The Bushwackers are undoubtedly one of the most iconic and recognisable tag teams in WWE history. Despite wearing camouflage, not many teams would stand out more! From that distinct march to the ring, to licking the heads of everyone in sight, the team formerly known as The Sheepherders firmly established their place in the hearts of wrestling fans – and in the WWE Hall of Fame!
Following the shock announcement that Luke Williams and Butch Miller, now 74 and 76 years old, are returning to the ring for the first time in 20 years, Inside The Ropes‘ Lead Writer Gary Cassidy sat down with the iconic tag team to find out all about that decision, as well as to chat about some of their memories from WWF, about working with Vince McMahon, how they ended up as part of the extended Dudley family in ECW and much more.
So, firstly, before we go back in time a little, I guess we need to start with 2021, the here and now, and your return to wrestling! So, I’ve only saw the press release, which says you’re getting back in the ring. Are you actually going to be competing in matches, and how did the decision come about to return?
Luke: Well, we’re going to be back on tour this year, through 2021-2022. Butch will be on the outside of the ring and I’ll be on the inside of the ring for people but we’ll be doing a lot of events. Signings, virtual signings… Whatever they want, The Bushwhackers will be there to do it. If we have to kick some arse, I’ll be doing the arse-kicking and Butch will be doing the head-licking. Not while the virus is on.
Butch: And the good thing about it is for the first time ever, we’re coming back as The Bushwhackers, and The Sheepherders, and the Kiwis, and Los Pastores all in one! You get the whole bloody package! You get a “whoah”, you get a “yay”, you get everything you want. You get a licking, you get a hiding. You see blood and guts. It’s going to be one hell of a time, and an enormous amount of fun and bloody games – because they’ve run us out of the shearing shed, they’ve opened up the bloody doors . Never have they seen the Bushwhackers, and The Sheepherders in the ring as one. Can you believe that?!
Everybody’s definitely going to get value for their money then! Now, you mentioned The Sheepherders, and we will get into that, but I want to ask about you guys becoming The Bushwackers, if that’s OK. I was pretty young when I watched you guys, as I found out today you left WWF in 1996! The larger than life characters definitely made an impression though as I remember that iconic march to the ring. How did you come up with that?
Luke: Well, when we were heels, The Sheepherders, when we went out the ring, we always threw our arms up and screamed at the fans. “Whoah!” and “Yay!” as heels to try and scare them and that and we swung arms around. So when we became the Bushwackers, Butch said to me, “How about going to the ring, swinging our arms, and the marching thing?” I bitched, I said my shoulders are screwed up… [Luke spells out “f***ed] He said, “Do you want to make money?” So hence we became, as Jesse Ventura used to say, the Governor of Minnesota, we become the marching morons.
Butch: I took him out to the paddocks, and I got him after those bloody sheep, and he started the march because they were quite fast at running – and he was running after those woolly girls. And I’ll tell you what, those arms were swinging pretty bloody smartly because I was always beating him to the best looking one.
Of course, you were best known as The Bushwhackers in WWF, but you had quite the run as The Sheepherders. Was there ever talk of being The Sheepherders in the WWF, and how or why did you become the Bushwhackers? What was that decision?
Luke: It wasn’t our decision, mate. It was Caesar’s! Vince’s! He wanted to he wanted to promote us, sell merchandise and he wanted to own the name – so that’s how that name came. Right, Cousin Butch?
Butch: Right, Cousin Luke! And now they’re not sure whether they’re got to see The Sheepherders or The Bushwhackers or The Sheepwhackers or The Bush-herders. Who knows what’s going to be coming through that dressing room, out into the arenas.
Luke: That New Zealand flag will be flying again, mate! This will be our second or third run to conquer the countries we go to. Just like that Kiwi went up on the top of Mount Everest and planted the flag in the 1950s.
Butch: Edmund Hillary!
You mentioned a name there, “Caesar” or Vince McMahon. What was your relationship like with Vince?
Luke: Very good, mate. Very good.
Butch: Yeah, we had a fantastic relationship with Vince. When we went up there and he said, “Guys, I would like to maybe turn you good guys,” and blah, blah, blah and I got up on his table, right in front of him, I’d never met him before, my face was about two inches from his face. I was on his desk, on my hands and knees. And I said, “Vince, if you want us babyfaces with faces like this, you go right ahead!
Luke:Vince turned around. He says, “Look at my top babyfaces – Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan – Have they got pretty mugs?
I’m not sure if we should get into a beauty contest between you guys and Hulk Hogan…
Butch: We’d win hands-down!
Well, you just mentioned there about Vince McMahon wanting The Bushwhackers to be babyfaces. As a kid watching WWF, I only remember you guys being a face team and obviously you left in 1996. I mean, that speaks volumes for you guys in how memorable the work was, but a lot of tag teams normally turn heel, or turn on each other, to prolong their run, freshen things up and give them a new lease of life. Was that ever discussed as a possibility?
Butch: That’s what was normally done, and Luke even suggested that to him – because normally you would come into a territory and you would come in like we were. Really, we were one of the roughest, or possibly were THE roughest, toughest tag team in the wrestling business at that time. Normally, you would come in and do a change in a match and you change from one to the other or, after you’ve been wrestling for a few years, then you do a split with your partner.
But Luke and I, we never, ever did a split in all our wrestling history, except in the very first six months of us being in the business. And that was mainly Luke wrestling with me so we could save the night because the other guys were a piece of s**t. We were supposed to wrestle them and they were so bad that Luke and I split each other up so one of us was one one side and one of us was on the other. That why, we had a hell of a match. That’s the only way.
Even Vince never wanted to split us. He said, “With you guys, the people love you guys so much and he used to say this. Every time he saw us, he said, “I can’t believe how much the public loves you guys. We cannot split you up.”
Luke: And at the end of our run, near the end of the run, I actually said to him, “Turn us heel.” This was this was about 1996, because we we finished in 1996, start of ’97. That’s when we had our last run with WWF. He said, “No, the people wouldn’t accept you as heels.”
I still can’t believe it was 1996 you left WWF – but to that point, I was a huge ECW fan as a kid, and I know you guys ended up in ECW as members of the extended Dudley family, but only very briefly, how did the ECW stuff come about and was there a reason it wasn’t longer?
Luke: Yes, they booked us. We were working independently after WWE and we had like Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Paul E Dangerously – or Paul Heyman – he booked us for a weekend, three shows, as the Dudleys from Down Under. We worked… The program they were looking for us to work was against Sandman and his partner, I don’t know who it was, because they wanted some blood and guts matches and we were coming in as the Dudleys.
What happened though. After we worked that weekend, he said, “I’d like to start you.” And I told him, I said, “We’ve got a bookings for a month.” We were booked up for six months ahead, but the months right after that, the next week, the next week, next week… I didn’t want to cancel because we were on my marquees for all of these independent promoters and if we put our names, we’d kill their bloody shows. With a month or two weeks to go, they couldn’t hire talent for that spot. They were good to us, these independent promoters.
So I told Paul that it would be a month before we could start, sent the message to him, and of course, he wanted us there and then. He said, “You don’t want to come down now? I don’t want you.”
So, I want to skip forward a bit to my last memory of you guys, before the Hall of Fame, is a really fond one – and that’s the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X7. Are those memories as fond for you as they are me? Tell me a little bit about that experience.
Butch: Yeah, well, that was… Believe it or not, we were so worn out when we got there. We had been wrestling independents up in California the night before, and most of the guys for that Battle Royal would come in two or three days beforehand because all of Vince’s pay-per-views, he would take you in three or four days beforehand. But Luke had made this booking for us well in advance and we had got the booking for the Royal Rumble. So being the guys we are, we didn’t want to let the promoter down in California, so we did that show, then they raced us back to the airport, we got on the redeye, which goes all through the night. And we arrived, I think that was in Texas.
Luke: Houston. Houston, Texas. We went into Dallas and then into Houston.
Butch: So, we flew all night, and they picked us up straight away from the airport, took us to the hotel, gave us a half an hour to have a shower, and we were taken the limo straight to the event – and that was it.
We were really dragging, and then when Vince said, “I want you guys to go out first and together to get the crowd popping,” that’s what we did and, boy, when we marched out there with the music played and the people were going apes**t !
Luke: We were knackered and, when we heard those people, f**k, it was like electricity going through your body.
So, probably my most memorable moment from The Bushwhackers as a kid, one of them was seeing you guys against the Natural Disasters and the other one was, of course, SummerSlam in the United Kingdom, at Wembley. I hope that one is up there for you, too, but what was your most memorable moment in wrestling?
Luke: That’s it, mate! That last show at the old Wembley Stadium. You know, we were tagged up with… “Hoooo!” ..Hacksaw Jim Duggan, who’s been a good friend of ours because we knew him way back, we knew him back in the early ’80s when he first started. He’s with us against the Nasty Boys and Rougeau… Yeah, I mean, when you walk out with 94,600 people just looking down at you – and we would open the show, so all those people have been sitting there for an hour. Tell him, Butch!
Butch: the reason why, of course, Vince put us on there was because he knew he was going to get the pop of the night. When he announced, “From New Zealand, blah, blah, blah, Luke and Butch, The Bushwhackers…” and we marched out, and Duggan behind us, we were pumping the arms, Duggan had the flag, the 4×2…
Luke: Duggan had the cross-eyes!
Butch: He had the cross-eyes! He’s a lovely guy. We love Jim Duggan. But anyway, we got in the ring and we’d all march to one side and Duggan was marching just like us and one of us would go, “WHOAH!” And the other one of us go, “YAY!” And Duggan would go, “HOOOO!”
Well, we did that for about five minutes. We could have been doing it for an hour and the people still would have been popping, but we had to get on with the match. But what a great time we had. Jeez, it was good. The noise was unbelievable. The loudest crowd I’ve ever had. Mind you, it was the biggest crowd that we’ve ever been in front of live! Don’t forget, at Wembley Stadium, not only did they pack all the stands, but they had the whole grass with the ringside seats, which held thousands again. So it was a record crowd for Wembley.
Not only was it a record crowd – that particular night, they sold more merchandise than anyone has ever done in the Wembley Stadium. They sold double the merchandise that Madonna and Michael Jackson did together.
Luke: I’ve just got to say, another one for me and Butch, I’m going to cut it short. This is in the ’80s, mate, in a battle royal in MSG, the Mecca for sports and entertainment, Madison Square Garden. We’re in a Battle Royal there in the ’80s and the last person out is Hulk Hogan. When he came out to that ring, Butch could put his mouth in my ear and talk to me, and tell me something, I couldn’t hear him. The bloody hands on my arm, in that f***ing arena, that’s when Hulkamania was running wild, WrestleMania’s wild, everything in the ’80s. That was the second highlight of my life and I think of Butch’s too.
Butch: Yeah. Absolutely.
So, you guys are one of the most iconic tag teams and you will be returning to the ring, Butch on the outside and Luke on the inside. There are some great tag teams creating the own legacy, like FTR and The Young Bucks. Who are you looking forward to facing? Who’s the one talent you’d like to wrestle before you hang up the boots?
Luke: It doesn’t matter! I’m so used to it. At the moment, on the independent circuit, there’s quite a lot of ex WWF guys out there that I worked with before – but I think the one that we could blow it away with is Honky Tonk Man.
Butch: You’ve got to remember that, over the years, Luke and I have wrestled in over 65 different countries around the world, we’ve held over 40 tag team titles between us, we’ve both had over 14,000 wrestling matches each. Believe me, you put them in the ring, we’ll wrestle them. I don’t give a s**t WHO they are! How big they are! You put us in there as The Sheepherders, The Bushwhackers, Los Pastores, The Kiwis – it doesn’t bloody matter. We’ll just lick the buggers to death, like we’ve done all our lives.
Luke: The names we’ve worked with, The Rock’s grandfather. We both worked with him in Australia and New Zealand, and Butch worked with them on the 10th anniversary in Samoa. And here’s another one, Killer Kowalski, who sold out Madison Square Garden in the ’60s and ’70s, we wrestled him. And another one – Stu Hart, Bret Hart’s father. Dynamite Kid. Butch and me against Stu Hart, Bret Hart and Bruce Hart.
Butch: Well, not only Peter Maivia, who’s The Rock’s grandfather, but we also wrestled against The Rock’s father, many many times, Rocky Johnson.
Luke: Over in Australia, New Zealand, America, the Rock’s father Rocky, God bless him, we worked with him everywhere.
Let’s end with something hopefully a little out of the ordinary. You guys said it there, if you can’t beat them, you’ll lick them! What I want to know, who was least, or most, pleasant person to lick?
Luke: You better ask Butch about that.
Butch: One of the worst people that I ever licked was, we were on a sitcom called Family Matters. She had so much makeup and goo on, I didn’t notice it. As soon as I licked her, my throat started closing up, and this was a rehearsal before the live audience was let in. So now, we had to carry on, and I did the rest of that show and I couldn’t even swallow my own spit, let alone anything else.
So, silly me. Now, the next day comes the rehearsal. Now they let in a live audience. The live audience comes, now we’re ready for the final taping. Cameras are all set and everything, music goes, out we walk. Up jumps this Sheila. I get carried away again, don’t even think, I grab it and I give her the biggest bloody licking she’s ever had. On her face that is.
Luke: It wasn’t Down Under!
Butch: It was not Down Under! And then, for God’s sake, my throat closed up. The whole thing happened again. And I thought, “You stupid bloody bugger!”
Luke: She was especially put there, she was a former American Gladiator. She was pretty muscled up, and she jumped up all excited, and Butch grabbed her. She was just pounding, and Butch grabbed her and gave her the… [He licks the air]
And one final one is, do you have any dates set yet, and where will we be able to see you?
Luke: We just spoke to people there. To the Inside The Ropes readers, the people in Glasgow, Scotland and all of the UK, we’re looking forward to coming to Glasgow and other parts of Scotland. We’ll even go out and graze some grass like the sheep. I’ll have to keep a leash on Butch, though, because I know Scotland’s like New Zealand. It’s green and there’s plenty of sheep – and haggis!
Thank you so much, and keep a watch on our Instagram pages, our Facebook pages, Bushwhacker Luke and Bushwhacker Butch, and you’ll see when The Bushwhackers come to your country. We We won’t be flying in, we’ll be marching in. Beware.
Butch: We’re on the march, Bushwhackers! Here we come! YAY!