8/29/2001 9:46:00 AM
                   By Charles Beckmann
                   Our thanks to

                   One week each month, men and women from all over the United States, and even the World gather in the city of Ocala, Florida, in a small building, with a wrestling ring, under the flags of twenty-two nations, and the banner of !BANG!

                   This is The Dory Funk Arena, home of The Funking Conservatory, where the men and women are trained by one of the business' own living legends, Dory Funk Jr.

                   This past weekend, I was offered the privilege of a special invitation to make the trip down to Ocala and attend the camp as a special guest. The experience that came as a result was, a look at the particulars of what goes into the wrestling business to make it work. And for a young
man who aspires to one day perform as a Professional Wrestler, or participate in the business in any capacity for that matter, this experience was invaluable.

                   When I arrived at The Dory Funk Arena on Thursday afternoon, I was introduced to Marti Funk, wife of Dory Funk Jr. She welcomed me and was very polite throughout the duration of my stay. That evening, I was able to see more than I thought I would be allowed to see. The
Television taping was just two days away, and everyone was hard at work preparing their matches for the show. Spots were being worked out, Interviews and promos were being worked on and recorded, and Dory Funk Jr. himself was making sure that each match was being formed properly.

                   First impressions can only be made once, and my first impression of this wrestling school was that it was something special.

                   I know it sounds like I'm posing for the school, but really I'm just giving my honest opinion. During the day, everything seemed to run as fluid as could be. The relationship between the wrestlers, and with anyone else associated with the school made it seem like a really enjoyable
and close nit family. Everyone was helping everyone, Dory was helping everyone, Marti was helping everyone, and everyone in that school was learning.

                   The learning never stopped, which was another thing that impressed me. Saturday afternoon, hours before the taping of !BANG!, I watched as the wrestlers arrived at the building, and immediately entered the ring to freely continue their preparation for the show that night, and even
                   though I really didn't know what to expect from these students the night before the show, I was, all the same, impressed with the school, the leadership, the unity, the overall way it was run.

                   However, nothing impressed me more than the students, whose selflessness allowed them to be taught and learn from their mistakes. Their personable attitudes made them very approachable with many of them I did just that, and what I heard from their lips impressed me greatly.

                   The students of The Funking Conservatory are expected to make two very big sacrifices: A full six day 100% commitment, and 975 hard earned dollars. In return, they receive nothing . . . material at least. They receive no commissions for the show, no pay for their time, no
guaranteed contracts for their talent, all they take away is the experience.

                   And according to Brent Cameron Dail, Conservatory mainstay and current !BANG! Television Champion that is all he wants at this point.

                   "Right now it's all about paying dues, and if one day it leads to something bigger and better down the road, then that's great . . . I'm just living my dream"

                   Brent was one of the several wrestlers I visited with for an extended amount of time, and I was astonished with how much he understood this business, not to mention his credentials as an amateur wrestler! Referred to the school by Jerry Brisco, Brent, at 26 years old, has the look,
the intensity, the skills, and the connections to one day make it big in the wrestling business.

                   I smell money.

                   But even though he has what it takes, Brent also knows he still has a way to go. That is what is most impressive about these wrestling hopefuls, they want to learn, they want to participate, they want to be there no matter what.

                   Case in point "Playboy" Dale Williams, a confident, and heart filled young man with a great look, and a great in-ring persona, fell victim to a humbling, and heart breaking incident that Thursday night. When a slight, yet crucial miss communication caused a midair Dale Williams to
make a split second decision upon the execution of a flying elbow drop, a decision which dislocated Dale's elbow, and called for a visit to the ER.

                   (Note: He did not break kayfabe until the ref finished the three-count, even though this was just a practice. Once his condition was known, the day stopped, at least an hour before it was supposed to. Everything came to a roaring halt, and everyone went to the hospital to support Dale and make sure he was okay.

                   On Saturday, when I had been informed of Dale's diagnosis, I was dismayed, because I knew it would mean he would be written out of the show, which was an all around disappointment, because this show was the night of a match which would be the big blow off of a six-month feud against tag team partner Shane Chung. A six-month feud, which would now have to be extended until Playboy would be fit to compete again. Not surprisingly, Dale, who was pretty much out of the camp, was not out of the show. He showed up, in support of his classmates, and went on to continue his rivalry with Shane Chung. He was a true professional, more than most who would not do what he did that night. I told him that there are lesser men in this business, and he knew it, yet, he came across as confident and determined that this injury would go down in his career as a stepping stone, rather than a stumbling block. He did not whine, he did not complain, although he was understandably upset, he knew what he had to do, and he did it.

                   There are lesser men, and why they continue to have jobs, while these men continue to do things the way they should, is beyond me.

                   Dale and Brent are just two of the many who pass through the Dory Funk Arena and come out greater then they were coming in, both in skill, and in ideals.

                   I can just go on and on about the encounters I had with the many talented athletes training in the Funking Conservatory, as well as the experience I had overall. As with many of my wrestling experiences, this is one I won't soon forget, and I will treasure it forever, and I encourage all of you, if you are in the Ocala area, make an attempt to attend the monthly taping, check for details, what you will see is Professional Wrestling at its purest.

                   If I had to make the choice between WWF and the Funking Conservatory with WWF in its current state. There wouldn't be a contest.

                   Charles Beckmann can be reached at

                                                      E-mail Dory Funk Jr.

                                                        Visit Dory's Home Page

                                                            Join the Funking Conservatory