The events of October 14, 1986 alternated the course of pro wrestling history and most importantly, the life of Terry Allen, the charismatic 80s star known as Magnum TA. On his way home from a series of shows, he lost control of his Porsche, veering across two lanes of the highway before he struck a pole at nearly 50 MPH. Allen barely survived, his in-ring career was over, and medical experts said he would never walk again.
But, he never quit.
Highspots.com recently released a new documentary profiling the life and career of Terry Allen, a production that features the comments of many luminaries of the industry that really demonstrates the impact that he had on the business in a relatively short time. “I Never Quit” gives a unique look into the story of an underrated superstar that probably doesn’t get the amount of recognition that he deserves because of his brief run on the national stage.
As a youth in Norfolk, VA, Allen watched the Mid-Atlantic show with his family and was a fan of the giant athletes he saw projected onto his television screen. His mother, Mrs. Allen tells the story of his first venture into athletics on the amateur mat, which resulted in only one win the entire season.
But, he never quit.
Eventually, he read the legendary Dan Gable’s autobiography, and this documentary details how he progressed through the amateur ranks, winning awards in high school and college. During his time working as a bouncer at local clubs in his hometown, Magnum met some of the stars that were in the territory at the time, including Greg Valentine, Ricky Steamboat, and Buzz Sawyer. A very eccentric individual, the late Sawyer told Allen that he had potential as a wrestler. Allen paid Sawyer to teach him the ropes, but Buzz soon departed to work the pacific northwest territory for Don Owens while Magnum waited for him to return. After a few months, Allen refused to be conned by the savvy veteran and drove across the country to Portland, showing up at Buzz’s door to start the lessons. Sawyer, not expecting the confrontation, agreed to show Magnum the basics, and with just two hours of training, Terry Allen debuted in his first professional match during the Portland TV program.
Soon, he began a journeyman path, learning his craft from some of the best minds in the industry as he traveled to the small southwest territory before he landed in Florida, a place where the pieces of the puzzle began to be assembled for him as a performer. Sitting under the learning tree of the legendary promoter Eddie Graham proved to be a valuable experience for the young grappler as he learned the intricacies of almost every facet of the business. Interestingly, this production will provide insight into how Terry Allen was initially called “Magnum.” While he worked Florida, he forged a strong friendship with “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and it would later play a pivotal role in his career.
In 1983, Allen began working for the hard-nosed Bill Watts and helped provide the territory with a boost, influenced by the Memphis booking style of Bill Dundee. It was during his time of logging 2,000 mile road trips during the week that Allen began to showcase the image that made him famous. Clad in a leather jacket and seen riding a motorcycle, Magnum TA was youthful enough, but still rugged enough to draw every demographic of the audience. He became one of Watts’ big draws and worked main event matches just a few years into his wrestling tenure, a prime example of the natural talent of Terry Allen. In other interviews, the legendary manager Jim Cornette recalled that some of the most heated moments of the Midnight Express’ heel run in the territory involved Magnum, including when the heel trio poured tar on him before dowsing him with feathers.
Just as Magnum TA was peaking in Mid South Wrestling, his close friend Dusty called him when Jim Crockett Promotions was in a precarious situation. In 1984, Dusty was the booker for JCP and was set to build Barry Windham as the next top baby face to chase the championship. Crockett Promotions hadn’t yet started on TBS and the 80s wrestling boom hadn’t taken place yet so Windham left abruptly to work for the WWF for more money. Dusty needed to boost the territory and Allen, always loyal to his friends, decided to work the Carolina territory. When JCP started on the air after the WWF infamously took Georgia Championship Wrestling’s spot on TBS, Magnum TA became a national name, surging his popularity among fans.
One of the most intriguing features of this documentary is the profile of the Magnum/Tully Blanchard feud and specifically, the legendary “I Quit” match that probably defined Allen’s in-ring career. Hearing the details of how the rugged baby face took the shards of a wooden chair and jammed them into the head of the arrogant heel gives a unique view into the amount of work that went into presenting a sense of realism to the match. Following that, the best of seven series with Nikita Koloff for the US title is profiled and it gives a look into a different dynamic as to when Magnum TA was the veteran of the matches.
It’s heartbreaking to hear the specifics of the car accident that changed the course of Magnum TA’s life. After the pole that he hit fell onto the car he was driving, it broke several vertebrate in his neck, which left the athlete in the prime of his career paralyzed. Interesting details about his decision to have surgery immediately will be recounted as well as the grueling therapy sessions that he did in an attempt to walk again. The production will confirm the details about what fans speculated for years, Magnum TA was slated to win the NWA World Heavyweight championship from Ric Flair and work as the top star of the promotion. Who knows what ripple effect this could’ve had on the industry if Magnum could’ve avoided the wreck?
After enduring 2-3 therapy sessions a day, Terry Allen walked out of the hospital with the assistance of a cane five months after the near-fatal accident. As fans know, Magnum made an emotional return to the wrestling scene in 1987, often accompanying his former rival Nikita to the ring. He worked for WCW for a few years as a broadcaster and other roles before he retired from the business. Perhaps the most uplifting aspect of the documentary is that 30 years after the car crash, Terry Allen is a successful family man today. He works in the financial industry and also runs a company that builds different industrial structures.
At 27-years old, Magnum TA was paralyzed in a car accident at a time when he was achieving national fame. He was slated to become a major star before his career was cut short. It’s rather remarkable that Allen legitimately earned legendary status from just six years in the sport, and it’s proof of the natural talent that he had. He survived the injuries to become a successful family man. Who knows what Magnum TA could’ve accomplished in the square circle if he continued wrestling? The events of October 14, 1986 changed the career of Terry Allen.
But, he never quit.
Until next week
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