Robert Windham, better known as Blackjack Mulligan, the patriarch of the Windham wrestling family that includes three performers on the current WWE roster, passed away.
Windham had been in poor health for some time after suffering a heart attack and other assorted ailments.
Windham, 73, was a major star in pro wrestling during the 70s and 80s. He was only in the business for two years, working under his real name, before he got his big break in the WWWF in 1971, taking the Blackjack Mulligan name, copying the gimmick with the black cowboy hat and black glove of Blackjack Lanza (Jack Lanza), who had become one of the top heels in the business a few years earlier.
Mulligan was the first contender for Pedro Morales after he won the WWWF title from Ivan Koloff in 1971, and used the name until his full-time career ended in 1989. During that period he was a top of the card star, usually as a heel, although he was a very successful babyface in the Carolinas and Florida.
Mulligan’s strength as a performer was his size and his interview ability. As 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, he was often billed at 6-foot-9, and frequently opposed Andre the Giant. There was also a famous story of Mulligan sucker punching Andre at a beach front party, but Andre came back and dragged Mulligan into the Atlantic Ocean.
During the 70s, Mulligan & Lanza became a tag team, the Blackjacks, who had successful runs in Indiana, where they were managed by Bobby Heenan, as well as in Texas and the WWWF.
But his biggest success came after the team broke up, when working in the Carolinas, often teaming with Ric Flair, who he was best friends with and shared a van, and also feuded with him. During that period, he won the U.S. title, the main championship in the promotion, four times.
Mulligan also had unsuccessful runs as a promoter, after he and Dick Murdoch purchased the dying West Texas territory from the Funk Brothers, and later as a co-owner of a Knoxville based promotion.
Mulligan’s career largely ended in 1989 when he served time in prison, with son Kendall, for counterfeiting.
Mulligan’s son Barry and Kendall Windham, were both wrestlers and Barry was one of the best wrestlers in the world in the late 80s. His son-in-law, Mike Rotunda, was also a star wrestler and Mike’s three children, Windham (Bray Wyatt), Taylor (Bo Dallas) and daughter Mika work for WWE.
Windham had been sued by WWE in July, which was strange since his serious health issues were well known and his sons were stars with the group. The lawsuit was a preemptive move as the company believed Windham was going to sue them on the concussion issue. The lawsuit was thrown out of court two weeks ago when all the concussion related suits and WWE’s counter suits except two were thrown out.