This is a new series where I’ll be checking in with some fond memories of those wrestlers who got over but never got to the top. A mini-celebration of some favorite midcard babyfaces that we loved, but didn’t get love in the main event. We continue this series with the perplexing Billy Jack Haynes.
How They Got Their Start
Billy Jack Haynes got his start in Stampede Wrestling in Canada and blah, blah, blah. Look it up on Wikipedia. We can’t do the standard Marvel origin story here, because this isn’t your standard midcard babyface.
Is it possible to be a babyface on television and a heel behind the scenes? Yes, yes, we hear about actors who play nice guys on the silver screen and hear whispers about incredibly unprofessional behavior on set. David Lee Roth was a smiling goofball for the cameras and an absolute nightmare to everyone in a 40-mile radius.
Wrestling is different. Or least that is what we are told. The best gimmicks are always just the performer’s natural personality cranked to 11. Entitled Dick Randy Orton? Check. Loudmouth Know-It-All CM Punk? Certainly. Ric Flair Ric Flair? WOOOOOO!
None of that applies to Billy Jack Haynes. He looked like Hercules playing Tom Selleck, but people walked on eggshells around him in the locker room. He was soft-spoken but tough enough to train in the dungeon with Stu Hart. He had the lightest handshake in the business but was rumored to have done time for manslaughter for beating a man to death. I’ll let Jim Cornette tell a fun story about Billy Jack working for the Von Erichs’ territory and his reputation proceeding him.
I mean, think about that story for a minute. Chris Adams was a three-time British national judo champion by the age of 21 and a current top heel in the company, but he fled the city of Dallas because his girlfriend’s ex was coming to town. That’s the babyface? Dude, that’s what you do when you see George Karras punch a horse in the middle of the street, not for Kerry Von Erich’s replacement. That’s Omar Little sh*t right there.
Let’s break down the elements of this “babyface” gimmick, shall we? First off, the character that informed the wrestling persona of one William Albert Haynes III was unhinged vigilante and cult hero Billy Jack, from the film series of the same name. It was like the Western version of Death Wish.
Doesn’t that just scream “Say your prayers and eat your vitamins” to you? I mean, I guess it tracks, because Tom Laughlin was batshit insane enough to threaten to sue a man twice his size and with a rap sheet, so why the hell not? I need John Morrison to remake the entire Billy Jack oeuvre and I’ll direct. Johnny Impact, text me bro.
Second, this was Billy Jack Haynes’ entrance music. No, really.
What in the hell is that? That’s the music Darkest Timeline Husky Harris comes out to when Vince decides to make him Sexual White Chocolate in a re-package of Bray Wyatt. … Oh god, that’s exactly what is going to happen to him, isn’t it? Uh, prank caller! Prank caller! Vince, you never read this.
Quick side note: That Diana Ross track was written and produced by Michael Jackson. Imagine the King of Pop sitting at a piano and softly cooing out that song. Congratulations and welcome to the Never Sleeping Again Club.
Thirdly, this is Haynes’ finishing move.
I’m sorry, you don’t get to deliver a pretty sweet-ass dropkick for a man that size, and then turn around and have your finishing move be a motorboat to the shoulder blades. I’ve watched that video five times and the only thing that makes any sense to me is the look of real fear in his opponent’s eyes. Watch his face right around the 1:04 mark and tell me this jobber isn’t trying to think of a way to get Billy Jack to join his “Be A Steve Starr” anti-bullying campaign.
How I First Became Aware Of Him
I would love to say I became aware of Haynes via the ridiculous WrestleMania III “Battle of The Full Nelsons” bout that I remember reacting to even as a kid with a resounding, “huh? Alas, I cannot. I wanted to post the above video for two reasons, and two reasons only:
1. I’m not a gold lamé jacket man by trade but credit where credit is due, Billy Jack is pulling it off something fierce.
2. Considering the crazy shit you are about to read about my man, we all need to take a moment and realize that Billy Jack Haynes was once so high up the midcard that he was feuding with Randy Savage for the Intercontinental title. Take a moment to swirl that around in your mouth.
Are you picking up the subtle floral bouquet and hints of chocolate? That’s how over this dude was, and how high up the card he sat. That’s like Jesse Ventura doing two films with Arnold, only to end up with conspiracy theories and … oh, wait. Never mind.
Why I Stopped Seeing Him
The “official” story is that Billy Jack Haynes quit the WWF due to being upset about having to job in his hometown of Portland, Oregon and due to that courageous stand, no WWE Superstar has ever had to lose in their hometown ever again. His inner demons perhaps finally came to the surface and culminated in this babyface covering up with a mask and joining Kevin Sullivan’s crew in WCW, but even that was short-lived, as he left after the 1991 Great American Bash following a pay dispute.
Honestly though, Billy is a one man Rashomon, so it’s anyone’s guess. As far as my hypothesis on why Billy Jack Haynes stopped getting bookings, oh, geez, I dunno:
Exhibit C: Billy Jack Haynes beating Brian Christopher with a trophy, then ranting like a maniac while wearing the seldom-soon duster/choker combo.
Sweet fanny pack, William. You’re somehow even more confusing as a late-career heel. Bill Dundee is in that clip with an entire 55 gallon drum of Just For Men on his noggin, and you’re somehow the one who comes off looking old and out of shape.
Maybe I’m crazy, but babyfaces that can comment in a calm tone about murdering the chairman of WWE and then turning the gun on themselves don’t stick around in this business super long after that.
I’ve listened to a lot of shoot interviews in my life but there is some real Anatomy of Motive type shit going on when a guy can casually blame Stone Cold Austin for the death of Rowdy Roddy Piper like he’s ordering a meat and three.
What Are They Doing Now?
Well, his lawsuit against WWE was never granted class action status, and was dismissed in March of 2016. He’s had a lot of problems with addiction, which I always want people to recover from but that doesn’t really excuse the really insane shoot interviews he does regularly, which I refuse to link to here. His “theory” about the Benoit tragedy is something that would make Clarice Starling just throw her hands up and walk back to West Virginia.
When you went from working WrestleMania III opposite Bobby “The Brain” Heenan to working the dirt sheets for a delusional shoot fight payday, you sir are a fantastically confusing Midcard Face.