|Hillbilly Jim waves to the crowd at a press conference on Friday, February 2, 2007 to announce WWE events in Windsor, Ontario leading up to WrestleMania 23 in Detroit on April 1st.
Photo by Mike Mastrandrea
Jim Morris sees the months building up to Wrestlemania as his time to shine. Each year, he helps organize the WrestleMania Fan Axxess Tour, a mall tour leading up to Wrestlemania.
The tour gives fans the chance to get autographs from WWE superstars, call matches, see WWE memorabilia and more. The tour culminates around Wrestlemaina each year; in this year's case, there are many appearances in and around Detroit building up to the event.
"And the best part is it's all free," Morris recently told SLAM! Wrestling.
But before Morris was coordinating events for fans, he was Harley Davidson, gaining little fame in Memphis with a giant beard and a Hell's Angels type biker gimmick.
Then came WWE's national expansion and Vince McMahon calling. Morris was given the name Hillbilly Jim, who claimed to have found him in the hills of Kentucky -- which is partially true.
According to Morris, he still has a home in Kentucky. So the guy who sang his own entrance song, Don't Go Messin' With a Country Boy, actually was a country boy from Kentucky.
Hillbilly Jim was introduced to the fans as a fan, a big country-looking man who attended televised events and sat in the front row. It was later that Hulk Hogan, in storyline, gave Hillbilly his first boots and taught him to wrestle.
Hillbilly Jim was in the WWE at the right time. He was big, in the time of big men, and would team with Hulk Hogan to take on heel monsters like Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy. He was child friendly, just in time for WWE's toy figures and cartoon show.
Although never known for his ring skills, he did not need it.
Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke and Hillbilly Jim
- Greg Oliver Collection
And when the gimmick was considered successful, the WWE introduced faux relatives Cousin Luke (Gene Petit), Cousin Junior
(Lanny Kean) and Uncle Elmer (Stan Frazier). The trio often teamed in different combinations as well as for six-man matches.
With this year marking the 20th anniversary of Wrestlemania III in Detroit, Morris had some great memories of his involvement in that event. He teamed with midget wrestlers Haiti Kid and Little Beaver against King Kong Bundy and his midget partners Lord Littlebrook and Tokyo Kid.
The end of the match saw Bundy bodyslam and elbow Little Beaver, allowing commentators Jesse Ventura and Bob Uecker to spurt out a bunch of one liners.
"It was the culmination of my career and what a place to have it, in front of a record-sized crowd," he said.
Injuries took their toll on Morris, and he retired full-time from the ring in 1990. He continued to work with the WWE in their commercial video department. He promoted, helped with distribution and toured for the department throughout the 1990s.
Morris did make a few occasional ring appearances, with his last being at Wrestlemania XVII for the gimmick battle royal.
Today, besides organizing the Fan Axxxess Tour, Morris does special appearances for the WWE and hosts a radio show on Sirius Radio. The show, Hilllbilly Jim's Moonshine Matinee, airs on channel 63 and combines country with southern rock.
"The show is going on its third year, and I am having a blast," he said. Morris hosts the show from his home.
He is still a fan, but loved the time he was with the WWE. "When I think about who should be in the Hall of Fame, I think of guys who I wrestled with," he said, mentioning the Honkytonk Man and Jake "The Snake" Roberts as two names he'd like to see inducted.
"When I do these Axxxess events, it is great to see the fans not only appreciate today's stars but also recognize old me."
More on Wrestlemania 23
To see when the Fan Axxxess Tour is coming to your town, visit: www.wrestlemania.com
Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!
WrestleMania III - The Championship Collection DVD Set
Chris Schramm is a production designer from Detroit. He will be representing SLAM! Wrestling at Wrestlemania 23.