Here is a interview with Luke Williams from the latest Ring Around The Northwest. (RIng Around The Northwest will celebrate its 29th anniversary next issue!)
RATNW Interviews Luke Williams
RATNW: How did you get interested in wrestling and were you a fan. Luke: No I wasnít a fan mate. My next door neighbor was Bruno Bekkar. He was a body builder. His real name was Brian Ashby. He was in Mr. New Zealand contest. One of the judges in the Mr. New Zealand contest was an ex Mr. New Zealand. When he retired from body building he became a wrestling promoter. My neighbor the judge said to him afterwards you interested in being a wrestler. Come to Colemans gym,, a old gym with a wrestling and boxing ring in it. It was an old style gym with the steam room and all the old pipes running through it. Iím talking in the 60ís mate. After that he started going to wrestling and he started taking me. I weighed about 165-170 pounds. He took me and I pushed around the mat. Those days in New Zealand there were only 2 professional matches on the card. They filled out the card with amateur wrestling. We had amateur clubs. Different suberbs would have different clubs. 8 rounds of 5 minutes light heavy. 8, 8 rounds would be the heavyweight. The fans would like you to go at least 6 rounds or they felt they got screwed. I had never been to a wrestling match and the second time I went someone didnít arrive. I had a pair of jeans on and a tank top and someone gave me a pair of boots and the next thing I knew I was in the ring. That was 1962. RATNW: Do you remember your first match? Luke: He is in bad shape at the moment. He just had back surgery. His name is Kurt Condrun. He was a amateur champion in NZ. In the 50ís and 60ís he was well known in NZ. RATNW: When did you first meet and team up with Butch. Luke: Butch is a cousin. Butch was a rugby player. The Rugby world cup at the moment is in NZ. Rugby, 15 men on a team, you play 40 minutes 10 minutes intermission and then 40 minutes same guys. In 1967 he started wrestling. We teamed up about 1968 and the first time we went away was 69 and we went to Singapore, Bangkok and Malaysia. That was our first tour. The Austrialian promoter at the time was Jim Barnett. He had coast to coast wrestling here. I worked for him. At the time I worked like a Gorgeous George type character. Sweet William. That was my first character. At the time I was Gorgeous Teddy Williams and then we changed it to Sweet William in the late 60ís. The first time Butch and I went away we were Sweet Williams and Brute Miller. That got changed when we went to Canada in 71 and 72. They changed his name to Nick Carter. So Nick Carter and Sweet William. We were the Kiwis when we first got to North America. We worked for Grand Prix out of Montreal. We were green, not green in the ring, but we were green to what was going on here. We were working for the Vachons, Butcher and Maurice, put us over to this side of the world. Ed Carpentier was another owner. After we were there a month or two. They had a meeting in the office with all the boys. All of a sudden we saw all these guys in the office. We didnít know they were in the territory. This office was running 3 towns a night. We didnít know that. There were 60 guys there, Killer Kowalski, the names were unreal. Andre had just come to North America. Butch and me had already known Andre. He had already wrestled in NZ in the 60ís. We were lucky he helped us out a lot. Even though we were wrestling against us. He took care of us. Butch and me wrestled him quite a few times down there. The promoter Steve Rickard and Andre against me and Butch. So in Montreal he was teamed up with Edourd Carpentier and the place blew wide open. The Hollywood Blondes and Sir Oliver Humperdink really made a name for himself. That team was hot. The territory was hot, sellouts every night. At the same time there was another promotion in Montreal running the same time. It was the Rougeaus. We were working for Grand Prix which was covering Quebec and Ontario and we would go a little into Manitoba, but very rare. We would go up North into Hudsons Bay and then we would go into Emil Duprees area. His area (Maritimes) was a spinoff of the territory. His territory was Grand Prix also. Running off of our television. In the summer he would open the Maritimes. They closed in September. Me and Butch would go up for two weeks with Butcher and Maurice. Iím familiar with the Maritimes now because I am running a little territory for a promoter up there at the moment. UCW. That runs every summer.
RATNW: I Know in 1974 you went to Calgary. Luke: Thatís when we left up in Grand Prix. They said to us you know you have been here a year if you have another place to go. We didnít know Stu H art or the 10 kids or anything. Here is a story, We flew over there and we had a car. New Zealanders are called Kiwis. Here are two Kiwis we had never driven on ice or snow before. We bought a new car. We didnít know what electric windows were. Electric trunk. In NZ the hood is called the bonnet and the trunk is called the boot. All of sudden we have a brand new Pontiac and none of that **** was in New Zealand. It only snows in the mountains in NZ. NZ is a mountainous country. What you call mountains in the states we call Hills. Our country is full of mountains 10,000 feet.
RATNW: I have always heard it is beautiful. Luke: Yeah but it is so far away from everywhere mate. So we got the car and they put our car on the train to Calgary. We were slipping and sliding hitting cars everywhere. We arrive in Calgary and they used to tape in the Paviliion on a Friday. The Pavillion is the fairgrounds. Before it was the Corral and the Pavillion. The Corral was the big
building and held about 10,000. The Pavilllion held about 3 thousand. The first night there we were working against the champions and it was a dq situation where we got dqed. We have the NZ flag and all that ********. Then ****** Abby is beside the ring and he is feeding these guys. 12 year old, 13 year old. Some of them are bleeding and some of them are not. He is yelling kick the **** out of them. We knew Abdulla from before. We are beating these kids up. Afterwards we leave the ring and there are all these bodies lying around our two opponents and these other kids. We go back to the dressing room and Stu says What the **** are you doing? Abby pitched these kids in the ring and said beat them up. We knew Abby gets heat. We just did what we do best, we get heat and beat them up. Stu said, Well they are my ******* kids. That was Friday night. That was shown on Saturday morning. Sunday we were in the Corral it was a double header that weekend. Friday and Sunday. We went out Sunday on the champions and we had super hate already 1 night in. Abby got us over. We didnít know Stu had 8 boys and 4 girls. Bret wasnít even working yet. It was Bruce, Keith and Smith working. Owen was just a bady, Bret was 12 or 13. After that Steve Rickard the NZ promoter and wanted us to go back there. We were going to go to Georgia. He said he had television for the program On The Mat. We were there for the first season of television wrestling in NZ. We really didnít get TV until 64 and 67 over the whole country. It used to start at 3 in the afternoon and finish at 10. On the mat was the first series on TV. King Curtis and Mark Lewin and Rick Martel were down there. I met Rick Martel when he was a young kid 10 years old still going to school. His brother was up in the Maritimes. I just went in there for 2 weeks and h e went in there for the summer. He was a kid in heaven. He was a good looking kid, good body, he was already training then. Afterwards he came to NZ. He was around NZ all through the 60ís and 70ís. His and Don Muraco were the two Americans around there. Now in 74 we went home to NZ. The business went dead, King and Mark left and they took the territory to the ground. I was working in Austrialia in the 70ís and Butch went into business for about 4 years. I bought a business too. I was working in Austrailia and Japan. In 79 Steve Rickard bought into Hawaii from Ed Francis. We started working for him in Waikiki. We would work 4 shows a week. It was just survival. We were lucky to make enough money for our ******* overhead. We got a tour in Japan for 6 weeks. When we were in Hawaii I met Roddy Piper and Buddy Rose. The tag team of Killer Brooks and Roddy Piper had just lost the tag titles and Roddy was leaving for a while. They need a heel tag team in Oregon. They saw us and we called Don right away and Buddy & Roddy vouched for us and Don said as soon as you finish in Japan come on in. He gave us a starting date. We went to Japan and came back and we had 6 weeks before our starting date in Oregon. We called Stu and asked if we could come in for 6 weeks. Stu said, sure you are welcome here anytime. When we were there before in 74 we were the smallest heels in the territory. John Quinn 6í8, 340 Abdullah, Archie Gouldie the Stomper at 260. Butch was 240 and I was 220. Now we start on a Friday and we are the biggest guys in the territory. It was the British Invasion. Dynamite Kid was there, Davey Boy was there. Marty someone.
RATNW; Marty Jones Lukel Marty Jones had a crook eye. He was 180. Dynamite was 175 wet. I looked in the dressing room and said, **** we are the biggest guys here. I went down to the arena and it is packed. That night it was Marty Jones and Dynamite Kid in a cage match. That is when I saw D Kid coming off the cage doing all that wild ****. We teamed up with Dynamite and we worked for 6 weeks against Bruce & Keith Hart and Stu in
Calagary. He came in didnít do much, he used to throw punches. We h ave seen those interviews with Dynamite on You Tube. Then we went into Oregon. RATNW: How was Don Owen to work for and your impressions of him. Luke: We used to line up and click our boots like Hitler. We would line up and you know how the Germans would click their boots. We would all line up and they would pay off and then we would take 1 step forward and click our boots. He would say **** what are you guys doing? Don ran the Northern end and Elton ran the Southern end of the state and Elton on a Monday wouldnít even know who the champions were. Another night we are fighting Piper and Martel in the ring and we are beating them up. Fans are throwing beer and drinks in the ring. Eltonís wife was brings a bucket and mop to the ring, She was a drunk too. She starts mopping up while the match Is still going on. If Don knew this he would have turned over. Don was a different man altogether. Elton was just, whatever. He was a drunk, God bless him. Oregon was a great little territory mate. If Elton wasnít such a **** up. The Northern half was great. We made good money. The Southern half we made good money but we could have made twice as much money, if Elton wasnít such a **** up. He didnít know the business. His Brother just handed it to him and he just ran the towns and didnít care what happened. We had a hell of a crew, Ron Bass, Adrian Adonis, Ron Starr, Jimmy Snuka had just left. Roddy came back in and Rick Martel, Buddy Rose and Ed Wiskowski. We had one of the best crews in the states. Every one went to NY except Ed Wiskowski and he was a main guy for Verne for years.
RATNW: Did you know that Elton had a handful of matches in the 40ís. Luke: Wasnít he a boxer? RATNW: Yes I think so and he also wrestled at least a few matches.
RATNW: When you went to WWF, talk about that and how you were able to change your style to help lengthen your career. Luke: Vince said, so you mind if we changed you into good guys. Me being a little old fashioned at the time, I said, bring us in as heels first and then change us into babys. Vince said, No I will bring you in and we will do some vinettes for a month or so and we will introduce you as babys. Butch got up on Vinceís desk and had his nose about a foot away from Vinces and said, if you can make these faces, baby faces go for it. Vince says to me, My baby faces arenít actually good looking just look at Jake, look at Duggan, look at Hulk.
RATNW: How is Butch doing health wise? Luke: No he hasnít done very well. In 2001 we came back from a show on Sunday, we had a show on a Tuesday in Columbus Ohio. I called him on Monday night. He said I think I have dislocated something and I am all seized up. I said I will send someone around and take you to a chiropractor. He said you go to the show. I called the promoter and did the show. I flew back and called him, no reply. He was only 3 minutes out of the way on the way home. I went to his place and he is lying in his own ****. His whole body was seized up with a staph infection. The phone was 3 feet away from him but he couldnít get it. We called 911 and they said if it had been around 3 or 4 hours he would have been brown bread. He was in the hospital for about 12 weeks. They put him in the IC ward. The tranquilzered him : and it took about a week to find the right cocktail to kill the disease in his system. He went from 240 to 150. He had no control of his bowels. His lungs had closed down and they had a tube down his throat. They had him tied down in bed because he was trying to pull the tube out, it was sad. Then they got control of it. He was in for about 12 weeks. He got better and he went home he had his daughter and grand children and in 2001 and low and behold in 2010 the ******* came back. It was in his hipbone. The staph was in his ******* hipbone. He had his whole hip removed. They removed some much hip that they couldnít do a replacement. So now he is on crutches. But he is in the gym all the time and rebuilding himself. He will never be back in the ring but he is rehabbing himself and getting healthier and letting the muscle grow so it can take over his hip. An old dog with a hard road. Final thing, Buddy Rose and Roddy Piper they had Don by the balls. They suggested everything and Don went with it. They kept that place alive. They would sit down with ideas and they were there for 10 years. They studied the fans and they had great minds for the business. I lived next to Buddy for awhile. He was 240, 250 when we were there in 79. He would be up all night watching shows. He would tape his soap operas and watch television until daybreak and go to bed and eat doughnuts through out the night. He would get up at 4 to go to the town. His first stop would be Wendys or Arbys. He would eat 4 hamburgers on the way to the show. Butch and I would know what he would order. We kept telling him one day your going to be a fat ******. Low and behold when we get to the WWF and they bring him back in 90 and he is 325 pounds.
RATNW: What are your hobbies and how do you like to spend your time now? Luke: I got no hobbies mate. Wrestling when I am on the road. When I am off the road resting. I got a 4 year old baby. Iím grandpa and Iím helping raise the baby. My time is spent with my 4 year old Desiree. She is a handful. She just turned 4. She is on the computer and watching movies and I just came inside from playing soccer with her. The rest of the time I like to relax. I have been in this business since 1962. I need to relax now when I can.
-------------------- RATNW The sheet The Boys Read
Great interview. I knew a lot of this stuff from reading a review of a shoot interview the Sheepherders/Bushwhackers did, but that only went up to a certain point and didn't cover Butch's health problems. Thanks for posting this.
Mike, been meaning to send you a message regarding this interview. I really enjoyed it a lot and heard some great stories about his time in the Northwest. As you know a few months back I worked a short tour with Luke, and spent some time with him. He had some great stories, and like many other is very fond of his time in the Northwest. What a long career Luke has had, and yes he's a heckuva nice guy!
Luke was terrific in Alabama in '82, teaming with Jonathan Boyd. They were the perfect heels for that area--had a great run there almost all of '82--had the tag belts most of the year. I always prefered Luke with Boyd, over Luke w/ Butch Miller.
sparky--Luke & Boyd were together in Fla. in '81, then Alabama, then Memphis '82-'83, & San Antonio in '83. Boyd got hurt (car accident), & Butch & Luke got back together. Boyd returned later, but never teamed that much w/ Luke after '83.