Chappell: Why did George program you with Tim Woods first thing after the plane crash? I remember you broke Tim’s wrist on TV, and for revenge he ran into Greensboro at the big Tournament in November 1975 for the vacated U.S. Belt and knocked you from behind with the cast, and cost you a shot at the U.S. Championship. Then you put a $5,000.00 bounty on him, and that went on into 1976.


Mulligan: Oh, Timmy Woods…you talk about a shoot! It was easier being in an iron lung than being in there with Timmy Woods!


Chappell: (laughing)


Mulligan: He was a real old-timer, boy. I’m telling you, it was a battle with him. It was tough with Timmy Woods…he was one of the toughest human beings that ever lived.


Chappell: That’s not something I would have thought. I always thought of him as more of a technical/scientific wrestler.


Mulligan: Well, he was an amateur wrestler from Michigan…


Chappell: I guess he could tie you up pretty good anytime he felt like it! (laughs)


Mulligan: Oh…any time! But he could kick and stomp, too. We broke each other’s noses, but I loved Tim Woods. He was just super. God bless him, because he’s gone…unfortunately. Our [program] wasn’t a classic, but we did okay with it and got through it. It got me going.


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Chappell: You talk about Tim Woods being tough. I’ve always heard that he came back and wrestled really quickly after the plane crash, even though he was in pretty tough shape physically. I guess just because they needed him, but also because he was on the plane with his rival Johnny Valentine and word had started to leak out that they were traveling together…you know, to preserve kayfabe.


Mulligan: Yeah, that was typical Tim Woods. He had a back injury from [the plane crash], but I don’t know if you could hurt Tim Woods. I don’t think it was possible…I tried to on many occasions! (laughs)


I busted my knuckles on his head one time, and he was supposed to go down and he didn’t go down. I said, ‘Timmy, next time try going down.’ Next time, boom, he bops me in the face as he’s going down! What a character he was! But a super guy.


Chappell: While your program with Woods wasn’t one for the ages, it did start the ball rolling for you as you went into 1976. As you said, it got you going. And 1976 was a huge year for you. I remember that year being defined with your feud against Paul Jones over the U.S. belt…and then at the end of the year you had to go to NWA President Eddie Graham to keep the belt off of Paul!


Greensboro Poster for show where Blackjack

won his first US title.>> MORE


Mulligan: The [program] with Paul…I didn’t really want to do it with Paul. And the reason was because of the size difference with us.


Chappell: Considering the size difference between you all, I thought you all did an amazing job with that…making those matches come off as believable.


Mulligan: George Scott made me do that with Paul. George and I had a relationship where we could banter around back and forth, and pop ideas off of each other’s heads. To the point that we would pull each other across the desk sometimes! But he would always win in the end, anyway…talk me into whatever he wanted. (laughs)


Chappell: (laughing)


Mulligan: I said to George, ‘People will never buy this thing with Paul.’ George fired back and said, ‘Who do you think you are…you’re not the greatest worker in the world.’ I said, ‘No…but, but I’m a lot bigger than him and could stuff him down a commode!’


Chappell: I’m not sure PAUL would have gone for that! (laughs)


Mulligan: (laughs) George says, ‘Are you going to work the thing with Paul or not? You’re gonna do it.’ I said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna do it.’


So, basically whatever George wanted, I did.


Chappell: How was it actually working with Paul Jones?


Bill Janosik Photo


Mulligan: It was hard work for me to try to do that. Not emotionally…it was just hard work to make the thing with Paul work. Boy, it’s hard to explain…it didn’t look like it would work, but it did. It worked out fine.


I had no complaints with Paul. He was a trooper…he made it. I probably made it a little hard on him…good! I used to just beat the stuffing out of him, David ! (laughs)


Chappell: It kind of sounds like you might have enjoyed that, Blackjack! (laughs) But those matches did come off as very believable.


Mulligan: They did. God bless him, Paul was a heck of a guy, David . But I used to make little Paul pay his dues! Paul would go, ‘Oh Jesus,’ you know, hoping George would get him away from this monster! But Paul kept coming back for more!


Chappell: This time frame, 1976-77, was when you held the United States Title for long stretches. Of course, NWA President Eddie Graham ‘double-crossed’ you in a protest in 1977, when Bobo Brazil ended your last big run with the belt! Tell us about that title…you certainly always put the U.S. belt over big.


Mulligan: Oh man…yeah! That was my idea. Check the records, David …this U.S. belt outdrew the World Champion then. We had it hotter than the World belt…until we made the switch to Flair---then they demphasized the U.S. Title. At that time, the Sheik and Vince also had versions of the U.S. belt that were strong.


Anyway, we made that U.S belt so strong that when Terry (Funk) or Harley (Race) came in with the World belt…it outdrew the World belt! Go back and check the match (attendance) figures.


Chappell: That’s amazing…I bet that didn’t happen often in the NWA!


Mulligan: Hey…it affected my payoff! Back then, the (World) Champion got, I think, 10% of the gate, and so much had to go back to the NWA. My payoff would be less, so I would fight it and eventually go to Jimmy (Crockett). I’d say to Jimmy, ‘Why do we need the World Champ? Don ’t put me on the card with the World Champion…I don’t want to be on the card with him! He takes my money!’


Chappell: That’s right!


Mulligan: I told Jimmy, ‘Run a second show somewhere else, and put me and Paul on that one.’ Now, Paul was right there with me on this…because we were the two that were drawing the money!’ (laughs)


The Champion would go, ‘What are they complaining about?’ Well, I said, ‘You’re taking the money and riding on us!’


But that’s one of the few times in the history of the NWA that happened…it was very rare.


Chappell: About that same time, you were having a good little run with one of the area’s all time fan favorites, Rufus R. ‘Freight Train’ Jones. Talk to us a little bit about Rufus.


Mulligan: Oh gee…Rufus Jones! I knew him from the day I started in the business. One of my favorite people, God bless him…he’s gone. They found him under an oak tree with a shotgun---he’d been hunting.


Rufus was so black…he was blue! I loved that man!


Chappell: Rufus got quite a few shots at that U.S. Title of yours we’ve been talking about.


Mulligan: Let me tell you something about that. At that point, I was picking my own people to work with. They were getting rid of some people…and they were about to let Rufus go. I said, ‘No, no, no, no…don’t let him go. I can make something work with Rufus.’


Chappell: So, you and Rufus set up your own program?


Bill Janosik Photo


Mulligan: Yeah…and you know, he was really from Dillon, South Carolina? Right down there…he was raised in Dillon, South Carolina.


Chappell: Right…and he was proud of it, too!


Mulligan: I said to Rufus, ‘Listen, we’re gonna do something. Can you hold it…can you bite your lip? If you can do it, we’re gonna make more money than you’ve ever made in your life, you understand? Just bear with me, because we’re gonna make this work. I’m gonna get personal.’


Chappell: No question, you got REAL personal with Rufus!


Mulligan: Oh, I can name you guys that when I said some things about them, they would say, ‘ Don ’t ever say that again.’ And I’d tell them, ‘Well, your angle’s over then.’ That was the whole idea…to go beyond what everybody is saying---because everybody is saying the other stuff. So, some guys would check themselves out of the program saying, ‘Man, you’re getting a little personal there.’


Chappell: Rufus obviously didn’t do that!


Mulligan: I made this deal with Rufus…I said, ‘ Don ’t take this personally. If you get mad at me, just knock my head off. It doesn’t bother me.’


So…the interview comes down. I don’t know if you remember this, David Chappell, but Rufus is standing next to me, and it goes something like this---I said, ‘How in the world, God is supposed to have created Man equal, how in the world can you say that---look at this! Take a look at this thing standing next to me. How in the world can I be kin to this thing?’


He knocks me right through the (TV) set! He slaps me…like to broke my jaw---beats the stuffing out of me! (everybody laughs)


Chappell: Then you went after Rufus’ cousin, Burrhead Jones, didn’t you?


Mulligan: Yeah…then we do the thing with his little skinny cousin, Burrhead. Now that Rufus is out of there, I’m the ol’ tough guy, right? I can whup the heck out of his little cuz! (laughs)


So I come off the rope, and break his neck, I believe---put him in the hospital. So I broke Burrhead’s neck while Rufus is out of town, tough guy, right? Real brave guy! (laughs)


Chappell: (laughing) The act of a real coward, Blackjack!


Mulligan: Then Rufus gets back into town. And, David , they had never really popped that South…I’m talking deep South---Charleston, Columbia, Florence. We popped those places wide open.


Chappell: There was some serious heat with that program…all over the area.


Mulligan: They destroyed my car in Columbia. They beat the fenders off of it, took the tires off of it, and beat the windshields out of it!


Chappell: (laughing)


Mulligan: But I had the U.S. belt at the time, so I was beating Rufus all the time…and it was killing him.


So, I went to the office…now, this will show you how the Old South was still at work. Now, I was a Texas boy, in Texas we were semi-segregationists, semi-not. But I was raised that it was okay, you know?


Chappell:'ve already said that you always thought a lot of Rufus.


Mulligan: I went into the office…and Jimmy Crockett’s sitting in there and George Scott’s sitting in there. I said to them, ‘Listen, why don’t we switch the U.S. belt to Rufus Jones…it will really pop this place.’ Jimmy Crockett jumps up and said, ‘Have you lost your friggin’ mind? Have you lost it…are you nuts?’ I said, ‘Yeah, probably a little bit… with some of the things I’ve done!’ (everybody laughs)


Jimmy said, ‘This is the South, my friend. You can’t get away with doing stuff like that. That ain’t gonna happen.’ I said, ‘God…that’s the end of that.’


Chappell: George didn’t go to bat for you in there?


Mulligan: I went to George about it. I said, ‘I think I got Jimmy a little upset.’ George said, ‘You gotta remember where you are buddy…you’re in the South. That ain’t gonna happen.’


Can you believe that, David ? What a conversation between me, Jimmy Crockett and George Scott!


Chappell: Did you tell Rufus what you’d tried to do?


Mulligan: I went to Rufus, and I said, ‘Ruf, I tried brother…I did my best.


Then…I even came back and made money with Burrhead!


Chappell: Yeah, you all went around the circuit once…


Mulligan: Burrhead weighed 117 pounds! (laughs hard)


Chappell: Soaking wet! (everybody laughs hard)


Mulligan: (still laughing) I love it…I love that man---Rufus R. Jones!