Story By Dory Funk Jr.  Special to the Ocala Star-Banner - http://www.ocalastarbanner.com


On a Saturday afternoon in April, I stood on stage facing 12,000 empty seats at the Toyota Center in Houston. I was rehearsing my induction speech for that night’s WrestleMania 25 WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.
“This great sport, professional wrestling, has been my life,” I read from my notes. “My father, Dory Funk Sr., was my wrestling coach. I had my first wrestling match when I was just 7 years old. I have wrestled over 10,000 matches. I have been slammed to the mat over 100,000 times. I have driven 2 million miles, and I have flown 2 million more miles to make my shots.

“I’ve crossed the Pacific Ocean to wrestle for All Japan Pro-Wrestling 70 times and, on hundreds of occasions, I have wrestled two matches in the same day. I have wrestled over 330 matches a year.

“Would I do it all over again? In a New York minute I would.”

Just then, someone grabbed me from behind. I turned and I was face to face with Vincent K. McMahon, WWE chairman of the board. I thought he was going to say something was wrong with my speech or that I was standing in the wrong place. Instead, he said, “Enjoy yourself and have a good time.” Indeed, we did.

I was with my family — two families of Funks, in fact — on one of the biggest nights of my life. I reminisced with some of wrestling’s greatest names and mingled with celebrities who treated me as a celebrity. I even sparred with Kid Rock.

On this evening, Mr. McMahon presented me with my WWE Hall of Fame ring. Wow, I love that ring. It symbolizes years of work in professional wrestling.

On this night, WWE President Linda McMahon talked to me about her appointment to the Connecticut Board of Education and her ideas on improving our education system.

On this night, I reminded wrestling star HHH of the match in which he wore a blindfold. Jumbo Elvis Sharp then spoke up: “Coach tells us about that match all the time.”

On this night, I spoke with Dusty Rhodes about all the Funk/Rhodes battles in Florida. Then I thanked him for the nice things he said about my brother, Terry, and me as he introduced us at the Hall of Fame ceremony. I also complimented him on his kids, WWE stars Dustin Rhodes (Gold-Dust) and Cody Rhodes.

Also, this was the first time in many years Terry and I had our families together. My children, Dr. Dory III (a physician), Penny and Dirk, and Terry’s daughters, Stacey and Brandee, stayed up late talking with our Funking Conservatory wrestlers who made the trip from Florida .

At one point, Brandee and my wife, Marti, walked by actor Mickey Rourke, a comeback kid whose starring role in “The Wrestler” earned him an Oscar nomination. Marti asked Mickey to pose for a photo with Brandee. Mickey’s date got up and Brandee sat on Mickey’s lap, but Marti told Mickey’s date to sit on his lap with Brandee.
Thus, Marti got a photo of Mickey with two beautiful girls on his lap.

MAT MEMORIES
My proudest moment in professional wrestling came on Feb. 11, 1969, when I won the National Wrestling Alliance World Championship in Tampa. My father, famed wrestler Dory Funk Sr., was in my corner.

Dad put his arm around me and said, “Son, if you never accomplish anything else in professional wrestling, you have accomplished all a man can do.”

Now, 40 years later, my brother and I have been inducted together into the WWE Hall of Fame. I know how proud my late mother and father must be.

Our three children and five grandchildren were in the audience on that April night, as were some of our Funking Conservatory wrestling school athletes — Wahoo McDaniel Jr., Johnny Magnum of Reddick, Jumbo Elvis Sharp of Jacksonville, Jason the Giant of Jacksonville and Claudia “The Claw” Reiff of Miami.

Backstage at the Hall of Fame ceremony, we all had the chance to talk with Mickey Rourke about “The Wrestler.” I was especially proud to tell Mickey I made it though professional wrestling without street drugs or enhancement drugs (to be honest, I have had a bit of beer while wrestling in my younger days, but I have not had a drink of alcohol in 18 years).

Marti, incidentally, had to make Johnny Magnum get in the photo with the actor, as Johnny did not recognize Mickey at first. Yet, when Johnny realized it was THE Mickey Rourke, he happily posed with his favorite movie star.

My wife Marti's biggest thrill was meeting rock star Kid Rock, or as Marti calls him, “America’s Poet.”
Turns out, Kid Rock is a huge wrestling fan and wanted to have a go with me. I may look tough but anyone who can sing and perform at that level is one strong man.

WWE wrestler Mark Henry is one of my students from 12 years ago and has remained a close family friend, so it was awesome meeting his friend Michael Clark Duncan, the Oscar-nominated actor from “The Green Mile” and other films.

It also was fun talking with Chris Jericho, who arrived in the United State in 1993 from Calgary, Canada, where he had been training with the Hart Family. He has worked hard for many years and deserves his huge success.

A TIME FOR THANKS
I would like to take this time to thank all the wrestling fans and friends who have supported me. I am proud to have had an international impact on professional wrestling, from the days of the regional territories to our Funking Conservatory wrestling school in Ocala to our relationship with Great Muta, president of All Japan Pro Wrestling.

I also am proud to be a part of online broadcasting with !BANG! TV at www.dory-funk.com.

WrestleMania 25 featured six wrestlers I have had the privilege of coaching on their way to becoming superstars: Edge, Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy (Jeff and I will be in the new WWE magazine soon) Mark Henry, Christian Cage and Mickie James. Their success makes all my hard work worth it.

For Marti and myself, WrestleMania Weekend was like a dream — our flight to Houston, the induction ceremony in front of 12,000 people, WrestleMania before 72,000 fans and the millions and millions at home watching on Pay Per View.

And now comes my Hall of Fame induction with World Wrestling Entertainment.
Awesome.

Marti and I arrived back to Ocala with unforgettable memories.

I am blessed.

WrestleMania 25 / WWE Hall of Fame Exclusive Photo Shoot by Marti Funk