The Bushwhackers were a professional wrestling tag team that also competed as The Sheepherders during their long career. They wrestled in the World Wrestling Federation and Jim Crockett Promotions as well as a nearly 40-year run on the independent wrestling circuit. The Bushwhackers consisted of Luke Williams and Butch Miller, while the Sheepherders also included Jonathan Boyd and Rip Morgan as members at times.
Luke Williams and Butch Miller started wrestling as "The Kiwi Sheepherders" for NWA New Zealand (later known as All-Star Pro Wrestling) in 1964, where they achieved a great deal of regional success. The duo was brought to America in 1965 by fellow New Zealander Steve Rickard, who was also the booker for “NWA Hawaii”.
Williams and Miller initially worked in Canada for various promotions, most notably Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, billed as "The Kiwis" (Miller was known as “Nick Carter” and Williams was known as “Sweet Williams”). The Kiwis began their first recorded title reign by defeating Bob Pringle and Bill Cody for the Stampede International Tag Team Championship on January 6, 1974. The Kiwis lost the title to Tokyo Joe and the Great Saki, only to regain it a short time later. The Kiwis lost the title for good to Stan Kowalski and Duke Savage, and were unsuccessful in subsequent rematches.
The Sheepherders then worked for the World Wrestling Council as "Los Pastores". A short time into their run with WWC, they defeated Puerto Rican legends Carlos Colon and Invader I for the WWC North American Tag Team Championship, defending it for a month and a half until being defeated by “Los Medicos”. Los Pastores regained the belts on May 22, and held them until coming up short against Jack and Jerry Brisco on August 8, 1981.
The New Sheepherder
After the team left WWC, Miller decided he wanted to move closer to home and went to Australia to wrestle. Williams remained in the United States, determined to keep the "Sheepherders" name on everyone’s lips by reforming the team with "Lord" Jonathan Boyd (Formerly of the Royal Kangaroos). The duo of Williams and Boyd quickly gained a reputation as one of the most violent, hard hitting teams in the business. One of the first people to feel the wrath of the new Sheepherders was Robert Fuller in South Eastern Championship Wrestling. In late 1981, Robert Fuller and Jos LeDuc had split up after LeDuc turned on Fuller during a match. LeDuc brought in the Sheepherders to be a part of his "Commonwealth Connection" stable to fight against Robert Fuller and the entire Fuller family. In December 1981, the Sheepherders won the NWA Southeast Tag Team Championship, which had been vacated when Fuller and LeDuc split, and defended the title against Robert Fuller and various partners, including his brother Ron Fuller, and his cousin Jimmy Golden (later known as Bunkhouse Buck). The Sheepherders became the most despised heels in SECW after the duo attacked and injured (storyline) Jimmy's father, Billy Golden. The Sheepherders kept the upper hand in this feud for months, as Robert Fuller recruited partner after partner in futile attempts to defeat them. On 11 September 1982, the Sheepherders finally lost to Fuller and Golden, ending the feud on a high note for the faces, as the Sheepherders were "run out" of the territory.
Boyd and Williams next appeared in the Memphis, Tennessee based promotion Continental Wrestling Association run by Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler. Making their debut in October 1982, the team quickly became involved in a heated feud with Jacques Rougeau (who wrestled in Memphis as Jerry Roberts at that point) and Terry Taylor, clashing weekly with them at the Mid-South Coliseum, with the Sheepherders brawling their way to victory time and again. Taylor and Rougeau redeemed themselves in the end by defeating the Sheepherders in a brutal "Coal Miner's Glove" match. The resilient Sheepherders returned to the ring later that same night and defeated the territory's main stars Jerry Lawler and Bill Dundee.
The next feud of Boyd and Williams' was arguably their most memorable and certainly their most bloody and brutal; a long running series of heated encounters with The Fabulous Ones (Stan Lane and Steve Keirn). The contrast between the “pretty boy”-styled, technically polished Fabulous Ones and the ugly, brawling savage Sheepherders made them effective opponents and repeatedly drew big crowds wherever they fought. The series of matches started out fairly evenly, with the Fabulous Ones and the Sheepherders splitting the wins, but soon turned brutal, and bouts often ended without a definite winner. In late 1982, the Sheepherders won the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship from The Fabulous Ones, which seemingly turned the intensity of the matches up a notch. Between late December 1982 and mid-February 1983, the title switched hands between the teams 4 times, with The Fabulous Ones ending up champions in the end. On 28 March 1983, the Sheepherders wrestled their last match in the Mid-South Coliseum before leaving the CWA.
Boyd and Williams resurfaced in Southwest Championship Wrestling only weeks later, continuing their brutal and destructive ways. Their first targets were the reigning Southwest Tag Team Champions “The Grapplers” (Len Denton and Tony Anthony). In May 1983, the Sheepherders defeated Dinksy for the title through nefarious means; before the match Williams and Boyd had bribed the Grapplers’ manager Don Carson, and he promised they would become tag team champions. Carson turned on the Grapplers mid-match to ensure the Sheepherders’ victory. The Sheepherders' run with the gold was short lived; in June, Jonathan Boyd legitimately broke his leg in a car accident, causing SWCW to name Bobby Jaggers as his replacement. After Williams and Jaggers lost a non-title match to Bob Sweetan and Sweet Brown Sugar, Williams turned on Jaggers and the title was vacated. While Boyd was out with the broken leg, Williams was reunited with his old tag-team partner Butch Miller, straight in from Australia.
Butch Miller Returns
Williams and Miller stayed with SWCW through the rest of 1983, and into 1984, when the team came head to head with the Fabulous Ones once again; this time the prize they fought over was the SWCW World Tag Team Championship. The Fabulous Ones had supposedly won the title in Australia, though it is generally believed the tournament they won to be crowned was actually a fabrication made up by SWCW. The Sheepherders dethroned The Fabulous Ones on 4 March, and would hold the title until the it was retired by SWCW in September 1984. The next major stop for the Miller and Williams was a return to Puerto Rico and the WWC, this time competing as “The Sheepherders” instead of “Los Pastores”. On 6 January 1985 they defeated Invader I and Invader III for the WWC North American Tag Team Championship in Bayamon, PR. They would lose and then regain the titles from Invaders I & III in March, and then hold on to the gold until August, when the Invaders won it back.
Jonathan Boyd and Rip Morgan
While the Sheepherders were enjoying the weather and the action in Puerto Rico, another Sheepherders team was spreading destruction all over the CWA in Memphis. For the first time, a Sheepherder team existed without Luke Williams as a member, as Jonathan Boyd teamed up with Rip Morgan (former flag bearer for the Sheepherders) to continue the legacy of violence under the name “The Kiwi Sheepherders”. Boyd and Morgan quickly made a mark on Memphis by beating their recurring nemeses, the Fabulous Ones, for the AWA Southern Tag Team Championship on 17 June 1985. The team was soon stripped of the titles due to their excessive cheating, but had the titles returned to them when they threatened to sue CWA management. Instead of taking the belts from the Kiwi Sheepherders by bureaucratically stripping them away, the Fabulous Ones took them from them the old fashioned way – beating them 4 times in a row between 5 September and 12 October. After the series of violent matches with the Fabulous Ones came to an end, The Kiwi Sheepherders began feuding with another team that would eventually turn out to be a constant thorn in their side: the Fantastics (Bobby Fulton and Tommy Rogers). In the winter of 1985, the Kiwi Sheepherders and the Fantastics traded wins back and forth with no side gaining a clear advantage in the feud. In January 1986, the Kiwi Sheepherders defeated the team of Koko Ware and Rick Casey as well as team of Tojo Yamamoto and Dirty Rhodes to reach the finals of a tournament to crown new Southern Tag Team Champions, but they fell in the finals to the Fantastics. This loss only intensified the Sheepherders’ anger, bringing the feud to its high point as the two teams clashed in a “No DQ Loser Leaves Town” match on 20 January 1986. The Kiwi Sheepherders lost and left Memphis, while the Fantastics rode a new wave of popularity gained from the feud.
When Williams and Miller returned to mainland USA and Bill Watts' UWF, they quickly reminded everyone who the original Sheepherders were by beating Ted DiBiase and Steve Williams for the UWF Tag Team Championship on 16 March 1986, but fell to their namesake’s enemies The Fantastics on 30 March in Tulsa, OK. The Sheepherders continued for the UWF on and off over the next couple of years, taking time out to participate in the first ever Jim Crockett Memorial Tag Team Cup, in which they beat Hector and Chavo Guerrero, Sr. in the first round, then downed The Rock 'n' Roll Express in the second round. In the third round, they clashed with the Fantastics in an out of control brawl that ended in a double DQ. The winners of this match would have gone on to face eventual tournament winners the Road Warriors in the next round. Back in the UWF for its big “Mid South Superdome Show”, The Sheepherders clashed with The Fantastics once more; this time Williams and Miller lost in a “New Zealand Boot camp” match to the UWF Tag champions.
After being unable to beat the Fantastics in several rematches, The Sheepherders traveled back to Puerto Rico during the summer of 1986 and beat the Rock’N’Roll RPMs (Mike Davis and Tommy Lane) for the WWC World Tag Team Championship on 3 August. They defended the titles for about 6 weeks before losing them back to the RPMs on 21 September. When this short run with the WWC ended, Williams and Miller sought new challenges and traveled to Florida where they worked for Championship Wrestling from Florida. There, The Sheepherders came across their old archenemies, the Fabulous Ones, instantly rekindling their violent feud. On 7 October, The Sheepherders ended The Fabulous Ones’ first reign with the NWA Florida United States Tag Team Championship, and would keep them away in rematches until Lane and Keirn finally got the better of them on 30 November, and regained the belts.
In late November 1986, the Kiwi Sheepherders returned to the CWA. Boyd and Morgan (now billed as “Bigfoot”) cut through the competition and won their fourth Southern Tag Team Championship when they beat Jeff Jarrett and Billy Joe Travis in the finals of a tournament. Their run with the titles was brief, as Jarrett and Travis won the titles a week later, and then ran The Kiwi Sheepherders out of the CWA in a “Loser Leaves Town” match a week after that.
The Kiwi Sheepherders had hardly left the Memphis area before Williams and Miller, the original Sheepherders, entered the territory. On 10 January, they beat the up-and-coming team of Badd Company (Pat Tanaka and Paul Diamond for the CWA/AWA International Tag Team Championship but lost it back to Badd Company as fast as they had won it. After the quick feud with Badd Company, The Sheepherders once again became entangled in a feud with the Fabulous Ones. In what would turn out to the last series between the Sheepherders and the Fabulous Ones, Keirn and Lane dominated the matches and once again “ran off” the Sheepherders.
After leaving Memphis, The Sheepherders were invited to participate in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s “IWGP Tag Team Title League 1987”. The round-robin tournament took place from 23 February to 20 March, with The Sheepherders finishing in the bottom three of the standings. They only made a brief stay with New Japan, opting to return to Puerto Rico and the WWC. Here they started a bloody feud with Chris and Mark Youngblood, which drew large crowds. The feud saw Williams and Miller win the WWC World Tag Team Championship on 4 April, and then defend it until the Youngbloods regained the gold on 10 May in a steel cage match.
After their spring run with the WWC, The Sheepherders returned to Florida and instantly became challengers for Mike Graham and Steve Keirn’s NWA Florida Tag Team Championship. On 26 June 1987, they added that title to their resume by brawling and cheating. A month later, The Sheepherders defended their Florida Tag Team title at the Great American Bash from the Miami Orange Bowl, brawling to a double disqualification with Jimmy and Ron Garvin. Their run with the title came to an end on August 29 at the hands of Graham and Keirn.
After losing the Florida titles Williams and Miller returned to the UWF and began a second run with the UWF World Tag Team Championship after beating Lightning Express (Brad Armstrong and Tim Horner) on 16 October. The Sheepherders held the belts until the UWF was bought out by Jim Crockett and merged into Jim Crockett Promotions, to form the forerunner of WCW. After this merger, The Sheepherders worked for JCP, participating in the third Jim Crockett, Sr. Memorial Tag Team Tournament Cup. They beat the “Cruel Connection” in the first round, then defeated Tim Horner and Brad Armstrong in the second round. The Sheepherders then faced and lost to The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane), Also in the second round. At Clash of the Champions II, they faced off against the NWA United States Tag Team Champions, The Fantastics, in a losing effort. At Clash of the Champions III, they lost to Steve Williams and Nikita Koloff, despite the interference of Rip Morgan on their behalf. Just as it looked like the Sheepherders were about to face the Fantastics in the finals of a tournament to crown new United States Tag Team champions, Luke Williams and Butch Miller signed with Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation.
Williams and Miller debuted with the WWF in the midst of its aggressive national expansion, giving them greater exposure than they had ever had before. The team's name was changed to The Bushwhackers, and they changed their violent style to a comedic style which was an instant hit with WWF fans. The comedy act involved licking (each other as well as their opponents), exaggerated arm movements, and more. The Bushwhackers made their WWF in-ring debut on 3 January 1989 at a WWF Superstars of Wrestling taping.
Only a few days into their run with the WWF, the Bushwhackers had their first match with a team they would encounter repeatedly over the next year and a half, The Bolsheviks (Boris Zhukov & Nikolai Volkoff). In February the Bushwhackers began a feud with The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers, the first feud to really feature the Bushwhackers on WWF television. The two teams would take their conflict to WrestleMania V which saw the Bushwhackers victorious in their WWF Pay Per View debut as a team. The WrestleMania match was not the end of the Bushwhackers/Rougeau feud as the teams clashed again on the 14 October edition of Saturday Night's Main Event (taped 21 September), once again the Bushwhackers were victorious. The Bushwhackers and the Rougeaus would clash twice more, first at the 1989 Survivor Series and again at the 1990 Royal Rumble both times with the Bushwhackers getting the best of the Rougeau brothers.
During this time the Bushwhackers began to feature in a long series of comedic vignettes, usually subjecting ”Mean” Gene Okerlund to their wild and wacky ways (and sardine eating antics). These vignettes were often featured on Coliseum Home Video releases where they served as the “link” between matches.
The Bushwhackers quickly became one of the most popular duos among the viewers, chiefly due to the wildly comedic nature of their antics (including their trademark "Bushwhacker Walk"), their catchy faux-Australian musical theme, and the high level of their friendly interaction with the audience. By 1990 the Bushwhackers were established as a solid mid-card comedy act feuding with the newly establish heel team known as Rhythm and Blues (The Honky Tonk Man and Greg Valentine). The Bushwhackers’ WrestleMania VI appearance came at the expense of Rhythm and Blues as they showed up during a segment, attacked Honky Tonk Man and Valentine and then broke R & B’s guitars to the delight of the crowd. Later on the team would be used to help establish newcomers The Orient Express (Pat Tanaka and Akio Sato). The feud with the Orient Express culminated at Survivor Series 1990 where Williams and Miller teamed up with Nikolai Volkoff and Tito Santana to form “The Alliance” and take on Sgt. Slaughter, Boris Zhukov and the Orient Express team dubbed “The Mercenaries”. The Bushwhackers eliminated the Orient Express but were eliminated themselves as well.
At the 1991 Royal Rumble, Williams set a rather unfortunate record as he lasted a total of 4 seconds. Using the trademark arm-swing walk, he climbed into the ring, was immediately grabbed by Earthquake, dragged across the ring in a straight line and thrown over the top rope, and proceeded to leave the arena—without missing a beat—using the trademark arm-swing walk. The Bushwhackers received a shot at the WWF World Tag Team Title on the 27 April edition of Saturday Night's Main Event against The Nasty Boys, but on that night Williams and Miller were not able to add the gold to their impressive collection as the Nasty Boys retained their titles through underhanded tactics. In a televised 6 man tag-team match the Bushwhackers teamed with Tugboat against Earthquake and the Nasty Boys, Tugboat turned on his partners after a few minutes of action and joined Earthquake in laying the two New Zealanders out cold. After the heel turn Tugboat changed his name to Typhoon and together they became known as “The Natural Disasters” one of the heaviest tag-teams in the world. The Bushwhackers demanded a chance to get even with the big team but were easily defeated at the 1991 SummerSlam PPV. After destroying the Bushwhackers the Disasters targeted André the Giant who was at ringside on crutches due to an earlier attack from Earthquake. The assault was stopped by the Legion of Doom who ran off the Natural Disasters
After the Natural Disasters began feuding with the Legion of Doom the Bushwhackers came across a team that was the total opposite of what they were. Williams and Miller the fun loving, “working class” guys started a feud with the rich, snobby bratty Beverly Brothers (Blake and Beau). The two teams first clashed at the 1991 Survivor Series where they were on opposite sides in a 4 on 4 elimination match. On the night the Beverly Brothers got the upper hand and eliminated both Williams and Miller. The Beverly Brothers’ manager The Genius kept interfering in the matches so the Bushwhackers brought in a manager of their own, the nerdy Jamison. Despite the addition of Jamison, the Beverly Brothers defeated the Bushwhackers at Royal Rumble 1992. The Bushwhackers did gain some small measure of revenge on the Beverly Brothers when they defeated the team in a “dark match” at WrestleMania VIII. The Bushwhackers’ next PPV was at Summer Slam 1992 where they teamed up with Jim Duggan to defeat “The Mountie” Jacques Rougeau and the Nasty Boys in a dark match.
In 1993, the Bushwhackers were used to “put over” the newly signed team the Headshrinkers (Fatu and Samu) and made a few appearances in comedy matches alongside midget “Tiger” Jackson (later “Dink The Clown”) against the Beverly Brothers and “Little” Louie.
In August, the Bushwhackers made a quick trip to Puerto Rico to appear at the WWC 20th Anniversary show on August 8 where they defeated the monstrous team of Mr. Hughes and The Warlord. When the team returned to US soil Williams and Miller helped Doink the Clown in the clown’s feud with Bam Bam Bigelow. Williams and Miller, as well as Mo and Mabel, all appeared at Survivor Series 1993 wearing the trademark green wig and face paint associated with Doink the Clown. The Bushwhackers and Men on a Mission defeated Bigelow, Bastion Booger and the Headshrinkers in a match that played more for laughs than serious wrestling. In 1994, the Bushwhackers started feuding with The Heavenly Bodies (Tom Prichard and Jimmy Del Ray), losing to the team in a dark match at WrestleMania X. The team also faced another recently signed team: Steven Dunn and Timothy Well also known as Well Dunn. By 1995, the Bushwhackers are used almost exclusively to put over teams such as The Blu Twins.
In March 1996, the Bushwhackers returned to the WWF after a 6-month hiatus to participate in a tournament to crown new tag team champions. The Bushwhackers were beaten in the first round by eventual winners The Bodydonnas (Skip and Zip). When the Bushwhackers returned in 1996 it was a slightly revamped version that ignored the fact that both members were from New Zealand as they displayed traditional Australian Stereotypes, including being accompanied to the ring by a giant kangaroo mascot. On September 14, the Bushwhackers made their last appearance while under contract with the WWF.
After the WWF
After leaving the WWF, the team made special appearances in the independent circuit, including a return to WWC for its 24th Anniversary show, where they were billed as the Sheepherders and took on old rivals, Invaders I & II. They also appeared at a special event in Amarillo to celebrate “50 years of Funk” where they lost to old rivals Mark and Chris Youngblood.
In 1999, the Bushwhackers participated in a “wrestling nostalgia” PPV called Heroes of Wrestling, Williams and Miller took on and defeated former WWF Tag Team Champions, the Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.
The Bushwhackers toured the UK in 2000.
Williams and Miller made one of their last appearances as active wrestlers on 1 April 2001 when they participated in the WrestleMania X-Seven ”Gimmick Battle Royal”. On 15 June the team returned to Memphis one last time, fighting The Moondogs to a double disqualification on a special ”Mid-South Clash of the Legends” show
In June 2008, WWE's SmackDown and ECW brands returned to New Zealand (Auckland and Christchurch). WWE Superstar MVP guested Butch Miller from the Bushwhackers and Tony Garea on his international edition of the VIP Lounge.
Both Williams and Miller have retired from professional wrestling but work behind the scenes in Puerto Rico and New Zealand respectively. Williams is attempting a comeback and wrestled in a barbed-wire steel cage match.
The Bushwhackers appeared as themselves in a 1994 episode of the sitcom Family Matters, wrestling against Carl Winslow and Steve Urkel, who are forced to fill in for and wrestle as "The Psycho Twins." They also appeared in The 1998 How Many Times music video for The Insane Clown Posse.
Championships and accomplishments
- CWA International Tag Team Champion (1 time)
- NWA Mid-Atlantic Tag Team Champion (1 time)
- WWC Tag Team Champion (2 time)
- WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2015)