The Kansas Jayhawk, Bobby Jaggers, RIP
– The Phantom of the Ring
Looking back over my years as a wrestling journalist, I can say easily that the greatest years to be a fan in the New York area were during the early 70s. What looked like a decade of disappointment with the dethroning of Bruno Sammartino by Ivan Koloff soon turned into one of the best parades of talent through the area, both in person and on television.
For one thing, Pedro Morales soon succeeded Koloff. While I liked Koloff and would have wanted to see what he could do as champ, I also liked Morales immensely. But it was the change of philosophy by Vincent McMahon Sr. that made Morales’ years as champion most interesting.
Until Morales had the belt, most of Bruno’s contenders fit a certain pattern. That is, they were big and often made repeated visits to the area. Yeah, I loved Waldo Von Erich, Killer Kowalski, Baron Scicluna, and Professor Tanaka. But I also read wrestling magazines and was acutely aware of the talent in other areas that I wanted to see visit the WWWF. And with the crowning of Morales, a new influx of talent arrived with him, some from his old California stomping ground. Ray Stevens, Blackjack Mulligan, The Spolier, King Curtis, Don Leo Jonathan, Larry Hennig, and Moondog Mayne headlined against the champ. My monthly visit to MSG also gave me the opportunities to see other talent coming up for a single match: Dory and Terry Funk, Verne Gagne, Eddie and Mike Graham, among others. The trend continued after Bruno regained the belt. Those were the days.
And if that weren’t enough, we in the New York area started watching something completely new on our telly. Championship Wrestling From Florida tapes began making an appearance, exposing us not only to more wrestlers we haven’t seen before, but also to a whole new style of working. It quickly developed a following among wrestling fans and led to a talent exchange between McMahon’s office and that of Eddie Graham in Tampa.
Which brings me to our subject. One of the wrestlers on the Florida roster was one I was particularly interested in seeing at the time: Bobby Jaggers. I had been following his career since he was working the old Arizona territory under the moniker “Bobby Mayne.” Tom Burke told me that when he was in Arizona researching an article on the Arizona promotion for Ring Wrestling, he made the acquaintance of “Bobby Mayne,” who spent most of his time with Tom trying to convince him that he really was Lonnie Mayne’s brother. That Tom wasn’t buying one iota, as he knew the real Lonnie Mayne. I doubt if “Bobby” knew that, and I think that even if he did, it wouldn’t have made any difference. “Bobby” was into selling his character at that point. He struck Tom as a guy fully committed and looking for his big break.
Before he was Bobby Jaggers, before he was Bobby Mayne, he was plain old Robert Jeaudoin. Born in Vancouver, Washington, on January 8, 1948, he enlisted in the Army after graduation from Hudson’s Bay High School, serving in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive.
After his discharge, a chance meeting with Sandy Barr led him to a new career path. It wasn’t difficult to convince someone that grew up as a rabid wrestling fan – a man who idolized Moondog Lonnie Mayne growing up – to try his hand at the business. In later interviews Jaggers credited Barr with not only getting him into wrestling, but also saving his life by getting him out of his job at the local Nabisco plant making cookies and going mad from the boredom.
Barr arranged for him to go to Arizona, where Tito Montez and Kurt Von Steiger, who promoted there, trained him for the ring. Because Jaggers was such a Lonnie Mayne fan and because he bore somewhat of a resemblance to Mayne, it was decided to give him the handle of “Bobby Mayne,” and it was under that name that he had his first match against Al Madril. After serving his apprenticeship he lit out for Tennessee in 1972, where he and Charlie Fulton formed a tag team under the watchful eye of manager Sir Steve Clements. As the name “Bobby Mayne” wasn’t going to fly in an area where Lonnie Mayne was unknown, it was decided to change his ring name to Bobby Jaggers and bill him out of Kansas. While working in the Kansas territory he was spotted by Dory Funk, Jr. Funk liked what he saw, for he invited Jaggers to his father’s promotion in Amarillo. Splitting his time between Amarillo and Kansas City, Jaggers learned much, especially from the Funks, who helped him refine his wrestling technique and schooled him in ring psychology. He also won a tournament in Amarillo for the Western States belt after Terry Funk vacated it.
The Funks also told him to expand his horizons and work in other promotions. He took that advice, working San Francisco and Louisiana for Bill Watts. Working for Watts gave him a taste of titles, as he and Jerry Brown held the Tri-States tag championship, which they won from Ray Candy and Steven Little Bear on May 5, 1978. They held the belts until November, losing to the combination of Mike George and Randy Tyler. The next year found him in Vancouver, where he and partner Chris Colt won the Canadian Tag belts from Bobby Bass and Joe Ventura. They held them a couple of months before dropping them to Bass and new partner Yaki Joe. While working there, co-promoter Al Tomko gave him the chance to be a booker, but partner Gene Kiniski wasn’t all that enamored of a youngster like Jaggers handling the book. Their clashes over angles eventually led to Jaggers leaving the area.
He stopped in Atlanta, the highlight (?) of which was teaming with Sterling Golden, later to be known as Hulk Hogan. He also made a pit stop in Knoxville while figuring out his next move.
That next move became his defining move and put him on the map of stars sought after by other promoters. He came to Florida.
Originally brought in for an extended tryout, Jaggers clicked with the fans as a sort of combination Dusty Rhodes and Bobby Duncam. He had chemistry with Rhodes and the two worked many main events together. He snatched the Florida Heavyweight belt from Buggsy McGraw (Michael Davis) before dropping it to Rhodes. He and R.T. Tyler held the Florida Tag title, and Jaggers won the NWA Southern belt from Barry Windham before dropping it to Jack Brisco.
Sooner or later, a good run must end, and so it did for Jaggers. He tried his hand at working for Southwest Championship Wrestling based out of San Antonio. He had good success, winning the SCW Title once and the promotion’s U.S. Tag belts twice, first with Luke Williams, and later with Buddy Moreno. But his time in Florida was done. Reading the handwriting on the wrestling bill, he lit out for Don Owens’ Northwest promotion in 1984, winning the Pacific Northwest Championship four times and the Pacific Northwest Tag Championship twice, once with Rip Oliver, once with David Sierra.
When Dusty Rhodes went to the Crockett’s Mid-Atlantic Promotion, he called Jaggers, and Jaggers answered the call. With Dutch Mantell, Jaggers formed the “Kansas Jayhawks” tag team. But they were more popular with the fans than with the bookers, as they never held any tag titles, the closest to a title coming when they lost the finals of a tournament to crown the inaugural U.S. Tag Team Championship to Ivan Koloff (Oreal Parras) and Krusher Kruschev (Barry Darsow).
He then went to Puerto Rico, where he had wrestled frequently in the past, winning the promotion’s North American Championship in 1982, and was having a good run in 1988, winning the Caribbean Tag belts with Dan Krofatt (Philip Lafon), and the WWC Puerto Rican Championship.
It was on July 17, 1988, that his views on the business changed, for it was on that date that his good friend Bruiser Brody was murdered. Jaggers was working on the same card and was in the heels’ dressing room when Brody was killed in the showers of the ‘faces dressing room. Jaggers lost the passion he previously had and began to phase his career out, his last hurrah being in Florida for the re-named Professional Wrestling Florida Tag Championship in 1989 with Black Bart (Rick Harris) as The Southern Force.
Having served 18 tours of Japan, where the fans were crazy for cowboy heels, and South Africa, he decided to stay home and hung up his tights for good in 1991. He went back to school, taking classes at Butler County (KS) Community College and studying civil engineering at Kansas State University. The State of Kansas employed him as an engineer and he later worked for the Department of Homeland Security as a specialist in roads and bridges, a far way from the squared circle.
His health began to deteriorate over the last few years, and he passed away on September 30, 2012, from renal failure said to be brought on from Hepatitis C, which he had contracted while serving in Vietnam. He was buried with full military honors.
Bobby Jaggers is of a type fans will never see again: a heel with wrestling ability who knew ring psychology to the extent he was able to put over not only his character, but also that of his opponent, whom he made look like a million dollars.
– The Phantom of the Ring