For more than 30 years, Hillbilly Jim has worked for WWE as a wrestler, a manager, and an ambassador. He’s one of the company’s Legend and, for that reason, James Morris, aka Hillbilly Jim, is the latest inductee in the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018, as WWE announced today.
Trained by Bob Orton Sr., Randy Orton’s grandfather, Morris made his debut in the wrestling business in 1975, working in the Memphis area with the CWA. At that time, Harley Davidson, as he was called, had a biker gimmick. But in late 1984, a man called Big Jim used to appear in WWF as a wrestling fan and sit in the front row of live events.
After appearing as a guest in The Piper’s Pit, Rowdy Roddy Piper offered his help to train him, but Big Jim chose WWF Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan instead. In early 1985, the character of Hillbilly Jim was introduced as a bearded and hugging country boy from Kentucky. He was teamed up with Hulk Hogan a few matches before having his first singles match at The War to Settle the Score in February 1985.
A few days later, Morris sustained a knee injury that would keep him sidelined for 6 months. To help fill the time, Hillbilly Jim became a manager for his “family” members Uncle Elmer, Cousin Luke, and Cousin Junior. When he recovered, Jim often tag teamed with his family or with the legendary André The Giant. He was traditionally matched up against the WWF’s monster heels of the era, such as Big John Studd and King Kong Bundy. He also had a short feud with Mr. Fuji in late 1986.
He appeared at WrestleMania II as part of the Open Invitational Battle Royal, involving King Kong Bundy. He also competed in a Six-Person Tag Team Match at WrestleMania III in 1987, involving Bundy again. Hillbilly Jim also worked as a fill-in for wrestlers who did not appear or who had left the company. He continued competing in WWF through 1990 before stepping away from the squared circle.
In 1992, Hillbilly Jim returned to the WWF as one of the final hosts of WWF Prime Time Wrestling alongside Vince McMahon, Jim Duggan, Bobby Heenan, Mr. Perfect, Sgt. Slaughter and many more until January 1993. In 1995, he came back as a guest referee but soon became the manager of a team of pig farmers, Henry O. and Phineas I. Godwinn. He helped them become WorldTag Team Champions, before leaving their side in 1997.
Morris has never completely left the company. He worked as a road agent, participated in the “Gimmick Battle Royal” in 2001 at WrestleMania X-Seven. He hosted WrestleMania Axxess tour from 2004 to 2007. He also traveled worldwide from 1990 to 2001 to represent the WWF for its video sales. On April 10, 2012, Hillbilly Jim also made an appearance on WWE Smackdown: Blast from the Past.
Since 2005, the huge fan of country music he has always been has been hosting “Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee” every Saturday on Sirius Satellite Radio. Morris plays classic country music and Southern rock and, between records, tells stories of his days with the WWF.
Hillbilly Jim may not have won any title with WWF but he’s been a steady presence for the company for more than 30 years. On Friday, April 6, in New Orleans during WrestleMania 34 Week, Hillbilly Jim will be in New Orleans to become a Hall of Famer, alongside Goldberg, Ivory, Jeff Jarrett and The Dudley Boyz, during the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Will he wear around his neck the lucky horseshoe he was wearing when he was coming to the ring?