Where Wrestling's Regional History Lives!
- Ashley Parrish
All right friends, just who is the king of the Texas Death Match? Terry Funk? Dory Funk, Sr.? Iron Mike DiBiase ? Well, in Amarillo in the summer of 1972, a tournament was held to determine exactly who could lay claim to that title. At the time, Dory Funk, Sr. was recognized as the king of the Texas Death Match. Other wrestlers in the area wanted a shot at the crown, so a series of matches were held at the Sports Arena to determine who would challenge Funk, Sr.
Cyclone Negro, one of the greatest rivals the Funk family ever had, was a participant in the tournament. Hailing from Caracas, Venezuela, and billed as a former Olympic boxer, Negro was as tough as anyone in the ring. He had spent some time in Florida working for Eddie Graham before coming to Amarillo in the early 70's . He instantly solidified himself as a top heel in the area by feuding with the Funks and would remain in the area until the promotion closed around 1980. His finishing hold was the piledriver and he employed a wild brawling style utilizing his boxing skills as well as a powerful headbutt. Naturally, Negro would pose a serious threat to Funk’s crown.
The first tournament match took place in Amarillo on July 20, 1972. The participants were Cyclone Negro and the Korean wildman Pak Song. Song dad come to Amarillo in 1970 and formed a devastating tag team with Kim Ill. He too had feuded with the Funks and had held the Western States and Brass Knuckles titles. Some of you Apter magazine readers may recall some photos of the famously bloody Russian Chain match he had with Terry Funk in September of 1970 in Amarillo. He relied a great deal on karate-like thrusts and chops to subdue his opponents.
The Song vs. Negro bout, as expected, was a wild one.
The match lasted over 24 minutes. Both grapplers showed a little "color". Finally, Negro pulled a pair of brass knuckles out of his trunks and decked the wild Korean for a pin. The count was on. Song had 10 seconds after the pin to stand up. The ref counted to 10, Song was out cold and Cyclone Negro had won his opening round match. He would have to wait, however, for a shot at the King.
The next death match was booked one week later. Again, Cyclone Negro was a participant. His opponent was Lord Alfred Hayes. Hayes had lost a controversial NWA title match to Dory Funk, Jr. in June and was a top draw in the area. Though not much of a brawler, Hayes could certainly hold his own in any type of match. Hayes and Negro fought for over 20 minutes. Cyclone knocked Hayes to the mat. With Hayes supine on the canvas, Negro climbed to the top rope and delivered a huge knee drop to Lord Alfred’s throat. Hayes was pinned and could not answer the bell after the 10 count. Two up and two down for Cyclone; surely he had earned the right to face Funk, Sr. However, such was not the case.
The following Thursday, August 3, 1972 Cyclone was booked in his third consecutive Death match against Nick Kozak. Kozak was a veteran performer known best for his high flying tactics. He could mix it up a little bit, but wasn’t really a roughhouser, especially in comparison to Negro. Kozak was definitely the underdog. Not surprisingly, the match ended fairly quickly. Negro hit a series of piledrivers on Kozak which finished the match in 3:49. Cyclone Negro had won three straight Texas Death matches. Finally, he would get a shot at Funk.
August 17, 1972, saw Negro and Funk battle it out. To Cyclone’s dismay, however, Terry Funk was his opponent rather than Dory, Sr. Cyclone would have to get past Terry to get his chance at the King. Terry and Cyclone would go on to have a tremendous feud all over West Texas, fighting in every conceivable type of match. Sometimes Terry would prevail, sometimes Negro would go over, but it was always a pier six brawl. Their Texas Death match on this occasion was no exception. Cyclone gained the advantage with a series of bodyslams on Terry. He then hit a series of top rope throat stomps on the weakened Funk. Terry was unable to continue and Cyclone was awarded the match. The great Terry Funk had fallen. Would Dory Sr. be the next to drop? More...