Former Pro Wrestler Tests Out Comedy As Second Act
Competing on many of pro wrestling's biggest stages, Hacksaw Jim Duggan has thrilled fans across the world for nearly four decades. As TWC News' Matt Hunter found out, the Glens Falls native is trying his hand at a new career in the entertainment business.
QUEENSBURY, N.Y. – Inside Sweet Basil's Restaurant in Queensbury on Tuesday night, empty seats were few and far between, with the crowd jamming in to see a local kid who made it big 30 years ago.
"We called him 'Moose,' not 'Hacksaw,' " classmate Shelly Cummins said.
"He's such a celebrity; we felt we had to come out and see him," said Rick Saunders, another childhood friend. "He was an exceptional athlete, of course. He wrestled, basketball, football."
Known the world over as "Hacksaw," Glens Falls native Jim Duggan reached international fame during a more than 30-year career as a bruising, patriotic pro wrestler.
"With Jim, you knew he was the good guy," Saunders said.
"He was bigger than life and everybody just liked him," Cummins remembered.
"I loved when he would come out with the American flag and the two-by-four,” said Willie Steans, a teammate of Duggan's on the Glens Falls High School football team. “Loved it, loved it."
Even though Hacksaw's homecoming did not involve stepping into a wrestling ring, the now 62-year-old looked every bit the part, leading the crowd through his familiar chants of “U.S.A.”
"A lot of people ask, 'how did those wrestling characters come out?' ” Duggan said before the show. “Well, it's just an extension of my personality."
The performance marked the first of 10 Northeast shows in his unlikely new career as a standup comic.
"When you're out there in the ring, it's a whole different deal,” said Duggan, who's wrestled in all 50 states and 36 countries. “You're out there blowing smoke, doing what you do best, beating people up! This is a whole different arena for me but I kind of enjoy it."
Along with his exploits in the ring, the act offers an inside look at Duggan's unique life on the road.
"We're in Alabama flying down the road in a big rented Lincoln," Duggan remarked, recalling a trip with friend and fellow wrestler Jake "The Snake" Roberts, who used a live boa constrictor in his act. “All of a sudden there's a huge snake head over my shoulder!"
Duggan even discussed his 1987 arrest for cocaine possession with his rival, The Iron Sheik.
"The bust that will live in infamy," said Duggan, the son of the former Glens Falls police chief who believes the incident cost him a chance at becoming world champion in what was then known as the WWF, now WWE. “I was lucky enough to survive that, it was a huge blow to my career."
Of course, with his signature two-by-four in hand, no one dared heckle the headliner.
"If somebody gets out of hand, have board, will travel, tough guy!" Duggan joked as the opening curtain neared.
Still occasionally active in the sport, Duggan treats his second act as a chance to reconnect with the fans who helped him reach fame and fortune.
"He certainly entertained us," Saunders said.
"I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Steans said. His charisma is off the charts."
"It's been a great business for me,” Duggan said. “I've been doing it for over 36 years and it's been nothing but fun."
Duggan will appear once more in the Capital Region, on Thursday night at The Comedy Works in Albany. The show starts at 7 p.m. For more information, visit Hacksaw Jim Duggan’s or the comedy club’s official websites.