In Funk's Corner
Working the Amarillo Territory
Just to give you an idea of what it was like working the Amarillo Territory.
Saturday morning we would meet in Amarillo (Puckett Place) at Jerry Kozak's house at 8:00am to lay out the card for the Saturday morning television show. Dory Sr. Terry, myself and Herman Gust. Jerry's wife, Eddie Kozak always had coffee ready. She was a wonderful lady. Years later, my youngest son was in the hospital for a chest operation. Eddie was up on fifth floor visiting him, concerned that he would do well. Dirk left the hospital soon, Eddie never did. She had cancer.
By 10:00am we were at the channel 10 TV studio in Amarillo to meet the wrestlers and give the
matches to them. The Oklahoma territory (Promoter Leroy McGuirk) often sent a couple of wrestlers over from Oklahoma City to do jobs for our wrestlers. On this day one of the jobbers sitting in the dressing room with a smile on his face was young Bob Backlund. We took a look at this kid straight out of University and amateur wrestling with a body that looked chizzled in stone and asked if he would work our territory. The rest is history.
Showtime was 11:00am. for the TV taping.
We were out at 12:30pm to grab a bite to eat and hit the road for either Colorado Springs or Pueblo by 2:30pm. The drive was straight to Springs or Pueblo.
We gained an hour going to Colorado and it helped a lot. I always loved driving to Springs and Pueblo. After crossing the state line into Colorado we could see the rockies on the left and on the right was an extinct volcano, Capulin Mountain. I often took my kids to the top and walked the rim of the cone.
Saturday night was a show in Springs or Pueblo, good towns that did good business. Pueblo at the Fairgrounds and Springs at I believe the City auditorium. Herman Gust was the promoter. I will never forget one night after the show in Pueblo, Colorado, Terry Funk standing in the shower after a hard match. A mixture of blood and water was streaming down his face. The night before, 600 miles away in Abilene, Texas, The local promoter, The Lawman had told Terry how well he was doing. He had saved a hundred thousand dollars and owned his home. Mixed in with the water and the blood, you could see tears running down Terry's face. His wife had just left him and he had given her his house on Palo Duro Creek and all the money in his bank account. He said he didn't have a nickel and the damn Lawman had a house and a hundred thousand bucks.
Six weeks later Terry became NWA World Champion. A year later, his wife returned with all the his money and his home on Palo Duro Creek between Canyon and Amarillo. They have lived happily ever since. It just shows you how quickly life can turn around.
After the show it was an all night drive to Albuquerque, checking in at 3:30am at the Del Camino Hotel. Sunday began with promos done live at the TV Station at 10:00am. Albuquerque was a hot town and if we had good promos, we knew the town would be good that night. The tape had been sent from TV 10 in Amarillo overnight by bus.
Next it was lunch and sleep a couple of hours. Showtime at the Civic Auditorium was 7:00pm. Mike London was the promoter and he ran a tight ninety minute show. The building was often sold out. Ricky Romero was hot and was the top face. Heels were Von Steiger, Mike Dibiase, Viking, Nelson Royal, Karl Von Krupp, Sheik, Abdulah the Butcher, JC Dyckes and the Infernos, The Von Brauners and many others.
A lady at the concession stand had charged Mike London's daughter for a cup of Ice and from that day on he never slowed the show for intermission, hence the tight ninety minute show. The same thing happened to Joe Murnich's wife in Raleigh NC and for the rest of Joe's days of promotion he never slowed for intermission. Joe used to tell me, "Can you imagine how much that fifty cent cup of ice cost those people who run the concession stand."
The Albuquerque show was over and we were on the road by 10:00pm for the trip to El Paso. We would arrive in town around 3:00am and would go across the border to Mexico to club Noa Noa and other horrible places to quaff some beer, tequilla, scotch and what ever else.
By 6:00am we were back on the El Paso side for breakfast at the Good Luck Cafe. Their Munudo was out of this world.
By 7:00am we were checking in at the Rhodeway Inn on Interstate 10. The price was about $12.00 and it was like getting two days for one. We would crash then have dinner at around 3:00pm, then show up at the El Paso Coliseum at 7:00pm for an 8:00 o'clock show. Gory Guerrero was the promoter.
Again Ricky Romero was a hot card. Kids running around were Baby Eddie Guerrero, Hector, Mando and Chauvo Guerrero. Mill Mascares and El Santo sometimes also made appearances along with El Gran Goliath and Black Gordman.
After the show in El Paso we were back across the border for more good times. Some times it was too good for our own good. One night, JJ Dillon, Karl Von Steiger, Siegfried Stanke, and Ben Justice spent the night in the Juarez Jail. They say Steiger urinated on stage at club Noa Noa. Gorgeous George Jr is said one night to have smuggled a hooker out of Juarez and into El Paso in the trunk of his car. All in fun.
The next morning around 1:00pm we would get in the car and head for Odessa, Texas.
Leaving El Paso begins with I-75, but we always took a short cut through Orla, Texas, a small town, really small between El Paso and Odessa. At a crossroad in the road was a gas station owned by Rattlesnake Phillips. We always liked to stop and see what kind of rattlesnake gimmicks he had.
For first timers, He would show them a cage. It was dark and had a sign on it that said, "Rattlecat." (Combination rattlesnake and bobcat). Just when they would get their nose real close to the cage, Rattlesnake Phillips would push a button and the door wuld fly open and an old bobcat hide would fly out in your lap. It scared the Hell out of a lot of first timers.
The trip continued on to Odessa, Texas and the Antlers Hotel where some of the guys would check in just before the wrestling matches at the Ector County Coliseum where, Rowdy Pat O'Dowdy was the promoter.
At the Ector County Coliseum the show was always great but the ring was horrible. If you hit the ropes on one side, the other side of the ring would fly up. Finally one week, Terry Funk came in early with tools in his car and did his best to fix the ring but it always was bad.
After the show in Odessa it was a 260 mile drive back to Amarillo for some time with family.
Wednesday at 5:00pm we would leave Amarillo for Lubbock, The promoter, who just recently passed away, was Nick Roberts, husband of Lorainne Johnson and father of Baby Doll of WCW fame.. The show was at the Fair Park Coliseum. Lubbock was a hot town. The biggest draw who led Lubbock to being the number one town in the state of Texas for a while was The Sheik.
In wrestling, the show always goes on. One night in Lubbock the show started and the coliseum lights went out. We opened up the doors in the back of the building and pulled several pickup trucks in and shined the lights on the ring and the show went on to completion.
After Lubbock it was a hundred mile drive back home.
The next morning at 10:00am it was interviews for the whole territory at TV channel 10 in Amarillo.
To explain a little, wrestling depends on television and the Saturday Amarillo show was bicycled
throughout the territory. It showed in Amarillo Saturday afternoon and was sent right out by bus to Albuquerque for the Sunday 10:00am show at KOAT TV. Albuquerque then sent the tape to Lubbock for showing the following week. The tape then went to Odessa, El Paso, Abilene, and finally Colorado.
We had a five week bicycle to be aware of when we did promos.
If a hot match off TV was Terry and Dory vs Infernos one week we had to be aware of where that tape was playing as it bicycled around the territory and cut promos accordingly. The same was true if the following week the hot match was Ricky Romero vs Sir Nelson Royal. Promos lasted from 10:00am till 1:00pm. Some of the boys who were very good on promos were Terry, King Curtice, Karl Von Krupp, Dory Funk Sr.
After promos it was family time until the show Thursday night at the Sports Arena in Amarillo. Show time 8:00pm. The promoter was Jerry Kozak and he did an excellent job covering the newspaper, and three TV stations on the sports shows with publicity.
On Friday we would leave Amarillo for the trip to Abilene, Texas. The promoter was Don "The Lawman" Slatton. He also ran shows in San Angelo, Sweetwater, Brownwood, Breckenridge, Snyder and others. They had beautiful coliseums and his shows did well. The trip was 270 miles and we left Amarillo about 3:00pm and drove fast. The reason we were always traveling fast was to get some time at home with family. It was difficult finding family time. I liked to take the back roads cutting across from Tulia to Turkey and south to Spur, Texas where a little shack served the best Bar B Q sandwich ever. Jess's Bar B Q. Harley Race would never touch the food. Said the place wasn't clean. He would always sit out in the car and complain. In truth I have seen him eat much worse.
Abilene was a good town especially when we moved to the coliseum. The Lawman's ring was never too good either. I remember wrestling Jack Brisco there and the whole ring fell apart and the match had to be stopped. Our publicity was the match was so great but the truth was the ring was the shits.
After the show we always made the trip to Impact, Texas. Abilene was dry and one city block
in the middle of town, incorporated itself and voted wet and they could sell beer. The only drawback was they had to sell it at room temperature. We would load up, ice it down and in twenty minutes the beer would be just right.
The trip home put us back in Amarillo at 3:00am Saturday morning.
At 8:00am on Saturday it was time to meet at Jerry Kozak's house and make out another TV show and we got to do this all over again.
In between we would find time to also run Clovis, Hereford, Plainview weekly and spot show the
Lawman's towns mentioned above. Also we ran Lamesa, Borger, Trinidad, Cannon City, Guymon, Liberal, Tucumcari, Elk City etc. etc.
I loved it.
Hope you enjoyed this story, I enjoyed writing it.