Tom Magee

October 7th, 1986 was a night that nearly changed the course of WWF history.

It was on that night that Bret Hart, the “Excellence of Execution”, carried the greenest of green rookies to a show-stealing match. Then primarily a tag team wrestler, the Hitman showcased his ability to bring out the best in even the most inexperienced wrestler.

Watching backstage, Vince McMahon had an epiphany — he had found the superstar who would lead the WWF in the next decade, when Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania would be just a faint memory. And that superstar was none other than…

…Tom Magee. The other guy.

In his tryout match that night, Magee looked fantastic, countering holds, leaping off the ropes, and taking the Hitman down with a Steamboat-caliber arm drag.

Everyone from the young fans to the boss himself chalked this up to Magee being a once-in-a-lifetime talent, rather than to Hart being a miracle worker.

If you paid careful attention, though, you could still find holes in this sure-fire mega-star.

(And not just because of his bikini briefs)

For example, when Bret Hart threw this elbow smash variation that always, always misses…

…Tom Magee failed to move out of the way.

Still, the crowd went nuts for Tom. Gorilla Monsoon told would-be viewers (The match aired only on Arabic broadcasts) that they’d be seeing much more from the youngster. The production truck rolled replays of Tom Magee’s most impressive moves…

…before freeze-framing this comically unflattering shot.

So impressed was Vince McMahon that, behind the scenes, he actually pegged Magee…

…as the next Hulk Hogan, signing him to a WWF contract.

Tom Magee had nearly everything Vince McMahon could ever want in a WWF Superstar.

He was a champion powerlifter and competitive bodybuilder.

He was nimble on his feet and acrobatic in the air.

He was tall, at nearly 6’5”.

And he was a good-looking guy (which is straight-guy-speak for handsome and sexy).

Tom Magee could easily pass for Kenny Omega’s father; rumor has it Kenny’s mom merely gazed upon Magee’s coif at an 80’s Stampede show and gave birth nine months later.

So why does Tom Magee have no DVDs, action figures, or infantile nicknames on podcasts?

Well, even megastars — nay, especially megastars — need to be debuted with great care. And besides, there were still a few good years left in that whole Hulkamania thing, so what was the rush?

Little did McMahon know that the Bret Hart match would be as good as it would ever get for Magee. Months turned into years, and Tom Magee failed to improve.

A string of house show matches with Tim Horner had fans yelling “Boring!” barely a minute in.

Stints in Japan, intended to make Magee a more complete package…

(So to speak)

…ended up exposing him further.

(So to speak)

Though he could dazzle fans with solo stunts, when it came to the fundamentals of pro wrestling, Tom Magee was sorely lacking. Perhaps nothing sums up Magee better than this gif:

After wowing the crowd with a cartwheel and a backflip, Tom Magee immediately s**t the bed with a dropkick rivaled only by Erik Watts.

When working with future Hall of Famers like Hart, DiBiase, and Anderson, Magee did fine.

The same could not be said when matched with average workers like Frenchy Martin, Terry Gibbs

…or Isao Takagi.

Most of Tom Magee’s offense, like his skimpy trunks, looked half-assed, and never more so than in his award-winning match with Hiroshi Wajima…

…which crammed the following highlights into two and a half minutes:

Dave Meltzer would later describe Magee’s offense as “effeminate”.

In another match on the same tour, Tom Magee made the Japanese crowd erupt in laughter with this head-banging head scissors:

In 1989, Vince turned Tom Magee heel — but, seeing as Magee couldn’t cut promos and still hadn’t appeared on American TV…

…he’d need to pair him with Jimmy Hart to get the point across.

Vince even gave Tom the trademark-infringing name of “Mega Man Magee”.

(Rockman Magee in Japan)

After all, it worked for Hulk Hogan.

Hulk Hogan™, Hulkamania™, and Hulkster™ are trademarks of Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc., licensed exclusively to Titan Sports, Inc.

But ultimately, nothing worked. In 1990, McMahon finally gave up on Mega Man Magee, saving himself years of royalty payments to Capcom.

Fortunately, by that time Vince had seen the light and selected a true successor to Hulk Hogan, a worker with the passion and reliability to carry the WWF well into the 1990s.

As the decades wore on, the legend of the original Bret Hart vs. Tom Magee match only grew.

From contemporary accounts in the Wrestling Observer to Bret Hart’s 2007 autobiography, the consensus was that the match was phenomenal. I mean, it would kind of have to be, if it briefly convinced Vince McMahon to make Tom Magee world champion.

Yet the match remained missing for over thirty years, with few outside of that Rochester TV taping having ever seen it.

At last, a friend of Bret Hart’s assistant discovered a VHS copy and gave it to WWE, who premiered it on the WWE Network. The company even produced a mini-documentary called “Holy Grail: The Search for WWE’s Most Infamous Lost Match” to promote it.

Ironically, WWE would soon move the documentary to Peacock…

…whose useless search function has made the match even harder to find than ever.

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