Meadville Tribune

August 16, 2013

Prepare to get 'bushwhacked' at pro wrestling event

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — Cue the arm-pumping and face-licking — Cousin Luke is coming to town.

Luke Williams, former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar and half of legendary tag team The Bushwhackers, is expected to add his expertise to the A Fair Amount of Insanity free wrestling show at the Crawford County Fair today at noon.

While wrestling fans may remember Luke Williams mainly for his quirky character and wild antics, behind that toothless grin lies about five decades of wrestling experience across most, if not all, inhabited continents.

So what’s it like to go from a packed arena, tens of thousands of screaming fans, to the county fairgrounds?

“It’s like coming back to my roots, mate,” Williams said. “It just shows you, life’s a cycle.”

Williams spent his first years in the business wrestling in fairs around his home country of New Zealand in the early 1960s.

Over the course of his career, he would wrestle in front of progressively larger crowds in more than 40 countries, including Japan, Canada, England, Puerto Rico, Australia and, of course, the U.S.

“I go to towns that love wrestling,” he said. “It’s more personal. You get to meet and greet all the fans, take a photo with them, sign some autographs; it’s entertainment you won’t get from a big company.”

Big companies also don’t present too many opportunities to mentor up-and-coming wrestlers working the independent circuit, just one of the ways WIlliams keeps busy when he’s not pumping arms in the ring.

“This is my philosophy; I already worked around the world before coming to the U.S. and working for WWE,” he said. “These guys, they’re coming up and I want to help them. I want to see the business survive.”

Meeting Crawford County’s performers, as well as his local fans, is a definite selling point for Williams as he makes his way to Pennsylvania

“Suddenly I’m looking forward to be back,” he said. “I haven’t been in western Pennsylvania for maybe 15 or 20 years. We had great fans there; we entertained all ages from kids to old people.”

The Bushwhackers entertained folks from just about all walks of life as well, judging by several appearances on popular television shows like “Family Matters” during their peak WWE years.

“We changed from being nasty wrestlers to celebrities,” Williams laughed, thinking back on his and Butch’s late to post-’80s transition into the WWE from prior wrestling organizations where they were known as The Sheepherders, a couple of heel characters — bad guys — not above the grittier matches. He and Butch remain friends and he continued wrestling even after Butch retired several years ago for medical reasons. He remembers his friend and fellow Bushwacker fondly.

“We were hardcore before hardcore was a brand name,” Williams said. “We were doing fire matches, cage matches, barbed-wire matches; people asked how we could be the Bushwhackers after the Sheepherders.”

Williams admits he enjoyed playing the bad guy before his WWE days, although coming out of the arena to slashed tires and broken car windows — gifts from the more overzealous fans — weren’t too glorifying.

But in the end, it’s about telling a story. The heroes need the crowd’s love and the villains have to be hated.

“People buy tickets, hit main events, to see the good guy beat the bad guy,” Williams said. “I’ve tried to instill that philosophy. We as wrestlers go out to entertain people. We’re there to let people get their stress out; get them to scream, yell and have a good time.”

And that’s exactly the kind of atmosphere Williams hope to perpetuate at A Fair Amount of Insanity.

“I go out there and do what I can do,” he said. “I've done it all my life. It's in my blood.”

You can go

A Fair Amount of Insanity, sponsored by MadMar Entertainment, will be held at noon today in the Youth Show Arena.

The event is free and open to the public.