Kayfabe, Lies and Alibis: Terry Funk on the “Amarillo” territory

Terry Funk covers the bloody battles, riots, and roughneck wrasslin’ that was all part of Amarillo

Presented by Kayfabe Commentaries

Hosted by Jim Cornette

The Funk’s moved from Indiana to Texas as Dory Funk Sr. strived to become a wrestling star.

Terry’s grandfather Adam Funk was a police officer who was part of the force that was battling Al Capone in Chicago. Adam shot at least 11 perps.

Dory Sr. was using fake currency in slot machines and had to run away from some bad people who wanted to put the hurting on him for his indiscretions.

Sr. ended up in the Navy for four years during World War 2.

After the war Sr. broke into wrestling by battling and defeating several “shooters”.

Fans at that point were willing to embrace smaller guys on top, because anyone over 200 pounds was considered to be a “fat slob”. It was not until the 50’s that heavyweights became accepted.

The modern UFC is the basic formula that pro wrestling used back in the 50’s. Funk believes MMA will become a work someday.

Dory Sr. moved to Texas to avoid the Midwest’s wrestling penchant for pushing bigger wrestlers.

Dory Jr. was 8 and Terry was 4 when they made the big move.

Funk’s mother would cook for the wrestlers after the matches. Terry was able to sneak out of bed and listen to everyone tell stories about wrestling and the war and many other topics.

The talking would lead to the guys drinking and then wrestling for real to find out who the toughest guy in the room was.

Dory Sr. smartened Terry up about the business being prearranged when he was 12.

Somebody cornered a young Terry in a restaurant and told him his dad was a fake. Dory Jr. went and got his dad and Sr. beat the guy’s ass.

Sr. became a wrestling star and fought many of the biggest names of his era in the dusty Texas back road towns.

Gorgeous George came to town and drew almost 10,000 fans to a football stadium against Sr. The city itself only had 50-60,000 people.

“Rapid” Ricky Romero was a big draw among the Spanish people and Terry made a lot of money working on cards Romero helped draw. Romero would go on to sire Jay, Mark and Chris Youngblood.

Dick Murdoch was an incredible athlete, even with his big ol’ belly.

Murdoch once allowed Funk to put him in a shopping cart, then push him down the street in a car.

By the mid-60’s Terry and Dory Jr. both became pro wrestlers. This fulfilled Terry’s dream.

Eddie Graham worked for Funk Sr. Graham was called “Rip Rogers” in Texas. Graham and Dory Sr. were great friends, but Graham still wanted to shoot on Funk because beating Dory would have been a major bragging point.

Graham ending up taking several beatings from Funk but they remained friends.

The West Texas football team would come to the Amarillo house show every Thursday. This is partly why so many guys from the team ended up as workers.

The road trips were long in the area, but there was no traffic and the guys could speed through the desert with little fear.

Payoffs for the workers was quite good considering the size of the territory. Dory knew he had to pay well to make the talent put up with the road trips as well as remain competitive with the bigger areas.

Because Amarillo received so little national press, guys were able to do an injury angle in one area and move to Amarillo to work without breaking kayfabe.

Dory Sr. invented the Texas death match. One bout with Sr. and Mike Dibiase went on for 4 hours and 10 minutes. The match had 32 falls. The finish was a curfew draw at 2 a.m.

Sr. and Cyclone Negro had another Texas Death match that ended in just under two hours after 27 falls.

Funk’s first “official” match was at a tiny Texas town. His Amarillo debut saw his veteran opponent have him sell and sell and sell, until finally Dory Sr. ran down to ringside and bitched his son out for looking so shitty.

Dory Sr. tangled with Les Thornton in the Funk’s kitchen. He ended up suffering a heart attack right afterward and the small town Texas hospitals were not equipped to help him and Sr. died in route to another hospital with his sons by his side.

Corny and Funk share stories of crooked promoters having the box office receipts stolen, and thus not paying the boys.

Dennis Stamp, Amarillo jabroni and “Beyond the Mat” side show still lives in the area and Funk remains his friend.

Murdoch snuck out of an arena in Terry’s trunk one night. Funk left him in there for the full 200+ mile drive as a rib.

Jerry Graham’s mother died at a hospital. Graham took his mother’s body and tried to escape from the hospital with it. (I’ve heard the story told that Graham had a loaded shotgun, but that is not stated here.)

Jack Brisco had heat with the Funk’s because Dory got into a car wreck right before Brisco was scheduled to beat him for the NWA World title. Jerry Brisco still holds a grudge, even years after Jack’s death. The Briscos were convinced that the Funk’s just wanted to keep the title.

Dory Sr. helped train so many stars that he began to gain real power in the NWA, and eventually the Funks became Giant Baba’s American talent booker.

Sr. hated the Japanese for real since he fought them in World War 2. The fans could tell Sr.’s heat with them ran deep.

Hermann Funk, Dory Sr.’s brother would run the territory while Dory Sr., Jr. and Terry would tour the world wrestling.

Once Dory Jr. got the NWA title, many territories ran the angle that Terry Funk had to come to their area and defeat the top names to keep them away from his brother.

The Sheik was a wild man and Terry was quite scared of him.

The Von Erich dynasty was partially started by the Funks as Fritz Von Erich was given promotional power by Dory Sr.

Terry was made the NWA champion over Harley Race after Fritz voted for him to break a tie among those in power.

Funk ended up getting divorced from his wife while traveling all around the world as NWA champion. They reconciled.

Terry made over $500,000 in 14 months as NWA champ. (1975 to now inflation not figured in.)

The Funks did all their own booking. They never brought in any outside help.

Harley Race ended up beating Funk for the title in Toronto. It became the first NWA title change that was spread around on tape to the territories.

Race was already riddled with injuries by the time he started his big run on top of the NWA. He is in a world of pain today due to all the hard bumps he took then.

Dory Sr. warned Terry and Race that all their bumping was going to come back to haunt them.

WTBS airing wrestling nationally in the late 70’s was the first warning sign of what was to come in the business.

Tommy Rich did a week in Amarillo and he was crazy over just based on the WTBS Saturday night show.

(Funk has told the story in the past that he knew the business was changing when Funk cut a racist promo on Mexicans (Maybe on TBS but probably in Los Angeles?), then when he returned to Amarillo the local Mexicans were booing him, despite Funk being a babyface.)

One worker tried to give Funk heat for rupturing his testicle. He even produced a fake X-ray to prove his point.

Funk’s heat in Memphis was so intense that security confiscated 17 guns from fans one night in Louisville. Funk would be chased back to his hotel by gun toting fans.

Southern Texas fans loved using knives on the heels. Funk was stabbed at least six times.

Funk would pull fan’s pants down to try and throw them off while they attacked him.

Cornette had his pants ripped off by Funk on live Memphis TV. Funk did not warn him ahead of time, but thankfully Corny was wearing underwear.

Blackjack Mulligan and Dick Murdoch ended up buying the Amarillo territory for $20,000. The business was different by then, and the guys lost their shirts.

Dick cut promos for Smoky Mountain Wrestling outside in a foot of snow –shirtless.

Bob Armstrong fought Funk in SMW. This was where Funk first used a moonsault. Funk covered Armstrong with steel chairs first. It hurt like hell.

Funk’s favorite opponent was who ever made him the most money.

Corny gushes over a 1981 brawl with Funk and Jerry Lawler that the fans were molten for. Funk explains how guys need to project a sense of dangerousness to make the fans believe in what is happening.

Funk doesn’t believe everything can be blamed on the business changing, and it also has to do with booking, positioning, and other issues which needed care to keep the territories alive.

Funk headlined Amarillo shows in 1993 and 1997 which did very good business, proving that the Funk name still carried weight.

Terry thinks a lot of the reason the WWE is the only game in town is due to the smaller promotions not doing enough focused promotional efforts which could help expand their fan base.

Funk was asked to be one of Jerry Lawler’s Knights at Survivor Series 93. Funk found out the plan was for him to get beaten and unmasked. This did not sit well with Funk, and he left Vince a note about how he had to go home and tend to his sick horse.

Terry still plans on having one last retirement match. Corny tells him they have to run Amarillo for the 75th anniversary of his father coming there.

Funk suggests he and Cornette should have a match. Corny says he’ll agree in another 10 years, and the finish can be Jim pulling the plug on Funk’s life support.

All these years later, Funk still cherishes the memories of sleeping in his Daddy’s back seat next to Dory as his parents drove them home from his father’s latest match.

Final thoughts:  Funk is an old man, and this was taped at a very late hour, which lead to a bunch of memories not being complete in Terry’s head. Several questions lead to meandering stories before Cornette was able to get him back on track. That being said, Funk is still a gem to listen to and this continuing to be a fun series on the good ol’ days.


Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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