Story By Dory Funk Jr. Special to the
Ocala Star-Banner -
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
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.”
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
And now comes my Hall of Fame induction with World Wrestling
Marti and I arrived back to Ocala with
I am blessed.
WrestleMania 25 / WWE Hall of Fame Exclusive Photo Shoot by Marti Funk