Hillbilly Jim is going to have to ditch his trademark overalls in favor of a tuxedo for one night. The popular Superstar and self-proclaimed country boy is headed to the WWE Hall of Fame.
He will join Goldberg, Ivory, The Dudley Boyz and Jeff Jarrett as part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, Bleacher Report has learned. Jim and his fellow inductees will be enshrined April 6 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans during WrestleMania 34 weekend.
The news stunned the '80s star.
"I didn't have that on my mind whatsoever," Jim told Bleacher Report. "For a moment or two, I was knocked back on my heels. Basically, I was speechless. It was a whole lot for me to digest quickly."
He isn't normally one to live in the past. Jim is a here-and-now guy from Louisville, Kentucky, who spends much of his time working out and hosting a Sirius XM radio show on Outlaw Country. But with the announcement that he will soon be a Hall of Famer, memories of his time entertaining fans in the heart of the Rock 'n' Wrestling era are rushing back.
Jim (real name: James Morris) began his pro wrestling career in the early '80s in Memphis, where he wrestled as a biker aptly dubbed "Harley Davidson."
His fame ballooned once he joined WWE as a happy-go-lucky country boy babyface. Jim would strut to the ring dressed in overalls. His massive beard framed a glowing smile. He was a memorable character in a period full of them.
Jim began his WWE run in 1984 as a (planted) fan in the crowd. Superstars like Roddy Piper began to notice the tall, burly audience member and looked to recruit him. Eventually, he aligned with Hulk Hogan, who served as his onscreen coach.
"It turned out to be a really nice way to make your entrance," Jim recalled. "The people seemed to have caught on to it and were captivated by it. It turned out to be a fairy tale that actually worked."
This route to the ring was fitting. Jim was an everyman, a blue-collar bruiser. He was out there fighting monsters like King Kong Bundy and Big John Studd as a proxy of the masses.
"My character represents the people," Jim explained.
It was a role that came naturally to him. He drew on his Kentucky roots to morph into a larger-than-life version of himself.
"It was always a very doable and easy character to step into," Jim said. "I'm from this part of the country. I know a lot of country people. I know what that translates to. I did the best I could to bring that to the ring.
"It's a lot like I really am in person. I'm a happy, excitable kind of character. And I just wanted to denote happiness."
Jim often provided WWE shows with a burst of energy, a dose of levity and a jolt of fun. One of the best examples of what he brought to the sports entertainment circus came in a series of tuxedo matches against the devious Mr. Fuji in 1986.
The two rivals battled in formal wear in Philadelphia, St. Louis and most notably at Madison Square Garden in New York. Selling out an arena Jim calls "the mecca" for this business was a high point of his career. And he remembers that rivalry fondly.
"The entertainment value on that was very high," Jim said of his bouts with Fuji. "The people just absolutely loved it."
Jim counts Mr. Fuji among his many mentors in and out of the ring. The soon-to-be Hall of Famer lists Hogan, Andre the Giant, Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan and The Fabulous Moolah as those who aided his career.
When he crossed paths with these stars, he always looked to soak up what they had to say, talking to them at length when he could. Being a student of the game paid off.
"I always have had the knack for taking good advice," Jim said.
His peak came at a time when the business was scorching. Jim was a part of the earliest WrestleMania cards and a regular presence on TV as WWE expanded into a national entity. His likeness appeared on the cartoon Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling and in action figure lines, board games and several video games.
"We got woven into the fabric of America in those early days," he explained.
When WWE airs the video package recalling Jim's career, he'd most like to see shots of the audience, of the responses he was able to garner.
"I hope they capture how the fans looked," Jim said. "When I came out there, it seemed like it was going to happy times for them. They enjoyed the whole Hillbilly Jim character, the ring entrance music, the dancing, the good old country boy."
Jim is grateful to all who cheered him from the stands and to WWE for giving him the platform on which he made his name.
"I don't have my Sirius XM radio show because I'm Jim Morris. I've got it because I'm Hillbilly Jim," he said. "And this business gave me Hillbilly Jim. This company gave me Hillbilly Jim.
"In my hometown, most everybody just calls me 'Hillbilly.'"
Today, the 65-year-old is an active member of the Kentucky Blues Society. He makes occasional appearances at conventions and trade shows. His country and Southern rock radio show is coming up on its 13-year anniversary. But he'll have to take a break from his routine in April to suit up to deliver a speech and bask in the Hall of Fame ceremony in New Orleans.
It's an accolade he wants to share with his family, friends, peers in the business and supporters. He remains a humble man well aware he didn't get to this point on his own. And he's most grateful to the fans.
"I want the fans to enjoy this," Jim said of his Hall of Fame induction. "I'm a representative of you. That's exactly what this is all about. This is part of your legacy."
That's sure to be the kind of sentiment we'll hear from Big Jim when he takes the stage at the Hall of Fame ceremony as he joins the long list of legends admitted to that institution.
Hillbilly Jim is a former WWE Superstar and the host of Moonshine Matinee on Sirius XM.