In Funk's Corner

An Honest Man

Memories of Don Owen

Mt. St. Helens just outside Portland, Oregon

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He was the most honest promoter I ever met. Don Owen never
hedged on his word or any agreements he made.

******

I was amazed the first time I flew into Portland at the beauty of Mt.
St. Helens. We flew right by this mountain 14,000 feet high. It was
beautiful to look at and imagine being on the top.

I checked in at the "Top of the Park" hotel in downtown Portland. I
always liked it there. I used to play pool in the bar at the very top
of the hotel.

I grabbed a taxi to Don Owen's Sports Arena. It was actually an old
bowling alley turned into a wrestling Arena. I got to the building just
ahead of show time. As I entered the dressing room, I met Don Owen
for the first time.

He said, "I knew your old man (Dory Funk Sr.) He was a tough S.O.B.
He whipped the hell out of one of my boys with one arm back in '59.
The guy dislocated your old man's shoulder with some kind of crazy
arm lock and your old man beat him half to death with one arm."

"Tony Borne used to like your old man. He wrestled for him in Texas
didn't he?"

"Well tonight you are wrestling Lonnie Mayne. He has done a lot for
our territory up here. Lonnie is just crazy as hell and the fans just
love him."

Don Went on, "This isn't the greatest building for wrestling in the world
but I own it. I just paid off the mortgage and it belongs to me. I also
own a farm with some cows and ten thousand turkeys on it. If any
S.O.B. wants to try to take my territory, I can out last them all. I can
live on my farm and eat one turkey a day and last a Hell of a long time."

That night in the Portland Sports Arena I wrestled Lonnie Mayne for
an hour.

After the match Don was very appreciative. In those days, everyone
paid in cash.

Don told me the gate that night was $10,000 dollars. He then proceeded
to tell me how all the promoters would get together at the NWA meeting
and decide what they were going to pay for the NWA Champion. He
said, "Those #@%#@ promoters promise one thing and then when they
leave the NWA meetings none of them live up to what they say."

Don then informed me that he would keep his word. The agreement was
to pay 10% to the champion and he was going to live up to his word even
if not a one of the other promoters would stand by their agreement. Don
reached in his pocket and paid me $1,000 then asked how much my
airline ticked was and paid my transportation.

(Most promoters agreed to pay 10% to the NWA champion however, they
would first take off taxes, certain expensed and sometimes 20% for miscellaneous
costs. This method would cut the pay to something closer to 8% and less
depending on their whims.)  (Sometimes I would think Sputnik Monroe's
story was true about promoters throwing all the cash at a stepladder and
what stayed on the rungs is what they paid the wrestlers with.)

Next, Don would tell me he was carrying cash and ask if I would walk to the car
with him in case someone would try to hit him over the head. I would ride
with Don to a nice restaurant and enjoy a few beers and listen to Don tell
stories about the wrestling business and the people who had worked for him.
(Tough Tony Borne, Dutch Savage, Shag Thomas, Roddy Piper, Jimmy
Snuka, The Von Poppenheims, The Von Steigers, Stan "The Crusher" Stasiak,
Lonnie Mayne,  Maurice "Mad Dog" Vachon and Sgt. Slaughter.

Later conversations with Harley Race, Jack Brisco, Ric Flair and Terry Funk
yielded the same information. Don Owen was the fairest payoff man in the
wrestling business. His old bowling alley didn't hold the numbers that the
huge arenas did but he was straightest paying promoter in wrestling.

In May of 1980 I received a call from Don Owen asking me to come and work
a show. He said, "I am going to need you, the *&%$# Mt. St. Helens just
blew her top and there is nothing but dust and ash everywhere." The top
mile of that beautiful Mountain I used to love to look at was gone.

The Mountain is Gone

Now Don Owen is gone. Another one of the great promoters of the
National Wrestling Alliance, "An Honest Man."

Dory Funk Jr.

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