60. MAGNUM TA
Real Name – Terry Allen
Aliases – Jesse James
Hometown – Chesapeake, Virginia
Debuted – 1977
Retired – 1986
Titles Held – NWA United States; Mid-South North
Other Accomplishments – car crash on 14th October 1986 forced
early retirement; now owns a cell phone tower company as well as
working in real estate
The story of Magnum T.A. may be the greatest unfinished tale in the history of professional wrestling. For his contributions to the National Wrestling Alliance specifically and wrestling in general in the mid-80’s, Magnum belongs on any list of the Top 100 Wrestlers of the Modern EraÃ¢â‚¬â€the unfortunate thing is, he could have been much higher than 60.
Terry Allen came up through the territorial system in the late 70’s and early 80’s, making a mark in the Pacific Northwest and Florida. During his time in Florida Championship Wrestling, Allen first met Dusty Rhodes, multi-time NWA World champion and one of the most popular stars in wrestling. Rhodes took Allen under his wing, seeing great potential in the youngster.
Moving to Mid-South Wrestling after his Florida stint, Allen received the new ring name Magnum T.A. based on his physical resemblance to Tom Selleck, star of the popular television show Ã¢â‚¬Å“Magnum P.I.Ã¢â‚¬Â Nicknamed Ã¢â‚¬Å“America’s Heart Throb,Ã¢â‚¬Â Magnum got over with female fans thanks to his good looks and charm while his high impact in-ring styles and intense promos gained traction with the men. Magnum won his first major title, the Mid-South North American championship, defeating Mr. Wrestling II in May of 1984. He held the title for five months before dropping it to Ernie Ladd.
In late 1984, Magnum hit the big time, signing with the mid-Atlantic-based Jim Crockett Promotions, homebase of the NWA’s most well-known stars and the nationally televised World Championship Wrestling program. Magnum reunited with Rhodes, the promotion’s top babyface, forming the ultra-popular Ã¢â‚¬Å“America’s Team.Ã¢â‚¬Â In March, 1985, mere months after his arrival in JCP, Magnum upended veteran Wahoo McDaniel to claim the U.S. title, arguably the second most coveted title in the NWA behind the World championship.
Magnum split his first reign as U.S. champion between dispatching enhancement talent on television with his belly-to-belly suplex, teaming with Rhodes against the like of Arn & Ole Anderson, and putting on classic matches with World champion Ric Flair. In mid-summer, Magnum lost the U.S. title to the hated Tully Blanchard after Blanchard’s valet, Baby Doll, interfered. Magnum and Dusty found themselves the frequent targets of attacks both in and out of the ring by Flair, Blanchard and the Andersons as the future Four Horsemen began to assemble.
Unable to reclaim his U.S. title from Blanchard thanks to the cheating tactics of the latter, Magnum challenged his foe to one final match at Starrcade in November. Initially the NWA refused to sanction the contest, but gave in to fan support for Magnum and not only booked the match, but added an Ã¢â‚¬Å“I QuitÃ¢â‚¬Â stipulation inside a steel cage. In one of the bloodiest and most memorable I Quit matches ever, Magnum regained his belt, forcing Blanchard to give up after threatening to gouge his eye out with a jagged piece of wood.
A champion once more, Magnum spent the rest of 1985 and early part of 1986 serving as Rhodes’ backup against the Horsemen. In April, his next big feud kicked into gear as Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Russian NightmareÃ¢â‚¬Â Nikita Koloff, seconded by his Ã¢â‚¬Å“uncleÃ¢â‚¬Â Ivan Koloff and their enforcer Krusher Krushev, challenged Magnum for the U.S. title and America’s honor. During a televised contract signing between Magnum and Koloff, Nikita insulted the champion’s in-attendance mother prompting a brawl between the two. NWA president Bob Geigel publicly chastised Magnum for his role in the incident and earned a clothesline for his trouble. Geigel stripped Magnum of the U.S. title and order a best of seven series between the former champion and Koloff for possession of the belt.
Throughout the summer, Magnum and Nikita engaged in the NWA’s hottest feud. Koloff initially went up 3-0, but Magnum bounced back to tie the score. Following a draw in what was to have been the deciding match, Nikita got the best of Magnum in August thanks to outside interference by Ivan & Kruschev to earn the title. Magnum became sidetracked by a feud with Jimmy Garvin, but was on the verge of challenging Flair for the World title when sudden tragedy struck.
On October 14, 1986, Terry Allen’s life changed forever. Driving his Porsche on a rain-filled night, the man known to wrestling fans as Magnum T.A. crashed into a telephone pole, paralyzing the entire left side of his body. In a bitter twist of irony, unlike so many other wrestling tragedies, no drugs or alcohol were involved, Allen wasn’t even speeding, he was just the victim of a cruel twist of fate and his promising in-ring career was over in an instant.
In the fallout of Magnum’s accident and the end of his career, rival Nikita Koloff turned babyface out of respect and sympathy for his foe and took his place teaming with Dusty Rhodes as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Super Powers.Ã¢â‚¬Â In an incredibly emotional moment, Magnum made his first televised appearance to manage Rhodes & Koloff to victory in the Crockett Cup tag team tournament in April of 1987. Magnum would stick around for the next few years as an occasional color commentator and even interjected himself into some of Rhodes and Koloff’s feuds from time to time, but he would leave the wrestling business in 1989.
Magnum T.A. would remain away from wrestling for nearly a decade, returning briefly in 1998 to serve as manager to old rival Tully Blanchard and Barry Windham, leading them to the Tag Team titles of the scaled down NWA. In the summer of 2007, Magnum made his first televised appearance in nearly 20 years, seated in the crowd of WWE’s Vengeance pay-per-view and receiving one of the loudest ovations of the evening.
From all indications, before his accident, Magnum was the guy both Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair were ready to pass the torch of being the number one guy in the NWA to. Considering how infrequently Rhodes and Flair agreed in those days, that in itself was a tremendous accomplishment. However, if you’re a WWE 24/7 subscriber, check out any episode of NWA World Championship Wrestling being run (at the moment they’re just starting 1986) and you’ll see why they had that kind of faith. With his skills and charisma, Magnum could well have been the Hulk Hogan of the NWA and it’s a shame that he never really got the chance.
While we’ll always mourns what could have been as far as Magnum T.A.’s career, we’ve got to celebrate the brief shining period where Terry Allen truly was Ã¢â‚¬Å“America’s Heart ThrobÃ¢â‚¬Â and a whole lot more.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.