“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan was funny during his popular run in the WWE (then WWF) from 1987 to 1993. But, fans are likely to remember Duggan as funny in that “cross your eyes, stick out your tongue, walking cartoon” kind of way. Now on tour with his “2×4 Tour” live show, how could that lovable, yet incredibly simple character translate into a night out at a comedy club? Thoughts come to mind of the large, hairy “Hacksaw” stomping violently around the stage, stopping periodically to start “USA! USA!” chants for an hour.
Duggan generously distributes his crowd pleasing “Hoo!” and snaps into character throughout the set when telling wrestling stories from days gone by. But he also reveals a clever and genial side rarely seen on television until his turn on WWE Network’s reality show Legends House. On Legends House, Duggan developed a tender friendship with fellow WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Piper passed away suddenly in 2015.
“Legends House really opened up my whole personality to a bunch of people who never saw (me) besides ‘Hacksaw’ Duggan in the ring,” Duggan said. “And I think a lot of folks saw that it’s more than just my character in the ring, (and) that I do enjoy having a good time. I’m a personable guy, I like having fun and laughs, and that’s why me and Piper got along so well.”
Early into his first solo tour, which hits New York State and Boston through the first half of February, Duggan is satisfied with the turnout he’s seen. He sold out his first show in his hometown of Glens Falls and had a good night at Helium Comedy Club in Buffalo, particularly for a Wednesday in the winter.
Duggan’s material hinges on humorous tales involving wrestling legends on the road and in the ring. The stories usually include the insight and commentary that has driven the popularity of pro wrestling podcasts and the growing category of pro wrestlers turned live storytellers. Duggan points out early in the show that he’s not doing traditional set ups and punchlines (“If you’re looking for knock-knock jokes, look somewhere else, tough guy!”).
“I think Mick Foley was the first guy to open up the door for doing this kind of show. It’s a kind of behind the scenes wrestling show, and then a lot of guys picked it up. I’ve actually done them in three other countries besides America. Last year, ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase and myself were over in Scotland and England. And, I did them up in Canada with Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, also here in the states,” Duggan said.
Duggan rubbed shoulders with legends like Andre The Giant and Hulk Hogan during his time with the WWE, and at one point appeared to be on the fast track to joining Hogan as a champion in the company.
However, Duggan’s trajectory stopped suddenly in 1987, when he was stopped by New Jersey police while providing the Iron Sheik a ride to the WWE’s next gig.
“Of course the Sheik and me are married at the hip in infamy together. It’s not that we were friends — I gave a guy a ride that one day, and of course he had a felony arrest with three grams of cocaine and I had a misdemeanor arrest with a couple of doobies in my sock. So we both got painted with the same brush and it was a huge setback,” he said.
The arrest took place when pro wrestling was still presented as reality, which presented a major issue issue with the patriotic Duggan being a fan favorite and Iron Sheik being a hated, anti-American villain. Iron Sheik was released, while Duggan was sent home for an extended period and never recovered his momentum.
Despite the setback, Duggan feels that the eternally optimistic “Hacksaw” made the most of his position despite never winning a title in the WWE.
“You know, my character, it almost lends itself to not being world champion, that was the whole deal. ‘You know, I don’t care if I win the match, as long as ‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan wins the fight tough guy, Hoo!,” he said. “So I could wrestle the world champion, get beat 1-2-3 in the middle, and then get up and hit him with a 2×4, hit the referee with a 2×4, then chase the timekeeper with a 2×4, then end up in the middle of the ring, ‘Hoo!’ I could lose without hurting my character, so it was actually a really good spot for me.”
Although the venues aren’t as big as the arenas he worked in during his days in the WWE and WCW, Duggan is spending a lot more time in front of the audience at stand up clubs than he was as a wrestler. A Q&A segment and meet and greet close the show, and Duggan gives each fan an enthusiastic response.
“It’s a lot more fun with nobody beating on me,” he joked.
Still, Duggan, 62 and a cancer survivor, is taking and delivering beatings as a wrestler at independent shows around the world after a 36 year career.
“I still love getting in the ring. People say, ‘Do you get tired of it?’ I say, ‘Get tired of it? You know, you come through the curtain, everybody is on their feet, everyone is going ‘Hoo!’ Cheering, ‘USA, USA!’,” he said. “It’s like a shot of adrenaline. I joke, I say I’ll come down with a walker made of 2x4s sooner or later. I love it that much.”
“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s “2×4 Tour” continues with dates in Ithaca, Rome, and Williamsville, NY; Boston and Foxboro, MA; and Watertown, Binghamton and Poughkeepsie, NY from Feb. 5 to Feb. 13. Check for dates, times and more at Hacksawshow.com.