D

Dory Funk Jr. Blog

Lou Thesz

Learning From the Best

Dory Funk Jr. and the Legend, Lou Thesz

From my days in junior high school, my father told me if I wanted to be a professional wrestler
I would have to make a name for myself in athletics on my own before he would consider me
turning pro wrestler. He also laid down the rule that I would have to complete a college
education before becoming a wrestler. Much like the Hart family, we had a wrestling mat
at our home, in the garage. Bob Geigel, Verne Gagne, Ruffy Silverstein, George Bollas,
Dick Hutton and my father himself stretched me in my younger days. They let me know
how tough real wrestling was.

December 31, 1962 I played my last college football game in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
My team, West Texas University won a 15 to 14 victory over Ohio University. The next day,
January 1st, 1963, on the wheels of the TWA Super Constellation that brought us back to Amarillo,
Texas I signed a contract with Stanley Blackburn to wrestle for Doc Sarpolis and the Amarillo
Territory. My father, Dory Funk Sr. was Doc's partner in the wrestling business. He was not only
my father, but my wrestling manager and teacher. I say teacher because he spent little time in the
ring training with me but watched over my career like a hawk.

His thoughts were that the best way to learn fast was to be in the ring with the best in the business.
In my first nine months. I wrestled Sir Nelson Royal, Sonny Myers, Pat O'Connor, Verne Gagne,
Ricky Roomer, Dan Miller, Killer Karl Kox, Frizz Von Erich, Moose Cholack, The Sheik, Iron
Mike Dibiase, Dick Byer (The Destroyer) and Giant Gene Kiniski. Not only did I wrestle these
superstars, but I was winning most of my matches.

Many people in the business thought I was being pushed too fast. Verne Gagne told me himself that
he knew what my father wanted for me but it was too soon. Fritz Von Erich told my father he was
building me too strong. My father's partner, Doc Sarpolis told me my name as the "Son of Dory Funk"
would draw money but that wouldn't last long.

Then came the 16 man tournament to see who would face Lou Thesz in October of 1963. I won the
tournament defeating Iron Mike Dibiase in the finals. In one week I would be wrestling The Legend
for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

The next day my father was over for breakfast. He said I didn't really look like I had just been
through a tournament with 15 of his toughest wrestlers. He said I should be marked up. Together
we decided on a black eye. In the bedroom of my home, he blacked my eye. (Punched me) We didn't
see my little boyDink standing in the doorway. He ran into the kitchen and said, "Mommy, Mommy,
Grandpa just hit daddy!"

In just one week I would be in the ring with The Legend, Lou Thesz. It would be my proudest moment
in wrestling. I asked dad for two ringside tickets so my Inlaws could come to the show. They had never
seen a live wrestling match. Dad said no! If I wanted them to come, they would have to buy their tickets
or I could pay for them. I said, "No way." Then he explained how important it was that we "Draw a
House." He said promoters across the country are only impressed by how much money you can draw.
It was for my own good that he was going to draw as good a house as was possible. I bought the
tickets for my Mother and Father Inlaw.

During the week, I traveled the territory with my best friend and tag team partner, Ricky Romero.
Ricky was originally from Los Angeles California and full of Lou Thesz stories. The one that stuck
with me was the "Big House," a huge gate at the Olympic Auditorium against Antone The Ripper
Leone. The Ripper was a gimmick and Lou didn't like gimmicks. Ricky said, Ripper didn't know
how to reverse a wrist lock. It upset Lou and he "Ate The Ripper alive." In fact Lou ate him up so bad
that the return match only drew one third the house as the first match.

Thursday night at the Amarillo Sports Arena I wrestled Lou Thesz for the NWA World Championship
before a sellout crowd to a one hour, time limit draw. (I made sure I could reverse a double wrist lock)
Lou was 47 at the time. He was the one that everybody always said looked the part of a champion. For
me it was a beginning. Lou was a legend in his own time and would continue to be for forty more years.
After the match as was the custom in those days, we went upstairs in the Amarillo Sports Arena to receive
our pay. In the Office, Lou Thesz, Dory Funk Sr., Doc Sarpolis, my father and myself.  Dad looked up
and said, "Congratulations, you guys drew $13,678.00. Lou, We hope you are happy with your pay,
$1,000.00." Pay in those days was in an envelope in cash. Lou looked up and said, "Hey fellas, I am
happy, that is money." I took my envelope home that night and counted it. $975.00. I am sure the
difference was a little extra respect for the Legend Lou Thesz.

Word did get out that we drew money in Amarillo. The first to notice was Sam Muchnick, Thesz's booker
and close friend. I was asked to come to St. Louis to work for Mr. Muchnick. Eddie Graham
of Florida Championship Wrestling also took notice and booked me in Florida. Eddie let his friends,
Jim Crockett Sr. and Nick Gulas know that I could draw money and my father was on the phone to
Bob Geigel in Kansas City and Fritz Von Erich in Dallas, all influential promoters and members of the
National Wrestling Alliance.

Six years later, February 11, 1969 in Tampa, Florida, my life changed forever when I became NWA
World Champion.

The tickets my father insisted I buy could have been the best investment of my life.

My thanks to all the above mentioned and so many more.
           
Lou Thesz was known for his raw boned strength. His hands were huge and his grip like a vise.
Lou had a habit of only lacing his high top boots half way up and then tying the laces.

If you would like to become a professional wrestler and appear on !BANG! TV
Contact the Funking Conservatory:
Tel - 352-895-4658