Hacksaw Jim Duggan Shoots On Cancer Battle, Backstage Brawls, Vince McMahon Retiring & More - Exclusive


WWE Hall of Famer "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan has been belting out his signature yell, calling out "tough guys," and swinging 2x4s for more than 40 years. In his illustrious career, Duggan battled some of the top stars in the business, including Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Sgt. Slaughter, Shawn Michaels, The Big Bossman, Shawn Michaels, and "Ravishing" Rick Rude. Infamously, Duggan holds the honor of winning WWE's first-ever Royal Rumble back in 1988, lastly eliminating One Man Gang by dumping him over the top rope. 

These days, the wrestling legend has retired from the ring and is enjoying his life after Duggan beat prostate cancer earlier this year. Ahead of his appearance this Saturday night at Wrestling Revolver's Tales From The Ring, streaming live on FITE, Duggan sat down with Wrestling Inc. Senior News Editor Nick Hausman to discuss his health, career, and future. 

Hacksaw Jim Duggan Vs. Prostate Cancer

Jim, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me here today.

Well, my pleasure, brother. But, you know the first thing old Hacksaw Jim Duggan has to do is give a big "Hooooooooo!" Oh, that fires me up nowadays. It gets me going.

First of all, on behalf of everybody here at Wrestling Inc, we are so happy to hear about your recovery from cancer. How are you feeling right now?

Well, thank you so much for asking, Nick. Yeah, I had my prostate taken out last October and I thought hopefully that had taken care of everything. But I had another PSA test, found out that the cancer was still in me. I was very disappointed, to say the least. I was really down for a little while. But I had to go back in and get radiation. I did eight weeks of radiation treatment, but came out, rang the bell, I'm cancer free, thank the Lord. I tell folks, early detection saves lives. Make sure you get your physical. Know your PSA level, because one in six men, one in six will have prostate cancer. So get it checked out and they can save your life.

That moment, you rang the bell, it was wonderful. I watched the video of it and you were being so respectful. I could tell you wanted to yell in joy as you were ringing that bell, but obviously it's a hospital. You can't act like that,

Right. Well, it's the cancer center, and the eight weeks I sit in that little room and I saw other people come out and ring the bell in the waiting room. But also, there's folks in there that are going through chemo, and thank goodness I didn't have to do that. Chemo was so much worse in radiation. Radiation was almost like an x-ray. You hardly felt anything, you didn't hear anything. Not chemo. And I have to be respectful, those folks, they're going through chemo or going through both. It's a hard time not only for the individual, but also for the whole family. And I don't know if you realize, Nick, September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, do if you get a chance, wear blue until folks to get their PSA checked.

Absolutely, yeah. And do you have any advice for anybody who's maybe going through a similar ordeal that you just went through, Jim?

Sure, I sure do. Because we just came through lockdown, I was feeling great. I had zero symptoms at all, none. And my wife is, get your physical. I'm, I don't need a physical, I'm fine. I went in there, the PSA was a little high. One thing led to another to another and boom, diagnosed with the most aggressive form of prostate cancer there was. And Nick, this was my second bout with cancer. Years ago, I had kidney cancer when I was with WCW. And again, early detection saved my life. So like everybody else out there, when I sat down, and I remember the doctor looked me in the eye and said, Jim, it's cancer. And I know it's a terrifying deal for me and my whole family, and everybody hears at, but early detection can save your life. This is my second bout with very aggressive cancers and I'm here to talk about it. So get your physical, folks.

Working The Indies

Let's talk a little bit about some wrestling here, too. You are going to be at Tales From the Ring for Wrestling Revolver. First of all, you're doing a signing, I know beforehand. How does it feel to get back out there and be engaging the fans again and things like that?

Great. It's humbling to be out there and have so many folks realize what's going on, and to care a little bit and say they're saying a prayer or having a thought for me. It really is. Especially in Iowa. I spent so much time up there in Iowa, did the variety telethon there in Des Moines for 20 years up there, it was a great time. But Nick, I'll tell you a story, last time I was at an autograph session, I was signing, I look and there's this big, real rough, tough looking guy in line, about 6'6, 270 pounds and he's working his way through the line and he's eyeballing me pretty good.

So I'm kind of checking on my security nowadays. And finally the big guy, he gets up to me, grabs my hand, he squeezes my hand. He goes, Hacksaw Duggan, me and my dad, we used to watch you together, and he got teary-eyed. Nick, it's humbling the way folks react to seeing my generation of wrestlers, the golden age. Hogan, Macho, Jake the Snake — folks just relate to that era, and it's great just to be part of it. And it's humbling to have folks come up and remember you 30, 40 years from the prime.

And Pro Wrestling Revolver, pretty wild outfit. Sami Callihan I know is behind that. I don't know how familiar you are with Sami, I don't know if you wanted to give any thoughts about the work that he's been doing in the past couple years.

Well, I know that he's given a lot of guys an opportunity to work, and that's great, because the more places to work, the better is for wrestling, and guys can learn their trade, and it's just good to see people out there. And folks love wrestling all over the world. I do a lot of charity with the NFL guys, and I always ask them, world champions, where in the world do you fellas go, right? Wrestling is popular all over the world. I joke, I said, nobody knows Tom Brady down in Christchurch, New Zealand, but they'll go "Hoooooooooooo!"

Pat McAfee right now has really turned into something. Talk about a football guy that's making the best of it right now in pro wrestling.

Yeah. Well, actually though, Nick, I don't watch too much wrestling nowadays. I'm pretty removed from the business. I joke after 40 years, the last thing I want to watch when I'm home is professional wrestling.

One More Match?

When you go to these shows like the Wrestling Revolver show, and you see all these young talents and things like that, do you get the itch? Do you want to step back one more time?

No, I'm lucky I don't pull a hamstring getting off the couch nowadays. Are you kidding, brother? But I joke, I say Flair and Hogan still call me kid, so it's all relative.

You look like you're in great shape right now, Jim. That much was clear from the videos. Even like a Royal Rumble appearance, that's the thing that a lot of people think about when they think about you.

Well, you know who won that first Royal Rumble, right, brother?


Yeah. That's kind of Ric Flair's deal, being in the ring and doing it. No, I respect the young guys that work out there. When was I in the ring up to? I was 65. I'm 68 now. I was still in the ring at 65, and people were like, "Hacksaw, you still wrestle?" I said, "Well, I still go to the ring." You might not call it wrestling. But to show the young kids, it's more than just taking bumps, you got to tell a story. You got to have a ring presence, and guys just go out there and do the mechanics. There's more to the show than that.

While we're talking about independent wrestling, you know you're still watching matches obviously while you're there. What do you think about the current generation style of professional wrestling?

I think the kids nowadays are much better athletes, the stuff that they do now. In the old days, Superfly was the only guy that flew. Everybody's flying now. I think, overall, the kids are more business-like and better athletes. But I think my generation of guys, especially at the top level, we were more creative. Nobody wrote Hacksaw Jim Duggan's verbiage or Koko B. Ware or Junkyard Dog. We were who we were. Where now, the last time I went up to WWE was quite a while. A young man came up to me and said, "Mr. Duggan, here's your verbiage for your interview." And I'm like, "How some punk kid going to tell Hacksaw Jim Duggan how to cut his interview?"

And they're like, "Well, this is what we want you to say." And I'm, "Well, send me my check." But I have a whole new respect for those guys. That's hard to deliver, a line, and you say something to me, say something and everybody to act natural. I got a whole new respect for actors. Maybe I just went out there and turned on Hacksaw and let it go.

Vince McMahon Steps Down

Well, it's definitely a different time right now in WWE. Again, it's new leadership right now. I guess I'll get your take on that. Were you surprised by the revelations and Vince McMahon stepping down from his roles with WWE?

Well, I knew Vince really loved the business, and who knows what goes on at that level, that's far removed from me. But it would have to take something like that to get Vince out of office. That guy, he's like Flair, he is the business. He loves the business. The ring is his whole deal. And I think it'd be hard for him to leave it if it wasn't forced out. I think he'd be there to the very end. I'd go back, because I joke, the WWF was my heyday where I wrestled Dusty, DiBiase and Orton. But I also was on contracting the WWE where I wrestled Dusty's kid, DiBiase's kid, and Orton's kid.

That's right, that's true.

So first I beat up the old man, then I beat up the kids. But I tell you, Vince was one of the first guys at the building and one of the last guys to leave. I was doing the voiceovers for something at one o'clock in the afternoon, and I had the headset on, and all of a sudden on the headsets, "No, Jim, that's not right." I'm, holy smokes, he's here listening to rehearsals! The guy was a workaholic. Now is he a puppet master? Yeah, of course. But I don't hate Vince McMahon like a lot of other people hate Vince, they spit on the ground. At 68 years old, I wrestle for 40 years, I do appearances, I'll do this one up in Iowa, what will people talk about? The WWF.

That was the golden age, and I was lucky enough to be part of it. And that was Vince McMahon. Plus, Nick, it's been a good business for me. So many folks hear the stories about Scott Hall or Jake ... one of my best friend's Jake "the Snake" Roberts. But for me it's the opposite side of the coin. I've been with my wife for 38 years. I never had to go to rehab for booze or drugs. I did a lot of both, I can't say I didn't, but I just never got hooked on nothing. I had no felony arrest. Couple misdemeanors, but it was back in the 80s. Hooooooooooo!

The Bust That Will Live In Infamy

I think we all remember you and the Sheik getting pulled over and killing kayfabe forever, right?

The bust that will live in infamy! Yeah, it sure was. I was lucky enough to survive that. It would've killed most people's careers, I think. And I never fully recovered from it. Here you are, what, 35 years ago when one of the first things folks ask about is the Duggan/Sheik. And the worst thing about it, people think me and the Sheik are buddies. I gave him a ride that one day, and of course I had the weed, I had the misdemeanor pop for the weed, and I was drinking while driving, which was legal in Louisiana at the time where I lived, I just didn't realize it was illegal in New Jersey.

And the Sheik had the three grams of coke. But we both got painted with the same brush, and I was over 21. I got to take responsibility for what I did. I was a fool. I made a huge mistake and I was lucky to recover from it professionally, that's for sure.

And what's been your relationship like with Vince McMahon?

Oh, I don't talk to Vince too much. I never was an office guy. I never went to Bill Watt's house. I never went over to Fritz' house. I never been to Vince's house. I'm not an office guy. The last thing I would want to be was an agent for WWE. A lot of the guys, DiBiase, Rotundo. I saw Rotundo at the airport, it looks like the Bataan Death March. He was going through the airport. I'm like, "Mike, how you doing?" He goes, "I'm doing great, Jim." I'm like, "Hey, I'm going home. Thanks buddy."

It's a tough life, and thank goodness I have two daughters and neither one of them wanted to become wrestlers, and they're both successful in their own right, in their own businesses. But I tell folks, to be a top grade WWE, AEW wrestler, if you look at it as a businessman, and the way you feed your family ... I tell folks, there's 1200 NFL football players, there's 500 NBA basketball players, there's maybe 150 guys on WWE and AEW. It's a television show. It's more competitive than sports and it's just not kids from America, you got kids from Japan, Australia, Europe. It's a very, very competitive business. And people don't see it that way. They're like, well, it's all fake. Well, that has nothing to do with it being competitive.

Backstage Fights

You don't keep up with the business, but there was an incident like a week or so ago where everything got really personal and kind of spilled over backstage at AEW, and there was this big brawl that broke out after some comments CM Punk made. Did you ever have anything in the business where it escalated to violence?

Of course, brother. Sure, yeah, of course. Me and Matt Borne had a fight in Baton Rouge at the Centroplex. Berzerker and Butch Reed had one in Oklahoma City. Curt Hennig and Von Erich. That's one of the huge misconceptions of wrestling. People go, well you guys are all good friends, aren't you? I'm like, "Yeah, we all compete for the same money. We're real good friends." It's a dog-eat-dog business, and it's a physical business. People say, "Hacksaw, I saw you throw a punch, you missed a guy by two inches." I said, "Yeah, but you see when I hit him by two inches." It goes both ways. So you have a few friends, a lot of acquaintances, and a couple of enemies, and sometimes things escalate and happen out backstage. But usually, at this level, you're professional enough to take care of it backstage and not in front of the people. Now I guess with the internet and everything, it just gets out there more often. But yeah, there was definitely fisticuffs in the backstage area, that's for sure.

And typically, everybody I would think made money off the situations, or was that not always the case where guys were able to?

No, you make no money backstage, brother. You're going to fight backstage, you make zero money.

No, taking that real life heat and turning it into money in the ring, that's what I mean. Were most of these guys able to work together afterwards?

Well usually, because the guy you're in the ring with is not your opponent, he's your partner, and you guys are main event, and you're going around the show and you hurt him, you guys are out of the main event. You're not making no money. He's not making no money. You're sitting at home. The next group moves up. Yeah, I don't see guys actually take ... if you have trouble, usually the office will split it up because it's not good business anyway if you got two guys out there actually going at it. That's why amateur wrestling's not that popular.

Rumbles And 2x4s

Do you believe you are the greatest Royal Rumble winner ever?

No, definitely not. No. And that's not Hacksaw Jim Duggan's deal. Like Bret, I love Bret, but the best there was, the best there is, the best there ever will be, I'm Jim Duggan, I give 110%.

Why wasn't the first Royal Rumble for a title shot like it is now?

He'd have to have somebody beyond my spot. I was the most surprised guy in that building to win the thing, so I was just content with that. Forget title matches. Plus, a title, it was not something I didn't really need. I could wrestle Flair or anybody and get beat 1, 2, 3 in the middle. Jump up, grab my 2x4, chase Flair out of the ring, chase the referee, chase the time keeper, "Hoooooooo," USA. It didn't matter. That's my whole deal ... It wasn't that important to get the belt.

Where do you get your 2x4s, and what is the longest 2x4 you can ever remember using?

Well, I've used some big 2x4s, but usually I can break 'em up out back. Like I said, Jake's one of my good friends that I'd always walk in the arena with Jake. And I said, "Can somebody find me a 2x4 and get him a 10-foot python?" That's one thing, I could walk in any building almost anywhere in the country and grab a piece of wood. Sometimes I was out back breaking up pallets. But when I went overseas, though things were metric overseas, so the 2x4s are bigger. I would bring my own 2x4 overseas.

Oh, that's interesting.

Yeah, I got a beautiful 2x4 case my father-in-law made me. Yeah, because in the old days I used to throw it up as high as I could in the air and catch it. And those English 2x4s were way too big for that.

You had a 2x4 case?

No, I still got it. Yeah. It was beautiful. It's felt. I joke, I said the story, we were going through Italy after traveling for two days. I had all the guys with me, all the boys, and were going through customs, and the guy stops me and he pulls a 2x out of its case and he's rapping on the board, and he looks at me, he goes, "What do you do with board?" So I got Andre and Hogan, everybody's with me. So I figure I'd loosen things up. I said, "Well, I'm building a house over here piece by piece." The guy looked at me and goes, "Sit over there." So I learned a big lesson, don't joke with the customs people, brother.