I spent much of my debut year as a professional wrestler like I had spent my youth: sitting cross legged in front of a television. Rather than cartoons, though, I was watching classic wrestling bouts.
My first season as a traveling grappler was titled by one of my road-brothers as “The Summer Of Scotty”; in reference to one of my trainers, Scotty McKeever, running weekly events on Tuesday nights in Oak Hill, West Virginia, and various backwoods, low-population, unincorporated communities (to call them towns would be comedic hyperbole) that might have your average reader fearing the twang o’ banjos, on Saturdays.
After events, it was customary for a group of “Scotty’s Boys” to go back to McKeever’s mcmansion in Ronceverte (Pronounced by locals as “Ron’sa’furd”; don’t ask me, I just came of age there.) to party and crash.
I didn’t party and those that did made it exceedingly difficult to crash, so I watched wrestling. Lots and lots of wrestling.
Part of the way Scotty made ends meet was by selling copyright infringed upon VHS copies of what he reverently referred to as “rasslin tapes” (before internet streamed video bursted the physical copy bootleg bubble) . He had amassed a glorious-to-mine-eyes library of what I lustfully labeled “sh__ I’ve never seen before”; my favorite genre of wrestling (which may also explain my in-ring offensive insanity).
He had lots of full episodes of territory era television, which I would partake in occasionally, but my all-killer-no-filler sensibilities tended to drive me to seek out “best of this” and “greatest of that”; which brought me to “Greatest World Title Matches”, which brought me to Jack Brisco vs Dory Funk Jr, which brought me to my knees with awed appreciation.
I lost all sense of time, and all the worries it brings, in the rhythmic shifts between calm, slow, and steady and hard, fast, and chaotic. It was like watching two athletes using the movements of their bodies to create an artistic interpretation of what it’s like to boat down a wild river; being lulled by beautifully serene pools only to be suddenly exhilarated by violent rapids. Before my mind had a chance to clock into it’s job of breaking down matches into individual bits of information to study, a bell rang out through the decades to signal the match had ended in a one hour time limit draw.
Wait… What? How?
I tried watching again and, again, my studious mind fell short of its duties, as it was hypnotized by a whirling vortex of hip-toss reversals and spinning toeholds.
An odd, sweet symmetry ensued as an 18 year old me re-watched a classic match masterpiece from a wrestling landscape before my time, like an 8 year old me used to re-watch the classic movie masterpiece The Land Before Time: to the point that those who shared a TV with me were sick of it.
Eventually, I was able to break the spell and actually get down to the task of mining the match for applicable knowledge and was able to move on to other contests from two competitors.
I adored Brisco, as well, but there was just something about the mellow, melodic, music of Dory Funk Jr.’s movements that charmed the snake of my imagination into transfixed fanaticism.
In an attempt to recapture some of that missing-to-me magic, display my respect for the underappreciated-in-my-eyes legend, and to stand out from the long tights, singlet, and pleather wearing crowd of 2003-2004 West Virginia wrestling, I began dressing in the traditional professional attire of my mat-crush: plain black boots, plain black trunks.
I looked and felt ridiculous, but, being as stubborn as a mule in the Texas heat, I stuck with the awkward-for-me style of dress and, worse, kept trying an imitation in-ring style of meticulously and methodically wearing down of opponents. Instead I wore down the wrestling fans who were watching me.
Why weren’t crowds of spectators falling under my spell like I fell under Dory Jr’s?
It took me a while, but I finally smartened up: I’m neither meticulous, nor methodical. I live my life in a state I like to refer to as (somewhat-controlled) “KinChaos”. I’m whimsical and eccentric. The simple badassness of plain black dress doesn’t fit my complex weirdassness.
I had to come to the understanding that what made Dory Funk Jr. special was embracing of his individual specialness: he was just being himself, wrestling to his own natural rhythm.
How silly of me.
My visual/stylistic allusion wasn’t honoring him, at all. If I really wanted to honor the greatness of the all-time great, I needed to follow his example and honor my own unique incarnation. I needed to dig into the depths of me and look for what greatness may be held therein.
Luckily enough, I have been able to find a few gems: and I sure as Funk ain’t gonna close that ol’ mine o’ mine any damn time soon!
Thank you, Dory, so much.