In 1988, WWE Hall of Famer “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan never thought the Royal Rumble would continue on 33 years later. In his interview on WWE’s The Bump, Duggan recalls what it felt like to be the first-ever Royal Rumble winner and how grateful he was to be part of such a historic event that would change the landscape of professional wrestling.
“I don’t think anybody was more shocked in the whole building than me that I won the thing, you know,” Jim Duggan chuckled. “I was a black horse, especially when I was one of the last three guys in there with Dino Bravo. The odds looked pretty bad there for a while, but thank goodness it worked out.”
Duggan reiterated that guys like him did not see the Royal Rumble event as a big deal compared to any other match they’d work over the years. But guys like “Macho Man” Randy Savage knew the Rumble would elevate how WWE built Superstars up towards WrestleMania.
“You know, back then, it was a different business, too,” Duggan said. “We did that show, and then we all got in the car and headed to another show. We didn’t have the concept of how big it was becoming. Some of the guys did. Guys like ‘Macho Man’ [Randy Savage], they had an understanding. We were in party mode a little bit. It was just another show another day.
“And that’s why it’s good as an old-timer to come back into the WWE as a talent on a talent contract because I realized how big the company is becoming. You know, you pull into the parking lot, and there are 18-wheelers, limousines, buses and satellite trucks. I mean, it’s overwhelming. As a young guy, I don’t think I comprehended that. But coming back to WWE, I had a chance to appreciate how big [it was] and what an accomplishment Vince [McMahon] had.”
When Duggan made his return back to the event in 2009, he mentioned the most glorifying moment was the fans’ reactions that night.
“The biggest memory [I have] is when I came out, I got a great pop. The folks, you know, they were happy to see me,” he recalled.
Like many Hall of Famers in professional wrestling, Duggan would like for those who follow the business to focus more on the positive moments than one’s witnessed through chronicles like “Dark Side of the Ring” on Vice TV or Mickey Rourke’s adaptation of 80’s wrestling in “The Wrestler.”
“This has been a great business for me,” he exclaimed. “So many folks hear the negative stuff about wrestling. They see the movie ‘The Wrestler’ with that jerk Mickey Rourke, and they think we’re all like that. It’s been a great business for me. I put two daughters through school. I never had to go to rehab. I’ve been with my wife for 36 years. There’s a lot of positive stories out there. There are guys who are successful in this business, and you just don’t seem to hear about them.”
You can watch Jim Duggan’s full interview here. If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit WWE’s The Bump with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.