Dory and Terry Funk, ECW Style
The Lounge on the Ground Floor of the Senator Hotel
The two opponents were face to face, just a few inches apart. This was the stare down, the psychological part of the contest. This is the way it was. St. Louis, Missouri for the championship, Terry Funk vs Harley Race. I could hear someone yell from just a few feet away, "I am putting my money on Terry Funk. Do I have any takers." "Here's twenty dollars on Harley Race," came from another fan. "Alright your covered, Funk is the best."
Terry reached for the can opener and widened the opening on one side of the Budweiser can of beer, then handed the opener to Harley. This match was taking place in the lounge on the ground floor of the Senator Hotel in St. Louis after the other matches a few blocks over at the Kiel Auditorium. I was the trusted one to start and officiate this contest. Terry and Harley were facing each other holding the Budweiser cans on the table, staring eyeball to eyeball, ready for action. I said, "Get Set--------
St. Louis was a great town to work. When I first came here, Gene Kiniski would tell me, "Listen Kid, I don't want to catch you staying at the Claridge Hotel or at the Senator Hotel where all the other wrestlers stay. You stay at a first class hotel, the Jefferson Hotel over on 12th street. I want to always see you in a suit or a sport coat. If you are going to make it to the top, you have got to dress and live like you are at the top. When you go into the ring, I want to see some wrestling holds, not just meat chopping. The sign out front says wrestling and that is what people want to see." Gene was my mentor and at times caretaker. Strange that he was the one I defeated in '69 for the world championship. Now I was champion. I had hit the big time even though I was still a West Texas Kid on the inside.
Sam ran a tight ship in St. Louis. No abuse of the officials was allowed, there was a medical examination before participating, no foreign objects in the ring, no two men on the floor at the same time, wrestlers were instructed to keep it a contest and work for the pin fall, and to top that off the ring in St. Louis was one of the hardest in the business. Everyone received a lecture on what was expected of them prior to the show from either Bobby Bruns or Pat O'Connor.
Terry was on the card that night and in violation of all the rules, he had one of his "ECW style matches." As the blood flowed and the Referee was knocked on his ass and the announcer's table was crushed, the fans turned to Sam Muchnick who was sitting beside Congressman Mel Price in a special box seat. They were cursing Sam for letting the wrestlers get out of control. I saw Sam cringe as he escaped to the dressing room to avoid the wrath of the fans. Terry's match was great but different than people in St. Louis were used to seeing. After his match, Terry was sitting in my dressing room dripping in blood saying, "Where is Sam, Why isn't Sam here to congratulate me on my match, Did Sam watch my match??? Junior, Why isn't Sam here???"
I was on last that night. My opponent was Rufus R. Jones, formerly known as Buster Loydd. (My father, Dory Funk Sr. gave him the name, Rufus R. Jones in 1968 and he carried it until his recent death.) I wrestled Rufus to a sixty minute draw. It was the largest house ever in the Kiel, sold out in advance. Sam billed it as the first time in St. Louis a black man challenged for the world title. Pat O'Connor was the special referee. I gave Pat hell after the match for coaching Rufus in the ring. Rufus was one of Pat's favorites in the Kansas City territory.
In St. Louis and in many other territories we were paid in cash after the match. Sam was one of the best to work for on top. The pay was ten percent of the gate. After the match I went over to the Jefferson Hotel where I hid most of my pay as far under the mattress of my hotel bed as I could reach. Next, I walked across the street to meet Sam and his guest, Congressman Mel Price, at the Bismark Restaurant. It was Sam's favorite place to eat. The food was excellent. I loved to order the prime rib and turtle soup with a bit of Sherry added to the soup. Lowenbrau was the beer of choice. I visited with Sam, his wonderful wife Helen, Congressman Price and his wife and enjoyed the quiet atmosphere. Somehow I never got around to talking about Terry's match that night. The food was delicious and the conversation pleasant. Sam would ask about business in other territories and what wrestlers were drawing money.
After dinner I knew that things would be just heating up over at the lounge on the ground floor of the Senator Hotel. It was just a short walk from 12th street over to the corner of 8th and Olive St. where the party was in progress. Most of the wrestlers on the card at the Kiel were now at the lounge. This was completely against policy of the St. Louis wrestling office for heels and faces to be in the same public place however, everyone knew that Sam Muchnick would never lower himself to enter a place like the lounge on the ground floor of the Senator Hotel and besides that, we all tried to sit at different tables.
At the lounge that night were Barron von Raschke, Black Jack Lanza, Bobby Hennan, Harley Race, Terry Funk, Waldo von Erich, Leo Burk, Leo's brother The Beast, Stan Staisiak, Ox Baker, Dewey Roberton, (Later to become the Missing Link} and many others. They were joined by fans and, "ladies supportive of the wrestling business." (Arena rats)
In the words of Harley Race, "If Sam would ever lower himself to step into the lounge on the ground floor of the Senator Hotel after the matches at the Kiel, we would all be fired."
"Go!!" Both Budweiser cans of beer were up and down on the table faster than you could imagine. It was like the cans couldn't possibly be empty. I checked both cans and called it as I saw it, Terry was the winner. The man who bet on Harley threw the twenty dollar bill on the table and said, "Paid as agreed." Harley grabbed his hand and growled, "Don't you pay him!! Terry Funk didn't beat me killing a beer, nobody can beat me at this, I can beat anybody in the world, I am the best and don't you pay that s.o.b. a nickle."
Terry looked at me and said, "Junior, I knew it, I knew I shouldn't beat Harley. He just gets so mad. Harley can't stand to lose at anything. Harley will never forget and he will get even.
Six years later on February 6th 1977 in Toronto, Canada Harley Race met and defeated Terry Funk to become NWA World Heavyweight Champion for the second time.
I stand by my decision. That night in the lounge on the ground floor of the Senator Hotel, Terry's can was on the table first and both were empty. Terry won the Budweiser Beer Killing Match!!
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