Robert Deroy Windham (November 25, 1942 – April 7, 2016), better known by his ring name Blackjack Mulligan, was an American professional wrestler, author, and American football player. He was the father of wrestlers Barry and Kendall Windham, father-in-law of Mike Rotunda, and the maternal grandfather of Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas.
|Birth name||Robert Deroy Windham|
|Born||November 25, 1942|
Sweetwater, Texas, U.S.
|Died||April 7, 2016 (aged 73)|
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
|Professional wrestling career|
|Ring name(s)||Blackjack Mulligan|
Big Bob Windham
|Billed height||6 ft 9 in (2.06 m)|
|Billed weight||300 lb (140 kg)|
|Billed from||Eagle Pass, Texas|
|Trained by||Verne Gagne|
American football careerEdit
As a young man, Windham played football at Texas Western College, now known as the University of Texas at El Paso. Windham served a tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps. He then went on to play for the New York Jets during the 1966 pre-season and received tryouts with the New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos.
Professional wrestling careerEdit
After football, at the urging of Wahoo McDaniel, Windham trained with Joe Blanchard in Corpus Christi, Texas and later with Verne Gagne and became a professional wrestler in the American Wrestling Association. Billed as being 6' 9" and over 300 pounds, Windham was a rawboned cowboy in the vein of Bobby Duncum or Stan Hansen.
His training complete, he prepared to move on to the World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and was transformed into Blackjack Mulligan. Mulligan donned black trunks, black hat, a black fingerless glove, and used the iron claw submission hold.
When he arrived in the WWWF, he was managed by The Grand Wizard. Early stills of the two actually identify him as Big Bob Windham. Mulligan went on to great success in the Northeast and was an early challenger to newly crowned champion Pedro Morales. His push was interrupted when he was slashed in the thigh by a fan at the Boston Garden and required hundreds of stitches to close the wound. The culprit was actually captured by Gorilla Monsoon, who threw him at the ringside police – who promptly let him go because they thought "it was part of the show".
Before he left to recover from his wound, Mulligan participated in a Madison Square Garden match against Bruno Sammartino, who was making his first appearance at the arena since the end of his nearly eight-year championship reign. Mulligan attacked Sammartino before the bell. Sammartino quickly recovered, slammed Mulligan twice and pinned him in 64 seconds. In wrestling terms, everybody "got over" – the building was sold out to the delight of promoter Vince McMahon the elder, Sammartino made a strong return to New York and Mulligan, who was in no condition to work an actual match, received a large pay-off to aid his recovery.
Once he healed, Mulligan returned to the Midwest and tagged with Lanza to form The Blackjacks. The duo went on to capture numerous tag team championships in various NWA affiliated promotions as well as the WWWF World Tag Team Championship in August 1975.
Blackjack returned to singles wrestling in the Jim Crockett Promotions where he would go on to hold the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship and the Mid-Atlantic's version of the NWA World Tag Team Championship with Ric Flair.
Mulligan often battled André the Giant, feuding in many different regions in the early 1980s. When they brought their feud to the WWF (formerly the WWWF) in 1982, Windham was noted as saying Andre had no limit to his strength. Mulligan then wrestled in Florida. He often teamed with West Texas stars Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch, and his son Barry Windham. Mulligan returned to the WWF as a full-time performer in 1984, hosting an interview segment titled Blackjack's Barbecue on WWF All-Star Wrestling, the counterpart to Roddy Piper's Piper's Pit.
In 1986, Mulligan wrestled under a mask as "Big Machine", part of a team with "The Giant Machine" (André the Giant) and "Super Machine" (Bill Eadie) collectively known as The Machines. They won several high-profile matches against the Heenan family, later recruiting members such as 'Hulk Machine' and 'Piper Machine'. After that angle ended, Mulligan wrestled for the WWF as himself, until he finally left in 1987. Later on, Jack traveled to Dallas and competed in World Class Championship Wrestling, wrestling against Bruiser Brody, Chris Adams and Kevin and Lance Von Erich. Mulligan also returned to Florida in 1987 to fight against the Funk brothers, teaming with Kevin Sullivan.
Mulligan worked as a match booker and promoter all around the South, eventually co-owning the Amarillo, Texas-based Western States Sports promotion with Dick Murdoch after purchasing it from Dory and Terry Funk. Mulligan and his Blackjacks partner, Jack Lanza were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 1, 2006 by their manager, Bobby Heenan.
In 1990, Blackjack Mulligan and his son Kendall Windham were arrested by the US Secret Service in a joint investigation with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) for counterfeiting. The authorities found close to $500,000 in phony $20 bills. As a result of a plea agreement, both father and son spent 24 months in a federal prison and were released in 1992.
In 2007, Windham published his book titled True Lies and Alibis, which tells about his personal life and his professional wrestling career.
In 2012, Windham, a born again Christian, was ordained a minister by Divine Hearts Ministry located in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri. He was very devoted to spending the time he had remaining to spreading the word of God. He felt his ordination could help him in this endeavor.
In July 2015, Windham was named as a defendant in a 2015 lawsuit filed by WWE after they received a letter from him indicating that he intended to sue them for concussion-based injuries sustained during his tenure with them. He was represented by attorney Konstantine Kyros, who is involved in several other lawsuits involving former WWE wrestlers. Over two years after his death, US District Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant dismissed the lawsuit in September 2018.
After dealing with health issues in recent years and being hospitalized with a heart attack several months earlier, Windham was hospitalized in Florida in October 2015. He died on April 7, 2016. He was buried at the Florida National Cemetery.
Championships and accomplishmentsEdit
- Championship Wrestling from Florida
- European Wrestling Union
- EWU World Super Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- International Pro Wrestling
- IWA World Tag Team Championship (1 time) – with Larry Hennig
- International Wrestling Federation
- IWF Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling
- NWA Big Time Wrestling
- NWA Western States Sports
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- World Wrestling Association
- World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Most Disgusting Promotional Tactic (1984) Fake heart attack angle
- WWE does not recognize his 2nd reign.
- "Robert Deroy "Black Jack Mulligan" WINDHAM's Obituary on Tampa Bay Times". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
- Mooneyham, Mike (March 23, 2008). "Blackjack, The Nature Boy, and More Memories". The Post and Courier. Retrieved February 13, 2010.
- "WWE seeking to block concussion-related lawsuits". FoxSports.com. Fox Entertainment Group (21st Century Fox). July 1, 2015. Retrieved November 27, 2015.
- Gorman, Jeff D. (September 18, 2018). "WWE Knocks Out Consolidated Concussion Case". Courthouse News Service. Retrieved September 2, 2019.
- "Blackjack Mulligan passes away". WWE.com. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- F4W Staff (May 7, 2015). "On this day in pro wrestling history (May 7): Jeff Jarrett ends David Arquette's WCW title reign, Nick Bockwinkel Vs. Ray Stevens". Wrestling Observer Figure Four Online. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING HALL OF FAME MOVING FROM UPSTATE NEW YORK TO TEXAS". PWInsider. November 20, 2015. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
- "Pro Wrestling Illustrated Award Winners Inspirational Wrestler of the Year". Wrestling Information Archive. Archived from the original on June 16, 2008. Retrieved July 27, 2008.
- "W.W.A. World Tag Team Title (Indianapolis)". Puroresu Dojo. 2003.