Saturday, December 16, 2017

Blackjack Mulligan interview before the the Great American Bash in St. Petersburg

Blackjack Recognizable
by Jimmy Nasella
Assistant State Sports Editor, Tampa Tribune
July 24, 1987

TAMPA - He's big, no. make that gargantuan, by the normal-sized person's standards. and recognizable throughout the country.

A pair of factors that can go a long way In keeping one going for 20 years in pro wrestling They also go a long way In letting a guy move around to keep himself, and the fans, from becoming stale. The proof Is in Black Jack Mulligan.

Mulligan, 6-foot-7, 325 pounds will lug his mass into the ring again tonight as part Of the National Wrestling Alliances Great American Bash at the St. Petersburg Bayfront Center.

Being part of the month-long event (the Bash's are winding down a tour of 13 Florida dates) Is but another benefit of Mulligan's longevity.

He recently returned from a stint In the World Wrestling Federation, a journey afforded because Mulligan's longevity makes him one of few in the business who can go from place to place with little problem.

"I'm one of the old-timers who can do it," Mulligan said In a telephone interview from his small ranch situated between Lakeland and Plant City. "It's the result of a long-term investment in the business."

In other words, he has come a long way since his first match on a hot summer day in San Antonio.

It's an even longer way from childhood in Sweetwater, Texas, when he and neighborhood kids would wrestle after watching shows (he liked the bad guys) from Chicago and Fort Worth.  "I knew early on what I wanted to do." he said. "I wanted to be a football player first (he was with Denver and the New York Jets before a leg injury forced retirement in 1970) and a wrestler second. Never thought I'd get to do it,  but ..."

He began wrestling in junior high school and played football at Odessa High (under Iowa coach Hayden Fry) and college ball at Texas-El Paso (under Bum Phillips). Through it all, however, pro wrestling kept nagging in the back of his mind. "In college we would stage our own matches," he recalled. It was setting the stage, although he didn't know it at the time, for the real thing The real thing, however, didn't seem to be all Mulligan had cracked it up to be when his chance to get in the ring came in San Antonio.

"I'll never forget it." he said between coughs through the phone line, "It was 110 degrees in the mite of the summer. I was against Joltin' Joe Blanchard who had been an All-American at Kansas and an All-Pro in the Canadian Football League. It was horrible — it wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I thought that there must be an easier way to make a living."

Since then Mulligan has been to nearly every country in the world, outside the Iron Curtain. He has made a nice living with his Polk County place and another home in Texas. He has done television commercials and has gone from wrestling nine times a week to "about 10 a month." Yes, he says, he has lost a step or two over the years, but it's still fun and he's not ready to retire.

And, since then, Mulligan has seen it all In the ring — including his current plight. Ironically. as Ironies go in pro wres-tling tonight he is teamed with one of his formerly most-hated rivals, Kevin Sullivan as they go against Dory Funk Jr. and Sir Oliver Humperdink in a barbed-wire cage match.

"He's a most unusual partner," Mulligan understated. "We have had combat and he is both a worthy opponent and worthy partner. I'm still not sure I trust the dirty rat — I think he may be connin' me. I keep one eye on Kevin and one on the opposition."

In other matches tonight: Ed Gantner and Bugsy McGraw take on the Sheepherders; Mike Rotunda faces the Black Assassin: Ron Simmons, Scott Hall and Jimmy Valient meet The Raging Bull, Ivan Koloff and Vladimir Petrov; Ronnie Garvin takes on Inkubus, Jim Backlund and Jerry Grey team to meet the Cuban Connection; Lazortron faces Nelson Royal, and the Mulkey Brothers meet Luis Astia and Rick Ryder.

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Thanks to Mark Eastridge for sending the newspaper article on Blackjack Mulligan. Transcription courtesy of Online OCR.