How the High Plains and West Texas State University shaped pro wrestling

Local News

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – On the football field of West Texas State University, several legends would be made and a bond created that would extend off the field and into the ring.

According to West Texas A&M University, eleven members who once played football for WTSU have gone on to lace up their boots in the wrestling ring:

  • Dory Funk Jr. 
  • Stan Hansen 
  • Terry Funk
  • “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes 
  • Bobby Duncum Sr.
  • “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase 
  • Kelly Kiniski 
  • Frank Goodish aka Bruiser Brody 
  • “The Raging Bull” Manny Fernandez 
  • Tully Blanchard 
  • Merced Solis aka Tito Santana 

Throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s, members of this group dominated the gridiron on the High Plains. Starting with Dory Funk Jr. in 1959 and ending with the group of Tully Blanchard, Ted DiBiase, Kelly Kiniski, and Tito Santana in the mid-1970s.

Eight of the eleven members are in some sort of pro wrestling hall of fame.

Stan Hansen said he takes pride in being a part of that group from WTSU.

Courtesy: West Texas A&M University

“The wrestling business back then was not so much entertainment, but much more physical and I think the guys from West Texas that came out, the funks were very particular in who they got into the business and that you had to be a physical type of guy. I think there was a comradery that we all developed knowing we came through West Texas because it was not an easy road,” said Hansen.

Local wrestling legend Terry Funk said many of the players who came to West Texas State University came for football but stayed for the wrestling.

Courtesy: West Texas A&M University

“They were all great athletes. Very, very good athletes came to Amarillo. They came to West Texas and they wound up being wrestlers and wound up doing very good in the profession,” said Funk.

Each man would carve out their own legacy in the industry with the Funks becoming the only brothers to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and Dory Funk Jr. becoming the second-longest reigning NWA champion in history. Terry Funk would go on to be a hardcore legend and would hold the ECW Championship multiple times.

Stan Hansen would feud with the legendary Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship and would also win the AWA Championship. He would also become an icon in Japan, alongside Bruiser Brody.

“The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase would be one of the major villains for Hulk Hogan in the 1980s and is also an unrecognized WWF Champion.

Tito Santana would go on to wrestle at the first eight WrestleMania’s and would become a two-time WWF Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion.

“The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes is an NWA World Heavyweight Champion and would go on to have classic feuds with Ric Flair and would go on to help the future of the industry as a mentor in WWE NXT.

And Tully Blanchard would go on to form The Four Horsemen with the likes of Ric Flair, Ole, and Arn Anderson. He would pick up tag team championship gold in multiple promotions like NWA and WWF.

Many of them would even collide in the ring or team-up.

“Back in the day New York and other places like that weren’t that big, you didn’t have one guy controlling the wrestling world basically. You had the different promoters, you had Tennessee, you had Florida, just everywhere had a wrestling promotion. It was old-school family entertainment and fun,” said Jack Logan, owner of Top of Texas Pro Wrestling.

Dusty Rhodes and Tully Blanchard would be a part of a classic unmatched rivalry as part of The Four Horsemen vs. Dusty feud in the NWA Jim Crockett Promotions in the 1980s.

Rhodes and DiBiase would also feud with one another in the WWF.

Tito Santana and Blanchard would face off at Wrestlemania V for the WWF Tag Team Championships as a part of Strike Force and The Brain Busters.

Funk added even as the territories faded and bigger promotions took over, Amarillo still remained a hub for wrestling.

“It was the heart of the wrestling world. The Funk name became familiar with everybody in the country and the world, but along with us Boys Ranch was right there and Amarillo was there with us. We were promoting the city itself, the profession itself,” said Funk.

Ted DiBiase added the legacy each man left behind is ever-lasting.

“If you look at the guys that came out of West Texas State in terms of where they were in wrestling, all of them didn’t just become wrestlers. They became stars,” said DiBiase.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Video Forecast

Tri-State Fair Viewer Appreciation

Don't Miss