Tuesday, November 01, 2016

"I Never Quit" - Magnum's Story Told Like Never Before

by Dick Bourne
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Highspots.com recently released another in a series of excellent documentaries directed by Michael Elliot. Following on the footsteps of such acclaimed features as "The Funks" and "Jim Crockett Promotions: The Good Old Days" comes the telling of one of pro-wrestling's most inspirational stories, "I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story."
I'm guessing you've heard the story before, but you've never quite heard it told this way.

Elliot takes Magnum back to the very spot of his tragic automobile accident that ended the meteoric rise of his relatively short wrestling career. Literally. Magnum sits on his Segway on the sidewalk on Sardis road, looking at the very spot where his career ended and he almost lost his life. He then begins to layout the whole story of his wrestling career that all led that spot on that road. It's a remarkable story of how he became one of the most popular and remembered pro-wrestlers of his generation. And it also bears witness to the physical struggle he's gone through every day of his life since that tragic day in October of 1986, and the rewarding professional and personal life he's built in its aftermath.

Think about it like this: Magnum only wrestled for Jim Crockett Promotions for 22 months. But his major feuds during those 22 months - with Wahoo McDaniel, Tully Blanchard, and Nikita Koloff -- all of which were fought over the United States Heavyweight Championship -- are still talked about to this day, some 30 years after Magnum's wrestling career came to that tragic end.

His classic matches are so fondly remembered that 30 years after the famous "I Quit" match at Starrcade '85, fans gathered in a huge ballroom at the NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte in 2015 to hear Magnum and Tully Blanchard just sit there and talk about it. That's pretty remarkable when you think about it.

The documentary starts at the scene of the accident, but then shifts to the story of how a young Terry Allen broke into the wrestling business, including (literally) a road map through all the territories where he cut his teeth. These include never before seen footage of Magnum early in his career. (See the official trailer video, embedded below.)

One of my favorite segments was a scene where Magnum is sitting in his office watching old video footage of a TV match he had with AWA World Champion Nick Bockwinkle. It was relatively early in his career. He remembered it, but he had never seen it before. It was a special little moment.

Another favorite segment was with Magnum's mother, Marion, remembering back to the day in 1986 sitting around a conference room table where Nikita Koloff trash-talked her and an enraged Magnum jumped across the table and a brawl ensued. It was part of the great angle that led to the famous "best-of-seven" match series between Magnum and Nikita. The interesting thing was Magnum had never "smartened up" his Mom, and the incident unfolding in front of her was very real to her. It's great hearing them both tell this.

While his wrestling experience in all the different territories where he worked is covered, my favorite of course is the in-depth discussion of the three major feuds in the Mid-Atlantic area, and nationally for the NWA on WTBS, especially the "I Quit" match with Blanchard which I remember more for the brilliantly executed finish than even the match itself (which is a bonafide classic.)

This isn't a stereo-typical "shoot interview." This is a full blown documentary with supporting photographs and video and commentary from folks like Jim Crockett, Jr., Tully Blanchard, Nikita Koloff, Jimmy Valiant, Baby Doll, Ricky Morton, Dusty Rhodes, George South, and many others, as well as perspective from wrestling journalists Dave Meltzer and Bruce Mitchell. If you've seen other work by Michael Elliot, you know the professional polish he puts on his projects.

For his part, Magnum's performance is excellent as well. His narration is warm and inviting and every bit of that part of his personality comes right through. It's amazing (and inspiring) to see someone who was dealt a pretty tough hand seem so comfortable in his own skin.

"I Never Quit: The Magnum T.A. Story" is available on DVD for $14.99 from Highspots.com, or an autographed copy of the DVD is available for $19.99.  A digital download is available for $9.99 from the Highspots Wrestling Network.

Related Links:
The Gateway Interview: Magnum T.A.
Great American Bash Tour 1986 
U.S. Title Memories: Harley Race challenges Magnum T.A.
Nikita Koloff Wins the Best-Of-7 Series and the U.S. Championship
Former U.S. Champions from the Title's Golden Age appearing in Charlotte at Fanfest
1980s Dusty Booking Era Babyface Reunion