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HISTORY: TOM MAGEE, THE GOLDEN BOY OF 1986


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"That's my next champion! That's my next champion" Vince McMahon shouted loudly to everyone around him as he stared at a monitor backstage in Rochester, New York on October 6th of 1986...

HISTORY: TOM MAGEE, GOLDEN BOY OF 1986

If an American wrestling promoter of the 1980's was to compile a list of all of the traits that they wanted in a young star to groom and some day build their territory around, that list would have a hard time competing with the resume of Tom Magee.

From Winnipeg, Manitoba, Magee was a natural athlete with 275lbs of muscle packed on to his 6'5" frame. His looks were better suited for Hollywood than the world of wrestling. Magee's background in athletics was everything one could ask from a future star.

Tom Magee held a black belt in Karate. He has a strong background in boxing. In 1982, Tom Magee won both the World and Canadian Power Lifting Championship in the super heavyweight division despite not having the traditional bulk of a typical powerlifter. He could bench press as much as 573lbs. He could squat 860lbs, and dead lift 820, and he did it with the charisma typically missing in competitive bodybuilders. In 1984, he won the Mr. British Columbia competition, as well as The World's Strongest Man championship, an event in which he had previously placed 2nd in 1982. Magee would go on to win four Louis Cyr World Strongman contests, and play football with the BC Lions. Magee was considered a phenom in strong man circles, but perhaps the sport that he stood out in the most was gymnastics.

By the time the mid 1980's came along, wrestling in America was dominated by the incredible physiques that Vince McMahon was pushing nationally. Magee was more physically impressive than perhaps anyone competing at the time in professional wrestling, and like many of his other contemporaries was looking to turn his good looks, well built body and athleticism into a career. By 1986, a movie about Tom Magee had already been made ("Man of Steel"), and he was ready to begin training as a professional wrestler. The man who chose to train Magee was the legendary Stu Hart.

Tom Magee's first match was on February 22nd of 1986. It wasn't a bad way to debut, as the very first time Magee stepped in front of an audience as a professional wrestler just so happened to be in the main event of a major All Japan show, where he took on Riki Choshu. To debut in the main event for All Japan spoke volumes for Magee's potential. After only one match, Magee became one of the most talked about wrestlers in the world. Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter said of his first match: "He was the greatest combination of strength and agility the business had ever seen".

Seven months later, Tom Magee arrived in Rochester, New York on October 2, 1986 for an untelevised match for the WWF that would serve as a tryout for the twenty-four year old rookie. Vince McMahon was in the building, and was said to be looking forward to watching a future prospect in action. The audience didn't know what to expect when they saw this monster walking to the ring. He was as tall as all but the giants of the World Wrestling Federation, better built than Hulk Hogan and looked indestructible. When Tom Magee climbed the steps towards the ring, everyone watched on, wondering what he would do next. Tom Magee then proceeded to backflip in to the ring, landing gracefully on his feet, shocking the capacity crowd.

Tom Magee's opponent that night was a young mid-card heel by the name of Bret Hart, incidentally the son of the man who trained him. Before the match, Bret Hart was said to have told Magee to only worry about doing his three best offensive moves, and Hart stated that he would do the rest. In what has been described as one of the most incredible jobs of carrying an opponent in wrestling history, Bret Hart got a match so good out of Tom Magee that not only was the Rochester crowd hotter for it than any other match on the card that night, but Vince McMahon was ready to groom Magee to be the next Hulk Hogan.

Hulk Hogan was doing strong business for the World Wrestling Federation in 1986, which at the time was running 980 shows per year, but many in the World Wrestling Federation always feared that he would only be a short term champion. House shows that he headlined drew reasonably well, but in many parts of the country -including The Madison Square Garden- others such as Roddy Piper were outdrawing him. Vince McMahon was so worried about Hulk Hogan's receding hairline hurting his longterm ability to draw that he told Jesse Ventura in no uncertain terms that he was not to mention it on commentary. The search for Hogan's successor was ongoing even with the WWF Champion remaining a mainstream media darling.

That early October evening in New York, Vince McMahon was certain that he had found that man in Tom Magee. Watching his monitor backstage, McMahon shouted to anyone that could hear him "That's my next champion!". When Magee walked through the curtain, McMahon and Pat Patterson showered him with praise and signed him immediately. McMahon was said to gloat about his new acquisition for weeks, and when everything was in order, McGee was eager to begin with the WWF. He was placed on the C-level shows, the WWF tour that featured the least amount of star power and ran in the smallest venues --often times high schools and community centers -- and was often used to give young talent valuable experience while keeping them out of the public eye. Tom Magee was given the nickname "MegaMan", and would be put over in every single match on the tour en route to becoming a runner up for the Pro-Wrestling Illustrated Rookie of the Year award in 1986.

Tom Magee spent the next eight months working with Terry Gibbs and defeating him in short, one sided matches that showcased Magee's acrobatic offense. Gibbs wasn't looking like the wrestler that tore the house down with Bret Hart in October of last year, and no one quite knew why. Dave Meltzer has described Gibbs as a rare breed of wrestler who actually got worse with more experience, and for whatever the reason, his stock began to fall. Magee looked effeminate in the ring, and his offense was said to look terrible and be getting worse. In mid 1987, the WWF began to see Magee as a failed experiment, and another young bodybuilder became the new golden boy of Vince McMahon, Jim Hellwig who came over from Texas where he competed as The Dingo Warrior.

In 1988, Tom Magee only competed in one match with the World Wrestling Federation, a match in January with Mike Sharpe. The interest from the WWF was no longer there, and Magee returned to Japan. Perhaps the last high profile match of his career came in late 1988, when he took on Japanese Sumo legend Hiroshi Wajimi in what was widely considered to be perhaps the worst professional wrestling match of all time when it happened. It would easily get Magee his first Wrestling Observer Year End Award. While Vince McMahon must have been hoping that the award Magee would be getting in 1988 would be Biggest Box Office Draw, it was actually Worst Match of the Year that Magee walked with in a landslide.

In 1989, Magee worked his final few matches with the World Wrestling Federation. The man who was once thought to be Hulk Hogan's successor lost cleanly to perennial WWF jobbers Tim Horner and Barry Horowitz and never worked for the WWF again. Magee left wrestling quietly shortly there after, and appeared in several low budget films in 1990 and 1991, most notably a film ironically titled Stone Cold. Presently, Magee is working as a trainer at the world famous Gold's Gym in Venice Beach, California and has nothing to do with professional wrestling.


10 Responses to “HISTORY: TOM MAGEE, THE GOLDEN BOY OF 1986”

  1. Anonymous sebrendan 

    So this is what Montreal was really about!

    Notice the connection!?

    -M-agee?

    -M-ega -M-an?

    -M-ontreal?

    take that Bret!


    someone get this guy a shoo video quick!!

  2. Anonymous Luke 

    You learn something every day. I'd never heard of this guy before.

  3. Anonymous Norman 

    Nice read.

  4. Anonymous John skurkay 

    The reason he didn't make it in wrestling is because he's a real athlete. His accomplishments have to do with real life not fake crappy wrestling.

  5. Anonymous jason 

    so it kurt angle. didnt stop him from being great.

  6. Anonymous Frank Gustafson 

    I just want to say that I believe you are one of my favorite W. S. M. competitors of all. Thanks and good luck.

  7. Anonymous JNLister 

    sebrendan - wtf are you talking about? 4 "M's" means what exactly? Nothing?

  8. Blogger Kevin Stanfield 

    I remember Tom during the powerlifting days 1982 him walking down the halls of New Westminster Secondary School huge man all the girls liked the guy. I was into weight training with my friends and TOM put on a few shows even bodybuilding later at the same school. I thought he would have made a good fireman or policeman. I was shocked when he went for wrestling. Weightlifting didn't pay that well.

  9. Blogger Kevin Stanfield 

    I remember Tom during the powerlifting days 1982 him walking down the halls of New Westminster Secondary School huge man all the girls liked the guy. I was into weight training with my friends and TOM put on a few shows even bodybuilding later at the same school. I thought he would have made a good fireman or policeman. I was shocked when he went for wrestling. Weightlifting didn't pay that well.

  10. Blogger Kevin Stanfield 

    During Expo 86 TOM also put on a show. Dressed in Quest vitamin blue Lifting over a million pounds in ten minutes as part of his team of lifters.

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