Beyond Festus and WWE: The Continued Journey of Luke Gallows
Photo copyright Wayne Rush
Luke Gallows wipes the sweat from his head and catches his breath backstage.
He has just finished a technical wrestling clinic with “The Shooter” Vordell Walker after main eventing Old School Championship Wrestling’s latest event, his fifteenth match of the week.
Gallows (real name Drew Hankinson) is no stranger to the road, having worked with WWE from 2006 through 2010. But even so, he’s taking the expression “road warrior” to Mad Max heights in his transition to the independent circuit.
“I’ve stayed very busy,” Gallows admits since his departure from WWE in November of 2010. “We just finished a taping in LA for the Wrestling Revolution Project where we taped 62 matches in three days, and I’m gearing up to head to Australia soon for a show.”
Despite the busy schedule, Gallows shows no signs of wear or fatigue as he dresses in his camouflage shorts after his match, and he is not too tired to talk about Festus, the character that elevated him to a certain degree of fame in WWE.
“I enjoyed Festus. He was a character for the kids; the guy who went nuts when the bell rang. That’s what Festus will be remembered for, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s just like Jake Roberts. What will he be known for? He’s the guy who brought the snake to the ring. It’s an instant association you make.”
Although Festus fell into a long line of WWE “monster” characters that prayed upon simplistic archetypes, Gallows pulled from what sources he could from pop culture to add relevancy and nuance to his in-ring performance. He cites Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men as a major influence in creating the dichotomy of simple mindedness and irrepressibly of Festus.
It is that reliance and awareness of the pop culture around them that Gallows feels is the meat and potatoes of what has generated success for WWE and professional wrestling. “That’s what made the Attitude era so popular. You had characters that were hip and cool and in touch with what was going on with the times versus the previous era of cartoon characters the WWE generated that were more over the top.”
Almost never is it uncommon to hear someone who was released by WWE to vent anger or start a soap box rant about unfair treatment. It is mostly seen or heard in interviews or even during in-ring segments of competing promotions. But Gallows shows a remarkable optimism and professionalism when addressing the subject and maintains a pleasant and engaging demeanor while signing autographs for the OSCW fans.
“I didn’t hate WWE. In fact, my goal would be to return, but if I made it back I would want to be my own solo act. As Festus I was in a tag team predominantly with Jesse, and then with the Straight Edge Society that was Punk’s group. I want to come back and be my own thing.”
And with his impressive and continued work load on the independent circuit combined with only being 27 years old, Gallows has plenty of time and experience ahead of him in his career. The healthiest ingredient in maintaining his journeyman status is his ability to still continuously find enjoyment with the business. “I can have just as much fun at a show like this as I would with a full Smackdown audience in a arena. I love the business. As long as I’m wrestling, I’m having fun.”
And then Gallows calmly puts on a camouflage hat that matches his shorts and grabs his bag.
He makes his way to the exit, taking a few last minute pictures with the other OSCW guys and laughs at one last question.
I ask Gallows what people ask him the most while he’s on the road at different shows, anticipating a response somewhere along the lines of career advice.
On the contrary. “Believe it or not, it’s whether I know The Rock.”