Blackjack Mulligan, known for an infamous assault by fan in 1971 at Boston Garden, has died

For long-time wrestling fans in Massachusetts, the death of Blackjack Mulligan brings up an incident 45 years ago at the old Boston Garden that has lived in infamy since then.

Video tribute to Blackjack Mulligan released by, via Youtube

On May 15, 1971, Mulligan challenged new WWWF Heavyweight Champion Pedro Morales. During the bout, a fan jumped into the ring and stabbed Mulligan in the leg with a knife, opening a huge wound. The attack was chronicled back in 2004 in the Boston Globe.

Towels on Mulligan’s wounds quickly reddened as he was carried from the ring to receive 100 stitches at the hospital.”  — Boston Globe

As a result of that incident, well into the 1980s, it was common for even kids to be patted down by police upon entering the Garden for house shows, and the ring often had four cops stationed around it all times.

Mulligan died on April 7 at age 73 after years of health-related problems. Mulligan — whose real name was Bob Windham — was the patriarch of a wrestling family that includes his sons, the great Barry Windham (a.k.a., the Widowmaker, a cool gimmick that flopped in the WWF in 1989) and Kendall Windham.

Barry Windham’s long-time tag partner, Mike Rotundo, is Mulligan’s son-in-law, and Rotundo’s two sons are Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas, thus the grandsons of Blackjack.

Mulligan was a huge Texan who had success in many wrestling promotions. He challenged Morales around the WWWF circuit for the World Title in 1971, managed by the Grand Wizard. In 1975, he and Blackjack Lanza briefly became WWWF Tag Team Champions managed by Captain Lou Albano.

Within the WWF in the early 1980s, he was most well known as a heel for battling Andre the Giant. Mulligan wore a fingerless leather glove on his right hand, and during prelim matches would apply his finisher, the clawhold, to an opponent’s head, often drawing blood.

As a gimmick, the WWF’s Saturday morning syndicated show would put a big red “X” across the screen so that viewers couldn’t see the carnage Mulligan created.

Later, Mulligan became a babyface, hosting Blackjack’s BBQ, a poor takeoff of Piper’s Pit. He also donned a mask for a short time in 1986 to become Big Machine, ironically teaming with Andre, who was Giant Machine.

He wrapped up his WWF days in the late ’80s, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame with Lanza.

There were dark times for Mulligan, too. In the early 1990s, Mulligan served time in federal prison with Kendall Windham for counterfeiting after Mulligan ran into real estate tax problems.

At his peak, Mulligan portrayed the image of a big, tough Texan better than most, and his size worked to his advantage in the WWF.



    “the Widowmaker, a cool gimmick that flopped in the WWF in 1989”

    What are you talking about? It didn’t flop, Windham was being pushed for Hogan, but left when Blackjack ans Kendall got caught counterfeiting money

    • bostongardenbalcony

      I don’t know, the stories from back then that Vince let Barry go because of heat over Mulligan and Kendall to me don’t totally add up — how much heat would that have really caused in 1989? I would say the vast majority of fans and zero advertisers even knew of Mulligan being in prison. You had people working for the company who were breaking the law probably on a daily basis in the late ’80s with steroid use and recreational drugs, and no one lost pushes.

  2. Joe Lowry

    Blackjack Mulligan was truly one of a kind. Big, tough and mean. His looks alone would hurt you. My memories of Mulligan in the WWF were his matches on tv and that dam irritating big red “X” which would indicate a bloody and censored victory. Managed by Classy Freddie Blassie, Mulligan got his world title shot against Backlund and somehow came up short. I am not aware if Backlund ever pinned Mulligan, but I just cannot fathom that. However, I did witness Blackjack Mulligan in person at the old Boston Garden when he took on a few jobbers and his one and only match against Andre in August of 1982. Blackjack Mulligan spent much of 1982 in the WWF and he would not resurface in a WWF ring until 1985. Only this time he as a bit older and a babyface. But still tough as nails. Back in the day before the internet and social media, I had to rely heavily on my pro wrestling magazines to even see where and what Mulligan was up to. I know he had a lot to do with the NWA and the southern states, especially Florida. He was the man who created the “Bunkhouse Brawl” matches. His donnybrooks with Ric Flair were instant bloody classics. And of course his young son Blackjack Mulligan, Jr. would eventually turn out to be Barry Windham a future WWF Tag Team title holder. I ma grateful to have gotten a chance to see Blackjack Mulligan. There is nobody else like him.

  3. Anonymous

    I Grew up in Boston lived there for 45 years saw Blackjack at the Garden he won the last Bunkhouse Battle Royal at the Garden, I Live in Charlotte N.C Now he was a big legend down here and used to be Rick Flairs next door Neighbor a Friend of mine now lives in his old house , Flair has moved but it still feels kind of cool walking around the House and grounds.

  4. Abacus Reveals

    I’d forgotten about that incident — thanks for loosening a couple of cobwebs in an old mind.
    It’s curious that Mulligan would elicit such vitriol in only his third appearance at the Garden — Ernie Roth was also just breaking in his Grand Wizard guise.

    When looking back at the old programs (about mid ’69 – mid-’73) the other day, I’d been puzzled by BJM’s abrupt disappearance.

    In an odd irony, one of my dogs is named after BJM. When we adopted this abandoned pup about 5 years ago, Bray Wyatt was still calling himself “Husky” — this animal’s breed. Seemed a good fit.

    BTW, your linked article captures the atmosphere of a card at the old Garden quite well.
    Here’s another look at those days:

  5. Lee Hosper

    I first saw Mulligan back in the early 80s when he was a heel in the WWF and as a 10 year old kid in 1982, he terrified me, especially when he would apply his claw hold and bust open jobbers and then they would immediately throw that big red “X” on the screen.

    Flair praised him regularly on his podcasts.

    RIP Mr. Windham and thanks for the memories…

  6. J.Cee

    He parlayed his infamous popularity in the Mid-Atlantic states as well back from ’75 onward, while his former tag-team partner, Blackjack Lanza went to the AWA to be tag partners with Cowboy Bob Duncan. The passing of Blackjack Mulligan brings back many memories from a time when pro wrestling was memorable for a lifetime.

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