From the Amarillo Globe News, Sunday June 27th.
Is Pro-Wrestling Out of Control
Ocala, Fla. --- Nothing I have seen before has brought so much attention to professional wrestling as the recent tragic death of Owen Hart. The wrestling accident shocked fans around the world and resulted in a multi-million dollar lawsuit being filed by the Hart family against the World Wrestling Federation.
I first met Owen when he was 5 years old, the youngest of 12 children of the famous wrestling Hart family of Calgary, Alberta . During a wrestling exhibition in May, Owen was performing a stunt in which he was being lowered into the ring from a cable. The cable snapped and Owen fell 78 feet, rupturing his aorta. Paramedics worked on him in vain for about six minutes in front of 16,000 fans and a Pay Per View TV audience numbering in the millions.
"The show must go on, "as P.T. Barnum said many years ago; however, he owned the show.
So what is the difference in professional wrestling now and in days past?
The difference is national television, marketing and "the Money."
The days of the local territories are gone and will not come back. Local personalities like Cal Farley, Dutch Mantel, Cowboy Carlson, Mike Dibiase, Bob Geigel, Dory Funk Sr., Ricky Romero, Ted Dibiase, Terry and Dory Funk Jr. participating as part of weekly wrestling shows are a thing of the past.
My father was taught by Cal Farley. This knowledge was passed down through the wrestling business in the Amarillo area, and in thanks for the success we have enjoyed, we must give back to the community. Professional wrestling has done this by supporting Boy's Ranch, the March of Dimes/Muscular Dystrophy, law enforcement and other community programs.
Now through national television, wrestling is centralized in two large cities and there are only two major companies to work for --- the World Wrestling Federation out of New York or World Championship Wrestling from Atlanta. These two companies are in intense competition for television ratings, live gates, market share and big money.
Of the Top 10 ranking cable television shows, eight of them are professional wrestling programs produced by these two competing companies.
The pressure for performance is intense. In the 1970s, we always tried to do our best to give the fans a great show and interest was centered around who would win the match. Now, these two major companies are competing with reckless abandon for major marketing bucks and will go after them any way possible, including bizarre and dangerous entrances, backstage fights, staged car wrecks, exploitation of women, performance enhancement drugs, dangerous pyrotechnics, glorification of alcohol consumption and high risk performance stunts.
In times past, if someone asked me to do something I was not comfortable with, I had a choice of working elsewhere in any one of the 25 major wrestling territories across the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico, the caribbean, australia and Japan. If I didn't mind traveling.
At present there are only two money territories to work for in America. Competition among wrestlers to work for either is fierce. In today's wrestling, nobody is indispensable.
So was Owen Hart pressured into doing the stunt that cost him his life?
Owen loved the wrestling business as it was in years before. As a child, he had visited with my family in Amarillo and traveled the loop, watching many of the above mentioned wrestlers. He had recently expressed his concern about the direction today's professional wrestling was taking.
Martha Hart and her two beautiful children, Oje and Athena, and the Hart family, can certainly tell you what's changed in pro wrestling--- as well as what's changed in their lives.
Dory Funk Jr.
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