In last week’s inaugural edition of The Thread Count, With Spandex’s dedicated pro wrestling fashion column, Danielle Matheson and I took a look at the history of wrestling hillbillies, from its early days where everyone was dressed like a Country Bear to today, where it’s mostly people in Confederate flag shorts yelling about gays.
This week’s edition will be taking a look at wrestling hippies. Via Wikipedia:
The hippie (or hippy) subculture was originally a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s and spread to other countries around the world. The word ‘hippie’ came from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into New York City’s Greenwich Village and San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. The origins of the terms hip and hep are uncertain, though by the 1940s both had become part of African American jive slang and meant “sophisticated; currently fashionable; fully up-to-date.” The Beats adopted the term hip, and early hippies inherited the language and countercultural values of the Beat Generation. Hippies created their own communities, listened to psychedelic music, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as cannabis, LSD, and psilocybin mushrooms to explore altered states of consciousness.
To clarify, a modern wrestling hipster is a wrestler who pisses off average people by doing and wearing what is popular now. A wrestling hippie is a wrestler who pisses off average people by doing and wearing what was popular 40 years ago.
The California Hippies
The earliest documented pro wrestling hippie gimmick belongs to Mike ‘Hippie’ Boyette. He wrestled in front of conservative crowds in early 1970s California as ‘The Angry Man,’ but as his hair grew longer and his look became more unkempt, people began referring to him as ‘The California Hippie.’ He was Dude Love before Dude Love … a wildman known as much for how he bumped as for how he worked. He teamed with Mickey Doyle to form the successful California Hippies tag team and twice held the U.S. Tag Team Championship, competing across the country in places like Kansas City, Tennessee and the Gulf Coast.
As you can see by the picture, the earliest version of the wrestling hippie look was THE TERROR OF YOUTH. Men who wouldn’t cut their hair, wouldn’t shave their facial hair and weren’t afraid to draw cartoon squirrels on their cheeks. Eventually that look evolved into anything that would cause a reaction from the squares, and Boyette became a sort of proto Adrian Adonis.
His ring gear changed regularly, but here he is dressed like a Bella Twin, wrestling a young Hardcore Holly. Uh, back when Holly dressed like Bret Hart.
Superstar Billy Graham
“Billy Graham: He talks peace but raises hell!”
Around the same time, Roy Shire’s NWA San Francisco promotion introduced Superstar Billy Graham to the world. If you aren’t familiar with Billy Graham, he is without a doubt one of the most influential pro wrestlers of all time. Imagine if Hulk Hogan and Dusty Rhodes were the same guy. THAT was the Superstar. Graham got heat with the same type of audiences that hated Mike Boyette, taking it a billion steps further by being a great talker and an impossible physical specimen that the world wanted to photograph and put on magazines. What started as “look at the big hippie with his blonde hair and tie-dyed shirts” became a legit national wrestling phenomenon, and like many gimmicks that start niche and end up universally beloved, the specifics of the “hippie” thing sorta vanished. He acted hip, but Billy Graham wasn’t going to a Mamas and the Papas concert any time soon.
Billy Graham’s look defined what WWE (and, by proxy, wrestling fans) see as a “hippie wrestler.” Long hair. Tie-dyed clothing. Headbands. Dangly earrings. Necklaces on top of necklaces. Sunglasses with colored lenses. Tops and bottoms that don’t match. The hippie drug use was there, too, but … uh, different drugs.
Older, end-of-his-career Billy Graham is even MORE of a hippie, ostensibly becoming wrestling’s first “old hippie” character:
Before Sgt. Slaughter joined the military and joined G.I. Joe he was simply Bob “Beautiful Bobby” Slaughter, a local promoter’s approximation of Superstar Billy Graham. Look at that poor kid. The knit hat works, but the Mighty Mouse t-shirt brings it all together. When did we stop putting logos on the armpits of t-shirts so they’d show up when the wearer flexed?
The important thing to note here is that Slaughter may have been the first “gay hippie” gimmick. According to an episode of Legends of Wrestling, Slaughter would get intense gay panic heat from audiences on top of being a hippie, to the point that other wrestlers would blow kisses at him. My theory is that they just really liked his t-shirt, and wrestlers don’t know how to express their emotions.
It is pretty wonderful, though, that hard-nosed drill instructor Sgt. Slaughter’s origin is that he was a confused youth who got straightened out (in more ways than one) by the military.
When Mick Foley was a teenager, he taped himself and his friends wrestling in his backyard. His signature character was ‘Dude Love,’ a lady-killing hippie in the style of Superstar Billy Graham. Dangling earring, sunglasses, wild hair and an open, billowy shirt. By the late 90s Foley’s history as an average kid who’d grown up loving wrestling became so important that the then-WWF made Dude Love an in-canon reality.
Of course, the difference between a 1970 hippie and a 1997 hippie are tremendous. Wrestling crowds didn’t view hippies as radical assaults on their way of life anymore … the hippie had become a Halloween costume. All it meant was tie-dye and holding up the peace sign. To reflect this, Dude Love didn’t do drugs or challenge social conventions, he simply wore round sunglasses, strapped on a headband and made every second thing he put on his body tie-dyed. Oh, and he loved to dance. Hippies love to dance now. This becomes important later.
Also important later: this is the first example of WWE itself not knowing what a hippie is. Vince McMahon spent much of the sixties as a teenager in North Carolina, attending Fishburne Military School and was already working in the wrestling business by the time Woodstock hit. As a result, Dude Love’s entrance theme sounds like it was sung by the Bee Gees. The Bee Gees are not hippies.
In the ecosystem of the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWF, it wasn’t rare for one side to do a bad version of the other’s ideas. Journeyman stalwart Brad Armstrong was the victim of one of the worst of these.
Armstrong was part of the Armstrong wrestling family, which included WWF’s Road Dogg Jesse James. WCW wanted to capitalize on that popularity, and Brad was the guy to use. He’d already done a ton of increasingly embarrassing gimmicks like Fantasia (a wrestling bird who liked the Fabulous Freebirds?) and Arachnaman (a Spider-Man character that shot silly string from his wrists), so WCW went “what if we make you the Road Dogg?” That quickly became “what if we make you the Road Dogg and Dude Love AT THE SAME TIME.” Buzzkill was born.
Buzzkill, like Dude Love before him, was a Halloween costume hippie. Tie-dyed shirt, sunglasses with tinted lenses, torn up jeans. He also added a touch of social consciousness, bringing signs to the ring that read MAKE LOVE NOT WAR and DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER. Eventually he was just The Road Dogg.
The other bad WCW hippie character of the 90s was Van Hammer. Originally ‘Heavy Metal’ Van Hammer (a guy who loved heavy metal so much he brought a guitar to the ring), he was adopted by Raven’s goth/emo clique The Flock in the mid-90s and turned into a guy who cut big circular holes in the front of his shirts so you could see his nipples.
Thankfully that didn’t last forever, and when Hammer broke free from Raven he became … a hippie. I’m not sure anybody remembers why. This meant psychedelic shirts, dirty pants with random words written on them and holding up peace signs. Hammer is responsible for one of the greatest wrestling hippie moments ever, however, when during a Monday Nitro match against Bam Bam Bigelow he went for a big boot in the corner, missed, crotched himself on the top rope and yelled BUMMERRRRR at the camera.
The payoff to Van Hammer’s hippie character was him joining a jobber militia and changing his name to ‘Private Stash.’ Get it?
While WWE’s John Morrison was more of a sassy Jim Morrison impersonator who liked free-running, he was constantly surrounded by swirling colors and lived in a place called the “Palace Of Wisdom.” At the very least, it gives him an Honorable Mention on the list.
Morrison was the continuation of WWE having no idea how trippy 60s characters are supposed to act. He was named “Morrison,” but instead of having a Doors soundalike, he had Jimi Hendrix. He was supposed to be a spiritual guru, but dressed in those button-up shirts with big decorate crosses on them you’d see Toby Keith wearing. He had long hair and sunglasses, but he wore fur coats. After a few years he simply became “John Morrison, Additional Guy,” and that was that.
I’ll be honest, I’m not 100% that Daisy was a hippie character either. The Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling should’ve had an overt hippie character, right?
We’re going to count Daisy because she’s constantly referred to as the “flower child.” Her only identifiable trait was being tall, so they put her in some torn up workout clothes and painted flowers on her face. I apologize in advance if this was some 2001: A Space Odyssey gag I didn’t get and she rode to the ring on a bicycle built for two. She did hook up with Donald Trump once, so maybe I have no idea what’s going on with GLOW.
Wrestling’s most popular female hippie character is probably Daizee Haze, who competed on the independent circuit for companies like Chikara and Ring Of Honor from 2002-2011. Daizee was the modern evolution of the Halloween costume hippie, where a person who realized that they really liked smoking weed could dress up like a hippie and have an in-character excuse to go on and on about how much they like smoking weed.
If you need a more direct connection between pot culture and wrestling hippie gimmicks, the Haze also competed in Wrestlicious as ‘Marley.’
She always got the crowd incensed, am I right
Jimi The High Flying Hippie
More like Daizee He’s, am I right
One of the hippie gimmicks of the modern independent wrestling circuit is Pro Wrestling Rampage’s Jimi The High Flying Hippie, who has all the tools to be the perfect Halloween costume hippie: 1) tie-dyed pants, 2) tie-dyed everything else, 3) a headband, 4) a flower, 5) long hair, 6) a name that reminds you of something from the 1960s.
The problem with Jimi is that when he’s not posing for his ring entrance, he’s really more like Jimi The High Flying Guy You’d Sit Near At A Music Festival:
Developmental somebody CJ Parker returned to WWE NXT in the summer of 2013 as a hippie. At least, he was CALLED a hippie. He had long, colorful dreadlocks, tie-dyed shorts and did a kind of stationary twerk hand-jive to his entrance theme, which was (yet again) a Jimi Hendrix knockoff. His finish became “The Third Eye” and he tossed up a lot of peace signs. Unsurprisingly, the NXT Universe didn’t go for it.
Parker languished as a hippie for a while and disappeared. Earlier this year he returned as a reinterpretation of that same gimmick … instead of being a “c’mon man, have FUN, like HIPPIES” type, Parker was now a staunch conservationist, blaming NXT crowds for everything from pollution to rampant SUV sales and his own failing career. It was great (all of a sudden), and he even had a closer-than-ever entrance theme.
His fashion has changed to match it. He’s now more muted, doused in Earth tones … he wears dirty clothes, but they’re the kind of clothes that simply appear to have been worn too long. He isn’t writing PEACE on his thighs like a Laugh-In character. It’s what the modern hippie is … a person who wants to detach from “the system” and live a life on their own terms, which happen to be super super annoying.