By Chuck Carroll
(CBS Baltimore/CBS Local) — It’s quite amazing what a person can accomplish in a short time. Just ask Terry “Magnum T.A.” Allen, whose career as a pro wrestler spanned only eight years, but left a mammoth imprint in squared circle lore. Had it not been for a tragic car accident that left him partially paralyzed in 1986, there is no telling the heights he would have reached.
The Virginia native shined as brightly as any star in the mid-Atlantic region and was thought to be the next big superstar before the term was made popular years later by WWE. He had the looks (the Magnum name was given to him because he bore a striking resemblance to Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. character), the size and athletic ability that promoters coveted.
The rare combination made him one of the biggest draws of the time and a mainstay at the top of the card. Many even speculated that Allen was the heir apparent to Ric Flair’s throne as the top talent at the time. He would even challenge the future two-time WWE Hall of Fame inductee for the coveted National Wrestling Alliance Heavyweight title just months before his career came to an abrupt halt.
Although unsuccessful that day, Allen was no stranger to having gold around his waist. He amassed two NWA U.S. Heavyweight Championship title reigns and had five runs as NWA Florida Global Tag Team Champion, including once with the legendary Dusty Rhodes, who asked him to be godfather to his son, Cody.
Had it not been for the tragic events of October 14, 1986, there would undoubtedly have been countless other championships for Allen. It was on that day that the Porsche he was driving hydroplaned and careened into a telephone pole in North Carolina. The violent collision caused the vehicle’s steel frame to wrap around the pillar and “exploded” one of the vertebrae in his neck, leaving him paralyzed at the tender age of 27.
But the lore of Magnum T.A. lives on to this day, as he’s one of the most popular attractions at wrestling conventions and is growing a new generation of fans, many of whom weren’t even alive when he was an active wrestler. Undoubtedly, many will be in attendance Saturday when he appears at The Crockett Cup. The event is a modern twist on a three-decade’s old classic event first run by Jim Crockett Promotions and Mid-South Wrestling, two of the largest territories in the country in the pre-WWE domination era. This go-around the event is being co-promoted by Ring of Honor and the National Wrestling Alliance, which is now owned by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Allen, to look back at his career and get his thoughts on the event, ROH and more.
How are you doing physically these days?
In this last weekend, I was going up to Fort Wayne, Indiana. I went and did a Heroes and Legends show or something they had up there, and I drove there from Charlotte, which wasn’t right around the corner. It was about 600 miles, so it was quite the adventure.
They don’t fly you up for those or you don’t like to fly?
No, they would fly me. But the deal is since I’ve had this career-ending accident when I was 27 years old and my spinal injury that I’ve got has left me with permanent nerve damage on my right side. So getting around has always been a challenge. But about the last six years I’ve been using a Segway. I’ve got a seat on it, and it gives me great mobility and enables me to interact, do all the things that I like to do in life, and you can’t check those things on an airplane. They have big lithium batteries in the bottom of it, and they’re not deemed safe for being in a compressed airplane.
How often are you doing these appearances?
For some reason, over these last couple years the activity level has gone up, or the demand or the ask I have for doing these things has gone up pretty linear. I don’t know if that’s partially because of WWE Network and them showing all these old things from the ’80s and what not to a new generation, that it stirs all this up or what. But I’ve made more appearances in the last year than I probably have in the last five years.
That has to be gratifying.
It’s funny, because what they’ve done, they made us relevant in a time where back in the day, if you didn’t have access to VHS tapes and something that somebody had saved on them… It started on YouTube, you could search YouTube and find all kind of matches, but the 24/7 network the WWE’s got out there, the 1,000,000+ subscribers they have, they have completely just popped the lid off of it and made it a current event.
A couple years ago, WWE signed me to a nostalgia contract and had Mattel make my wrestling figure. And here, 30 years after the fact, I get an action figure, which I was before all that. In 1985 and ’86, stuff like that didn’t exist and it all came after the fact. So it’s funny to me this little microcosm piece of my life, that really only spanned an in-ring career from 1980 to 1986, has produced so much to talk about 30 years later.
You’re participating in The Crockett Cup this weekend in North Carolina. That has to be a nostalgia trip to see it being resurrected.
I obviously got a soft spot in my heart for the NWA and what Billy Corgan and these guys are doing to try to keep the history of that alive and as relevant as they can in 2019. I want to support them any way I can.
I remember when I first heard that they were trying to revive all of this. I was very skeptical, because I thought somebody’s going to try to do it in such a way that there’s just no way they’re going to be able to duplicate it. But I think they actually have a healthy approach to what they’re doing, and they’re not trying to relive or revamp what was so strong and powerful 30 years ago. They’re taking a different approach with it and still featuring the World’s Heavyweight Championship, which was so prestigious back in the day. They’re honoring the tradition. They’re not doing anything to lessen what once was, and I don’t think they have any aspirations of trying to compete on a world level with the WWE. But there’s certainly a place for it in the history of the business of wrestling. The NWA should be out there.
We have to touch on the fact that the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express are a part of the Cup here. Are you surprised that they’re still going at in 2019?
Yeah. I would be, if it were not for the fact that I’ve had the activity I’ve had for the last couple years. I see them at every single event that I go to. Ricky and Robert are just still full-blown [and] have never stopped. They just have never stopped performing from what they were doing in the ’80s and the ’90s. My hats off to them, ’cause honestly they’re both still in great shape, their timing is still impeccable and they represent themselves well. If there’s a fountain of youth, both of those guys have dipped into it and have been able to remain healthy and injury-free and able to keep doing it. So my hats off to ’em.
Have you been keeping tabs on what the NWA is up to? You mentioned Bill Corgan and Dave Lagana and bringing that prestige back to the belt. How closely have you been following kind of this resurgence of the NWA?
Well, last year they gave me a call and I went and appeared at a show they did in Nashville, Tennessee and Cody Rhodes is my godson, and at the time he had won the NWA title from Nick [Aldis at All-In] in Chicago. I was there and I saw that. I saw him win the title and they were having the rematch there. That was the first time I got to meet Billy and talk with these guys, and I’m very impressed with Nick and the way he represents the World’s Heavyweight Title.
I think they’re doing the best that’s capable of being done in modern times to keep that NWA title out circulating around the globe and keeping it represented. Of course you’re never going to be able to have what it was in the ’70s and ’80s, when it was in the territory days and all these flourishing territories would have the champion come in and challenge their champion in each of the prospective territories. But in lieu of that being available, I think they do a good job of traveling him around the globe and showcasing the 10 Pounds of Gold.
The Crockett Cup is being co-promoted with Ring of Honor. How familiar are you with them?
I picked up on their shows when I’ve come across it in their broadcasting, and everything I’ve seen, they have consistently evolved the indie promotions that I’ve seen. Had the best representation of the type of product that we were proud of back in the day. Their matches always seemed to be a depiction of a highly competitive contest, which is the style that I like, as opposed to some of the indie things that are just so outlandish and over the top and extreme and frankly ridiculous, kind of insult your intelligence a little bit.
What modern wrestler do you think would mesh well in the old Crockett days? The golden days as it were of that promotion.
My favorite all around guy that’s out there in the product today is Seth Rollins. He can talk for two minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes, whatever it needs and be in character and tell a story and has amazing athleticism and the ability to go out there and go for 10 minutes or 30 minutes or an hour. I think he would have been incredible back in the day. I would have loved to have been able to work with him. I’m saying there’s lots of people that have come over the 30 years that I would have loved to have the opportunity to get in the ring with, but of the current generation, I think he is certainly the cream of the crop, and AJ Styles as well. They’re two kind of different animals. I met Seth and talked to him, and I’m just very impressed with his overall ring skills and work ethic and everything else.
Your godson Cody is taking on this whole new venture with AEW. I’m curious to get your thoughts on that. He really has kind of become a trailblazer in the wrestling business, and now helping to found this brand new promotion that’s going to wind up going head to head with the biggest promotion of all in WWE. Some would say this is quite the gamble.
I’m tremendously proud. Cody kind of got the best of all the gene pool from Dusty [Rhodes] and Michelle. He’s very charismatic and got all the things that you need to have. The mic skills and the in-ring skills and all the things you could want from a talent and a performer. But he also studied the game and had his dad in his ear every day talking to him about the business, the psychology, the business model, what it takes to make it work. His lack of satisfaction with the way his talent was being utilized in the WWE and being true to himself and knowing he had more to offer speaks volumes of him because he had a very lucrative contract…
Now that there’s so many people out there that are interested in seeing something else successful [other than WWE], the timing was just right. So I hope they hit a home run.
Nobody’s going to put the WWE out of business. They do what they do better than anybody in the world, but if Cody’s group can take this niche that they have, the social media machine they’ve already jump-started all this with and produce just a good, solid wrestling show product that has good content and is episodic and hooks the viewers in, they can be another good avenue out there for the wrestling fan to be able to enjoy what we all love.
The Crockett Cup will air Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on Ring of Honor’s Honor Club platform, FiteTV and traditional pay-per-view.
NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Nick Aldis, will defend his title against Marty Scurll in the main event. Colt Cabana will challenge Willie Mack for the NWA National Championship. The Crockett Cup tournament features The Briscoes versus the Rock and Roll Express in the first-round. Another first-round matchup has the potential to be match of the night as Flip Gordon and Bandido team to face Stuka Jr. and Guerrera Maya Jr.
Chuck Carroll is former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented Robert Griffin III with a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.