Blackjack Mulligan

Class of 2009





Member of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2009



Honoring Blackjack Mulligan:



Accepting for his father who could not attend:


May 15, 1971 was a big day in the life of Blackjack Mulligan. It was the day he nearly got stabbed to death. Mulligan was wrestling Pedro Morales for the WWWF world title in Boston, and he’d only been a pro, and for that matter, a Mulligan, for a relatively brief time. He had the Grand Wizard (Ernie Roth) at his side, and the two went overboard. “Here’s a Hispanic being tortured by a big white guy and a funny-looking guy in a headwrap. I pick him up for the second time and don't cover him, one, two – that’s when they start coming unglued. I picked him up by the hair the second time and that's when they slashed me across my leg, and they slashed me across my arm.” The wound became infected; Bulldog Brower took Mulligan to a hospital and the big man from Sweetwater, Texas, was in rough shape for awhile.

Did he produce too much heat for his own good? Probably, but that’s just the way Bob Windham was – a 6-9, 300-plus-pound heat machine. Take his first run after the Morales incident. Mulligan hooked up with Blackjack Lanza in Indianapolis, Ind. “We took (midget wrestler) Little Bruiser in Indianapolis, I picked the midget up, slammed him, and left him in the ring, and we left. The next day after the TV show, I walked into the 7-11, and the lady spits on me. ‘Get out of here. We don't want your business in here, people like you.’ ”

Growing up in Texas, Windham didn’t anticipate any of that ill will. He was a football player at Odessa High School and Texas Western, and took a crack at the old American Football League, signing with the New York Jets in 1966. But a busted leg hurt his chances at the pros, so he jumped sports at the suggestion of Jet linebacker-wrestler Wahoo McDaniel. Windham learned the ropes with Joe Blanchard in Texas and Verne Gagne in the Midwest through 1970. “Bob was a natural. He always impressed me as a big guy who had talent. But he was a nice guy,” said Buddy Roberts, who helped Windham haul rings from venue to venue for Gagne. In 1971, opportunity knocked in the form of WWWF honcho Vincent J. McMahon, who brought him to New York as Blackjack Mulligan. McMahon pilfered the name from an old fighter named Jerry Mulligan, saying football player-style billing didn’t seem to move the turnstiles. “Vince said to me, ‘I can't sell football players. I never had any that worked out … so he thought it would be better if we changed the name,” Mulligan said. He returned to the WWWF a few years after the stabbing with Lanza, a pairing so successful that it earned induction into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. But when it came to singles action, the Mid-Atlantic was Mulligan’s stamping grounds. He had a bloody, violent feud with old friend McDaniel and filled the role as the top heel in the promotion after a plane crash ended Johnny Valentine’s career and put Ric Flair on the sideline in October 1975. A self-described “banger and basher,” Mulligan had a major influence on changing the pacing of the in-ring style of the 1970s. “For instance, back in the day, a two-out-of-three fall [match], the first fall would be a bodyslam, 1-2-3 boom. Well, the fans quit buying that because we would bodyslam somebody three or four times and the guy would get up. So the nature of the business was changing, the heat of the business was changing, the charisma of the business was changing, because we would stop, slam a guy, take a look at the people, find out they were cussing and screaming at us.”

Like all wrestlers, Mulligan eventually switched sides and became a good guy – perish the thought. “But I’ll tell, once I switched babyface, I couldn’t go back. It was impossible to go back. I tried to make a move like that. I didn't want to do it anymore. Once I got a taste of this Dusty Rhodes babyface stuff, who wants to ever go back? It was ridiculous. It was so easy it was silly.” He retired in the 1980s, giving way to a second generation, sons Barry and Kendall. Few wrestlers have been in as much demand for Fanfest as Mulligan, and induction into the Hall of Heroes will be one of the highlights of the event.


- Steve Johnson

Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Tag Teams
Co-Author, The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels





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