November 3, 2006
Thrill not gone for Dory Funk Jr.
By GREG OLIVER - Producer, SLAM! Wrestling
This Sunday, the 65-year-old Dory Funk Jr. will try to teach a young whippersnapper a lesson. It just so happens that the punk in question is "The Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels, a former student of Funk's.
It'll happen at a taping of !BANG! TV at the Funking Conservatory at 2200 NE 36th Ave. in Ocala, Florida. "At the Funking Dojo where Dory Funk was the coach of Christopher Daniels, Funk only taught The Fallen Angel 90 % of what he knew about wrestling, holding back 10 % considering he might have to face his renegade player some day," reads the press release for the event.
But on the phone, it sounds more like Funk Jr. can't get the wrestling bug out of his system.
"It's the absolute thrill of stepping into the ring, no matter the size of the crowd," Funk Jr. told SLAM! Wrestling. "There are some old things that I think about professional wrestling. I think it is the number one, absolute best aerobic exercise that you can, and that depends on your wrestling style. If you go through all the things that can tear your body apart, then it's tough on you. The wrestling style that I've developed, it's like I said to you, there's no bigger thrill. As long as I can still have that thrill, I don't know why I would quit."
He wasn't the first to teach Daniels about pro wrestling, but Funk had him when the WWF hired him to run a kind of "finishing school" for pro wrestlers in the late '90s, the prototype of what evolved into their developmental system. Daniels and Kurt Angle were classmates in a Funkin' Dojo. That means it's a big thrill to Funk Jr. to see them both in TNA.
"We've got five kids down at TNA, and they're all terrific," said Funk, listing off Chris Sabin, Rhino, Christian Cage, Daniels and Angle. Living close enough to Orlando to attend TNA TV tapings, Funk Jr. gets a chance to see his old charges on a regular basis.
"I was down there last week, and I had a chance to speak with him at TNA," Funk Jr. said of Angle. "He's going to do real well, I'm sure."
Along with his wife, Marti, Funk's Funking Conservatory has a very specific way of looking at teaching aspiring pro wrestlers.
"When we do our training here, we try to feature three things: One is in-ring performance; the other is television; but the number one thing we try to do is have a strong safety program," Funk said. "We take care of our kids. We do not get them hurt. We try to help advance their skills. We're not here to eliminate people or make people feel bad about what they're doing. We're here to make them feel good about what they're doing.
"We feel like everybody can achieve their goals in professional wrestling. Everybody is not going to be able to make it to the WWE or TNA, because there's just too many, and too few spots. Everybody can be a success as a professional wrestler."
One can tell that there's still a lot of thrill in the performance in Funk, and on Sunday against Daniels, he'll be ready to go.
"I doubt there's ever been a time when I went in the ring and worked a match where I wasn't having a good time," he said. "There's not a time that I go in the ring that I don't enjoy it. That's what our business is about. The hard part is the politics and filtering your way through all the mechanics of the business, and the training and everything. But the actual matches, that's what we've done all the hard work for. ... I can't say it's easy, but it's the most enjoyable."
SLAM! Wrestling Producer Greg Oliver first met Dory Funk Jr. when he brought his Funkin' Dojo crew -- including Daniels, Angle and others -- to the NWA 50th anniversary convention in 1998. Greg can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org