Bell Time with Dory Funk, Jr.
To say Dory Funk Jr. has done about all there is to do in wrestling would be tantamount to saying that The Pope has done all there is to do in Catholicism. Having held numerous championships in almost every territory he worked, including the prestigious NWA World Title. Dory and brother Terry are the only brother duo to ever hold the NWA World Title, another unique distinction that Dory holds. Winning titles in Japan, Florida, the CWA, GCW, Mid-Atlantic, Stampede and in Puerto Rico, Dory has a most impressive resume of championships.
Even at age 68 Dory still trains and wrestles at his Funking Conservatory in Ocala, Florida with the help of his wife Monica, affectionately known as Marti, who is a renowned photographer in her own right.
Dory’s career began in 1963 after a college career at West Texas State, home of many notable professional wrestling colleagues. Dory wrestled for his father, the legendary Dory Funk Sr. and defeated Don Fargo in his first match. Dory would go on to the NWA in 1968 and in early 1969 would defeat Gene Kiniski for the NWA World Title. Dory would hold the belt for over four years, second only to Lou Thesz for longest reign at the time. The grueling schedule that had to be kept by the NWA World Champion at the time began to take a toll on Dory and after a horrific vehicle accident Funk was rushed into the ring to drop the title to Harley Race. A long standing rumor has the accident as a convenient excuse for Dory not to have to lose the belt to Jack Brisco, whom Dory Funk Sr. had thunder heat with.
Dory was a mainstay in the Mid-Atlantic states region making frequent trips to Japan where he and brother Terry became legends in their own right in the country rich in wrestling tradition and mostly unforgiving of foreigners.
Some of the most notable students to come out of the Funking Conservatory include Matt and Jeff Hardy, Christian Cage, Lita, Kurt Angle, Mickie James, Edge and Test. And Funk continues to train and wrestle as part of his Bang! TV program.
Dory and brother Terry were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 by one time nemesis Dusty Rhodes. Dory Funk Sr., Dory Funk Jr., and Terry Funk are truly a legendary family in the world of professional wrestling. Running one of the most successful promotions in Amarillo, Texas, having two sons as World Champions and still going strong today. Dory was gracious enough to speak with me several years ago about topics that still hold relevance today.
I had the opportunity to see Dory Funk Jr. and Tommy Gilbert go a one hour Broadway on an Eddie Gilbert Memorial show one evening and in all the years and matches I have seen, this was the best match I have ever seen.The following is reprinted with permission from The Pro Wrestling Informer Newsletter and JL Wiseman Holdings Inc.
Q. You have had a storied career, what is your most memorable experience?
A. Has to be winning the world championship from Gene Kiniski in Tampa, Florida in 1969. Here I am all these years later and it still affects my life. Every day I see people who refer to me as Champion, former champion or some reference to that event.
Q. How did it feel to wrestle your brother Terry?
A. Not really a big event in my career or his. It was a tournament in Japan that we were both participants in. It was the only time and I enjoyed the match but, it was to me a very natural sequence of events.
Q. Do you prefer to wrestle in Japan or the states? Are Japanese crowds more appreciative than American crowds?
A. I used to think I preferred the Japanese crowds but now it is a thrill every time I lace up the boots where ever it might be.
Q. You wrestled mostly in a time when wrestlers were men, not puffed up characters, how does wrestling today compare to your era or is there any comparison?
A. Present day wrestling is just very different here in America. If you have the opportunity to watch the All Japan tapes, their matches are as close to the 70s style of wrestling as you will find. Their business is very good and consistent. I believe it is built around the talent and work rate.
Q. Your father, brother and yourself are considered three of the legit toughest in wrestling, do you feel that is a misnomer or an honor?
A. I take it as an honor. The current gunslinger rap address, at least in regard to my brother and father is www.dory-funk.com
Q. Past or present who is the one person you would have loved to wrestle?
A. Past I wrestled everyone I would have like to except Bruno Sammartino. Present wrestlers I would like to wrestle Shawn Michaels or Bret Hart. I would have loved to have gotten my hands on Owen too, God rest his soul.
Q. Twenty years ago to be a champion meant something, today it is little more than another gimmick, were you proud to be champion and would you be proud to be champion today?
A. I would be proud to be champion anytime. The NWA Championship in those days carried the credibility of the men who held it, Thesz, O’Conner, Dick Hutton, Gene Kiniski, all contributed to the success I had with the belt. (Jack) Brisco at the time was a great challenger and also added to the credibility of the belt as did Wahoo (McDaniel) and (Johnny) Valentine.
Q. What is your take on hardcore wrestling.
A. Paul E. and the others are genius at TV production and the wrestlers take great risk of injury, that is to their credit. I think wrestling should be family entertainment and safe for the public to attend. In short, I think the NFL and the NBA are the best in sports. All Japan, New Japan, and the WWE approach that quality in that order. I think the hardcore factions have carved an important niche in the market. I also think they have a way to go to be a mainstream product.
Q. Wrestling has lost a lot of heroes and a lot of young stars lately, are the new breed of wrestlers capable of filling the void?
A. As great athletes yes, as personalities and legends, we will have to wait and see.
As always I am Jerry Wiseman...and then the bell rings