“Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is wrestling at the Big Time Wrestling show at the Maryland Theater in Hagerstown on Friday night. We were able to talk to him about what he's been doing since his last extended run with the WWE, as well as his memories of Wrestlemania over the years.Since your last run with the WWE several years ago, what have you been doing?
Duggan: I keep busy with quite a bit of stuff. The big thing for me right now is that I do a lot of charity work. I do about 200 hours a year. I just did the Variety Telethon in Des Moines, Iowa. It was extremely successful and we raised over $3 million. I've done that for 14 years now. Of course, I also do a lot of autograph sessions, and I still wrestle quite a bit, both in smaller shows and sometimes for the WWE.
What was it like wrestling regularly for the WWE when you were in your mid-50s, and still getting to wrestle on RAW occasionally?
Duggan: I'm really proud that I'm one of the last guys from my era still in the ring. It was fun to wrestle then, and also funny because I would be in the ring with [Ted] DiBiase's kid, and I'd wrestle against Dusty [Rhodes]'s kid, all of these sons of guys that I had wrestled against. And it was great that I could still make the WWE fans chant "USA" with me.
And even though I got beat with my own 2x4 against Jack Swagger [on RAW earlier in March], I can say that I got a win on RAW at my age, even if it was by DQ. And who knows if things between me and Zeb Colter are finished?At 59, why do you wrestle at independent shows so often?
Duggan: I love the independent shows. That's traditional wrestling right there. It's like what I came from, the roots of wrestling. Guys just working really hard to achieve their dream. Some of the top young talent in the country are wrestling in independent shows right now. I just really enjoy everything about the smaller shows.What's it like going from wrestling in front of thousands of fans on RAW just a few weeks ago to the much smaller crowds?
Duggan: I've wrestled in a lot of National Guard armories, high school gyms, all sorts of places, and I love it. There's nothing quite like jamming 400 people into a place that's only supposed to hold 300 and hearing them yelling and cheering the entire time. I never get tired of seeing those fans. I'm not even close to being tired of wrestling, going out to the ring and looking out and giving them a “HOOOOO.” I just walk through that curtain and love every bit of it. Whether it's 90,000 people or 200 people shouting USA with me, it's just my honor to do it.You have wrestled at the “Grandest Stage of them All.” What are your favorite memories you've been involved with at Wrestlemania?
Duggan: My first Wrestlemania was Wrestlemania III. That was the one with 93,000 folks. I didn't have a match, but I ran down with the 2x4 and hit Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik. I had 93,000 people chanting USA, and that was the thrill of a lifetime.Do you have any favorite memories that you weren't involved with?
Duggan: At that same Wrestlemania, I was in the back watching when Andre did the job for the Hulkster. That was one of the largest moments in the history of the business, and one that I will never forget.You were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011. What did that mean to you?
Duggan: It's a great honor. You always want to be remembered. Being recognized by the WWE is the pinnacle of our profession. It's something that everybody aspires to. A lot of guys say that they don't care, but they're the ones not getting the call. It was a beautiful night. My family was there, and some of my good friends. It was just a really special night.Is there a point, especially seeing some older wrestlers having health problems, like Jerry Lawler, where you would consider retiring?
Duggan: I think when I stop being entertaining to the crowd, only then will I stop wrestling. We had a big event up in Fort Wayne recently and I still had the place rocking shouting HOOO and chanting USA. There's more to this than just taking bumps. As long as the fans want to see me, I will keep lacing up the boots.
Of course, being a cancer survivor, health is something I take seriously. I visit my doctor regularly, I watch my health, and I keep an eye on my diet, and that adds to my longevity....
So many guys watched the movie The Wrestler and just assume that all of us still wrestling are destitute. But that's not the case. There are guys like me, and Roddy Piper and others who are successful. Everyone wants to talk about the [Scott] Halls, the trainwrecks. And there's definitely a portion of our business like that, but there are a lot who are still extremely successful.
What can fans coming to Hagerstown on Friday expect to see?Duggan: First off, it's a fun night out if you've never been before. So many people think that wrestling is obscene gestures and profanity. It's a family-oriented show. And everyone is interacting with you. It's a lot of fun. And it's good to support a local event like this.
There's a lot of small organizations around the country. Big Time Wrestling is one of the real good ones. This, along with TCW in Arkansas and Gulf Coast Wrestling in Louisiana are some of the real good ones. This is traditional wrestling. There's a lot of critics of the WWE and sports entertainment now. What you'll get on Friday is the traditional wrestling that you grew up with.
You can see Hacksaw Jim Duggan, along with Kevin Nash, Tommy Dreamer and Ric Flair at Big Time Wrestling on Friday at the Maryland Theater. Tickets for the shows are available at mdtheatre.org , btwtickets.com and the Maryland Theater box office. You can meet Flair and all the stars from 6-8. Belltime is at 8:30.