Dark Side of the Ring: How Big Would Magnum T.A. Have Been?

Dark Side of the Ring logo: Magnum TA Episode

This episode of Dark Side of the Ring wasn’t quite as “dark” as many of the others. In fact, in discussing this episode, the creators mentioned that maybe they should have considered a different name for the series entirely. Of course, that’s not to say that this is a happy episode. It’s not. At least most of it is not. It just doesn’t feature as much betrayal, violence, substance abuse, and crime as many of the other episodes. It has some of those things, but not as much. This week is about Magnum TA.  He was a top star for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s and many thought that he could rival the WWF‘s Hulk Hogan in terms of popularity and star power.

Unfortunately, he was in a major car crash in 1986 and never wrestled again. His career and what he could have been is one of the great “what ifs” in wrestling.

Dark Side of the Ring: Magnum TA: What Did We Learn?

Discovered in a Bar – and Lied To

The man who would go on to become Magnum TA (Terry Allen) was an aspiring wrestler working in a bar and trying to break into wrestling when he was discovered by a wrestler named Buzz Sawyer who said that he could help him get into the business. 

However, Sawyer told Allen that he needed to give him $10,000 so Sawyer could get him a wrestling license. Allen ended up getting the money from his grandfather… and then Sawyer skipped town. 

At this point, Jim Cornette jumps in to tell us that wrestling licenses usually cost between $10-$25. 

However, after being encouraged by Jimmy Garvin, Allen tracked Sawyer down and Sawyer actually ended up helping him learn the ropes, so to speak. This allowed Magnum to get a job wrestling on television. But Sawyer never gave him the $10,000 back. 

Named by Andre the Giant, Influenced by Dusty

Based on his resemblance to Tom Selleck, Terry Allen took on the name Magnum TA, a play on the show Magnum PI. Andre the Giant was credited with giving him the name. 

Dusty Rhodes, who was the booker for Championship Wrestling from Florida, helped him create his character. After trying suits and punk rock jackets, they settled on a leather jacket and a Harley Davidson motorcycle. This gimmick caught fire and soon Dusty introduced him to Jim Crockett of Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP).

The “It Factor” 

Magnum TA had the look, charisma, and ring presence of a star. The episode talks about how women would fall all over themselves to get close to him and his ex-wife even mentions that she once saw a female store employee faint when she saw him.  

T.A. quickly got over with the crowd and he was soon put on a path towards the main event. After a feud with Nikita Koloff, talk turned towards pushing him to a feud with Ric Flair for the World Title. The National Wrestling Alliance board met and decided that he would be the next world champion.

The Accident 

On October 14, 1986, Magnum TA was driving home from an event in the rain. He had recently bought a Porsche 911, and this was the vehicle he was in when he started to hydroplane and lose control. The car smashed into a telephone pole at high speed, breaking the pole and trapping him inside the vehicle. He couldn’t move and police had to cut off the roof of the car with the jaws of life to get him out.

He needed immediate surgery and doctors were concerned that he would be paralyzed from the neck down. Fans flooded the hospital phone lines with calls and held vigils outside the hospital while the JCP wrestlers put aside a portion of their weekly pay to make sure he had an income. Crockett would match whatever they could contribute.

Of course, because it’s wrestling, the situation was turned into an angle. While many of the heels couldn’t visit the hospital due to kayfabe (Ric Flair was snuck into the room in the middle of the night), wrestling journalist Bill Apter could.

His magazine did a story on Nikita Koloff where he was pictured on the cover with tears on his face, saying that he had grown to respect T.A. during their feud. Apter showed this issue to Magnum in the hospital as a way to get the fans behind Koloff as he would be the next challenger for Flair’s title.

Magnum TA returned to an NWA event in 1987, walking under his own power with a cane. He would end up working in several non-wrestling roles for the NWA, including commentary. He would never wrestle again. 

No Plan B

“Their whole future and plans and everything was built around me,” Magnum says when talking about Jim Crockett Promotions. “There was no plan B.” 

While Koloff would challenge for Flair’s title, he would not win it. Ron Garvin would take it from Flair in late 1987, but soon drop it back. The company’s all-in approach to Magnum TA. left them without many legitimate options now that he could no longer wrestle. Jim Crockett Promotions was then purchased by Ted Turner and renamed World Championship Wrestling.

The story of Magnum TA isn’t just the story of how big of a star he would have been (though that’s certainly a significant part of it), but it’s also about how big Magnum would have made Jim Crockett Promotions. In a battle against Vince McMahon, JCP needed a face megastar. Once Magnum TA was injured and unable to be that star, the company was left with a significant hole. 

“If Terry Allen had never been in the accident,” says David Crockett, “the future of the NWA, Jim Crockett Promotions – the sky’s the limit.” 

Not only would Magnum TA have been a huge star, but he could have brought JCP with him.

Header photo – Vice. Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. Catch Dark Side of the Ring on VICE, with new episodes airing each Thursday at 9 PM EST.