Like a lot of hardcore fans, I was never a big fan of Hacksaw Duggan, especially during his time in the WWF or WCW, yet I always had a lot of respect for the man as someone who knew his gimmick and stuck to it. That belief in self and confidence in what he was able to deliver in the ring shines through in his recently-released autobiography.
Teaming with author Scott E. Williams, Duggan has written Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story, a welcome addition to the ever-growing bookshelf of wrestling titles.
The book really has an excellent balance of real life, wrestling life, and reflection, with funny stories relieving the anguish of tragedies.
The son of a police chief in Glens Falls, NY, Duggan was into football big-time and ended up playing college ball at SMU. His roundabout entry into pro wrestling as his football career peters out is not necessarily all that unique, but he tells a good tale. Personally, as a football fan, I wanted a little more about his time in the NFL and the CFL, but hey, this is a wrestling biography. Duggan’s acceptance into the brotherhood of ex-NFL players at the end of the book is a nice tie-in to his early days as well, and it’s oddly comforting to know that he, at least, has health insurance as an NFL alum.
In pro wrestling, Duggan admits his failings, and really takes the time to explain how he got better in the ring, learning how to work a crowd so that when his Hacksaw Duggan character really arrived he knew how to milk it for all it was worth — and is still doing so on the indy scene.
Though the stops in Hawaii and the WWWF early in his career were blips, he doesn’t leave them out. As for his days in Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling/UWF, fans of that particular promotion will probably feel a little shortchanged, but I loved it, and felt there was just enough. It’s the kind of thing where Duggan should probably sit down and just do a great shoot interview talking specifically about each step of his time in Mid-South to sate the appetites of those particular fans.
The real impression I got from the Mid-South days was the arduous nature of the travel. It was one of the biggest territories in size, and the number of car accident stories is seemingly off the charts, and I was easily swept along in some of the harrowing recollections. The tragic loss of a girlfriend in one crash is a particularly poignant story.
When Duggan followed the trend and jumped from the financially troubled UWF to the WWF his career took off. Again, there’s probably enough here for your average reader on the differences between the companies, his decision to switch and how his life changed, but there wasn’t a lot of dwelling on the repercussions.
Duggan’s character took a lighter tone in the WWF (and even more so in WCW), and he obviously has a good sense of humour. You will laugh at antics involving everything from cobras to kangaroos, to the ribs the boys had to do to pass the time. The section where he is in Australia for a WCW tour and Juventud Guerrera goes off a drug-induced deep end, running through the city naked, is awesomely re-readable.
Hacksaw doesn’t shy away from the controversial side of the wrestling world, the drugs, booze and partying. He makes no excuses, and owns up to his own failings and faults. The notorious arrest of Duggan and The Iron Sheik, traveling together despite their feud, gets a number of revealing pages.
Similarly, if I had to attach a tone to Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story, I’d say it is very level-headed, with Duggan never talking down to his audience or bragging about his accomplishments. I know, hard to believe it’s a wrestling book.
Perhaps a big part of that is the fact that Duggan has been married — to the same woman — for three decades now, with two daughters. This is almost unheard of in the wrestling business, of course, with its temptations at every stop. His wife, Debra, chimes in here and there with some insight of her own on their lives together and common adventures, and it really adds to the narrative.
Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story is honest without being maudlin or manipulative, not always easy to pull off in a worked business.
This line probably sums it up best: “I know it sounds corny, but hearing that crowd cheer and chant for me is my lifeblood.”
So, tough guy, if you want to learn about one of the real good guys in the wrestling business, pick up Hacksaw: The Jim Duggan Story. You’ll find yourself chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” throughout.