Magnum’s best friend during those amazing Crockett years, the incomparable “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, will be inducted posthumously into the NWALegends.com Hall of Heroes “Class of 2016” during Fanfest weekend in Charlotte on August 4-7, 2016. The Mid-Atlantic Gateway was fortunate to catch up with “The Boss” recently, and we discussed Magnum being the presenter for Dusty’s Hall of Heroes honor and his close relationship with the “Dream,” his relatively short in-ring career that was tall on superlatives and assorted other tidbits that make Magnum T.A. an inspiration to anyone he crosses paths with.
David Chappell: Magnum, it’s so good to finally have you here on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. You mean so much to so many wrestling fans all over the world, but probably no place more than the Carolinas. You now call Charlotte home, and you’re going to be “home” for the NWALegends.com Fanfest event in about a week, and you will be presenting your mentor, the late Dusty Rhodes, for induction into the Hall of Heroes, Class of 2016. First off, please tell us about Dusty.
Magnum T.A.: Sure, well, I mean, Dusty was more than a mentor, he was my best friend. He was a comrade in the business, we were partners, I was involved with so many elements, and so many things because of his and my relationship. And his involvement, of course, in all the creative things that took place in our relationship…it started back in like, 1982.
Magnum: Yeah, goes back that far. I met him when I came to work for Eddie Graham, for Championship Wrestling from Florida. When I came in Eddie was the booker, and he was a booker for the first six months that I was there, and then Dusty came in to cover the book. We met, and Barry Windham had come in about a couple of months before Dusty did, and so Barry and I had formed this real strong friendship. Dusty, Barry, Blackjack and I soon became very close.
Chappell: How did Dusty size you up in the beginning?
Magnum: When I first came in I was kind of a fish out of water, because he didn't know me, I was new. I had been in the business about a year, and it was Barry that actually kind of broke the ice, got he and I together, and we traveled on a trip together and just had so many things in common. So many of the same desires, and dreams, and goals, and things that were just mind-boggling even though he was, you know, over ten years older than me. He became more like a big brother, and you know, was the best friend in my career.
Chappell: That’s very insightful. I didn’t realize your friendship with Dusty started that early.
Magnum: Well, it's really way more in depth than I'll ever be able to go into during his induction, but when I got the call to come to Mid-South, and when the Magnum T.A. character launched, Dusty gave me his blessing to go do it, because he had been really grooming me there in Florida to help me learn as much as I possibly could. He had me booked in tag matches with Brad Armstrong, and Scott McGee, and we were going out there for forty-five minute broadways every night with the Royal Kangaroos, and it was education I was getting, and of course I was around Eddie Graham.
Chappell: I’m sure just hanging around Eddie Graham was an education unto itself.
Magnum: Eddie was Dusty's mentor, so it was just this big old educational thing going on, and these strong, strong bonds being formed. I had only been in Mid-South for about six months, and back then Ernie Ladd was kind of booking things, and Ernie wasn't the most insightful guy as far as new creative things…he recognized talent, but didn't know what he was going to do with them. He was kind of like in a lull, not knowing exactly what to do with me, and I wasn't really happy with the direction things were going, so I was getting ready to come back to Florida with Dusty, with the Magnum character, in a whole different genre, and Bill [Watts] saw me and said, "You're not going anywhere! I've got plans for you."
Magnum: Bill hadn't been really involved to that point, either. Bill came in and the rest is history. But when Dusty then made his move to the Carolina's, and worked for the Crockett's, he always had these big dreams of this superstar. He was dreaming about what became WrestleMania way before that ever happened, and that of course being the Starrcades were the beginning of all that. But when I was getting ready to come into Mid-Atlantic, they didn't have any injection of new blood. Barry Windham had come in with him as his top baby face, and it was…
Chappell: Barry left about as soon as he came, didn’t he?
Magnum: Well, he did because he was getting three, four hundred dollar paychecks, and he couldn't live on it.
Chappell: Whew, the territory was down that much then?
Magnum: He couldn't afford to eat, and so I was at a place that was on fire, and I was making over two grand a week in Mid-South, in 1984, that was big money. Dusty and Jimmy Crockett called me in the middle of the night, and Jimmy gets on the phone with me and said, "Look, I can't match what you're making there, but I promise if you come you won't make less than x amount of dollars that was respectable, and I would give you the biggest push anybody could ever get."
|J.W.'s Wrestling Memorabilia|
Magnum: Yeah, I came in and I did a TV, and then I came in and started December of 1984, and it was the launch of something special, but with the things that happened, my in the ring career was just a touch under seven years, and it ended on October 14th of 1986.
Chappell: The car accident unfortunately cut your in-ring career short, but did you ever cram a lot of magnificence into that relatively short period of time!
Magnum: Well, people they talk about my career, and they talk about matches, and talk about angles, and feuds, and they're dumbfounded that all this happened in this little concise period of time, but I had a very intense career from 1983 to 1986 when the crash occurred. It was just a crazy ride, and it impacted a lot of people, impacted the industry, and you know I was just really fortunate. A lot of things you do have to do with your charisma, your ability and everything, and then all the things that have to do with being in the right place at the right time.
Magnum: It started building, a slow build immediately, but the moment we hit, the minute Jim Crockett brokered the deal to get us on TBS, the minute that happened, business exploded.
Chappell: Magnum, when this boom in business hit, of course Charlotte was the hub of the Crockett operation. And your friend Dusty was on fire in so many respects at that time. What does it mean jointly to be doing the induction for him at the Hall of Heroes, then doing it in Charlotte where, you know, so much has happened for both of you all?
Magnum: Well, to be honest, it's really kind of surreal, because Dusty's a bigger than life character, both in and outside the ring, and his and my relationship. When Greg Price called me, and asked me to do it I said yes immediately. Honestly, I can't imagine anybody else doing it, but me, to be honest with you.
Magnum: I mean because of the relationship, and certain stances and everything else, and our relationship was true to form before the accident, and after the accident. We could go six months, a year without talking, and pick up right where we stopped talking the year before.
Chappell: A friendship like that is really something special.
Magnum: Yes, and he was such a family man. He invested so much of his time in Teil, and Cody growing up, and being there for them, and being a good Dad and mentoring them. Teaching Cody the things that he did about the business, and helping Teil while she was young, pursue her dreams, and goals. He loved his kids, he loved his grandkids; he's just an amazing human being.
Chappell: I think we were all floored about a year ago, when Dusty passed. That had to hit you hard. Any thoughts of that as we go on from here? Really, you're carrying that torch for him next Friday night at Fanfest.
Magnum: Yeah, and he passed away on my birthday.
Chappell: Oh my God, I didn't realize that. I wonder if there's some significance in that somewhere on a higher level?
Magnum: Yeah, you know he passed away on my birthday. I had seen him a couple of months prior…two, three months prior. I had done an event up in New York at La Guardia Airport, at a big convention up there, and my youngest son and I had driven up there. The guy that brought me in, also brought Dusty in, so we sat right next to each other, and got to talk for about two, three hours. I knew he had lost a lot of weight…
Chappell: I’m guessing you didn’t know why that was going on?
Magnum: No, I didn't know whether he was trying to just kind of trim down or what. He told me he'd had a little health scare thing, but he didn't elaborate on it, and he led me to believe it, you know, it had all gotten kind of squared up and everything was okay. I'd seen him on TV subsequently to seeing him up there, and I could tell he was still just getting skinnier, and more gaunt looking.
Chappell: Yeah, I remember him being on camera with WWE, I think it was something with him, Cody and Dustin, I believe, and I noticed the weight-loss then, you know…
Magnum: I didn't mean to cut you off, but I think it was that thing that Cody was turning heel.
Chappell: Exactly, exactly.
Magnum: So, anyway, here was a shock. I was on my way home from work, going to meet my family to go out to dinner for my birthday, and a co-worker called me and heard it on Sirius radio, which hit it, leaked it, before it actually hit the Internet. I immediately pulled over, and I started to Google it, and initially it said it was Cody. Then I was really freaked out, I thought they got it wrong, saying something's happened to Cody. But then the Internet just blew up and had the correct information. I got a hold of the family, Michelle, and talked to them, and kind of got the inside of what happened. Later that week, or however many days it was, I went down to Florida to pay my respects to the family for the funeral, and it was just overwhelming.
Chappell: I’m sure it had to be, and to have the Dream pass on your birthday, what a double-whammy. Dusty brought so many new and innovative things to the wrestling business. Another inductee of the Hall of Heroes Class of 2016, Baby Doll, also brought some new and unique facets to professional wrestling in the mid ‘80s. What are your memories of the “Perfect 10?”
Magnum: Baby Doll was like the first of her kind, besides Wendy Richter up in New York, because of the things she did with the music videos and things that she got to be involved in, but she was probably the first woman in the business in the NWA, that really stood out as a major character all on her own, and even as just being a quote-unquote manager/valet, you know, whatever you want to call it.
Chappell: I certainly agree. I think she was a real trail-blazer, you know, at that time.
Magnum: She could've even done more with it. But life, you know, we all got our things that come our way. And life, real life, in show business is tough, but family and raising kids, and doing all those things is what it's all about.
Magnum: I'm very glad that I got to do what I did in wrestling, but I can't imagine, first of all, let me just set the record straight. My goal was never to wrestle past thirty years old, never, ever. I wanted to run with the World title, and, you know, another year or two, or three, you know, of back and forth with somebody, and I wanted to go do something else, because I love wrestling, but I didn't want to be one of those guys that didn't know when it was time to get out.
Chappell: And like you said before, it’s a tough deal to be immersed in wrestling if you also want to start a family at the same time.
Magnum: I knew there was no way in the world that you could start, and raise a family, and be on the road in this industry. The only one that even comes to my mind that did it with respect and dignity, that I personally know is Mike Rotunda. Mike Rotunda was a good family man, he's got some great kids, couple of them already in the business. He made it work, but I mean, the rule of thumb is that either if guys didn't get a divorce, they grew up and their kids were so dysfunctional, they had no idea of reality and balance, and anything else. The parenting part, the interaction part you can't have if you're gone twenty-eight days out of thirty each month.
Chappell: Yeah, you're never home, so that in itself, regardless of anything else, would make it nearly impossible.
Magnum: Yeah, so anyway, I'm really glad that what I did was impactful, it made memories. Talked about some of those with Dave Meltzer last week in Waterloo. He and I had never met.
Chappell: That’s amazing you two had never crossed paths!
Chappell: The buildup to your “I Quit” match with Tully Blanchard was phenomenal.
Magnum: I don't know that anybody could do that today, the way the writers are, the way they're so fast to want to jump off of something.
Chappell: Well, I think it's almost societal today; everything has got to be instant gratification. There's no way you can wait five months to do that this day and age, I don't think. Although, I think that's the way to do it, to get the most out of it, but you wonder if that's even possible today.
Magnum: Well, I'll tell you the honest truth. You could do it with one angle today. You could do it with two guys, two guys could have something that boils, and boils, and boils, and simmers, and boils, and ups, and downs, and backs, and forth’s, and all those kind of things. A guy like Seth Rollins, he could work that kind of angle, he absolutely could do it. He could carry the interview, he could keep the intensity, he could do it. I mean, there are guys in there that have the chops, and the talent to do it, it's just the creative control and the pressure to produce the kind of product that they do, and my hat's off to them. I couldn't do what they do. You could have something markedly different within the framework of what they've got going on that would make it so episodic that people couldn't wait to tune in next week to see what happens. To me, that's kind of what they're missing.
Chappell: Talking about your famous "I Quit" match, reminds me that in addition to your participation at the Hall of Heroes, you're going to have a Q and A at Fanfest on Saturday August 6th, and also photo-ops with your “I Quit” match adversaries Tully Blanchard and Baby Doll. Another adversary Nikita Koloff will also be involved in those photo opportunities. That's like a dream come true for a lot of the fans! For the fans that are coming to Charlotte, that have already made plans to see Magnum T.A. or are thinking about coming and spending time with you at these events, what can you tell them about what they might expect in particular with you, your old adversaries and comrades from the mid ‘80s?
Magnum: Well, your chance to get a picture opportunity with me, and my two greatest adversaries, because I obviously also worked a program with Flair, but that was literally just to help set the stage for everything we were doing, that was to come. The program with Tully and Nikita, and of course Baby Doll being firmly entrenched in what Tully and me were doing, that's classic moments. All four of us being in one place at one time, that's so rare. We're not guaranteed tomorrow, we've seen how many people have fallen by the wayside, and you talk about your Kodak moment? That might be a once in a lifetime moment!
Chappell: Well said! Any other thoughts about the Fanfest experience in Charlotte?
Magnum: It's great to hear how our work impacted people's lives back in the ‘80s. It's interesting to see the Dad's with their kids that have shown them our work, and what we did on the WWE Network, that airs all that now, on YouTube, and everything. My hat's off to the WWE, everybody was really upset about that initially, when they started doing those things and all that, but what they did was made everything available, and it’s alive and fresh again. Outside of having some guest appearance on some live program, being available to the wrestling fan at the click of a button on your computer, to watch the history of all these things that took place is phenomenal. So they've immortalized all that work that was done that would've just fallen in some kind of dark hole somewhere, and would only be alive on VHS tapes, and things people could've recreated.
Chappell: I remember how excited I was when the WWE Network started showing the Saturday night 6:05 TBS shows! Whatever the earliest one they had, I just started watching them sequentially, you know. It's just amazing, having those shows at your fingertips.
Magnum: Yeah, it is, and like you said, it's an older generation that shared that, a lot of them at that time with their parents and their grandparents. There are so many memories, and you're exposed to all of those.
Chappell: Absolutely! What’s going on in the life of Magnum T.A. presently?
Magnum: Well, it's kind of exciting, thirty years after the fact, Mattel has just released my figurine…yes, the Magnum T.A. Classic Legends figure is now out there!
Chappell: Long overdue! So this is being done through the WWE?
Magnum: WWE has me under contract now, and Mattel's distributing it. They'll be in stores this fall I'm sure. You can buy them on the Internet now on ringsidecollectibles.com…they have them for sale on their website.
Chappell: I saw a photo of your figurine on your Facebook page…it looks amazing!
Magnum: Yeah, I put it up on my Facebook page. I was dumbfounded, because nobody even told me it was happening! I mean, they had contacted me six years ago, and said they were going to do it, then the WWE contacted me last year, you know, I just, I don't hold my breath about anything anymore.
Chappell: Understood, but things have a way of working out.
Magnum: Yeah, I’m watching for the new releases and stuff now! They've come out with a new Dusty for 2016. It's from the ‘80s, we both have on the same Austin Hall wrestling boots, so I got to get one of those, and get a picture of America's Team.
Chappell: America’s Team reunited…that’s terrific!
Magnum: Yeah, when I get one, I'll put a picture of them together, and I'll post it.
Chappell: Magnum, it's been an honor and a pleasure to talk to you. All of your many fans greatly look forward to seeing you in Charlotte, and we just appreciate everything you've done over the years, keeping us all entertained, giving us all those wonderful memories. You're still going strong, and you're just an inspiration to all of us.
Magnum: Well, thanks to you and I appreciate the work you guys do communicating, and writing the things you do, because I know the fans can't get enough of that stuff. There's enough bad news out there you can get.
Chappell: You know your work brought joy to us at the time, and still does. You’re right; the shape our world seems to be in these days, boy, wrestling is a wonderful refuge for all of us! Thank you; you’re such a big part of that for so many of us.
Magnum: Well, my pleasure.
Chappell: We’ll see you in Charlotte in a few days!
Magnum: All right, sounds great. You have a great day, take care.
|Magnum & Dusty at the Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA (2009)|
(Pro Wrestling Mid-Atlantic/Eric Stace/Eddie Cheslock)
Magnum T.A. will be inducting Dusty Rhodes in the Hall of Heroes Class of 2016 at the NWALegends.com Fanfest on Friday, August 5, 2016. Fanfest is a big four day convention from August 4-7 at the University Place Hilton in Charlotte, NC. For more information visit NWALegends.com.
Follow Magnum T.A. on Twitter at @therealmagnumta
Follow Magnum T.A. on Twitter at @therealmagnumta