Ron McFarlane, a veteran wrestler who teamed with Jerry Brown in the Alabama Chain Gang, has died. He was 66.
McFarlane had battled cancer for over a decade, and died on August 29, 2021.
He was born March 26, 1955, to biological parents, Fred and Cleta Query, but raised by Amos and Madge McFarlane.
In 2010, he detailed his start in pro wrestling.
“I was a high school state champion,” he recalled.
Plus, he was a fan of professional wrestling, and used to go to the matches in Wichita, Kansas. “Every week I was there. Percival A. Friend, I hit him once, because I was a fan up front, I got so pissed, and he was managing the Interns, Tom Andrews and Jim Starr. I hit him one time, and the dragged me out of there, the cops took me out of there.”
After a little bit of college, McFarlane was living in Dodge City, Kansas, and saw an ad in the newspaper: “Wanted, Professional Wrestlers. Will train.”
“It was some local guy, the guy’s name was Kenny Milsap. He wrestled some back then for the NWA and Geigel and stuff, but he was nothing but a job guy. That’s how I actually got started, with him, and I just went on,” said McFarlane. His first matches were in the small town of Muldon, Missouri.
Soon, McFarlane was invited to Kansas City for Thursday nights, which was the house show nights. There, he was schooled to the next level, getting a chance to work against more skilled opponents, and bulked up to 260 pounds.
McFarlane had the most success in the tag team ranks — though often billed as Ron McFarland. He won the NWA Tri-State Tag Team championships twice with Doug Somers, though he wasn’t a fan of Somers. “As far as a partner and making money, we had a good run. As far as a person and thinking all about himself and nobody else, he’s not the person I wanted to associate with.”
It’s Jerry Brown that McFarlane is most associated with. Brown was a few years older and had already had major headlining runs in the Hollywood Blonds with partner Buddy Roberts and manager Sir Oliver Humperdink.
“Some of my biggest moments were with Jerry Brown,” said “Handsome” Ron McFarlane. They teamed for about four years, and were in the heelish Akbar’s Army, led by Skandor Akbar. “We were in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Leroy McGuirk, and we had a good run there. Eddie Gilbert and Ricky Morton came in and they wanted the titles over on them so we agreed.”
Both Gilbert and Morton were second-generation wrestlers who McFarlane saw would be stars. The match where he and McFarlane dropped the belts to the youngsters stuck in McFarlane’s memory. “Eddie moved and Jerry clobbered me. I went and got the juice, the whole nine yards back then. Akbar was our manager, and he jumps up and fires me right in the middle of the ring. That’s what started the feud between me, Jerry Brown and Akbar.”
Akbar (Jim Wheba) was the booker at the time, and it was his call to turn McFarlane against Brown in the Tri-State territory. “You guys just run your own program and do what you want to do,” Akbar said.
“We just did everything different than what a normal person would do. When they turned me babyface, I did not go to the babyface dressing room, I had my own dressing room,” said McFarlane.
On the way to Little Rock, Arkansas for a show, McFarlane was already in a restaurant in Westwood, Arkansas when Brown came in. They had to keep kayfabe.
“Jerry came in and saw me there. He goes and grabs the smorgasbord plate and just comes and dumps it on my lap, and a fight broke out,” said McFarlane. “Hey, we just made people believe.”
A Texas Death match was also memorable. “He pulled up there and I just pulled him out of the car and beat the hell out of him before we went into the arena. We decided that’s all we were going to do, and we ran a good program.”
Dory Funk Jr. had seen McFarlane and Brown as a team, and when Funk was booking in Florida, he wanted to bring them in. He did, under full body outfits and masks, as the Alabama Chain Gang, with JJ Dillon as their manager. In an interview in 2010, Brown said that it was hard to work in the outfits. “Some of the people did, some of them didn’t” know it was him, he said.
“The biggest problem was I took Harley Race to an hour Broadway in Florida. In Florida, we were in there in late September and the humidity and heat, it was horrible, it was just horrible, because we were under long sleeves, the whole nine yards,” said McFarlane. “It’s a whole different game because your facial expressions aren’t seen, you have to sell yourself a different way. We were getting over, we were getting over big time. But it just didn’t work out … we didn’t get what we were promised. I know Jerry stayed and got some money out of them for that, but I didn’t. I chose to go home. But I enjoyed the Alabama Chain Gang. We were supposed to be bank robbers that had robbed $40,000.”
Both Brown and McFarlane noted that they felt the Florida office didn’t keep its promises.
“We went down there on all these promises. We got down there and Big John Studd and [Bruiser] Brody came in, and they didn’t do what they told us they were going to do,” said McFarlane. “So we went to the office several times with Eddie Graham and those guys. ‘Things changed guys, sorry.’ So I bailed and Jerry stayed.”
McFarlane really did bail. He did not connect with Brown again until 2010, after reading the SlamWrestling story on Brown [MISSING HOLLYWOOD BLOND JERRY BROWN IS FOUND], and asking this writer to put them in touch.
“I was having marital problems, family problems from being on the road — all wrestlers do and everything else. I said, ‘Jerry, I’m outta here. I’m going to go home.’ I went home,” said McFarlane. “That’s when I took the dump truck driving job. My wife ended up leaving me in the end anyway. I had three kids, I was left with three kids and I had to raise them. I drove dump trucks, and then I got back into the business just working weekends. I’d go to Kansas City, somewhere I could get even on weeknights; I’d drive to Kansas City on Thursday nights, work Wichita, Oklahoma City, Dallas, where I could drive back and forth, or fly and get back home for Monday morning.”
Next, McFarlane promoted spot shows in Kansas, in a ring he bought from Geigel. He also trained a few wrestlers. “That’s a lot of work for a little money,” he said, noting “nothing ever became of that.”
The last time McFarlane was in the ring was 1995. “I was known for big bumps. That’s what took a toll on the body, was all those big bumps.”
He lamented in 2010 about his health challenges. “I’ve had three hip replacements. I broke one after I’d had it replaced six years later. Just had the other one done last March. Fighting a little cancer, but I’m winning that battle.”
In 2010, McFarlane was selling John Deere farm equipment, having been a branch manager, until realizing he could make more on commissions. Selling yourself in the ring isn’t all that different than selling products. “You learn a lot of it through wrestling, because you’ve got to sell yourself to whomever you’re dealing with, and you’ve got to change hats, you’ve got to be somebody you really ain’t, depending on who you’re with.”
McFarlane kept in touch with a few oldtimers, like Bill Howard and Roger Kirby. He noted that he had run into Jim Ross at an Oklahoma University football game, since McFarlane’s daughter went to school there. “He remembered me, and started telling me about Jerry Brown and Buddy Roberts and Humperdink,” chuckled McFarlane.
The current wrestling scene didn’t interest McFarlane. “It just got to be too much cartoon. It’s not the same as it was 25 years ago.”
Ron McFarlane is survived by his wife, Deb McFarlane; children, Stephanie (Terry) Palmer, Susan McFarlane (Deanna Davis), Dallas McFarlane (Jennifer Garcia), Megan (Brandon) Meador, Jennifer Cheever, Adrienne Cheever and Dustin Cheever; 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren; siblings, twin brother, Donnie McFarlane, Sheila (David) Koskey, Melvin (Virginia) Query, Alice Somers and Allen (Charlotte) Query. He is preceded in death by his parents, Amos and Madge McFarlane; brother, James McFarlane and biological parents, Fred and Cleta Query.
Visitation will be on Monday, September 6, 2021 from 6:00p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Cochran Mortuary. Celebration of life will be on Tuesday, September 7, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. at University Congregational Church, 9209 East 29th St N, Wichita, KS 67226. Burial to follow immediately after the service at Eastlawn Cemetery, Newton, KS. Memorial contributions may be made to Pheasant Heaven Charities, Inc., PO Box 338, Hugoton, KS 67951.