Dory Funk Jr. joined SLAM! Wrestling live for a chat on Tuesday, June 26, 2001. Here’s the transcript.
Peter Traverse, Newfoundland: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a wrestler?
Dory Funk, Jr.: It would have to be February 11, 1969 when I won the NWA world championship from Gene Kiniski. I remained champ for 4 1/2 years and there’s still never a day that someone doesn’t bring it up or it affects my life.
Tom B: I recently got a chance to watch your match against Jack Brisco in Japan back in 1974. I have to say that it’s one of my most cherished and best matches (simply by being an example of pure scientific wrestling) in my collection. Do you consider your series of matches against Brisco as being the best in your long career?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Yeah, I would have to say so. I wrestled him at least a hundred times when I was champ all over the world — Japan, Florida, St. Louis, Texas. He was the most enjoyable opponent too to wrestle.
Frank “Cutie Pie” Reda: What are your memories of wrestling at the Maple Leaf Gardens?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Maple Leaf Gardens… there was a fabulous restaurant right downtown. I used to get Yorkshire pudding. I would be wrestling against Kiniski and the Sheik.
Tom Gallagher: What was it like to work with the Original Sheik?
Dory Funk, Jr.: (laughing) He understood how to burn the people up anybody than anybody I’ve ever known. He knew how to get heat. He was also a unique personality with a unique gimmick, and for the wrestling fans, he lived it. I could go on. He was the #1 draw in the Texas territory before I was world champion. Cities like Lubbock, taking it to the top of Texas with only 150,000 people. Better than Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and all those cities. It was mostly Sheik working for my father.
Terry Harris: What current wrestler if any do you see a lot of yourself in or even Terry in for that matter?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Adam Windsor. I trained him. I do some of myself in my brother, who was also trained by my father. Terry is also an excellent technical wrestler as well as hardcore. Adam Windsor is 19 years old and a very mature wrestler. He will be with us for a while. He’s been training with us for almost 2 years now. He’s just a super fine wrestler. Already he’s what we call a ring general, takes it upon himself to never have a bad match.
Bijan: Thank you SLAM! Wrestling for another chat with a legend. Dory, did you ever wrestle Terry for the world title and if not, have you ever wrestled Terry officially?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Never for the world title. I wrestled him twice. Once in Amarillo, Texas in a tournament in which Ricky Romero & I were partners against Terry and Wahoo McDaniel. And one other time in Japan in a tournament when we came up in opposite brackets for the International champion. We met in the finals of tournament. I won.
Andrew Vaccaro, Melbourne, Australia: What were your experiences of wrestling in Australia? Did you enjoy it? Who were the most memorable wrestlers, and what were the more memorable experiences?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I loved Australia. Melbourne, the Southern Cross Hotel, I don’t even know if it’s still there. Loved Melbourne, Perth, the beaches. Memorable wrestlers — Ray Stevens, Mark Lewin, Dominic Denucci, Killer Kowalski, Tex McKenzie, who recently passed away. Those names were very big cards in Australia. Unfortunately, I did not get to meet Spiros Arion there, who was very big there.
Scrap Iron: Hi Dory, I am a former wrestler from the legendary Grand Prix Wrestling circuit (Emile Dupre) out in the Maritimes. Can you give a classic Emile Dupre story? What was your stay like when you toured the maritimes? Have you ever gone up against the likes of Killer Karl Krupp in your travels?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Emile was in Australia with me also. I wrestled him there. I didn’t work for him in the Maritimes, I worked for the Cormiers — Leo and Rudy and the Beast. I wrestled Burke there. I loved that you could buy lobsters like you could hamburgers.
I wrestled Krupp many times. He was one of our top heels in Amarillo many years ago, and he passed away a while ago. He was a classic bad guy German. He used come to me before interviews and say ‘I will put on my ugly face’ not realizing that it was already on.
Eric Awin: What were the Crocketts like to work for?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I worked for both Jim Crockett Sr. as NWA world champion and the first day that I met Crockett Sr. he said to make sure I was here as champion not as a talent recruiter for my father. I worked for Jim Crockett Jr. and learned a whole lot about the business as his booker for a year and a half, especially about TV. He invested lots of money in TV — production, graphics, many other features as it relates to the wrestling business.
Michael G Flaherty, Ireland: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a wrestler?
Dory Funk, Jr.: They said it on the first edition of Tough Enough — two words — Be Yourself. So many people try to develop a personality other than themselves and that’s why they fail. We recommend several different sports that kids learn and one is amateur wrestling, gymnastics, and drama and speech classes, martial arts. Those things are critical if you are young and want to become a pro wrestler. Probably the most critical. Follow your dreams. There is another thing that we ask of all of our kids, we ask them to continue their education. It’s a fact that not everyone is going to make it. I had to finish college according to my father before I turned pro. It’s good advice to have another profession. Mathematically, not everyone can make it. Everyone can enjoy being in the indy promotions, however.
Ranj Samra, Vancouver BC: Hello Dory. I’d like to get your thoughts on Gene Kiniski, Don Leo Jonathon and the wrestling scene in British Columbia back in your heyday.
Dory Funk, Jr.: Don Leo, in a time before steroids, was the most awesome individual I ever met. I had the pleasure of wrestling him a few times.
Gene Kiniski was like a second father to me. He helped me through many situations, especially a very serious knee injury in Vancouver that I was told by the doctor to check in for surgery. I called Gene to cancel my dates, and his advice was to go buy tape, ‘tough skin’ and long tights, and show up tonight. So every night for a month, he was there an hour doing up my legs. I’ve still never had surgery on my knees.
I used to love Vancouver. We had one oyster and that was one meal! We went to the Island, Victoria. It’s among the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. Gene Kiniski had probably the toughest attitude I’ve ever known. He really was Canada’s greatest athlete.
Heath: Who do you think is the best NWA Champ of all time?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I would say, and I’m going to eliminate myself, it would have to go to … I’m going to name more than one. Ric Flair, one is Terry Funk, one is Harley Race, one is Jack Brisco. The other is Gene Kiniski. And they were all for different reasons. Flair for flamboyancy, Brisco for credibility, Terry for his toughness, Race for never quitting, Kiniski for his all-around representation for what a world champion should be. And a beautiful guy too.
Frank Piccolino from Wilson Yards: Hi Dory. You and your brother are both icons in this business. What reason do you feel made you become monster icons in Japan?
Dory Funk, Jr.: When we first went there, to relive the war, they lined up the Americans against the Japanese and re-did World War II. We were the first to break that mould and I think they had a lot of respect for our wrestling skill. We really liked the people. That was kind of a contrasting situation, because my father had gone after being a combat veteran in WWII, and as a whole family, we were able to become very acceptable to the Japanese people. I think I was among the first Americans to wrestle an American. In the end, I ended up travelling with the Japanese, and wrestling on their side against the Americans. There was a mutual respect and a burying of the hatchet.
Anonymous: What do you think of the situation in All-Japan right now? If you were still there, would you have sided with Misawa or Mrs. Baba?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Probably myself! I really don’t know the details of the split. I helped train Misawa in All Japan Pro Wrestling. My father, Terry and I were responsible along with Mr. Baba for the creation of All Japan. Up until Johnny Ace left, there wasn’t a tour without Funk’s talent on it. I don’t know what the split was about or why it took place. I think they are short of good American talent, and that’s a style of wrestling that their fans would like. It would cure some of their problems. For that matter, if the Funkin’ Conservatory went over, they probably couldn’t keep the people away.
John, Winnipeg: Did you ever wrestle in Winnipeg and did you ever have a chance to connect with the likes of Mad Dog Vachon, the Crusher, Baron Von Raschke?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I did wrestle in Winnipeg with the WWF. It was about 1985, with Terry. Only Baron Von Raschke, I wrestled him in St. Louis for the world title. His amateur credentials helped him do great that night. It was Jim Raschke not the stomping German.
Frank “Congo” Reda: What are your memories of the late Eddie Graham.
Dory Funk, Jr.: He was a genius. Incidentally, he learned the business from my father in Amarillo. Our business out there, at that time I wasn’t a wrestler, it was built on credibility and the athleticism. Eddie took that principle to Florida where he built a great promotion, based around giving back to the community. My dad had a boy’s ranch, wrestling-backed, and Graham helped the Florida sheriff’s boy’s ranch. Really it’s not the individual things, it’s the principal of giving back when you have a successful business. Bill Watts was Eddie Graham’s booker and later build Mid-South on the same principles. The announcer for Watts was Jim Ross. When you hear Ross talk about credibility in wrestling, it came from my father, Dory Funk Sr.
Paul Blankenship: I grew up watching you wrestle in Amarillo. My favorite match was in 1969 when you wrestled Lou Thesz with Joe Louis as the ref. Does the profanity and sexual overtones of today’s wrestling bother you? I think it would be great if we could actually see some wrestling instead of having to listen to so much gum beating.
Dory Funk, Jr.: Only that I’m sometimes critical of it because it’s aimed at the largest market. If they go too far, sexual, or whatever, at a certain point you limit your market. I think it should be spiced up, but at a certain line you go too far and drive people away. Nothing bothers me to watch it or see it. When you become so vulgar, sexual or violence, it’s destructive. The idea is to make money. If you turn enough people off that you’re lowering your ratings, you’re hurting yourself.
D.J. ez cheeze: What do you think of the new hardcore wrestling?
Dory Funk, Jr.: We teach it. It’s got its place. I think it’s place is probably about 13% of the card. We try to build our Funkin’ Conservatory to have a variety of styles. We try to have a hardcore match on every show for television. At the same time, it’s a safety training — do it so no one gets hurt besides the standard bumps and bruises that you get in a wrestling match.
Dave Woods, Pusan, Korea: Dear Mr. Funk, It’s a great pleasure to speak to a living legend. I think you were the last NWA champion ever to have an uninterrupted title reign of years — about four and a half, I think. Do you have any feelings about the change from long, impressive reigns to short, manic ones? Flair with dozens of titles, for example, seems ridiculous and self-mocking to me.
Dory Funk, Jr.: I think it takes time for someone to be established as a champion, especially if you want to create a real drawing card that is a household name. Also to really draw money, you need to cross over to the general public. To get a champion that crosses over in time, and to really get established to draw money over time. One of my students, Kurt Angle, is certainly qualified to be a long-time champion and draw money for a long time. If you have a long-term champion, then the champion is drawing money. If it’s only a short-term reign, it’s the championship drawing the money. So my real respect would come for a long-time champion that could carry the load for a long time.
Moderator: (John Molinaro) What are your memories of working for Vince McMahon in the WWF in the mid-80s?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I made very good money, well-paid. Travelled like crazy, worked every day. Had a great time. Flew my wife with me everywhere I went. Fortunately, she didn’t mind travelling with me. I like to work hard. As NWA champion, I probably worked 26 days a month. The most fun place you can be as a wrestler is in the ring.
Kev L: Tell us about some of the ribs that you pulled on the road
Dory Funk, Jr.: My father probably did the best one on anybody. In the old days, they used to stop for hitch-hikers and see how many times they could make them run for the car, always pulling ahead. He had this friend Benny Trudel, a French Canadian, and he told Benny who was in the front seat to hang his ass out the window at him. They pulled and stopped in front of the hitch-hiker, who had run for the fourth time, and Benny’s ass was sticking out the window. When the hitch-hiker got to the car, he was mad, and Benny was laughing, telling my dad to drive off. Instead of driving off, my father crammed himself up against Benny so that he couldn’t get his ass out of the window. The hitch-hiker was so mad that he started punching Benny in the ass. That’s the end of the story.
lou: Dory, who do you think fans and the media should have recognized as a “great” wrestler past or present? Also are you proud of products you produced, the Hardy Boyz?
Dory Funk, Jr.: The Hardy Boys I’m very proud of, Kurt Angle, Christian, Edge, Rikishi, Lita, Crash Holly, Test, Albert, Rhyno, Shawn Stasiak, (Steve) Corino, it goes on and on. Heck, there’s been a lot of them. One that I’m proud of, and has lots of talent, but hasn’t been exploited yet is David Flair. I really feel privileged. I’ve been exposed to a lot of great athletes.
Logitech: Besides Adam Windsor, who do you think will be a breakout star from the Funkin’g Conservatory?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Brent Dail and Summer Rain. She had her picture in WOW magazine and trained in the arts — opera and dance. She’s really good. We just had a kid last time, Brandon Groom, he was an Oklahoma high school wrestler and went straight to pro wrestling. I’m not sure it was the best choice for him, but he has good talent. A kid from Canada, Mark Bartalucci, and I don’t know where he is now. I have another one, a European, Chris the Bambi Killer, he’s from Austria. WCW was taking quite a close look at him and then ceased to exist. One more, Dale Williams. And another kid is unique because he’s American-Chinese, Shane Chung.
elliot: dory, what do you think of wrestlers not wanting to do business because they are afraid of hurting their credibility or ego?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Well, I just laugh at them. I really don’t understand that. Just so that they know, or anybody knows, there is no toughest of them all. There never was a cowboy that couldn’t be thrown or a horse that couldn’t be rode. WWF set up a tournament for Steve Williams but Bart (Gunn) came through. I’ve seen it happen before. The toughest always run into someone else. Vader ran into Orndorff. Adrian Adonis ran into Dan Spivey. Steve Williams ran into Bart who ran into Butterbean. It goes on and on. We hear all kinds of things about karate, jujitsu. My opinion is that the toughest athletes are the intercollegiate amateur wrestlers, especially the NCAA champions.
JH from PEI: Who was the “stiffest” worker you have ever stepped in the ring with..???
Dory Funk, Jr.: Mr. Clean from back in the ’60s. He would suffice as the stiffest ever. He had limited vocabulary and looked like the guy on the bottle. He would always say ‘That was a stinking good match.’ I’m glad he’s gone!
John: Will you ever publicly respond to NWA President Howard Brody regarding the split and claims he made about you and Adam Windsor on his NWA website?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I’d rather not give him the publicity. It’s old news.
Randy Scott from Amre: Who currently in the business would you like to manage and why?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Yeah, Adam Windsor. I think he has the talent and the knowledge of the wrestling business. But he’s very, very young at 19 years old. Maybe too young to go it alone. With somebody with him, he’d draw loads of money.
Redasboyfriend: I saw a lot of your work in Japan and you worked quite a bit with Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody. They both seemed like they would be very stiff. Any stories about working with those two?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Watch out for the clothesline! Stan Hansen and Bruiser Brody, yeah they’re stiff but they garnered lots of respect from the fans over there. They drew big houses. We have a saying — the bigger the house, the softer the ring.
Moderator: (Molinaro) Your memories of Jumbo Tsuruta, a guy you helped to train?
Dory Funk, Jr.: To me, he was the most amazing athlete at that time that I had the privilege of training. He was in the Olympics in Greco and was a basketball player. He also had a degree in law. All Japan sent him to Amarillo to train with me. He actually had his first match there. He learned faster, executed better and quicker than anyone that I ever had the opportunity to train. 6’4″, 235 pounds — probably the ideal size for a wrestler. He career he rose the top fast. He had a short career even though it almost spanned 20 years. He is the only one that I’ve seen that can throw a forearm exactly like I do and apply the spinning toe-hold exactly. He’s the kind of athlete that doesn’t come around often. Really nice guy too.
Gareth Williams – Wales, UK: How do you think that having only one national wrestling company will damage the sport as a whole?
Dory Funk, Jr.: I think there will be other companies. I pulled a list off the Internet of 150 promotions. Here in Florida, there are lots of promotions and multiply that by 50. At the Funkin’ Conservatory, we’re in the 26th week of our of TV show. It’s not only us, there are other companies that are looking to television. There’s a humongous market of wrestling fans out there that are not being served. In fact, if you look at the ratings, there are more out there not watching than are watching. Combined rating used to be in the 10’s, and now it is in the 4’s. They are not getting what they want. Somebody will come along and appeal to all those fans. It could be the Funkin’ Conservatory, because we’d like to, but there are hundreds of others that would like to as much as us. With that big market, somebody will serve it.
Frank Chubby Reda: The Memphis area was very hot in the early 80’s (Fabulous Ones, Zambui Express, Randy Savage, Rick Rude, etc) What was it like working in that territory?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Memphis, they probably remember my brother for me. I did go to Memphis, and did wrestle Lawler. I wrestled there in the ’70s as NWA champion. I found a lot of tough attitude kids there. I was impressed because they all knew Elvis Presley. In the old City Auditorium, back behind the curtain were Elvis and his friends were watching the shows with Johnny Walker, Dennis Hall, Len Rossi. Nick Gulas was the promoter. I’m going way back. Jerry Jarrett was there at the time. I don’t know if he met Elvis or not. Elvis was a wrestling fan and Memphis was where he went for the matches.
Logitech: What are your thoughts on kids ‘Backyard Wrestling”?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Sure has created some good wrestlers, especially with the Hardys. We get quite a few of them. They do like to try some dangerous things. We ask that they let us know about it in advance, warn us as much as they can. Really, they’re a super bunch. I know that the thing is that they’ve been criticized for lack of safety. Really with backyard wrestlers, we try to teach them some basics so they have a foundation and don’t kill themselves. That’s really what we did with the Hardys who came in able to do spectacular moves off the top rope, and we built them a base. They’ve been spectacular. We had the Hardys for about five training camps up there.
Moderator: We’re going to take two more questions before calling it quits.
Ivan Nieves: Dory, Puerto Rico scene was one of the hottest in the ’80s. What was it like to work there? Thoughts on Carlos Colon?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Rabid wrestling fans and a good friend. I have travelled a lot of places with Carlos. I’ve been his business partner on some wrestling promotion deals, and I always had a great relationship with him. I loved the wrestling fans there. I’ve been there quite a few times with my brother. They are rabid. Driving on the streets in a rent-a-car, you’d better look out. I really had some fun times there. I used to get a car and travel the whole island. Loved the food and the people.
John: If you could do it all over again, would you?
Dory Funk, Jr.: Yeah, I sure would, including the last part which is having the opportunity to teach my trade on a professional level. I’ve kind of always been a teacher, but now I’m doing it professionally. I’ve got to say that it’s every bit as rewarding to watch the success of the kids that have coming through the program. Geez, I’ve got lots of world champions out there — Lita, Angle, Rikishi, Christian, Edge. One guy who really did a great job who I didn’t mention yet is Val Venis. So many that I’ve enjoyed watching going on to huge success now. I hope that I will have many, many more.
Moderator: That’s it. SLAM! Wrestling would like to thank Dory Funk Jr. for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with SLAM! and its readers. The final word goes to the champ.
Dory Funk, Jr.: We have a thing that we do after each show on !Bang! where we go out and thank the fans, because the wrestling business is all about the fans. They are the ones that make everything possible. For me to have the good life that I’ve had, for Vince McMahon to be a billionaire, it’s all because of the fans and their support. I’ve been privileged because I’ve been supported by the fans since I turned to pro wrestling in 1963. I’d like to thank all the fans for all of their support all these years.