"I do what Hacksaw Jim Duggan does best. Beat people up." - Hacksaw Jim Duggan
The Royal Rumble as we know it today is the first step on the Road to WrestleMania. But as any purest knows, the Mania pot of gold was not always at the end of the Rumble rainbow. It seems asinine now to think that anyone would put themselves through the grueling endurance test that is the Royal Rumble without the promise of shot at the greatest of all titles on the grandest of all stages.
Well some dolt had to be the first to do it for nothing but a night’s pay and a ham sandwich (I doubt catering then was anything like it probably is now). The perfect man for the job was “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. With a face that perpetually said, “Boy, oh boy, how exciting it is to be here! There are so many people!” your first Royal Rumble winner was crowned on January 24th, 1988.
One cannot help but wonder sometimes, what if... What if Vince decided to piggyback on Pat Patterson’s idea? What if Vince felt there needed to be something more on the line? What if from the very first night, the winner of the Royal Rumble was awarded with a guaranteed shot at the World Wrestling Federation Title at WrestleMania? And what if they kept the booking exactly the same?
January 24th, 1988 – The Royal Rumble
Moments before the debut of the Royal Rumble, Hulk Hogan and André the Giant had just signed the contract for their WrestleMania III rematch to take place at The Main Event in February.
As the 13th competitor, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan enters the match and the history books as the first ever winner of the Royal Rumble and is now in line to face the winner of Hogan/André II at WrestleMania IV. What a better way to establish the parody that the Rumble could bring then to have the hapless babyface “hooo-”ing his way to the biggest show of the year.
Now for my “This all wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility” portion of this fictionally ridiculous article. Duggan was arguably the biggest midcard babyface in the company. In a really good time for xenophobia, crowds ate up Duggan’s slaphappy patriot character across the nation. He was also already feuding with the guy that Hogan won the WWF title from. Granted, it was four years after the fact, but The Iron Sheik still had some heat. And even though he never held a title in the WWF, he was backed as he had won over 81% of his matches and tallied three more wins than Hogan himself! (Nobody let Hogan see this, BTW. Who really wants to see this evened up over two episodes of Impact Wrestling and Hardcore Justice?
February 5th 1988 – The Main Event
With “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase and Virgil in André’s corner and “Dave” Hebner set to call the match, Hulk Hogan set his WWF title on the line at the first ever The Main Event. Fed up with their dastardly tactics, Duggan runs down to the ring, 2x4 in tow, and clears DiBiase and Virgil from ringside. As the match progresses, André takes control and, after a suplex, goes for the pin on Hogan. Just then, Duggan notices a mole on the underside of “Dave’s” arm. Duggan drags Hebner out of the ring by his leg and leads him to the back. Hacksaw reemerges with President Jack Tunney, Dave Hebner and his twin brother Earl Hebner (swerve!). Earl Hebner fesses up to being paid by DiBiase to throw the match in André’s favor (which if that ever happened in any competitive sport, Earl Hebner would be ostracized and never heard from again. Pro Wrestling!) Jack Tunney officially throws out the match and Hogan stays champion while André loses his rematch. Hogan and Duggan pose-off.
March 27th, 1988 – WrestleMania IV
Over a month’s worth of build-up for what was billed as “The American Challenge” has only determined this:
- Über-babyface versus Über-babyface
- Patriot versus Patriot
- Yellow trunks versus blue trunks
- Prayers and vitamins versus a 2x4
That gripping tale of the tape aside, a poll of active wrestling fans in 1988 still believes Hogan to come out the victor. But what do we know about babyface underdogs? Never count them out.
After ten minutes and a lot of heavy breathing, Duggan evades the big boot. As The Hulkster recoups, Hacksaw sets up in the corner and connects with the Three Point Stance Clothesline. 1…2…3! Atlantic City goes wild with surprise and elation. Red, white and blue fireworks go off around the ring. Hogan musters up a handshake. Now play this while saying this out loud: “The winner… and NEW WWF Champion, Hacksaw… Jim… Duggan!!!” That’s right. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan just went over clean at WrestleMania IV.
In what was a two pronged attack by Vince McMahon, he wanted to see if he can have his #1 patriotic good guy without paying him Hogan-like money while at the same time delivering an ego-check to Hulk to make sure he didn’t forget he was still just Terry Bollea. Who better than Hacksaw to plug into this equation? Duggan’s bump in pay was $250, a big bag of M&M’s and a 24-pack of Schlitz beer.
Six Months Later
“Hacksaw Fever” is spreading across America. With Hogan taking “time off” Jim Duggan is the biggest superstar in the WWF. Complete with a mini replica championship belt for his 2x4, he’s going on real talk shows (not whatever this is), he did a guest spot on Cheers, Old Spice commercials, and he even had a deal in place for his own movie (though it was scrapped when no screenwriter could be found to capture Hacksaw’s true “essence”).
Fresh off Ted DiBiase hiring goon after goon to try and beat Duggan for the title at the first SummerSlam, he decides he has to go into business for himself. In the build-up for their match at Survivor Series, DiBiase reveals that he recently acquired the largest lumber producer in the nation and that they’re all run by child labor. An emotionally torn Hacksaw vows to never use his 2x4 again as long as children are being exploited. Naturally this leads to the classic Title vs. Lumberyard 2x4 on a pole match! The stipulation of that match, of course, is the first person to get the 2x4 and use it on their opponent wins the match. After a moral conundrum and the rabid support of the crowd, Hacksaw retains his title and becomes the largest lumber mogul in the country. It was a rough first couple of months after Duggan laid off all the kids without hiring adult replacements leading to very dangerous unmanned lumberyards.
One Year Later
He did it. Of course he did it. The ultimate politician lobbied himself into the Royal Rumble, won it, and set himself in position for the rematch. Hogan/Duggan II. WrestleMania V. After almost a year off, Hogan re-debuted at the Royal Rumble looking a little darker, a little edgy, anda lot more focused. Very pleased with Hogan’s rededication, Vince decides to pull the trigger on the title switch. In what could only be described as a “shit-fest” by the Wrestling Purporter, wrestled a 20 minute embarrassment for which Hulk won, and Duggan took the heat for.
Five Years Later
Having worked his way out of the doghouse since 1989, Hacksaw worked his way back to main event status and even managed to become King of the Ring in 1990. Hulk Hogan had just debuted for WCW and was bringing several of his close buddies in with him. In an attempt to protect his brand, Vince re-signed Duggan and really pushed the nostalgia angle with him. This actually backfired as Hacksaw’s “inring style” was more or less exposed having to work with young, technically sound workers like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and The Undertaker. This was particularly hard to watch during his program with The Undertaker and their series of Build the Casket Matches. With each win over Hacksaw, Taker would win more 2x4s to make a casket from. This feud ended, of course, with a Last Ride Match.
Ten Years Later
Duggan eventually had his stint with the WCW and, as was in his contract along with Nacho Cheese Bugles and a 16 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbon, held the WCW championship four times and was leader of the nWo Red, White and Blue.
Hacksaw Jim Duggan made his triumphant return to the WWE and was heralded with the legend status he had so rightfully earned. In his first match back on Raw, Triple H tore his hamstring and Duggan passed a kidney stone during the match that sidelined him for the rest of 2004.
In 2005, Hacksaw Jim Duggan was inducted as the co-head of his Hall of Fame Class along with Hulk Hogan, which he’ll tell you five times in conversation today. After having been GM of Raw from 2007-08, Duggan left the company due to “creative differences.”
You can see Hacksaw Jim Duggan in action on Sunday, February 12th LIVE on Pay Per View! The Immortal Hulk Hogan and Hacksaw Jim Duggan have their long awaited tiebreaking match for the TNA Heavyweight Championship as Direct Auto Insurance Presents: AGAINST ALL ODDS.