Roddy Piper, Blackjack Mulligan, and Jake Roberts captivated audiences with their larger-than-life personalities and in-ring performances. But what inspired these men to become professional wrestlers?
1. Rowdy Roddy Piper
In an interview with Fighting Spirit Magazine, Roddy Piper opened up about why he got into wrestling and why some of the younger guys breaking into the business are doing it for the wrong reasons.
When I do get to talk to some of the younger guys breaking in, I always ask them why they want to be professional wrestlers. From their answer, I can often tell what degree of success, if any, they will have.
“Not being disrespectful to anyone at all, but it’s hard to listen to the same stories of wanting to be involved since they were little kids. In my book, that’s the wrong kind of reasoning for getting involved in a business such as this.
“I got into it heavily because I wanted a job and a family of my own. If I could make $25 cash in a matter of minutes, that’s all the motivation I needed. Wrestling was the best shot I had at doing that at the time, so I went about it and studied as much as I could.
“You know, when I was working in the Carolinas, I crashed so many cars that nobody would ride with me anymore. Driving to the next town to work, I’d load up with a case of beer and some great music, and when I got an idea, I’d drive using my knee and jot down all sorts of stuff in this yellow notepad I carried about with me.
The next day when I read over the list, most of them would be complete nonsense, but there’d always be that one that stood out and could be used. Doing that almost every night, I built up quite the bank of ideas…” (laughs)
2. Blackjack Mulligan
In an interview with Mid-Atlantic Gateway, Blackjack Mulligan opened up about how an old friend from high school, Wahoo McDaniel, inspired him to get into wrestling.
“Wahoo McDaniel was really the one who got me going in wrestling.
“He was kind of like my high school idol. I was like a freshman in high school when he was a senior; he was at Midland High, and I came out of Odessa High. Just down the road from each other, about 20 miles. So we knew each other.
“In 1967, I had come from Denver to New York, and I was playing with the New York Jets.
“But I was hurt.
“I had a compound fracture of the left leg. If I were a horse, they would have shot me – the leg was that bad. So, football was over.
“One day, Wahoo asked me to pick him up from the airport. He was playing pro’ football, but he also wrestled some then too.
“He said, ‘You should get into this wrestling…you were an amateur wrestler in high school and college…’
Before that, I hadn’t even thought about professional wrestling.
“There were a whole group of guys that came out of football [into wrestling] because we weren’t making any money in football. We were only making 15-20 thousand a year.
“I saw Wahoo again one day, and he had a big stack of bills in front of him, and I asked him where he got all that money.
“He said, ‘Boyyyyyyyyy, you need to get into this wrestling. You need to get some of this money, man!’
“Wahoo was the one who introduced me to Joe Blanchard. And Joe started training me…”
Watch NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling house show footage of Ric Flair and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine facing off against Blackjack Mulligan and Wahoo McDaniels:
3. Jake Roberts
From the “Pick Your Poison” DVD release by WWE, Jake Roberts opened up about how his father’s past abuse became his fuel to be successful in wrestling.
“I got into wrestling because I was trying to gain my father’s love.
“My father [Aurelian ‘Grizzly’ Smith] was a wrestler, and I was never around him.
“My father made us believe at home…he never told us the ‘showmanship’ part of it. He made us 100% dyed-in-the-wool believers. My father would do these storylines where I believe there was one in Amarillo where Harley Race jumped off a ladder and supposedly broke [my father’s] neck.
“My dad wore that damn brace at home – for six months – and brutalized us children with that shit. And THEN, on television they’re [telling him], ‘You shouldn’t come back to wrestling…
“My father said, ‘I GOTTA come back and fight that man!’ And we’re going, ‘No daddy, please don’t do it, daddy – you’re gonna get killed, you could die…’
“I wanted to become an architect; that’s what I wanted to do with my life.
“I graduated from high school, and it would have been nice had my father been there, but he was never there for anything.
Getting into wrestling isn’t something I wanted to do, but I went to see him wrestle and being young and stupid, I wanted him to be proud of me. I thought I would go in that ring and beat up one of the wrestlers...I did get in the ring, but it didn’t work out too well for me…I was humbled and humiliated.
“When I crawled back to the locker-room, my dad looked down at me and told me he was ashamed of me.
“I remember I told him, ‘I think I can do this…’
“He just looked at me and laughed and said, ‘You don’t have the guts.’
“He took me outside, and he chopped me. I flew about six or seven feet and hit the ground. And I cried.
“He looked at me and said, ‘You’re gutless, and you’ll never amount to anything…’ And he walked back into the house.
“That’s all I needed right there. That’s when I said, ‘Up yours. I’m gonna do this, and I’m gonna be better than you ever were. I don’t give a shit what it takes…I’m gonna friggin’ do it.’
“I wanted to shove the business up my father’s ass.”
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure not to miss the following recommended article on our site:
- 6 Wrestlers Share Painful Horror Stories Of Breaking Into the Business
- Roddy Piper: From The Streets to the Big Time
- Hulk Hogan and Jake Roberts: Why Their Feud Was Rejected By Vince
Some quotes used in this article compiled by Matt Pender and shared here with thanks to our friends over at ‘Wrestling’s Glory Days’ Facebook page.
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