This is the first in a five-part series looking at the 2018 inductees into the WWE Hall of Fame and first up is Hillbilly Jim. Although the role of Hillbilly Jim, and to a lesser extent the entire hillbilly family, is mostly downplayed by wrestling historians, Hillbilly Jim was a huge draw in his time. It helped that the gimmick seemed tailored to him, and as are all the best gimmicks was just an exaggeration of his real personality.
Hillbilly Jim was born James Morris on July 5, 1952, in Louisville, Ky. Jim was trained by Bob Orton Sr. and because of his size (6’7 and over 300 pounds) was solid mid-card talent in the NWA territories.
He wrestled in the territories as Jim Morris, from 1975-1984, but never got his big chance. His first big push came at the hands of Jerry Jarrett, the father of fellow 2018 inductee Jeff Jarrett, in the Mid-South territory.
In 1982, he was given the gimmick of Harley Davidson a biker, not surprisingly. Nevertheless, Jim was a quick study and managed to make the biker gimmick work. He formed the team The Bikers (not very original) with journeyman Roger Smith who used the gimmick Dirty Rhodes due to his resemblance to Dusty (also not very original). They went back and forth as heels and faces never managing to win the titles.
By 1984 it was evident that the territory system was dying and he left for the WWE. His first gimmick was Big Jim an overly excited fan who loved wrestling. He would sit in the front row and cheer loudly for the heroes and boo for the heels.
Roddy Piper plucked this “fan” out of the audience and offered to train him, but instead, Jim chose Hulk Hogan as his trainer. All through 1985 vignettes played showing Hogan training Big Jim who chose the name Hillbilly Jim to wrestle under. He was proudly from Mudlick Kentucky and was interest in “scuffling” alongside his hero Hulk Hogan.
Jim regularly tagged with Hogan but injured himself in February of 1985 when he slipped at ringside and hurt his knee. Brutus Beefcake took Jim’s role as Hogan’s tag team partner but what to do with Jim himself?
The answer was to bring in more hillbillies and have Jim manage them. In Short order, the WWE introduced Uncle Elmer (veteran wrestler Stan Frazier), Cousin Luke (Gene Petit), and Cousin Junior (Lanny Kean Jr.). The hillbillies would wrestle against the heels at the time, and Hillbilly Jim would manage them from ringside as his knee healed.
When Jim returned, he was either facing the large wrestlers of the time (John Studd. King Kong Bundy, etc.), teaming with the hillbillies, or teaming with Andre the Giant. Jim was purely a comedy act and would come to the ring accompanied by the song “Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy.” and would often dance with kids at the end of his matches.
Jim was involved in Wrestlemania II, in a battle royal, and Wrestlemania III teaming with a little person against King Kong Bundy. All through 1989, Jim filled in for missing wrestlers at events but began to do more announce work. From 1992-1993 Jim worked as one of the hosts of Prime Time Wrestling until it was canceled.
In 1995, Jim briefly acted as the manager of his “cousins” Henry O. and Phineas I. Godwinn and was present when they won the WWE Tag Team Championships.
From 1990-2001 Jim was the WWE representative for Coliseum Video and traveled the country in this capacity. In 2005, Sirius radio started “Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee” where he would play country music and talk about his wrestling days. Jim will be inducted into the hall of fame this year.
Although, Hillbilly Jim never made it past the mid-card, he will always be remembered for his commitment to his gimmick and his unique wrestling style.