‘Hacksaw’ Jim Duggan has opened up about the aftermath of the infamous incident where he and his on-screen rival Iron Sheik were arrested in 1987.
The pair were traveling together to a show in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where they were set to be on opposite teams in a tag match. They were pulled over by a State Trooper who had seen Duggan drinking a beer while driving, which was legal in his home state of Louisiana at the time, but not in New Jersey.
Speaking exclusively to Inside The Ropes’ own Findlay Martin for Issue 9 of Inside The Ropes magazine, the WWE Hall of Famer explained that the incident escalated after he admitted to the trooper, when asked, that he was carrying a small amount of marijuana under his seat.
“My dad was the best man at my wedding, the best man I ever met in my life, and chief of police in my hometown of Glens Falls. Cops have always been my friends, and I’ve always known that honesty is the best policy. And I said, ‘Yes, sir. I have a small amount of marijuana under my seat’—assuming, like in Louisiana, he’d take it away from me.”
Duggan clarified that a small amount of marijuana wasn’t a big deal in Louisiana at the time, but on this occasion in New Jersey it led to him and Iron Sheik being taken out of the car and handcuffed while they and the car were searched. The search led to the trooper discovering not only the marijuana, but that Sheik had three grams of cocaine with him, which was a felony offence.
“They search The Sheik and he has three grams of cocaine. That’s a felony. I had a misdemeanour—for less than half an ounce of marijuana—and I got a ticket for that. I got a ticket for drinking while driving. Sheik got arrested for felony cocaine. He had to go in front of a judge. I stayed like a jabroni and waited for him. He got bonded out, and we went to the show. But I was over 21; I’ve got to take responsibility. I was dumb, stupid.”
The pair opted not to tell anyone about the incident after they arrived at the show they had been traveling to, but by the next morning, it was all over the news. Duggan recalled that he didn’t realise at that point the effect it would have on his career.
“It went like wildfire. My dad was still chief of police and he had TV cameras come into his office, and they were, like, ‘How about your kid getting busted for cocaine and marijuana and drinking and driving on the Garden State Parkway?’ And my dad was, like, ‘Jim, did you get arrested for cocaine?’ And I was, like, ‘No, sir. I got arrested for marijuana.’ He chewed me out. But then my family rallied around me, because they realised what a huge shot to my career this was gonna be. I still didn’t have a clue.”
His next call was to WWE CEO Vince McMcmahon, a conversation he remembers vividly.
“I’ll remember to the day I die verbatim what Vince said to me: ‘Jim, what have you done to us?’ And I said: ‘Vince, I’m embarrassed and ashamed.’ He said: ‘Turn in your tickets and go home‘, and slammed the phone down. Back then, we had a huge stack of airplane tickets. This was right after WrestleMania III. I went from the penthouse to the s—thouse in one minor blow of smoke and pot.”
Following the call, Duggan went home, but the whole experience had taken its toll, and he recounted the emotional effect it had on his life at the time.
“So, I went home. Thank goodness my wife stayed with me . . . I went crazy. Talk about going off the deep end.”
“I was drinking a lot. Did a lot of drugs. I mean, I was totally depressed. I had trees in my yard and I cut them down with an axe. If a bunny rabbit went through my yard, I blew it to pieces. But I came around. I never got hooked on drugs: I never had an addictive-type personality. I kicked out of it.”
Following this period, the winner of the first Royal Rumble match began looking at his career options, contacting Dusty Rhodes about potential work. However, WWE contacted him to let him know they would bring him back. Unfortunately, he believes he was never used to his full potential when they did.
“I set up a meeting with Dusty [Rhodes, booker of Jim Crockett Promotions]. Then Bruce Prichard from the WWF called me up and said, ‘Jim, don’t do nothing drastic. We’re gonna bring you back.’ So, they brought me back, but they never put the big gas to me. They kept me strong, but that was probably a huge shot to my career.”