is way into him too so the crowd reaction is good. After maybe a minute here’s Ron Bass at #14. Volkoff dumps Brunzell as Jake and Neidhart collide. The clock gets even shorter as B. Brian Blair is #15. There are way too many people in the ring now. Everyone fights everyone as Hillbilly Jim is #16, and the fourth person in this match named Jim. He also dumps out Jim Neidhart to empty the ring a tiny bit.

Dino Bravo is #17 as Bass dumps Houston. Back to slow motion mode with everyone pounding on people near the ropes without really doing much. Ultimate Warrior (doesn’t mean anything yet) is #18 and Bret is FINALLY put out by Don Muraco. I timed this next one, and the One Man Gang comes out at #19, 53 seconds after Warrior. They’re not even trying here. Gang immediately pounds on Roberts so Warrior jumps on the big man’s back. This is WAY before he would have been able to slam him anyway.

Gang dumps Blair and Roberts in about ten seconds, which is the best thing that could happen in this match. The Junkyard Dog is #20, giving us a final group of Davis, Volkoff, Muraco, Bass, Hillbilly Jim, Dino Bravo, Ultimate Warrior, Gang, Duggan and Dog. Hillbilly and Gang hammer on each other as Duggan puts Volkoff out. Gang tosses Hillbilly as Bravo and Davis double team Duggan. This ends badly for Davis as Duggan dumps him to a BIG pop.

Bravo and Gang dump the Warrior as we’re down to six pretty quickly. Bass jumps the Dog and tosses him to get us down to five. Muraco dumps Bass and we have a final four of Muraco, Gang, Duggan and Bravo. Gang splashes Duggan in the corner, leaving Muraco to have to fight off both guys. He even takes Frenchy Martin down with a dropkick, only to have Gang clothesline him out to get us down to three.

Jim gets double teamed for awhile and Bravo drops an elbow on him. The same clothesline sequence the heels tried earlier backfires and Bravo gets clotheslined out. Duggan pounds on Gang in a Mid-South reunion but a single shot from Gang takes him down. Gang beats on him next to the ropes, so Duggan low bridges him to win the first Royal Rumble.

Rating: C+. This is one of those matches where the words “well, they tried” come to mind. That’s the best way to put this match: they didn’t really know what they were doing yet, but they tried. The lack of star power hurt this one as only Duggan and maybe Dog were big names here. It wouldn’t be until next year when the star power came into this and it became a main event thing. Still though, it’s certainly not a bad match and they would get better as time went on.

Duggan spent the next few years beating up jobbers and doing little against big names. He was always an American though and was the first man to stand up to the evil Sgt. Slaughter when he turned his back on America. Duggan received a WWF Title shot against Slaughter at the Main Event IV.

WWF Title: Jim Duggan vs. Sgt. Slaughter

Pretty clear what we’ve got here but the story makes sense at least. Duggan brings Hogan with him which is about as simple of a pairing as you could ever ask for anywhere. Hogan gets thrown out during a break which is kind of odd. Ah apparently he isn’t a legal manager. Standard punch/kick stuff here as we all know Duggan isn’t going to do anything here.

Three Point Clothesline sends Slaughter to the floor. The General gets involved and then gets punched. Iron Sheik in case you didn’t know that. Duggan can’t do much other than punch here but that sums up a lot of his career in WWF. Board to the jaw of Duggan and Slaughter takes over even more. Duggan goes after the Sheik and Slaughter pops him with a chair for the DQ. Hogan runs out for the save and gets beaten down with the chair too.

Rating: D. Again nothing special at all here as Duggan just did nothing but throw punches and kicks. It was all setting up the DQ and the Hogan beatdown afterwards which is fine I guess but I would have liked a more entertaining match. At least the characters match up very well. This wasn’t very good but I’ve seen far worse.

Jim would barely do anything else in WWF and eventually left in late 1993. He would show up in Fall Brawl as a mystery opponent for Steve Austin’s US Title at Fall Brawl 1994.

US Title: Steve Austin vs. ???

And it’s Jim Duggan. Yes, the same Jim Duggan that hadn’t been seen in over a year. Yes, the same Jim Duggan that won what, four big matches EVER? Yes, the same Jim Duggan that apparently is number one contender despite NEVER WRESTLING HERE BEFORE. This is apparently a big deal.

Why it’s a big deal is beyond me but whatever. The bell rings three separate times so I guess we had two matches but whatever. Austin tries to run because this is terrifying or something I guess. Here’s the match: Backdrop, splash, pin. It’s an 8 second match which is called 27 for no apparent reason.

Rating: H. That’s for Hogan as that’s the only reason behind this at all. So let’s see. Steamboat is gone, Cactus is gone, and Austin looks like a joke. In their places we have Kevin Sullivan, Jim Duggan and Paul Orndorff later in the night, who had one good arm mind you.

He would hold the title for about three months, eventually losing it to Vader. Duggan would again drop down to the lower card and feud with whoever was around at the time. Around this time he developed a gimmick where he kept a roll of tape in his trunks and would wrap it around his hand to knock out his opponents. This led to a taped fist match for the Lord of the Ring at Bash at the Beach 1996.

Lord of the Ring: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Jim Duggan

This is a taped fist match for the stupid ring that DDP won last month that is now worthless since his title shot was revoked. So apparently in this you can tape your fists more than you usually can? I hate WCW. I truly do hate it at times, but at least it improves for a bit after this. The fans chant USA, even though both guys are Americans. That always made my head hurt.

I’d love to see someone that Duggan was fighting get fired up more than he did because of the chants and shout about how they’re MORE American than Duggan. Apparently 10,000 people were turned away. Maybe it would be better if they got an arena that held 10,000 people in the first place. Duggan has his feet taped together around the post. Again, is there some kind of tape fetish in this company? And he just gets out through some unseen method.

Again, Guerrrero vs. Regal and Heat vs. Steiners. Just thought I’d remind you of that. Page uses the ropes to avoid a suplex and Tony gets on him for it. Why? It’s a legal move. Everybody is shocked that Duggan can manage to take control without tape on his fists. Thanks for the vote of confidence in Duggan. After being on the floor for 8 seconds, Duggan slides Page in and walks into the Diamond Cutter for the pin. Duggan throws some tape on his fist and knocks Page out anyway. Another waste of time.

Rating: D-. Again, WHAT WAS THE POINT OF THIS? For the life of me I can’t think of one. Either way, the match was terrible and I still fail to see the point in it. Just a waste of five minutes or so. Duggan was little more than a comedy guy at this point and that’s not the kind of match you should have on a PPV.

Duggan would spend the next few years having meaningless matches with almost no PPV matches at all. Eventually he would become a janitor and find the vacant TV Title in a trashcan before declaring himself champion. Here’s a title defense from about two days later on the February 19, 2000 WCW Saturday Night.

TV Title: Jim Duggan vs. Robert Gibson

Gibson is half of the Rock N Roll Express but bails into the corner to start. He jumps Duggan from behind as Jim is still in the coveralls because he’s a janitor. A backdrop puts Gibson down and an atomic drop does the same. The announcers talk about the upcoming pay per views as Gibson takes Jim down and puts on a chinlock. Duggan fights up but is taken right back down into another chinlock. Riveting stuff here. Gibson lets go of the hold and picks up Duggan’s 2×4 but the referee takes it away. Duggan hits the three point clothesline and the Old Glory knee drop to retain.

Rating: D. Egads they were dragging the bottom of the barrel here. Actually that makes sense as they literally dragged the title out of the trash for this match. Gibson looked to be about 85 years old out there and I don’t think the majority of the fans had any idea who he was. It’s clear why the title was retired in about two months.

I’m going to skip Duggan joining Team Canada and turning heel due to its sheer stupidity. Duggan would go to the indies after WCW went under but would get hired back to the WWF in a surprising move. He would stick around a shocking four years, though he was rarely anything more than a Heat wrestler, including this match from March 22, 2008 against Charlie Haas.

Charlie Haas vs. Jim Duggan

The announcers talk about the upcoming Wrestlemania 24 as Duggan scores with some early clotheslines to send Charlie outside. Haas goes under the ring and puts on a mask for some stupid gimmick he was doing at the time. Charlie gets all aggressive with the mask on and stomps away before getting two off an ax handle. Choking ensues and we hit a chinlock. Duggan fights up and takes off the mask, freaking Haas out enough that the three point clothesline can connect for the pin.

Rating: D. The mask part was the most interesting part of the match. Duggan was his usual fun self here and that’s all he was supposed to be. Charlie was a guy that never was going to be anything of note but it wasn’t for a lack of trying with all of the comedy gimmicks he had.

Jim Duggan is one of the goofiest, least important and harmless characters you’ll ever see and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. He almost never was a title contender but he would get a huge pop if he showed up on Raw tomorrow. Duggan is the kind of guy that didn’t need to do anything more than show up, talk about how hard he’ll fight and chant USA to get over. He was basically Hogan-Lite and he had a 30+ year career as a result. In short: he knew his place and didn’t try to be anything more, leading to success. Duggan is as pure of a good guy as you’ll find and he still worked even in his last days in WWE.

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