By Karl Terry: PNT managing editor
My grandmother thought we were going to kill each other. Some days we might have been close to it as we imitated our favorite TV wrestlers every Saturday.
Growing up in eastern New Mexico, one of my brother and I’s favorite Saturday TV shows was Championship Wrestling. We never missed it. As soon as it was over our wrestling match was on. We weren’t allowed to wrestle in the house (at least not for long) so a nice lawn was the best place for our matches. We didn’t have any lawn at our house, but my grandparents had a nice grassy area on the east side of their house, so that’s where we went at it.
On a long trip to Iowa recently, I noticed a sign somewhere in Oklahoma advertising a wrestling hall of fame. The sign sparked a long discussion between my wife and I about the sport. Her dad had also been a big fan of wrestling in its early days as well.
Back in the mid-60s our wrestling came out of Amarillo. It was produced there and occasionally toured around the tri-state area. The company that promoted the show readily took wrestling recruits from all over the area, so there was a pretty close local connection right there on the tube on Saturday afternoon.
I know they came to Portales at least once because I was devastated when I didn’t get to go. It’s probably just as well, because there’s no way the live version could have lived up to the TV show.
Far and away the local favorites on the show were the Funks from Amarillo. Dory Funk Sr. and his sons, Dory Funk Jr. and Terry Funk, were the heroes on this version of big-time wrestling. They wrestled in various combinations as tag-teams but never wrestled each other. My brother and I had no problem wrestling each other.
Other big names were Rapid Ricky Romero, Haystack Calhoun, Mr. Wrestling, a Korean named Pac Son and Mad Dog Harley Race, who was the first wrestling villain I remember.
We carefully studied all the wrestling holds they applied every Saturday and worked to perfect them on each other. There was the spinning toe-hold made famous by Terry Funk, the suplex, the sleeper hold (supposed illegal but utilized at least once a week) the half-nelson and full nelson, the pile driver, the scissors and the dreaded stomach claw.
As soon as the show was over each Saturday our shirts would come off and the match would begin. We would grapple and roll around on the lawn until our noses and lips were bleeding and we were red and itchy from rolling in the grass. My little brother had no quit in him, so it usually didn’t stop until someone was hurt or a parent or grandparent was standing over us stomping their feet.
I quit paying attention to wrestling after the Amarillo version died. Other versions relied on lots of storylines, lots of big talking and more out-of-the-ring antics than actual wrestling.
My father-in-law watched it into the 1980s. He usually went home early from his furniture and appliance store on Saturday “to rest” and work on his sermon for the church where he preached on Sunday. But 4 p.m. would find him lying on the floor in front of the television with his grandson watching wrestling.
My grandmother, who loved sports of all kinds, worked overtime to convince us that TV wrestling was fake. She tried to get us to watch Greco-Roman style wrestling, but we weren’t having none of it.
Those guys couldn’t be real if they didn’t even know the spinning toe-hold.
Karl Terry is managing editor at the Portales News-Tribune. Contact him at 356-4481 ext. 33 or e-mail: