Dory Funk Jr. vs Gene Kiniski - World Title Match Feb 11, 1969
Although a great amount of the wrestling audiences of North America never had the opportunity of seeing Dory Funk Sr. wrestle, he was one of the top wrestlers in the nation. Feared and dreaded by his opponents he was the type of wrestler who loved the rough house style of a match. A grappler, a fighter, a bruiser, he enjoyed the violent action and gory battles. I first saw Dory Funk Sr. wrestle in Amarillo in nineteen-sixty two. He was pitted against another lover of the gory battles, Fritz von Erich. It was a sellout crowd that never did sit in their seats. Within minutes both wrestlers were covered with blood and the feared claw dug into Dory Sr. time after time and again and again Dory fought back and brought the fans to the very tips of their toes. It was exciting, thrilling, the kind of match that causes intense sensations. It was his type of match.
Dory Funk Sr. was born in Hammond, Indiana. To say he was a boy's boy would be an understatement. From the time he could walk he was a scrapper and loved all sports, but was partial to contact sports, the harder the contact the better. It was just a matter of time until football and wrestling would hold his entire attention. During his high school days he won the Indiana State wrestling championship on three different occasions while still finding time to be president of the student body. A football and wrestling scholarship brought him to the University of Indiana where he won the A.A.U. wrestling championship and was voted into the Indiana Wrestling Hall of Fame. Just about this time another fight was starting and Dory wanted some of that action so it was off to serve for Uncle Sam in the Navy. Dory Sr. first appeared in the Lone Star State in nineteen-forty-nine and from the time he hit Amarillo, he knew this was his kind of town. Defeating all opponents the promoters could bring into the panhandle, he was invited out to Boy's Ranch by the late Cal Farley. Cal had founded Boy's Ranch in nineteen-thirty-nine. When the boys threatened to throw the superintendent in the Canadian River it was time to bring in some muscle. From the first moment he was on trial, Dory Sr. took the boys down to the gym and on the mat. The situation soon cleared up, and although he promised Cal three months, he stayed three years serving as Superintendent, coaching football and coaching wrestling. Many a man today can look back and realize the character that he was building came from the hearts of men like Cal and Dory Sr. His greatest pride was yet to come, with two sons following in his footsteps.
Long hours, strict training, the job of teaching the experiences of wrestling, the holds, counter holds, what wrestler did what, wrestlers tricks, the knicks, the knacks, even to the taping of a sprain or bad bruise. Many hours, days, months and at last a father's dream come true; (February 11, 1969 in Tampa, Florida) to be in his son's corner when he faced the world's heavyweight champion. Big Gene Kiniski, ex-pro footballer, ex-amateur wrestling champion, was (N.W.A.) champ and beating all comers. Although Dory Funk Sr. had chances for the coveted belt, it always seemed to elude him. The pulse was getting quicker, the heart pumping faster and a lump came to his throat when he heard the announcer say Dory Funk Jr.'s name. Kiniski came on fast, big and strong. The Canadian giant was a powerhouse. The fans came out of their seats. Remarks were shouted: "It will be over any second now", "Gene is too big for Funk", "Gene has got him", etc. as Kiniski punched, kicked, slammed and drove Funk's head into the mat. If there is such a thing as inheriting guts and determination, perseverance, bulldog tenacity, the will to win, the ambition and courage, all attributes of a champion, it was to be seen in that arena that night. My thoughts raced back to the first time I saw Sr. with Von Erich and how he had come back, the blood pouring from two open holes at his temples. If young Funk was anything like his old man, if he could produce a portion of Sr.'s courage, if, if, if only and as the words trailed from my mouth young Funk was coming back, coming up, slowly at first as he struggled to find himself. GOD, where was that much needed second wind? Young Funk was searching and found Dory Sr.'s eyes and as he came up the crowd came with him. Pandemonium, the smell of victory, the young matador finding the ingredients to make the kill, and there was Dory Jr. applying the world famous spinning toe hold, the hold Dory Sr. introduced into the wrestling profession, the hold that had taken years to perfect and longer to teach. The noise was deafening. The new (National Wrestling Alliance) World Heavyweight Champion Dory Funk Jr. You could have said Sr., for Jr. was the product the older Funk had modeled.
Dory Sr. took turns teaming with Jr. and Terry who had developed into a star in his own right. I ran into Dory Sr. again two years ago at the Madison Square Gardens in New York. He was teamed with son Terry that night and I had a long talk with him. Dory Sr. never lived a dull day and was always good for an interesting story. I asked why he did most of his wrestling around Texas and never gave the fans in other parts of the country much of a chance to see him in action. "Well, I love Texas and it's kind of hard to stay away from a loved one for long." He kind of chuckled and it was hard to think of this man being rough, tough, feared, hated. Dory Sr. never had to be pointed out, for his colorful appearance and casual swagger were his trademark. This story is ending as your life did, Dory, but for those of us who knew you, we were all touched with a little greatness.
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