After a few health scares, including a heart attack in December 2022, Barry Windham is back in the news for something positive — the induction of his tag team with Mike Rotunda, known as US Express, into the WWE Hall of Fame this coming Friday in Philadelphia as a part of WrestleMania XL. In his honor,’s Steve Johnson dug out this gem of a Q&A conducted at the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Fan Fest. Here is the full Q&A from the event.

You have a little bit of different introduction to Mid-Atlantic Championship wrestling because you actually grew up around the area and so you experienced this as a teenager and as the son of your dad who was the big star here. What kind of an impression did it make on you at that age? Because that’s a very formative age.

Well, when I was in high school, my buddies knew that my old man was a wrestler. And, of course, they all had their favorites. Guys all wanted to be [Ric] Flair, [Rick] Steamboat, Paul Jones or Mr. Wrestling II or [Blackjack] Mulligan. I was an impressionable age, 14, 15, 16 years old, growing up in the Carolinas. It was exciting. I mean, when I was 16 years old, I was driving Flair’s limo around Charlotte.

Did any of your high school friends want to be Blackjack Mulligan?

Yeah. I mean, there were some, they came to school and they know they’d be intimidated by, or not intimidated, but fear Mulligan.

Did you do amateur wrestling at that time?

Yeah, I sure did. At East Mac. [East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte]

Blackjack Mulligan and his son Barry Windham.

Blackjack Mulligan and his son Barry Windham.

How was that? Was that something your dad encouraged you to do, or was that something you did on your own? You were big and athletic anyway.

Well, I guess he was glad that I wanted to amateur wrestle and I did. Okay. I mean, I had winning seasons, but the biggest one I can remember was Flair showed up at one of my district matches, and of course that was a big deal, the Nature Boy showing up at a high school wrestling event. I think I won, but it was a just by decision. So it was a close one.

That would make you a big man on campus.

Yeah. Mondays back at school, when they do announcements over the intercom, everybody in my home class would all be hooping and hollering for me, but it was exciting.

Talk about driving Flair around in the limousine. You guys lived down the street from each other, if I recall correctly?

Yeah, yeah, just one house in between us.

Was he paying you to be his driver or were you just doing that out of the goodness of your heart?

I think the excitement covered the payment.

You had a couple incidents with that limousine too.

Yeah, I sure did. He had a ’74 Lincoln that was a limousine, and I was driving my buddies around, Chris Luis and Carey Gasquez, and we were going to the Taco Bell drive through, and the limo caught on fire. So it burned up in Taco Bell drive through.

How did that happen?

It was just an electrical fire. It was just one of those things. Flair wasn’t mad and he fixed it and everything was okay.

With Flair, it’s probably a disposable limousine, right?


Blackjack Mulligan and his son Barry Windham.

Blackjack Mulligan and his son Barry Windham.

Talk about when you first got into Mid-Atlantic, the first-time wrestling. Do you have specific recollection of how you came in, how you were treated in early matches? You came in here with your dad the first time.

I had started wrestling in Florida and had a car wreck with Manny Fernandez. We were driving back from Fort Lauderdale and we rolled over a pickup truck and I was basically in a coma for three weeks, and when I came out of it, my old man had my hair dyed black, and I was Jack Mulligan Jr. So I started wrestling in the Carolinas as Blackjack Mulligan Jr. then.

Was there any concern at that time about the father and son team? Because that was still an era when Greg Valentine went by Johnny Fargo because he didn’t want to be known as his dad’s son.

You know, I don’t think that I ever got over as Blackjack Mulligan Jr. So, to answer that, I guess the answer would be yes. It was difficult. And I don’t know how it was looked upon by the other guys, but it was a short run in my career, probably a year. And then I went back to Florida after that and back to Barry Windham. But as far as my dad, he was overly protective in the ring and it was just difficult, but it was also fun being with him all the time too.

It’s also a little different than the way things traditionally were done at the time, because usually you started as a babyface and kinda learned the ropes from the ring general instead of starting out as a bad guy.

Well, he was a babyface then.

Oh, was he?

Yep. I had my first match in the Carolinas with Abe Jacobs, and it was a stinkaroo. I think we went about seven minutes, and Abe beat me with a slam. I think that tells you how good it was. It was somewhere, it may have been in Concord, but I just remember an old dark building and going to the ring and being so afraid, the crowd screaming and then it being over with before he even got started.

And Abe was a guy who could tie you in knots if he wanted to, even if you were a seasoned pro.

Oh, yeah. Abe trained all the guys and helped train me. So yeah, it was part of the learning experience being in a ring with Abe.

Barry Windham on TBS.

Barry Windham on TBS.

When you switched back to Barry Windham, when did you feel it started to click for you? Was there a moment when you kind of said, I think I feel a little confident in what I’m doing and I can handle myself in the ring and get a good reaction.

I think that when I worked with Don Muraco in Florida and we were going 20-minute through matches is when I first started getting a little bit of, I guess you could call it attitude or just a little self-assurance, that I could handle it. And, from there on it just took off.

Was there anything that came easy to you, Barry, early on? Was selling easy, comeback easy? Was it kind of a gradual learning experience?

I would say of course selling, you know, I always sold, so I guess I started out working like a jobby, I would just sell all the time and that’s like I said, my old man was overly protective and I don’t think he liked the way that I sold, but that’s just to each his own. And that’s just the way I learned.

Was there anybody whose style you copied or borrowed from? Or was anybody you looked at particularly and say, I’d like to incorporate that in what I’m doing?

When working in Florida, I got to work with so many different top guys. I mean, Dick Slater, Don Muraco, [Masa] Saito. Just to name a few when I was first starting off, I picked up a little from all, and I was already working with Harley in my first year down in Florida. So, Harley taught me in the ring too.

Barry Windham in a WWF publicity photo.

Barry Windham in a WWF publicity photo.

Let’s fast forward a little bit then. You went to Florida, WWE right at the start of the boom period for them. Did you sense at that time when you were up there with Windham that things were kind of changing in the way that wrestling was being presented to the audience as opposed to stuff you were more familiar with growing up?

Oh, yeah. Vince [McMahon] had a completely different outlook and a completely different formula of wrestling than what I’ve been exposed to. Initially I stayed there about a year and a half, maybe two years, and, and I left cause of some of those differences, cause everybody was a cartoon character and that’s how they were projected on TV and matches were four, five and six minutes long. And I was used to going 45 minutes a night. So, it was a complete culture shock. But I learned a lot from working for Vince.

Well, what did you learn?

I learned how the business was changing and how he was changing it and what it was evolving to, and it was more entertainment than it was physicality in the ring. And I still always worked really physical in the ring, but he had to learn how to entertain too.

Well, you know, I give the devil his due, which worked for him. He’s the last man standing.

Oh, yeah.

So, getting back to Mid-Atlantic, you came back after Magnum TA‘s car accident. And I know that’s always a difficult thing to discuss, and I’ve talked about Magnum too. How’d you hear about the accident and what was your reaction beyond the immediate shock?

Well, he and I both drove Porsche 911 Carreras and I introduced it to him and I was working for New York and Crocketts were working down in Florida and I lent him my car for a week, and he decided he had to have a 930 Turbo, so he went out and got one. And then less than a year later, he had the wreck. And that’s when I was back in Florida from the New York territory. And I just heard about him having a crash and I think I was there the second day. I came back here to shop the second day to see Terry. And, Terry and I were really close friends.

You probably first met in Florida.

Yes and it was tough seeing somebody that you know is full of life and as vibrant as Terry is and was, to see him basically just locked down in traction, his complete body. It was overwhelming.

Is there any question in your mind that he was bound for the top, he was the guy you could build a promotion around?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. He was so talented. He had great charisma and great working ability and really a physical wrestler too.

Barry Windham and Dusty Rhodes.

Barry Windham and Dusty Rhodes.

Now, when you came back, I guess this is ’86, I think if I’m remembering correctly, you actually didn’t start right at the top. Dusty Rhodes, had you work your way back up as a maybe just a learn your lesson kind of thing.

Yeah. [laughs].

But it didn’t take long before you worked your way back up to the top.

I left the Carolinas, I guess in ’80, the last of ’84. And I’d gotten a check two weeks in a row of $130. And I had Porsches and Corvettes and all that. And it was a pride thing, I couldn’t even make my payments. So, I called my old man and he called Vince and I was working there the next day. So, you know, then I had my differences with them. And then to come back, Magnum told me that he said to Dusty, “Bring Barry back. He’s the guy.” But Dusty and I were real close for so many years too, so it was just a matter of making it right to get back.

Did it take you a while before you felt coming back that you were in a spot you needed to be doing the kind of things that you wanted to do?

Well, it really didn’t take long cause I was accepted by everybody in the dressing room, so it was a natural fit and there was a big hole with Terry being gone. So, I fit in.

As a lead babyface at that time, did you like working as a babyface?

Yeah, I did.

A lot of folks always like being heel because they feel they can get away with stuff they couldn’t pull otherwise. But as you say, there was a big hole in the promotion at that time.

Yeah, up to that point, I had only been a babyface. And I knew that I’d eventually want to be a heel, but it was right to be a babyface, to be in line with Dusty and Nikita [Koloff] and those guys, to get in line with Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. So, it was the right place at the right time.

Barry Windham as The Widow maker in WWF.

Barry Windham as The Widow maker in WWF.

Now, all the fans out there always remember that in the 32nd minute of your match against Flair in Richmond, you went for a body slam and then he reversed it. And why did that happen? I’ve never found a wrestler who remembered things to that detail. That’s kind of a fan kind of thing. But in general, what was it like working with Flair, whose car you’d been driving around as a teenager?

Well, when I first started working with him in Florida, you know, I was friends with Larry, he was friends with my old man. He was best friends with my dad. And so I knew him and I trusted him in the ring right away. So was at ease, when you work with guys that a lot of times there’s a little bit of a barrier, how much trust you have with ’em, how much you can trust ’em in your body, how much they’re gonna trust you. But, you know, that was immediately broken with Ric and I, so we started right off.

Was he a good ring general?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. The best.

You guys at some point have probably worked, I’m guessing so often together that you, I probably had ESP back and forth as to who was gonna do what when.

Yeah, after so many hours, our Broadway matches, there was a chemistry there and it just flowed. Never said a word to each other or anything, just went in and did our stuff.

Let’s go to The Four Horsemen and the Lex Luger Turn, which was still one of the most shocking things, for its era. How did that come about? I know the specific event was that you turned on Luger, but whose idea was it to have Barry hook up with the Four Horsemen, which is considered the most successful incarnation of the group?

I don’t know whose exact idea it was. It may have been, we always did promos at Crockett’s office, one day a week. So, I’m sure that in sitting around and talking, we came up with the idea for me to turn heel and be a Horseman. I had worked in singles with Arn [Anderson] and Tully [Blanchard] and Ric and Ole [Anderson], for already years at that point. So, it was time for me to turn heel, as far as business-wise. And I don’t think it could have been timed any better.

Arn Anderson, Barry Windham and Ric Flair

Arn Anderson, Barry Windham and Ric Flair

You felt like you kind of outlived your usefulness as a babyface at that point, and Sting was on the scene too at that time, was he not?

Yeah, and Sting, and then with Luger being the top babyface and with Dusty being there, there was a spot in the Horseman and it was just a natural fit.

The Horsemen were unique, especially in your group, because although you guys were heels, you weren’t necessarily the kinda heels that people were gonna stab or shoot or throw, put their cigarette butts out. You were kind of cool cocky heels. Is that right?

Yeah, I guess it was, as Vince puts it, it was the gray area of wrestling and I think that maybe the Freebirds were the first, but the Horsemen were right there around the same time. It was just you could work as a heel or as a babyface, and a lot of times it just depends on how the match went as to how the crowd would react to us being heel or babyface.

Tully said he thought that was the most successful incarnation of the Horsemen because then it allowed him and Arn to spin off as a tag team. But anybody could wrestle in any slot singles, tag, six men, at any time.

Yeah, we’ve talked about that at length and that’s why I’m saying it was just the perfect timing and the perfect teaming. It just worked out so well for all of us.

Do you have any particular memories of matches or things that really stood out at your time on the road or in the ring with them?

Well, I remember the night that I turned on Dusty in Miami at the Night Center.

People were always turning on Dusty, Barry. He was just a thrust and soul, wasn’t he?

[laughs]. But, I guess me turning on Dusty would’ve been like Magnum turning on Dusty, you know, we were so closely related in the ring and it worked out. Definitely more advantages than disadvantages being a heel.

Isn’t the best time to turn when you’re about as hot as you can be?

Yeah it is, but I don’t know that I was the hottest babyface, but just becoming a Horseman and I guess a pseudo heel, it worked out.

Now, all throughout that time, Barry, as you were learning the ropes and gaining confidence and getting main events and wrestling for the World Championship, was the World Championship belt a goal or something that you felt you needed to kind of add to your resume? Or was it just go out there and entertain the fans and have as best a match as you can?

Well, from the time that I started professional wrestling, to be the World champion was always a goal to be the NWA champion. And the NWA Championship had that history of wrestling behind it and unlike the WWF title, whereas it’s entertainment and just put on whoever’s hot at the time. And it was always a goal to follow in Harley [Race]‘s footsteps and Ric’s and Jack Brisco‘s. I travelled with all those guys, so it was something that I wanted and it was a goal from the get-go for me.

Did you ever think you were going to achieve it at some point? Because you knocked on the door a lot of times before somebody turned denial?

Well, it had been promised quite a few times, but when Ric left in 1990 and went to WWE, it was my turn to be champion and Ric left with the belt. So that was kind of a knock on me, but it was just a business decision by Ric. We’ve talked about it and it was just his decision to go.

Was Ric leaving kind of like when Arn and Tully left?

It was just over money, it was just a money decision, everybody wanted the same contracts that Luger and Sting and the Road Warriors were getting and TBS just wasn’t cutting them at that time.

Could you sense, again, getting back to what we talked about earlier, could you sense then at that time, ’90, ’91, things were starting to really turn as far at that point in WCW?

Yeah, it’s WWE and WCW against each other, I think they were neck and neck as far as ratings and all that. But, there was definitely a southern aspect to WCW and a northern aspect to WWE and just two different styles of wrestling. It was just two different worlds, really, as far as wrestling.

And it seemed, this is not a knock in any way, but it seemed as though just the packaging and the professionalism coming out of New York was just light years ahead of its time.

Yeah and their marketing and everything, I still get checks to this day for WrestleMania 1.

You’re kidding.

Yeah, so I mean, it was just the initial marketing that Vince had put in place for the guys that just made the difference there.

Let me go through some of the characters that you met and maybe just if you have a recollection or two about them, we can talk about those for the documentary. You probably met Wahoo McDaniel when you were a teenager, Wahoo was probably as colorful as anyone who’s ever worked here. What was it like knowing Wahoo in the ring, just being around Wahoo’s personality generally?

Well, it was kind of the same as Flair. Wahoo was really good man, and then to end up in the ring with him was brutal. Wahoo was brutal in the ring, but I understood why men loved him so much, and he’s really missed. But, Wahoo was a true character.

Frankie Cain told me one time he thought Wahoo was just uncoordinated or unorthodox enough to make it look real. That’s kind of the way somebody would fight if they were in the street, which is something he did often.

It was pretty real in there with the Wahoos. So [laughs], I think that explains it.

Would he take a lot?

Oh, yeah. he could take whatever you could give him, but he would dish it out twice back.

The US Express, Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda, are going into the WWE Hall of Fame

The US Express, Barry Windham and Mike Rotunda, are going into the WWE Hall of Fame

Crockett was a big tag team area in the 80s too, although you’d come in to wrestle mostly singles, you had the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express. They brought a little bit of a different style because you’re 6’6, 6’7, and very athletic, and they’re 5’6, 5’7, and very athletic. Did you have questions about whether guys who were that size could really make it because you had come from a big man’s family and a big man’s sport?

Well, I just think that comes from just learning to work in the ring and learning to work with whoever was presented to you. When I started out, I wrestled Robert, who was probably 5’7, 230 pounds, but could do anything. And I spent hours in the ring with him, so that was training. For the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express, you know, Ricky Morton is just so charismatic and so wide open in the ring, and Robert Gibson, it was easy working with him.

Ricky Steamboat was the best babyface at this time?

Yeah, when I was in high school and Steamboat was just starting up the Carolinas, all my buddies wanted to be Steamboat, so he was young and great looking, and a great body and just his working ability in the ring was just second to none. So, I mean, he had as many or more Broadways with Ric than I did, our through matches. There’s just that kind of respect that we all have for each other, it’s kind of a club that went hour matches and it’s just mutual respect.

You talk about mutual respect, was there kind of a special bond between the guys who worked together at that time? Because in the later days of some promotions that didn’t fail, there’s always stories about guys wrestling their matches, going in the locker room, getting their gym bag, and getting the hell out of Dodge. Talk a little bit about the camaraderie that you had in Mid-Atlantic with some of the guys.

Well, I mean, first of all, we all travelled together on two different planes. You know, Crockett had a G1 and a Falcon jet. So of course, the four or five or six top guys travel on the jet with Crockett and Dusty, and then the rest of the crew travelled on the G1. So, we were together night and day. So, there really wasn’t that kind of locker room drama, back then, I guess that started maybe at WCW. When different guys were brought in and there wasn’t that much camaraderie, among the guys, but, you know, we would have drinking contests on the plane and [laughs] we spent a lot of time together.

Was Flair the world champion of that, or did Barry Windham give him a run for his money?

[laughs] I think we all gave him a run for his money.

Barry, what do you look back on and do you watch any of your old matches anymore? Or is that kind of dead and gone?

I don’t really watch ’em, and I haven’t watched any of my matches. I don’t think I’ve ever watched an entirety of a match that I’ve done. And maybe that’s odd, but I guess I just had so many, I have all the memories of them to watch ’em back. I can sit through 15 or 20 minutes of a match with Ric and I, but it just clicks right in and I know what’s coming next and what’s gonna happen next.

Just a couple of follow-up, final questions. Talk about the relationship with the fans in Mid-Atlantic, going from good guy to bad guy and back and forth. Was there a time when you felt, I don’t want to say threatened, but that you had turned them off?

Well, if you mean from becoming a babyface to becoming a Horseman? No, cause of course there were always some in the crowd that were screaming, mostly the young girls. But, guys in particular, liked the Horseman, so, there was support for the Horseman too. I’ve never really felt threatened by fans either heel or babyface and maybe that’s just my lack of heat, I don’t know. But I’ve never felt threatened.

Fans pose with the Four Horsemen, from left, Arn Anderson, manager JJ Dillon, Barry Windham and Tully Blanchard at WrestleCade, November 26-28, 2021, at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Photo by Greg Mosorjak

Fans pose with the Four Horsemen, from left, Arn Anderson, manager JJ Dillon, Barry Windham and Tully Blanchard at WrestleCade, November 26-28, 2021, at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Photo by Greg Mosorjak

And finally, Barry, what’s the meaning of all this or what’s the legacy of Mid-Atlantic wrestling as a territory and as a promotion as you look back over the years?

Well, the Mid-Atlantic territory was the last of true in-ring wrestling. I mean WWE has Hunter [Hearst-Helmsley] and Shawn Michaels, which they can go 45, 50, maybe an hour. But it was just a different time. And the Mid-Atlantic Championship was the last great wrestling promotion in the world, I hated to see it go and when it became WCW, I knew that changes were coming and I knew it was gonna be more like Vince’s promotion at that point, but I just didn’t know how much.

And eventually, they just couldn’t compete.

Just I think too much outgoing and too much jealousy from, within corporations within Turner. You had guys making a million-dollar salary and you had top executives making a quarter of that. So, it was just a little too much jealousy.

When the big money gets involved, strife starts to occur. But that’s very good. Thank you so much, that’s great, Barry. That’s great stuff. I sure appreciate it. Thank you so much, it’s good to talk to you.

Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

TOP PHOTO: A bloody Barry Windham. Photo by Brad McFarlin