News Item

05.03.15 20:07 Age: 2 yrs

NZ's own BUSHWHACKERS in WWE Hall of Fame!

By now it's no secret that Butch Miller and Luke Williams are to be honoured by being inducted into the 2015 WWE Hall of Fame. KPW would like to extend its congratulations to New Zealand's most famous professional wrestling exports since Tony Garea and Pat O'Conner.

KPW and THE BUSHWHACKERS

The BushwhackersLong-time KPW fans will remember that Bushwhacker Butch Miller is Kiwi Pro Wrestling's Commissioner. They may also fondly remember the "Bushwhacker Shack" segment of early KPW shows where the lively Bushwhacker would hold court in the ring and interview wrestlers in a lively format which inevitably entered in a run-in and brawl.

Though his business schedule and health now prevent him taking a "front-line" approach to management, Mister Miller remains a force to be reckoned with behind the scenes. KPW AGMs are never boring when he's chairing (with a folding chair)!

Furthermore, KPW CEO Rip Morgan was a flag-bearer for the Bushwhackers back in the early to mid 1980s. This means that he got to witness (and participate in) many of the Bushwhackers' fearsome rampages first-hand! In fact, Morgan even had a hand in briefly extending the Bushwhacker "franchise": while Miller and Williams were competing in the World Wrestling Council (WWC) in Puerto Rico in 1985, Morgan teamed up with Jonathan Boyd as "the Kiwi Sheepherders" to wreck havoc in the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Bushwhackers and Johnny AceAnother famous flag-bearer was Johnny Ace (John Hodger Laurinaitis), tag team partner of Shane Douglas as The Dynamic Dudes and later producer and talent relations executive in the WWE office. Fans may remember his on-screen role as an authority figure and feuds with fan favourites John Cena and CM Punk circa 2011.

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS concerning THE BUSHWHACKERS

My father - a keen wrestling fan from New Zealand wrestling's heyday of the seventies and early eighties - recalls regularly watching Butch Miller at the Wellington Show Buildings in Newtown, where the future Bushwhacker wrestled as "Brutal" Bob Miller and earned his nickname at the expense of his opponents' welfare! As a young wrestling fan myself, I thrilled to the appearance of the Bushwhackers in the WWF ('On The Mat' being before my time).

It was fantastic to finally have someone wrestling on television who were proudly from New Zealand, strange ambassadors as they were. It made it seemed that the World Wrestling Federation really did encompass the world. I remember colour commentator Jesse Ventura being appalled with the Bushwhackers' disheveled appearance, clown-like antics and distinctive arm-swinging walk. Play-by-play commentator Vince McMahon Jr had to shrug off this anthropological marvel: "Does everybody walk like that in New Zealand?" Though they didn't (at least in 1989), it was still great to have someone from New Zealand to cheer for.

The Bushwhackers' antics were indeed comical, but at least they were highly visible. I particularly remember the Bushwhackers embroiled in a bitter feud with the Fabulous Rougeau Brothers - or "Flaming Rag-goo Sisters" as they described them in a New Zealand radio interview circa 1989. To this day, as a fan, I've never despised a heel tag team as much as the (heel) conniving, two-faced, treacherous Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, so strong are the emotions connected to my childhood memories of this feud.

A POTTED HISTORY OF NEW ZEALAND'S FAMOUS BRAWLERS

Whether you know them as the Sheepherders or the Bushwhackers, a complete retrospective of this unique tag team would be far too long to fit here. However, such a long and coloured career deserves at least a mention. There have been other versions of the Sheepherders, but the most famous (and arguably the most destructive) incarnation of the Bushwhackers was the one most familiar to New Zealand wrestling fans - Butch Miller and Luke Williams.

This pair of good ol' (Kiwi) boys began their wild ways in earnest in another far-flung corner of the Commonwealth. Circa 1973 in the "frozen north" of Alberta, Miller and Luke Williams began working for wrestling patriarch Stu Hart in Stampede wrestling. They were billed as "The Kiwis"; Miller wrestled as "Nick Carter", Williams as "Sweet Williams". As told by Miller, it was "Sweet Williams" who was intended to be the mouthpiece of the duo, with Miller as a savage lead around on a dog collar(!). However, in their first all-important promo, announcer Ed Whalen "threw" to Sweet William... who froze like a deer in the headlights! To cover the delay, Miller lived up to his gimmick and tried to eat the foam microphone cover! This gave Williams time to recover and also got over to the audience (and Whalen) that this new pair were a force to be reckoned with! (This was not the first time Whalen's microphone came under teeth-based attack, as evidenced by an Easter Egg on the WWE Bret Hart DVD).

The Sheepherders then worked for the World Wrestling Council (WWC) in Puerto Rico as "Los Pastores". Miller has spoken about the "wild west" nature of Puerto Rico as a frontier of opportunity, and the dangerous intensity of its wrestling fans (as well as the uncanny accuracy of said fans to throw ice-packed paper cups over the steel cages and down onto the unfortunate wrestlers' heads!) After the better part of two years where they went their separate ways (Miller to Australia and Williams to the southern USA), they reunited in Southwest Championship Wrestling (SWCW), based in San Antonio, Texas. By now, their frequent opponents were pretty-boy, sequin-jacketed "sharp-dressed men" the Fabulous Ones (Stan Lane and Steve Keirn). As firm fan favourites, the "Fabs" were natural opponents for the violent, no-nonsense Sheepherders - their bloody battles sold out many an arena. By 1986, Williams and Miller returned to the mainland USA, specifically to Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation (UWF) (rebranded from Mid-South Wrestling). Miller and Williams again tangled with the team that you could describe as their alternate nemeses - the second incarnation of The Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers).

In-between terrifyingly bloody brawls that threatened life and limb, the Sheepherders found time to participate in the first Jim Crockett Memorial Tag Team Cup on 19th April 1986, dipping out in the quarter finals Fulton and Rogers in a double disqualification brawl. Continuing to travel to where the action was so as to prevent familiarity breeding contempt with the fans, Miller and Williams undertook another brief and bloody tenure in the WWC. When they again returned to their "home away from home", the USA, it was to the florid pastures of Championship Wrestling from Florida (CWF, a.k.a. Florida Championship Wrestling). There, the Sheepherders again found success thanks in no small part to their violent paths crossing with Lane and Keirn once more.

SUMMARY

You'll often find the Sheepherders referred to with euphemisms like "not the greatest of in-ring technicians". Wrestling critics are polarised between those who love of the Sheepherders for their unbridled violence and brawls in the 1980s with the likes of the Fantastics (Fulton and Rogers) and Fabulous Ones (Lane and Keirn), and those who fondly remember their cut-down/streamline brawling and prat-falling antics of the Bushwhackers in WWF's "New Generation" era.

A dividing line can be drawn in the tag team's career between their time as Sheepherders and as the Bushwhackers: vicious, brawling heels as Sheepherders and comedy, sardine-chomping faces as the Bushwhackers. One doesn't erase the other, and licking Gene Okerlund's face doesn't negate the multiple tag team title reigns across the USA and the world. Proclaiming that the Bushwhackers were mere comedy mid-carders (and only comedy mid-carders in the WWF) ignores the fact that Miller and Williams did what they did (brawl and play the brutal villains to the fan favourites), and they did it extremely well.

The simple fact of the matter is that you don't get to have a decades-long professional wrestling career that spans working (at minimum) in Canada, Texas, Florida, Memphis, Oaklahoma, Japan, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand without being survivors and having what the fans will pay to see. On that basis, the Bushwhackers deserve respect if nothing else, and with this induction to the WWE Hall of Fame, that respect is now formalised for the world to see.

NEWS SITES

WWE The Bushwhackers to be inducted into 2015 WWE Hall of Fame http://www.wwe.com/superstars/the-bushwhackers 

WWE Hall of Fame: Bushwhackers with Andre the Giant http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/video.cfm?c_id=1501119&gal_objectid=11406982&gallery_id=148263 

The Bushwhackers to Be Inducted into 2015 WWE Hall of Fame http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2374543-the-bushwhackers-to-be-inducted-into-2015-wwe-hall-of-fame 

BLAIR "the Flair"