Sitting across a table from the one and only Hacksaw Jim Duggan seemed like a dream for this reporter.
But that dream become reality when I got the chance to interview the WWE wrestling legend at Armageddon in Tauranga.
All the nerves I felt in the morning quickly washed away when Jim walked into the room with an infectious smile.
Talking about his time in New Zealand, Jim says this trip is his and wife Debra’s second trip to New Zealand.
“We were here about four years ago, but we just did Auckland.”
This time round, the couple – who have been married for 30-plus years - spent a week in Fiji before coming here. “We made it a working vacation.”
Jim says working with the people of Armageddon – the two-day event held at ASB Arena in the weekend – was so great.
“I do a lot of comic-cons all over the world, and most places they get you there, put you in a hotel and say ‘hey, we will see you in the weekend’.
“With Armageddon, they have a whole itinerary planned for us.”
Today, Hacksaw and his wife Debra will be heading to Hobbiton in Matamata before going on a gondola ride and heading to see a volcano. “It makes it fun for the talent.”
Jim and Debra arrived in Tauranga on Thursday and spent some of their downtime wandering the streets of the city.
“My wife is a big explorer and she found the Farmers and the demolition sale and has been in there this morning.
“It’s amazing the fans in New Zealand. It’s crazy for an old-time wrestler to pull into Tauranga and have fans come up to me and go ‘Hooooooo’ in the middle of the street,” says Jim, talking to a fan of wrestling since she was a child.
“It’s amazing the appeal of wrestling around the world.”
When asked what advice he had for young aspiring wrestlers, Hacksaw says “yeah, get golf clubs, that’s where the money is and it’s a lot easier on the body”.
“But I always tell folks to chase their dreams. Look at the current roster, Daniel Bryan – when I first saw that young guy I thought there was no way this kid is going to make it. But there is a guy who had the drive and desire, and the work ethic and he did it.
“New Zealand is famous for its wrestlers, from the Bushwhackers to Tony Garea. It’s kind of the hotbed of wrestling.”
Hacksaw was the first person to win the Royal Rumble back in 1988 and 30 years later, women are now getting their chance to have the same opportunity with the first ever WWE Women’s Royal Rumble earlier this year.
“The business has evolved quite a bit. It used to be in arena, high school gyms and now it’s getting more and more involved with women’s wrestling.
“It’s been a great business for me, so many folks only hear about the negatives of professional wrestling. And it is a rough business. The high death rate, the high divorce rate and the high drug and alcoholism rate.
“People all know of Scott Hall and my good friend Jake the Snake Roberts. But for me it’s been a great business and for other guys too.
“I have been with my wife for 30-plus years, I’ve never had to go to rehab for booze or drugs, thought I did a lot of both. It was the 80s, everything was wide open in the 80s.”
Hacksaw says one of his best memories was to pull up at Maddison Square Garden as an adult - a place he visited often as a child with his dad - and see ‘Hacksaw Jim Duggan versus Andre The Giant’ written across the front of the building.
“It was a double whammy to be main eventing at the Garden in front of 20,000 people and then to be in there with Andre.
The first thought running through Hacksaw’s mind as he stepped into the ring for the match was “I hope he doesn’t kill me”.
The match with Andre turned out to be a career changer for Hacksaw, as he ended up knocking out Andre with his 2x4.
“The television show went off the air and I was standing over Andre covered in blood with my 2x4. So that moved me up to a main event man, instead of a mid-card guy.
“From then I worked with Andre 54 nights straight, so I got to know him pretty well, and he could be an irritable giant sometimes too.”
Hacksaw made the move to wrestling after playing two years in pro-football.
“I started off as Big Jim Duggan, with short hair and clean shaven – but that didn’t work.”
He went through a few other names and personas before settling on Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
“It’s actually from my football days. I used to hack my way through the wedge. So we tried Hacksaw and it kind of stuck.
“People are like, you’re Hacksaw Duggan and you carry a 2x4. I’m like, ‘it’s wrestling, it doesn’t have to make sense’.
“A lot of things folks don’t realise about wrestling is that it’s very competitive. In America there is 1500 NFL players, there’s 600 NBL basketball players and there is 100 WWE wrestlers.
“Everyone wants to be a WWE wrestler. It’s extremely competitive business and one of the big misconceptions is that we are all good friends. Well, we all compete for the same money, we’re real good friends,” Hacksaw says with a smirk on his face.