At the height of his popularity in the late 1980s and early ’90s, WWE superstar Hacksaw Jim Duggan defended the ideals of America with his trusty 2x4 wood block from bad guys like the Iron Sheik, Nikolai Volkoff and Sgt. Slaughter. Now a member of the WWE Hall of Fame, Duggan returns to Buffalo for a pair of shows at Helium Comedy Club on Feb. 3 and 1811 Comics on Feb. 7.
“It’s different than a stand-up comedy show, it just seemed like a comedy venue was a good place to have it,” Duggan said during a recent phone interview. “Mick Foley was the one who opened up the door for a behind-the-scenes look at the wrestling world. I tell folks if they want knock-knock jokes and (humor) about your mother-in-law, then go somewhere else.”
Duggan was a college football star at Southern Methodist University where he met Fritz Von Erich, a promoter and patriarch of the Texas Von Erich clan of wrestlers. After a short stint on the Atlanta Falcons, Duggan called Von Erich and entered the wrestling business in 1979.
Duggan began getting attention as a wrestler for Bill Watts’ Mid-South Wrestling territory, but he became an immediate fan favorite when he jumped to Vince McMahon’s then-WWF in 1987. Despite the high times, Duggan notes that wrestling can be very difficult to break into.
“Wrestling is sports entertainment, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the entertainment business,” he said. “I go to comic-cons and Hacksaw shows, and fans all say, ‘I want to be a wrestler.’ I tell them to chase their dreams, because who would have ever thought Daniel Bryan would have become a big star in the WWE? There’s a guy who worked hard and had the drive. But if you look at it like a numbers game, you have a better chance of playing in the NBA. It’s a business, it’s television and it’s very competitive.”
The formal portion of Duggan’s shows will include a talk by him, as well as a question and answer session with the audience. There also will be an opportunity for autographs and meet-and-greets. The day at 1811 Comics also includes watching the Super Bowl with the wrestling superstar.
“There are road stories about traveling with Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts and (and his python) Damien; ring stories about Andre the Giant and how I wrestled him; (funny) stories with Bret Hart, Owen Hart and others,” Duggan said. “For the wrestling fan, it’s a fun and unique night out.”
Transitioning from a regional promotion to McMahon’s first national wrestling company was exciting for Duggan, as it gave him the opportunity to see the world.
“It was very crazy,” he said. “We went from national armories and high school gyms to the Pontiac Silverdome (in Michigan) with 93,000 people. I do a lot of charity golf tournaments with the NFL and Major League Baseball guys, (people who are) world champions, and I ask, ‘Where in the world have you guys been?’ I’ve wrestled in every state in the union, every providence in Canada and 30 different countries. It’s amazing the appeal of wrestling around the world. Nobody in Barcelona knows who Peyton Manning is, but they’ll all know, ‘HOOOOOOO!’”
Who: Hacksaw Jim Duggan
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 3 in Helium Comedy Club, 30 Mississippi St.
1 p.m. Feb. 7 in 1811 Comics, 56 E. Spring St., Williamsville
Tickets: $20 at Helium; $25 at 1811 Comics