Former WWF star Bushwhacker Luke will wrestle in Janesville
He's been cheered and booed by thousands, and he has kissed the tops of the heads of nearly that many.
Bushwhacker Luke has been in the professional wrestling business since 1962 and was one of the main characters during WWE's (then the WWF) primetime run in the early 1990s.
On Saturday night, Bushwhacker Luke—his actual name is Brian Wickens—will appear as part of the Janesville Wrestling Alliance's “September to Remember” card at the Pontiac Convention Center.
Bushwhacker Luke—we'll refer to him as that—is from New Zealand, which is apparent as soon as he answers his cellphone.
“How ya doin', mate?” he says in a Crocodile Dundee-like accent.
Luke is 66—“and in a few months the clock turns another year,” he says—and is prepared to give Janesville fans a show.
“Saturday I'm going to do the same thing I've done at Madison Square Garden,” Luke said. “I'm giving them what they know about the Bushwhacker and the WWE. I'll be licking a few heads.”
For those non-WWE devotees back in the '90s, Luke and his long-time tag-team partner Bushwhacker Butch (Butch Miller) made their entrance to the ring with arms swinging and licking each other's heads, opponents' heads, referees' heads and fans' heads.
Vince McMahon, the czar of pro wrestling, cast them as “comedy” wrestlers. That was quite the contrast to what Luke and Butch had been for most of their careers, when as “The Sheepherders” they were “heels” or bad guys in many associations.
“We were hard-core wrestlers before hard core,” Luke said. “We did stuff in '79 and '80 like barb-wire matches.
“When Vince brought us from the NWA (National Wrestling Alliance) to WWF, he changed our style. Going from hard-core to comedy was easy.”
While the arm swinging and head licking made both Luke and Butch celebrities, Luke missed the days when old ladies in the front row would yell unkind things about him.
“I enjoyed being a villain,” Luke said. “It was easy for us. We were foreigners. I liked to get people shaking their fists and getting them out of their seats.”
The Bushwhackers had some memorable feuds in the WWF, including spats with Rhythm and Blues (Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine).
Luke's two fondest memories are wrestling at Wembley Stadium in London and Madison Square Garden in New York City.
There were 94,000 fans at Wembley, when the Bushwhackers teamed with Hacksaw Jim Duggan against the Nasty Boys and Mountie.
“The noise was so loud,” Luke said. “I thought it was going to explode.”
The memorable Madison Square Garden match was a battle royal, which included Hogan.
“That's when Hulkamania was running rampant,” Luke said. “The noise level was way up there.”
When Hulk was introduced last, the Garden went nuts.
“The hair on my arms stood up,” Luke said.
Luke got out of the business in 2001. Butch suffered a neck injury and then had a staph infection, which forced his retirement.
Several of the WWF wrestlers were into drugs, a road that Luke avoided.
Luke began working behind the scenes, writing match scripts and booking matches. He was doing much of his work in Puerto Rico, where wrestling was on the TV network Telemundo four hours a week.
In 2008, his retirement ended. It was the Honky Tonk Man (Ray Farris) who ended it. Farris almost severed his index finger and could not wrestle.
“Honky Tonk Man asked me to fill in for him,” Luke said. “I hadn't put the boots on in eight years. I took a month of his bookings.”
And he has been back at it since then. Last weekend he was in Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif. He will be in Janesville on Saturday night and then has four dates in Kentucky and Tennessee next week.
Luke now lives in Clearwater Beach, Fla., where he runs a fitness center. Hogan lives nearby.
He plans to continue making appearances until his body says it's time to give it up.
“I tried to sit at home and relax, but I just got bored,” Luke said.
So he'll be here Saturday night, licking as many heads as he can, mate.