Magnum T.A. Tragedy: Secret Tale of Wrestling’s Greatest ‘What If’

Magnum T.A. was poised for big things, and it all got snuffed away in tragedy. Dive into the heart-wrenching, secret tale of Terry Allen, a professional wrestler who had it all and stood on the brink of greatness. There’s always that nagging thought: How far could he have gone?

Terry Allen, who was better known to fans as Magnum T.A., had a promising future in professional wrestling that was tragically cut short.
Terry Allen, who was better known to fans as Magnum T.A., had a promising future in professional wrestling that was tragically cut short.

Magnum T.A. – The Rise and Tragic Fall of Wrestling’s Biggest “What If”?

The stage was set for greatness. In the world of 1980s professional wrestling, a new star was rapidly ascending to the top. Terry Allen, better known as Magnum T.A., had everything: the looks of a matinee idol, a physique to rival the Greek gods, charisma that could light up an entire arena, and wrestling skills that put him in the same league as icons like Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, and Ric Flair.

He wasn’t just a wrestler; he was a phenomenon, poised to redefine the industry with his elusive “it factor.”

Then, on the fateful night of October 14th, 1986, destiny took a tragic turn. A horrific car crash shattered his dreams. Today, he remains one of pro wrestling history’s most profound “What ifs?”

Terry Wayne Allen
Terry Wayne Allen, aka Magnum T.A. Photo Credit: NWA

An Early Taste of the Professional Wrestling Industry

Before breaking into the professional wrestling territories, Terry Allen worked as a security guard at a bar in the Carolinas. It was there that Buzz Sawyer discovered him.

Allen was tall with a marketable look. Sawyer approached Allen at the bar and talked about getting him a wrestling license for ten thousand dollars. This was at a time when Terry was living paycheck to paycheck.

Fortunately, his grandfather had enough faith in him to give him the money.

Once Allen handed Sawyer the payment, however, he never heard back from the veteran who skipped town.

After obtaining just a few hours of training from Sawyer, Terry never saw his $10,000 again.

With the help of his future rival Jimmy Garvin, Allen tracked down Sawyer, who agreed to show Allen the ropes.

The future Magnum T.A. early in his professional wrestling career.
The future Magnum T.A. early in his professional wrestling career. Photo Credit: NWA.

The Magnum P.I. and Magnum T.A. Connection, Explained

Promoters realized the future Magnum T.A.’s vast potential, and he met with much success in the territories, holding a variety of championship belts.

He worked in Florida and the Pacific Northwest and eventually campaigned in Mid-South Wrestling, run by legendary “Cowboy” Bill Watts.

However, Terry Allen had everything going for him except a character that would captivate the crowd.

Side by Side view of Tom Selleck and Terry Allen
Side by Side view of Magnum P.I. (actor Tom Selleck) and pro wrestler Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen). Photo Credit: Rolex Magazine, NWA.

In his early career, promoters had Magnum dress in suits and ties, but that did not entice the fans. Then, punk rock was a major trend throughout the 1980s. So, promoters wrongly thought his wearing punk attire would catch fire.

Yet his luck was about to change.

With the release of the T.V. show Magnum P.I., Dusty Rhodes noted that the protagonist, actor Tom Selleck, had many physical similarities to Terry Allen. Andre The Giant told Allen that instead of Magnum P.I., he should become Magnum T.A., after Terry Allen’s initials.

The fans bought it. As did Watts, who gave him the coveted North American Heavyweight Championship he held for nearly a half year.

Magnum T.A. had evolved into a fierce competitor and a legit main-eventer.

Wrestling’s Next Big Thing

Terry Allen, better known as Magnum T.A.
Terry Allen, better known as Magnum T.A. Photo Credit: NWA.

Terry Allen, as Magnum T.A., surged through the rankings and soon climbed to the top of the NWA.

“Magnum was something special. A total package, if you will,” Evan Ginzburg, Editor-in-Chief at Pro Wrestling Stories and Associate Producer on The Wrestler and 350 Days, shared on seeing Magnum regularly in Philadelphia.

“The women adored him, and the men admired and respected him. He gave 110% every night, and even though he was built like a tank, he knew how to play the hero in peril.

“During that run, he wrestled the best of the best, such as Ric Flair, Mr. Wrestling II, and Tully Blanchard.

“He also had a brutal best-of-seven series with the massive monster heel, Nikita Koloff. Those two were incredible together.”

Evan added, “He was one of those guys who would create magic no matter who he worked with. He was young, in his prime, and it seemed like nothing at all could stop him. Only fate wasn’t kind. What a sad end to a great career. What could have been.”

Winning the NWA United States Championship

Magnum T.A. as NWA United States Heavyweight Champion.
Magnum T.A. as NWA United States Heavyweight Champion. Photo Credit: NWA.

In 1985, Magnum won the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship. At the time, the NWA used the United States title to propel people into the World Heavyweight Championship picture.

In 1986, Magnum T.A. caught fire.

He wrapped up the classic series with Ivan Koloff over the U.S. Title while Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes were winding down their title bouts.

Now, there was nothing in the way of Magnum attaining NWA championship gold.

David Crockett, who was the booker alongside Dusty, plainly stated that Magnum would have been the world champion. He even went as far as to say there was “no doubt.”

The future of the company was Magnum T.A. That was until disaster struck.

The Tragic Accident That Derrailed Magnum T.A.’s Promising Wrestling Career

Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen)'s totaled Porsche 911 Turbo after the horrific accident that abruptly ended his professional wrestling career.
Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen)’s totaled Porsche 911 Turbo after the horrific accident that abruptly ended his professional wrestling career. Photo Credit: NWA.

On the rainy night of October 14th, 1986, after wrestling a match against “Beautiful” Jimmy Garvin, Magnum T.A. drove home in his brand-new Porsche 911 Turbo.

Allen recalls this night vividly. Driving down the familiar Sardis Road in Charlotte, North Carolina, it was pouring so hard that he could not see the familiar terrain around him.

“I never lost consciousness,” Magnum T.A. recounted in an interview with Military News. “I remember it all.”

He continued, “It was a freaky thing, and I guess that’s why accidents happen so close to home. When you are on a path that you have traveled hundreds of times, when you get close to those five minutes from your house, you’re like on autopilot.

“It was raining really, really hard. I was driving the posted speed limit, but it was too fast, given the horrible weather conditions at the time. It didn’t seem to me at the time, but the fact that I hydroplaned, if I was going 15-20 miles slower it probably would not have happened.”

The Moment Magnum T.A. Realized He was Paralyzed

Left: 1986 Porsche 911 Turbo, and on the Right: Terry Allen's Porsche 911 Turbo after the accident.
Left: 1986 Porsche 911 Turbo, and on the Right: Terry Allen’s Porsche 911 Turbo after the accident. Photo Credit: NWA.

Terry Allen, who stood over six feet tall, was rather large to fit in a miniature sports car. Although responsive the entire time, he knew something was terribly wrong when he couldn’t move.

Due to his large stature, paramedics had to get the jaws of life to lift the roof of the Porsche. Then, they could extract Allen from the car to put him in the ambulance.

At Carolinas Medical Center, the extent of his injuries became apparent. The collision had caused his C-4 and C-5 vertebrae to “explode,” rendering him a quadriplegic—paralyzed in all four limbs.

Doctors marveled at how his exceptional physical conditioning played a critical role in his survival. Yet, the right side of his body was paralyzed for months, conclusively ending his illustrious career in the wrestling ring.

Protecting the Business at all Costs

Magnum T.A. talking with Wrestling Journalist Bill Apter in the hospital.
Magnum T.A. talking with wrestling Journalist Bill Apter in the hospital. Photo Credit: Bill Apter.

In late 1986, Magnum T.A., Terry Allen, was fighting for his life in a hospital bed.

People from all over the country were calling the hospital asking for an update on his health. Many of the callers were concerned fans.

Wrestlers also visited Allen at the hospital. But they had to protect the business and keep “kayfabe” (by presenting that the performances in the ring were real) . At the time of the accident, Magnum was a fan favorite, so it was taboo for a heel to be seen with him.

Ric Flair had to go as far as bundling himself in clothes to disguise himself. With the help of the hospital staff, Flair could sneak his way to Magnum’s room late at night. He even took the NWA World World Heavyweight Championship with him to the hospital and placed the title on top of Magnum’s chest while saying he would be waiting for him to come back and get it.

He would never be able to step in the ring and wrestle again.

Magnum T.A.’s Road to Recovery

Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen) remained motivated and smiled his way through recovery.
Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen) remained motivated and smiled his way through recovery. Photo Credit: NWA.

Due to his lower body paralysis, Terry Allen’s wife at the time, Tamara Allen, fed, bathed, and helped him with his everyday routine. Allen, though, always remained positive and kept fighting. Five months after the accident, Magnum T.A. was finally released from the hospital.

Magnum hopped back into the spotlight, seeking other work in the wrestling industry.

In one of the most emotional moments in wrestling history, Terry Allen returned to where he made a name for himself. With the help of other wrestlers and a cane, Magnum struggled to the ring.

Tully Blanchard would attack TA after his career-ending car accident. It sounds even more horrible on paper: a disabled person getting assaulted for the pettiest of reasons. But the history of the act and the events that led up to it made it so much worse. If you’re interested in how this particular storyline unfolded, you can find more information about it here.

In the years that followed, Allen would briefly try color commentary and backstage interviewing.

The accident marked a defining moment in the NWA. Terry Allen was set to carry the company on his back. Yet, there was no backup plan. Ted Turner ultimately bought out the NWA, and it became World Championship Wrestling (WCW).

Life Goes On for Terry Allen

Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen) gets interviewed while riding a Segway on John Carter WBTV in 2014.
Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen) gets interviewed while riding a Segway on John Carter WBTV in 2014. Photo Credit: WBTV.

While his wrestling days as Magnum T.A. were over, life went on for Terry Allen.

He would go on to own and operate businesses, such as Magnum Tower Services, Inc. He would also become a Talent Director for WCW.

Since the accident, Allen has used a motorized segway with a seat to move around.

Allen is happy to have woken up from the accident. Yet, there have been challenges. For example, he and his family went to Disney World, and they denied him access to the Magic Kingdom amusement park due to his motorized segway. Allen has gone on record saying that “it felt like someone poured a bucket of cold water over my head.”

Terry Allen would marry Courtney Shattuck on March 26th, 2005, the former wife of wrestler Tully Blanchard, becoming the proud stepfather of professional wrestler Tessa Blanchard.

The Biggest “What If?”

Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen) with his long-time wife, Courtney Shattuck.
Magnum T.A. (Terry Allen) with his long-time wife, Courtney Shattuck. Photo Credit: WWE.

It is undeniable that Magnum T.A.’s professional wrestling career left a lot of questions unanswered.

The sky was the limit for him, but we will never know how far his career would have skyrocketed without that accident. He was a shooting star who, instead, sadly plummeted to Earth.

The great Magnum T.A. may be wrestling’s greatest “What if?”

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Matthew Redepenning has been an avid fan and historian of professional wrestling for nearly twenty years. After graduating from high school, he attended culinary school, but destiny had other plans for him, and he ultimately earned his bachelor's degree in history from Texas Wesleyan University. He follows MMA and practices kickboxing in his free time.