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EXCLUSIVE: Former semi-main event WWE wrestler says if not for drug arrest, he thinks he would have been World Champion, talks of backstage dispute with Austin
By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor
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"Hacksaw" Jim Duggan says he believes he would have risen to World Title level had it not been for a routine traffic stop in 1987 that led to him and his passenger, The Iron Sheik, being arrested when marijuana and cocaine was discovered. Duggan volunteered to the officer there was some marijuana in the car, but he didn't know Sheik had cocaine.
Both Duggan and Sheik were fired, an incident Duggan talks about at length in his new autobiography that came out this month.
In an exclusive interview with PWTorch.com's Wade Keller on the PWTorch Livecast last Friday (subscribe in iTunes by clicking here), he expanded on what he wrote about in his book regarding how the arrest diminished the heights he'd reach in the WWF.
"I don't think I ever regained the momentum I would have had before the arrest with the Iron Sheik," he said. "I think I was on the fast track [before the arrest]. I think I would have been World Champion, Intercontinental, or Tag Team Champion. I never regained the momentum. I think a lot of guys it would have totally crushed their career, but I was lucky enough to survive it and actually thrive after the arrest."
One of the issues that complicated the matter was that he was feuding with Iron Sheik at the time, and back in the late-'80s the mainstream media seized the chance to mock pro wrestling because two wrestlers in a bitter on-air feud were caught driving together. Of course today, WWE cares so little about that type of thing, they have Alberto Del Rio and Mark Henry on Raw giving anti-bullying speeches and coming across as heroes to kids. Vince McMahon cared back then, and fired Duggan and Sheik on the spot because of the embarrassing publicity the arrest created.
"For a while I didn't think I would be given an opportunity to come back to WWE," Duggan told Keller. "My good friend Jake Roberts called me I was screwed and would never be brought back. So I thought that was going to be the end of my career with Vince. But I made the call to Dusty [Rhodes] after Jake called me. I made plans to go down and see Dusty Rhodes in Atlanta. Before I made that move, Bruce Prichard called me from the office and told me to keep my head down and they were going to bring me back. They brought me back, but never gave me the huge push."
Duggan also talked about the big controversy in WCW between him and Steve Austin, and whether he or Austin still hold a grudge today over the incident that contributed greatly to Eric Bischoff firing Austin from WCW. Austin was asked to drop the U.S. Title to Hacksaw Duggan. Duggan says Austin was upset and faked a knee injury and cut the match short in order to express his disagreement with the bookers.
"The deal with Austin, yeah, we had a little heat over that," he saide. "The match was supposed to go 12, 15 minutes. Austin wasn't happy about doing the job so he went down with a bogus knee injury and it kind of took away from me and everything... He said, 'I blew my knee out, I blew my knee out. Cover me, cover me.' I did the cover and got the 1-2-3. That's, as I point out in the book, there was a change in wrestlers' attitude then. It wasn't about passing the torch and what can you do for the company, it was more of a me type of time where you wanted to make sure what you did didn't hurt your chances of going somewhere else rather than the old school deal where, 'Hey, I'm passing the torch to someone else.'"
He said part of the issue was the politics behind the scenes. At the time in WCW, Austin was perceived to be part of a fading political power-base led by Ric Flair, and Duggan being booked to beat Austin was part of Hulk Hogan exerting his power and helping his friends, such as Duggan.
"Yeah, there was definitely two camps at WCW," he said. "There was the Hulk Hogan camp that I was proud to be part of, and of course the Ric Flair. Me, the Hulkster, Jimmy Hart, Beefcake, we all made the moves to WCW. The guys down there, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, [Johnny B. Badd and Sable], and 'Stunning' Steve Austin, they all made the move to New York. That shows what a master Vince [McMahon] is by repackaging those guys. After two or three years he regained the momentum over WCW."
He says the two are cordial today, though. "I wouldn't say we befriended each other. We're run across each other a few times and they were always congenial. At this stage there's no heat I have with hardly anybody. Those of us who have survived this business and thrived in it, so we let bygones be bygones. I hold no hard feelings toward him and I don't think he has any toward me, to tell you the truth... I joke about it now-a-days. I say I beat 'Stunning' Steve so bad he had to shave his head and change his name. I should be getting a kickback. He'd still be Stunning Steve if I didn't get him."
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