Happy Belated 4/20: How The Hacksaw Jim Duggan And Iron Sheik Marijuana Arrest In 1987 Changed Wrestling

Because yesterday was 4/20, it’s time to tell a weed story!

In 1987, WWF wrestlers Iron Sheik and Hacksaw Jim Duggan were arrested for marijuana and cocaine possession. The two were riding together and were pulled over during a routine traffic stop. Duggan admitted to the cop that he had marijuana on him, and Sheik admitted that he had cocaine (which Duggan said he didn’t know about at the time). This might not seem like a big deal, but it changed wrestling forever. Here’s how:

1. It Broke Kayfabe. Most of the general public didn’t care about the fact two wrestlers got arrested for drugs. What they did care about, though, was the fact that Hacksaw Jim Duggan (a good guy) and Iron Sheik (a bad guy) were riding in a car together. Not only that, Duggan is an American hero and Sheik is an anti-American villain. Wrestling in 1987 was very different than it is in 2015; and the idea that these two guys would be riding together was a black eye on a business that was trying to maintain the notion that it was real.

The incident embarrassed Vince McMahon so much that he changed wrestling in another way:

2. Drug Testing. McMahon wanted to make sure that his guys weren’t hanging around and getting high together anymore, so he instituted a drug test to keep his guys in check. Here’s an excerpt from Bret Hart’s book, explaining how the locker room meeting went down:

bret hart drug test

Needless to say, drug testing — especially for recreational drugs — was a huge deal in wrestling. While wrestlers were definitely still doing drugs, the drug testing was the first step to a cleaner, more survivable industry.

All thanks to two guys who wanted to get high together. RVD and Sabu would be proud.