The mid-2000s has some crazy characters in the WWE. Looking back, its hard to believe wrestlers like The Boogeyman, Hornswoggle, Big Dick Johnson and more were considered a good idea to be part of a wrestling show.
However, the most bizarre has to be Festus. Portrayed by a young, fresh-faced Luke Gallows (who looked like he was in his mid-40s, despite being 23-years-old), Festus was an odd character, originally born out of a reboot of the popular tag team “The Godwinns”.
WWE rehired Henry Godwinn, who last wrestled in the WWE in 1998, to team up with a young Ray Gordy. Gordy was the son of the legendary wrestler Terry Gordy, and was one of the most promising second generation wrestlers to come through the developmental system in years.
However, Godwinn was fired soon after being brought back to the company, ending this run as The New Godwinns before it even began. However, the company quickly pivoted and decided to team up Luke Gallows and Ray Gordy in a new tag team, simply named “Jesse and Festus”.
Before becoming Festus, Luke Gallows had a short run as “Imposter Kane”. In 2006, he was called up to the main roster for a feud with Kane, dressing up as classic masked Kane from his debut in the WWE in 1997. He spent five weeks trying to intimidate the WWE Hall of Famer, but lost the match between the two and was thrown out of the mask soon after.
After being sent back down to developmental, Luke Gallows was paired together with Ray Gordy, who had his name changed to “Jesse”. The pair were not sure what their gimmick was going to be, but were called into Vince McMahon’s office a week before their debut, before he introduced the character of Festus for Luke Gallows.
The pair were ready to debut as hillbillies (continuing on from the days of “The New Godwinns”), but were called into Vince McMahon’s office just before their debut match. Fearing they would be fired before even setting foot in the ring, the pair were shocked when Vince McMahon told them about the new gimmick they had envisioned.
Luke Gallows recalls that as soon as he got into Vince’s office, he was instructed to do the “Festus Face” – a gurning, catatonic look that looked to all who saw it as a bad, insulting impression of somebody with disabilities. The pair spent up to twenty-minutes (the time changes depending on which interview Gallows was doing) doing the face back-and-forth to each other, before McMahon was satisfied Gallows could play this new character he had named Festus.
McMahon then asked Gordy his favorite color, which he replied saying “yellow”. He was then instructed to by a yellow singlet, and informed he would be the handler for Festus. And thus, Jesse and Festus were born, starting out a new tag team that would take the WWE by storm.
Luke Gallows spoke about meeting Vince McMahon for the first time in this setting, after being a scared 23-year-old who didn’t have the confidence to walk into the bosses office at the start of his career.
Speaking in an interview with Chris Van Vliet about the Festus character, Luke Gallows said this about hearing about the character for the first time.
“I was 23-years-old and basically they told me to kind of get out of shape and this was the character they had for me,” Gallows said. “Originally, we were going to be hillbillies. I mean, how far is this hillbilly thing going to be able to go?”
“We’re getting ready to debut, we’re in the ring saying we’re going to do this, this and this, it’s like 20 minutes before doors, and they go ‘Vince McMahon wants you guys in his office.'” He added, “Are we getting fired already? So we go in the office and Vince is literally like ‘hey, big man, can you do this?” Then Vince did the face Festus was known for. Gallows continued to say that he and Vince then made the Festus face back at each other for ten minutes or so.”
“When you grow up thinking you’re going to be a long-haired wrestler with a beautiful robe and this cool guy and you become Festus, it’s not exactly ideal.”.
Despite the initial disappointment in the gimmick, it was actually the best thing to happen to Luke Gallows. He noted in other interviews that he did not know what he was doing at that age, and being given a clear-and-simple gimmick to portray helped him both learn what to do in the ring, and helped kids identify with him and come along with him on the journey.
Jesse and Festus grew to become one of the most popular teams on Smackdown in this era. Festus was the star, of course. He was led to the ring by Jesse, with his 1000-yard star and face that Vince McMahon taught him making for a hilarious image for the fans.
Festus had a quirk which made him incredibly unique. When he was not in the ring, his face was completely placid and expressionless. He was in a catatonic state, not reacting to anything or anyone, no matter how many insults they hurled at him.
However, as soon as the bell rang he would erupt, screaming in terror and decimating his opponents. Jesse and Festus matches were structured very plainly, with Jesse being beaten up for most of the bout, before getting the hot tag on Festus to clean house. They won most of their matches, but never managed to win the WWE World Tag Team Championships during their run together.
Jesse and Festus teamed together for just two years, between 2007 and 2009. Festus was drafted to Raw in 2009, where he removed the gimmick and became just “Luke Gallows” joining CM Punk in the Straight-Edge Society.
Punk explained that constant drug use turned Gallows into Festus, and that since becoming straight-edge, he reverted to his true self, and no longer exhibited any of the features of Festus. This was a very clever way to explain the gimmick change, and as of 2023 he has never gone back to being Festus in the WWE.
Meanwhile, Ray Gordy became a rapper on Smackdown, known as “Slam Master J”. Sadly, he would only wrestle for one more year before being released by WWE, when he retired from wrestling to become a police officer.