Twenty thousand screaming fans, $500,000 a year salary, $53,000 Porsche and then it ended.
On October 14, 1986, Magnum T.A., who always heard thousands cheer his name, sat for over an hour alone waiting for someone to save his life. When he needed one of those fans, they were not there.
Magnum T.A. whose real name is Terry Wayne Allen, was one of the most popular wrestlers of the early ’80s. He was a young shining star for the National Wrestling Association when a car accident ended his career. He was a certain future World champion, and quite possibly the man who was to help the NWA compete against the WWF’s Hulk Hogan.
When news got out, thousands headed to the hospital where Allen occupied. Flowers, letters, cards were sent to the hospital during his stay. A man who was known for his belly-to-belly suplex could not even move his arms.
The man, for whom thousands once screamed for, could not talk to thank them.
The man, who had it all, now struggled to survive.
Allen grew up in Tidewater, Virginia. He attended college at Old Dominion University, but never got past his second year. He was a walk-on to the wrestling team where he was only able to manage a 1-4-1 record.
Pete Robinson coached Allen at Old Dominion. He remembered Allen as “very nice, a pleasant, friendly-attitude type, maybe too nice for wrestling.”
Following his ill success in college, Allen made his way, at the age of 19, to Portland. There he took on Chris Colt in his first professional wrestling match.
It was not until years later that he took the name Magnum T.A.
He journeyed all over the country trying to find a home. In 1984, Jim Crockett Promotions signed the young Magnum T.A. to a contract. He finally found his role in wrestling.
Within the year, he would win the United States title from Wahoo McDaniel and wrestle the infamous “I Quit Match” with Tully Blanchard.
In the summer of 1986, Magnum lost a best-of-seven series with Nikita Koloff. His matches with Koloff were a mix of athleticism, charisma and rivalry. There was nothing like them at that time.
They were the matches that Magnum T.A. is best remembered for.
Allen wrestled the night of his accident in Greenville, SC, in front of a packed house. Little did anyone known that his win over Jimmy Garvin would be his last. He left the arena and headed to a popular hangout place for the wrestlers in Charlotte, a town where he and most wrestlers lived.
He was not there to party, eat or drink. He was there to drop off his friend and fellow wrestler Dick Murdoch.
“I went in and made sure his ride was there — he was supposed to meet somebody — and left. I wanted to go home,” Allen said months after the accident. “I was driving down Sardis Road. It was raining, and there was some water collected on the road. I started to hydroplane and the car, because the engine is in the rear, reacted differently. I backed off the gas and continued sliding.
“Then I remembered you’re supposed to give a Porsche gas. I hit the gas and it was like a shot — it just took off. It cut across the road diagonally, across the oncoming lane of traffic — I’m lucky nobody was coming — and hit a pole near the driver’s door.”
On a dark Sardis Street at night, no one around, no way to move, Allen sat for an hour before someone found him. It took another hour to pry the 230-pound wrestler out of the car. He was talking at the time, but his condition was critical. Sardis now is the home of one of the Ric Flair-owned Gold’s Gym, just a mile from where Allen wrecked.
He told workers that he could not move most of his body. His body was awkwardly slanted to the right, and so workers worked carefully in getting him out. On his arrival to the hospital, he was immediately rushed to surgery.
Surgery lasted over three hours as doctors tried to repair damage in Allen’s vertebra and nerve system.
Hospital spokesperson Cecily Newton was optimistic to reporters following the surgery, saying “There are good signs that he will walk again, but it is still very early in the game at this point.”
Many questioned Allen’s future. Most believed he would not be able to wrestle again. Others had hope.
Ivan Koloff, who had feuded with Allen in the ring over the past year, was quoted following the accident. “We definitely have a lot of hope for him, and I hope he gets back in the ring again. He gave us a lot of good battles.”
Thousands of calls, letters and flowers were sent to the hospital where Allen would stay clinging to possibilities. In the end, some 75,000 letters were sent in support of Allen. They did not want to face a wrestling card without the face of Magnum T.A., in the ring.
The NWA tried to go on. The following Saturday, Nikita Koloff made a shocking face turn to join Dusty Rhodes in Dusty’s battles with the Four Horsemen. It was not the same. The crowd was half the size it was just weeks before.
Allen lied in the hospital slowly recovering. A body that had lied days without movement on the right side was now beginning movement all around.
His mother said during his recovery, “He seems so encouraged.”
And he was. Allen did not want to be known this way, though. He wanted to be known for making $500,000 a year, a world champion, the top of the world.
Dusty Rhodes was there to help, saying he would “carry him back (to the ring) if I had to.”
Magnum T.A. walked into a ring again, but it was not the same vision that many saw it. He had a cane, was not in his regular red trunks and was there for support, not action.
Wrestling journalist Bill Apter remembered the return of Magnum T.A. “When he came back for several waving appearances, it was nice, it was applauded that he was back, but it wasn’t the same thing. It’s almost like people didn’t want that Magnum T.A., they wanted the other guy.”
Magnum T.A. was used on a few occasions as an announcer, and stayed behind the scenes as a booker into the early 1990s, but has since disappeared from the wrestling world. It was hard when all he wanted to do is wrestle.
“That’s still my ultimate goal,” Allen told reporters a year following the accident. He was still walking with a cane at the time, and being inside the ropes is all he wanted to do.
Mick Foley, in his book Have a Nice Day, remembered Allen’s days before the accident, calling Magnum T.A. “a definite, future world champion.”
It just did not work out that way although Allen can now walk without the use of a cane or crutch.
Allen lives a quiet life in Charlotte. He occasionally makes independent wrestling appearances, and is scheduled to be at the Cauliflower Alley Club convention in Las Vegas in February, but his life is pretty much a mystery.
He did not reply to calls made by SLAM! Wrestling.
Fans know him when they see him. His hair is still long, and he still sports the mustache on his face that he wore in 1986.
Following the accident, two hospitals sued Allen for money that he owed for health care. Expenses ran over $100,000, far past the $25,000 worth of health insurance coverage Allen had.
It was eventually paid off.
Tamara, Allen’s wife who had supported him throughout the whole accident, is no longer with Allen. They filed for divorce years later.
The man who once had thousands of fans chanting his name, now had very few to turn to. Fans had long forgotten Magnum T.A. He had become just another name in the history book of professional wrestling.
It was not the way it was supposed to be.
MAGNUM TA STORIES
- Dec. 12, 2016: Magnum TA documentary offers insight and inspiration
- Feb. 7, 2016: Magnum/Nikita still compelling all these years later
- May 25, 2009: Epic Koloff-Magnum feud revisited in great DVD
- Jan. 27, 2008: Hometown folks still have Magnum T.A. on the mind