To some, the name Tom Magee might not mean that much. But for others, he was seen by some, for a brief period, as the successor to Hulk Hogan during the 1980s. In today’s post we look at the career of Magee and why it never worked out the way that the likes of Vince McMahon hoped.
In the 1980’s, pro wrestling, particularly in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), was built around wrestlers who were these huge, jacked up muscle men. They were larger than life individuals that quite frankly were slower and more methodical in the ring. The WWF was about power over finesse and leading the charge during this period was the man known as Hulk Hogan.
By 1986, Hulk Hogan was at the height of his popularity and indeed Hulkamania was running wild whether at the box office, ratings or merchandise, Hogan was “the man.” It would sound insane that promoter Vince McMahon would look into the future of possibly replacing Hogan as the top dog but, in 1986, that’s exactly what McMahon was doing. Being the visionary McMahon was, he was already looking for Hogan’s potential successor in the years to come.
Enter a Canadian wrestler named Tom Magee, a former martial arts expert who was also a professional bodybuilder. Magee got his start in the ring for Calgary Stampede Wrestling in 1985. He was trained in the legendary Hart Dungeon by the great Stu Hart. Almost immediately upon his wrestling debut, Magee was pegged by many as a future star in the industry. Magee would also wrestle a bit in Japan for Giant Baba’s All Japan Pro Wrestling and by the end of 1985 was voted runner-up to ‘Rookie of the Year’ by the magazine Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Lex Luger was the man that won the award that year.
This caught the attention of Vince McMahon, who called Stu Hart asking about this Magee kid. After speaking with Hart, McMahon invited the 27-year-old rookie to a WWF tryout. Right off the bat, Tom Magee had the look Vince McMahon desired in his wrestlers. He stood at 6’4, weighed close to 300 pounds, had a long full head of hair and seemed to be chiseled out of granite.
Vince McMahon wanted someone capable to work with Magee to see if he really had “it.” McMahon chose Bret Hart for a couple of reasons…
1. He was familiar with Tom Magee up in Calgary.
2. Bret was an excellent worker who McMahon trusted to make Tom Magee look his best.
When McMahon approached Bret Hart about working with Magee, both Bret and his then manager ‘The Mouth of the South’ Jimmy Hart were hesitant. They didn’t feel comfortable selling for a relatively unknown newcomer. McMahon reassured them that this was a dark match tryout and would only be seen by the fans in the arena and not part of the regular broadcast. He also buttered up Bret by insisting that Bret was the only man right for the job because he was so good in the ring. Bret finally agreed and the match was set.
The dark match took place in Rochester, New York on October 7th, 1986. When the bell rang, the match supposedly was better than anybody expected it to be. Bret did his duty and sold everything that Magee dished out to him. Magee was doing power moves combined with flips and dropkicks. In retrospect, Magee for his look and size was very agile and way ahead of his time. Vince, Pat Patterson and a few wrestlers were watching on monitors backstage and according to the Dynamite Kid, McMahon practically wet his pants in awe and amazement of how great Magee looked in the ring.
When Hart and Magee returned to the back, Vince ran up to Magee and shouted “This is my next champion!” Vince McMahon from that day, pegged Tom Magee as the second coming of Hulk Hogan. They even ran an article in the WWF magazine that hyped up this new young prospect…
To further groom Tom Magee as his next top star, he sent him to wrestle on the much smaller shows in smaller towns to get his feet wet and develop more. He was given the nickname of ‘MegaMan’ with a back breaker as his finishing move. He would wrestle and score victories over a few preliminary talents. There were, however, glaring issues with ‘MegaMan’. The opponents that Magee was wrestling against were not as crisp and fine tuned as Bret Hart.
The results were not as positive as his matches were a lot sloppier and his power moves looked “feminine” compared to what everyone saw against Bret Hart. According to The Honkytonk Man, Tom Magee also lacked charisma and his promos were stale and boring. Aside from his looks, nothing really stood out about him as a top star. It didn’t take McMahon and company to realize this and his stock quickly plummeted. Soon, Megaman wasn’t winning matches, but was used as enhancement talent to put over his more visible stars.
Vince didn’t completely give up on his MegaMan project as he decided to make Magee wrestle as a heel and be managed by Jimmy Hart in a few dark matches. Unfortunately, fans never took to Magee either way as a face or as a heel. Realizing it was probably not going to work out, McMahon set his sights on another young prospect to possibly be Hulk Hogan’s potential successor.
His name was Jim Hellwig aka ‘the Ultimate Warrior’ and McMahon groomed Hellwig the same way he tried to with Magee. He put him on smaller shows to work out all the different aspects of his character and as you all well know by now, he had much different results and the rest is history.
As for Tom Magee, he would hang around until 1990, when he was finally cut by the WWF. Tom Magee would retire from pro wrestling and focus on a career as a personal trainer. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
The legend of Tom Magee grew with every passing year and generation as the guy who could’ve had it all but didn’t deliver on his end. There is a copy of his dark match with Bret Hart that made Vince McMahon swoon and dub him the next future champion. The problem is, the WWE refuses to air it whether on the network or on youtube. When Colt Cabana was a trainee down in WWE’s developmental system, he asked his trainers if he could view that match and was turned down.
Going back, the night Tom Magee had his dark match tryout with Bret Hart, Vince McMahon was looking for Hulk Hogan’s heir apparent. Little did he realize, he was looking at the wrong man in that match.