Luke Williams - best known to New Zealand wrestling fans as "Cousin Luke" of the Bushwhackers - was born in Auckland and began his decades-long wrestling career in Wellington, NZ "many moons ago", according to the man himself. Trained by NZ legend Bruno Bekker, Luke describes the training conditions as being very good, for that period. The first of many first promoters he worked for circa 1964 was the late, great Al Hobman, himself a legend of New Zealand wrestling.
When asked how many national tours he'd been on, Luke joked that he'd only ten fingers and ten toes on which to count, and that wasn't enough to total up all the national tours on which he'd been! Indeed, Luke estimates that fully two-thirds of his career has been spent working overseas.
Luke's considerable international experience began with Grand Prix which was based in Montreal, Canada and ran three towns a nite over three Provinces. It had a cavalcade of Superstars working for them from Andre The Giant, Killer Kowalski, Bruno Sammatino, Dino Bravo, Gino Britto, Dominic Denucci, BillyTwo Rivers, Sweet Daddy Sikki and the lists goes on and on.
In Calgary, Alberta, Canada Luke wrestled for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling. Luke was in a tag team dubbed The Kiwis (where Luke was billed as "Sweet Williams" and his long-time partner Butch Miller was billed as "Nick Carter"). While in Canada, he and Butch captured the Stampede International Tag Team Championship twice in 1974. Further afield in what would become Luke's home-away-from-home Puerto Rico, Luke and Butch wrestled in the World Wrestling Council as Los Pastores ("The Shepherds"), gaining the WWC North American Tag Team Championship twice in 1981.
Parting briefly from Butch, Luke decided to stay in America continuing to wrestle in the tag team The Sheepherders with Australian 'Lord' Jonathan Boyd (formerly of the Royal Kangaroos tag team). They would wrestle in the South Eastern Championship Wrestling promotion where Luke and Boyd would win the NWA Southeastern Tag Team Championship. The team would also go on to defend the NWA Southeast Tag Team Championship in December 1981. Far from the happy-go-lucky "Cousin Luke" of the Bushwhackers that New Zealand fans know him as,
Luke was a violent "bad guy" during this part of his career, becoming a major draw in those American promotions.
After being "run out" of South Eastern Championship Wrestling by "good guy" tag Team Ron Fuller and Bunkhouse Buck, Luke and Boyd next plied their unique, rough-and-tumble style of wrestling in the American pro wrestling stronghold of Memphis, Tennessee. They debuted in Jerry Jarrett and Jerry "the King" Lawler's Continental Wrestling Association in October 1982. During his time there, Luke and Boyd were involved in many heated bawls with such prestigious teams as Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee and a particularly spectacular and violent feud which pitted the brutal Sheepherders against the fan favourite "pretty boy" team of the Fabulous Ones, Stan Lane and Steve Keirn. Luke and Boyd wrestled the Fabulous Ones throughout late December 1982 and mid-February 1983 for the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship, which Luke and Boyd managed to capture twice.
In late March 1983, Luke and Boyd left Memphis for Southwest Championship Wrestling, where the duo defeated The Grapplers (Len Denton and Tony Anthony) for the Southwest Tag Team Championship in May 1983. When Boyd was injured in a car accident, Luke was unhappy with his mandated replacement partner Bobby Jaggers and was eventually reunited with arguably his most famous comrade-in-arms: his old tag-team partner Butch Miller! Reunited, Luke and Butch battled the Fabulous Ones once again over the SWCW World Tag Team Championship, winning the championship in March 1984 and retaining it until its retirement in September of that year.
Luke and Butch then travelled between the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico (winning the WWC North American Tag Team Championship for the first time in January 1985, and beat the Mike Davis and Tommy Lane for the WWC World Tag Team Championship in August 1986) and Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation in Oklahoma, America (beating Ted DiBiase and "Dr Death" Steve Williams for the UWF Tag Team Championship in March 1986 and winning the title for a second time in October 1987, also participating in the inaugural Jim Crockett Memorial Tag Team Cup, first beating Hector and Chavo Guerrero then the Rock 'n' Roll Express before brawling to a double disqualification with Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers aka the Fantastics) and a spell working for Championship Wrestling from Florida (battling the Fabulous Ones, winning the NWA Florida United States Tag Team Championship in 1986 and the NWA Florida Tag Team Championship in June 1987).
Luke is most remembered by New Zealand fans and also around the world for being one half of the Bushwhackers in the then-WWF. Distinctively different in attitude from the Sheepherders, the Bushwhackers were famous for being lovable fan favourites, their distinctive arm-swinging walk, comedy television vignettes, "battering ram" double-team manoeuvre and famous "Wooah!"/"Yeahh!". During their stay in the WWF, Luke and Butch would notable feud with the dastardly Fabulous Rougeau Brothers and Rhythm and Blues (Greg Valentine and the Honky Tonk Man). Luke even holds the dubious distinction of being the quickest-eliminated contestant at the 1991 Royal Rumble, when Earthquake (John Tenta) grabbed Luke as he was entering, dragged across the ring in a straight line and threw him over the top rope in four seconds; Luke proceeded to leave the arena without missing a single step using the Bushwhackers' trademark arm-swinging walk! Luke and Butch would stay with the WWF until 1996, moving on to sporadic appearances in the American independent wrestling scene.
When he and Butch parted professional company in 2001, Luke started working in the International Wrestling Association office in Puerto Rico as a booker. Luke worked there until mid-2008 when he received a call from old friend the Honky Tonk Man to join him on the road for some independent wrestling legend shows and conventions. To this day, Luke enjoys meeting a lot of his fans from his past as well as meeting up with a lot of new fans.
Given the sheer ground he's covered and the length of his stellar career, even Luke struggles to remember all the promotors he's worked for over the decades! Starting out with Al Hobman and Steve Rickard in NZ, the list of promotions in which Luke has wrestled with various partners reads like a "who's who" of wrestling organisations - Vern Gagne's American Wrestling Alliance, the National Wrestling Alliance, Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation, Paul Heyman's Extreme Championship Wrestling, Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling, Bill Watts' Universal Wrestling Federation, South-West Championship Wrestling, World Wide Wrestling Alliance, the World Wrestling Council in Puerto Rico and numerous American independent promotions.
Luke remembers wrestling a great deal of very tough tag teams all over the planet during his career. Amongst his toughest opponents, he counts Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson, Tugboat and Earthquake, The Fabulous Ones, and Dick Murdock and Manny Fernandez as really giving him a run for his money. When pressed, he admits that maybe the strongest team he's faced was The Warlord and Barbarian (aka The Powers of Pain), as by Luke's admission the massive pair were, "... both were animals in the gym, each benching well over 600 pounds (272 kilograms)!"
Naturally, Luke has a veritable lifetime's worth of memory and experiences from his wrestling career. When asked to provide some of his best memories from his nearly forty year career, Luke's recalled a show held in the "old" Wembley Stadium in London, England. There, he participated in a six man tag team match (with Butch) and WWF mainstay Hacksaw Jim Duggan against the team of the Mountie Jacques Rougeau and the Nasty Boys. Luke recalls the fan favourite team being so popular with the crowd of over 94,000 screaming wrestling fans that all as required was Butch's "Woooooh!", Luke's Yeahhh and Duggan's "Hooooooo!" rallying call to send the audience completely wild!
Another time that stands out in Luke's mind was when he was in a battle royal in Madison Square Gardens in New York City in the late eighties. He and Butch we were in the ring when Hulk Hogan was introduced - and the crowd noise immediately leaped to a level he had never heard before. The audience reaction to Hogan's entrance was so electrifying that Luke vividly remembers the hair on his arms standing up!
Sadly, the worst memories Luke has of his career centre around getting "short-changed" by unscrupulous promoters on payoffs when arenas were sold out, an unfortunate risk in any wrestler's career.
Over the course of his life in professional wrestling, Luke Williams has won far too many tag team and singles championship to list here in their entirety. The young man who began his wrestling journey in Wellington has since travelled all over the world following his passion and carved a name for himself as a true legend of New Zealand wrestling!