Masters of Delusion: Big John Studd and Dutch Doogan

As far back as I remember I always wanted to be six foot ten. That’s right: six foot ten. Not seven feet, not eight feet, but six foot ten. All of my heroes back then were six foot ten: Ted Cassidy, Richard Kiel, Dave Winfield, and Big John Studd. If you don’t know who any of these people are, look them up. You’ll find out what they did and how tall they were. You’ll also find out Richard Kiel was more like seven foot two, but hey…close enough.

To me, being six foot ten meant I could be a professional wrestler without having the physical stigmas of gigantism.

Anytime I sat and watched wrestling with my dad, I knew I wanted to be a part of those men in tights, body slamming each other on the mat like they were somebodies in a world full of nobodies.

The old man and I could tell right away who were the chums and who were the sharks. I wanted to be a shark. The sharks did what they wanted. They were usually the biggest and tallest of the bunch. They were guys like Ernie “The Big Cat” Ladd, Killer Khan from Mongolia (actually from Japan), Gorilla Monsoon, Black Jack Mulligan, and Giant Baba from Japan (actually from Japan).

They were all shorter than Andre the Giant by a few inches, and even though no one could ever really hang with Andre, I didn’t want to be like Andre. Being seven foot four and over five hundred pounds is a lot to live up to.

My Dream For Height

Every night before I went to bed I made it my business to ask God to make me six foot ten. All I wanted was to wake up a little bit taller every morning. If He could grow me so I could be one of the tallest boys in the class, I’d take that in the meantime.

It would mean I was on my way to wrestling stardom. Six foot ten overnight was a lot to expect from God, seeing as he had other matters to tend to, like world hunger and all.

The tallest boy in our fourth-grade class was a boy named Javier Jimenez. He was probably five foot seven, and that was pretty tall for an eleven-year-old boy. Because he never took advantage of his height and was a genuine good soul most of the time, the other kids called him “Big Bird”.


I didn’t envy that part of being the tallest kid in the class, but there’s a price to pay for anything that’s worth having, or so my dad always said.

I was probably the fourth or fifth tallest kid in the class, but that wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted to be number one.

My unshakable faith in God and His generosity led me to believe a growth spurt was waiting for me right around the corner. To avoid getting tagged with a nickname like “Big Bird”, I decided it would be smart for me to choose a name of my own making before spurting to the top of my fourth-grade class.

My Other Passion

Wrestling was just one of my passions back then. My other great passion in 1982 was video games. And it wasn’t so much the playing of video games (my poor hand-eye coordination made me suck at playing them), as it was the aesthetics of gaming.

It was all about the artwork of the gaming characters, the sound of the 8-bit synthesized music in the background, and the stylized designs of the full-size stand-up cabinet arcade machines. I could peer over a good player’s shoulder all day as long as I could stay immersed in the sights and sounds of the arcade. This secondhand excitement saved me a lot of quarters back then. 

The money I didn’t spend on gameplay, I spent on wrestling and videogame magazines. I found the name I was looking for in one of those video game magazines. Or maybe it was a newsletter of some sort, but the article was titled COMPUTER SOFTWARE NEWS and it read as follows: 

“GAMESTAR is announcing several new sports-oriented computer games for the ATARI 400 and 800. Later in the year, they will introduce ‘the ultimate sports fan’ DUTCH DOOGAN. Planned as a series—THE ADVENTURES of DUTCH DOOGAN-it will be geared toward older teens and adults. Extensive use of animation is planned.” 

And there it was—just like Mark Wahlberg said in the movie BOOGIE NIGHTS: “I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp—that the sign just blows up because the name is so powerful. It says DIRK DIGGLER.” 

Dutch Doogan

Well, my sign said DUTCH DOOGAN, but you know what I mean. DUTCH DOOGAN was going to be my wrestling character’s name if I ever made it to the big time. And yet, something was missing—a point of reference, a model for my character. I needed a flesh-and-bone basis for DUTCH DOOGAN—someone I could visualize. 

It came to me a week later while I was watching the eleven a.m. WWF ALL-STAR WRESTLING show. DUTCH DOOGAN, my alter ego, would look like BIG JOHN STUDD

Big John Studd
Photo Credit: Inside Wrestling (May 1982) of Big John Studd

Big John Studd

I have to tell you, I liked Studd’s attitude. He may have been delusional thinking he was the real giant and all, but he didn’t give two flying rat-tails what anybody thought. He may have been a few inches shorter than Andre but he carried himself like he towered over the man. And that was the mindset I chose to use when I realized I wasn’t growing as fast as I would’ve liked to. If I couldn’t be six foot ten, I’d act six foot ten.

Because most of the boys in my fourth-grade class were wrestling fans, one of us (it might have been me) hatched a plan to start a wrestling organization of our own. It was up to each one of us to come up with our names, character descriptions, and finishing moves. We would wrestle each other in the schoolyard during our after-lunch recess.

The idea was to keep a running tally of our wins and losses. One of the toughest boys in the class had already deemed himself champion, so he was the one to beat. And not beat, if you knew what was good for you.

All in my class finally knew me as DUTCH DOOGAN, the “big man” who went around proclaiming himself the true giant of the fourth grade. Poor Javier had to put up with me calling him out during recess to fight the “true giant”. Playing up the heel role, and borrowing a page from Big John Studd, I also challenged Javier to try and body slam me.

This was pretty stupid on my part, as Javier was probably strong enough to pick me up and slam me on the asphalt of the schoolyard. Javier didn’t want to have anything to do with our wannabe wrestling organization, so he just ignored me.

Maybe that’s what Andre should have done with Studd: just ignore him. But how do you ignore a guy whose entire shtick is declaring himself the true giant of wrestling? On top of his declarations, Studd offered ten thousand dollars to any wrestler who could body slam him, boasting no wrestler had ever slammed him before. The prize was later raised to fifteen thousand dollars.

In March 1983, Andre the Giant got his shot at trying to body slam Studd, but it wasn’t quite as easy as it should have been. Just as Andre was hoisting Big John Studd off his feet, manager Freddie Blassie latched on to Studd at the last second to add an extra 230 pounds of weight to Andre’s load.

Andre tried to lift Studd twice more but each time Blassie grabbed onto Studd, thwarting Andre’s efforts and diverting his anger to Blassie instead of Studd. Andre shoved Blassie and the all the cash Blassie held flew into the grabbing hands of the jubilant ringside crowd. With Andre’s focus on Blassie and the swirling cash, Studd seized the giant’s distraction to attack him with kicks and punches until Andre quickly recovered and cleared the ring of Blassie and Studd.

What a great way to add fuel to the feud! It was a feud that lasted 4 years and might have kept going if it wasn’t for the ultimate clash of the titans that was ANDRE vs. HOGAN. All roads were leading to that monumental match. Big John Studd fell to the wayside.

John William Minton was Big John Studd until 1986. He retired from wrestling for two years before returning to the squared circle in 1988. Upon his return, Big John Studd feuded with the Heenan Family—Bobby Heenan’s stable of wrestlers and Bobby himself over Heenan’s newfound alliance with Andre the Giant.

John Studd Turns Baby Face

Since Andre was now a heel, Studd had no choice but to go baby face. Even though I never bought Studd as a baby face, he still carried himself as a big man and he never stopped using his finishing move. Studd’s finishing move is second only to Blackjack Mulligan’s claw in my book.

John Studd was known for two big finishers: THE BEAR HUG and THE TORTURE RACK. These are both tall man moves but the TORTURE RACK is the one that looks like it is the more painful of the two.

The Torture Rack is the one I used on one of the smaller kids in my class who got involved in our short-lived fourth-grade wrestling organization. So, I basically picked poor little Eric up, draped him across my shoulder, and pulled down on both his shoulders until he cried “UNCLE!” from the excruciatingly crunchy pain.

When I tried it on our class champion he somehow slithered his way off my shoulders and onto the ground. When he was on his feet again, Gus landed a solid punch to my chest that discouraged me from ever wanting to apply the TORTURE RACK to anyone ever again. Well played, Gus. Well played!

I guess the allure of the TORTURE RACK was the idea of a tall man giving his tortured opponent a view of the world from the big man’s angle, a moment or two to see a point of view he might not otherwise have seen. It’s a horrific way to gain perspective, but Big John Studd did it better than anyone.

There are probably less painful ways to gain that kind of perspective. You don’t have to get placed in an over-the-shoulder backbreaker. Maybe just talk to a tall person.

In Closing

Even though the lunch recess wrestling ended a few days after Gus’ devastating chest punch, I held onto the DUTCH DOOGAN moniker for years and years. No one actually calls me DUTCH DOOGAN. Up until this revelation, most people wouldn’t have known about my little alter ego.

I don’t know. The name screams six foot ten and promises a legend. Maybe it’s the legend of a six-foot-ten lumberjack who picks the meat from his teeth with deciduous tree branches and wrestles grizzly bears for fun when the locals aren’t lining up to get their turn at trying to body slam him onto the floor of the forest. There’s ten thousand dollars to be won, maybe even more.

John Minton died March 20, 1995. He died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the still young age of 47 years old. He was a true legend—a giant among giants. Every wrestler I ever heard talk about him says he was a genuinely nice man. So that means he had a big heart to boot.

In case you’re wondering if Big John Studd was ever body slammed, the answer is yes: King Tonga did it in 1986. He held the big man aloft for quite a few seconds in the air and dumped him onto the mat. SLAM! The crowd went wild as an astonished and shaken Big John Studd staggered out of the arena looking back at King Tonga’s victory dance. Everybody gets his or her reality check eventually.


I’m only 5’9, but I’m okay with it. The average male height in New Jersey is 5’9. 6″. It doesn’t make me special, but it doesn’t make me a schnook either. I’m just your average somebody who’s somewhere in the middle. And that’s not such a bad place to be.

Hi everyone.  My name is Ariel Gonzalez, originally from Brooklyn, now living in the Garden State and I have a new podcast called “Wrestling With Heels On.”

On the podcast, I get to reminisce about my favorite wrestling bad guys from yesteryear.  Light on stats and heavy on nostalgia, this little trip down villainy lane gives me a chance to visit the dark corridors of my wrestling soul, and it’s also fun to have a podcast.

Wresting With Heels On podcast hosted by Ariel Gonzalez artwork (presented by Sports History Network)
Photo Credit: Sports History Network
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