Remembering Bear Wrestling In Amarillo, Lubbock, And More
Yesterday, I came across a post on Facebook by Texas' resident rock n' roll governor of grit and groove, Ray Wylie Hubbard. He reminisced about the time he opened a show in east Texas for a wrestling bear.
The Wylie Llama noted how well the bear was treated backstage, and how he beat the "holy hell" out of anyone dumb enough to enter the ring for a shot at $100.
Knowing of the legendary history of pro-wrestling in Amarillo, I decided to dig. Sure enough, I found stories about Victor the Wrestling Bear, Boris the Russian Brown Bear, and the Funks.
Dory Funk Jr. has written more than once about the time Victor the Wrestling Bear (one of the most famous wrestling bears) was booked for an appearance in Amarillo. The match would be an Over-The-Top Battle Royale.
The local game warden had informed the Funks that the black bear (Victor) was a protected species and couldn't be used in the fight. This led to some quick thinking, and the birth of Boris the Russian Brown Bear.
One by one, wrestlers would be eliminated. In a quick flash of genius, Gorgeous George Jr. and the two Funks (Dory Sr. and Dory Jr.) would take the ropes off the turnbuckle laying them on the apron. They then proceeded to push the bear "over the top" of the ropes and out of the ring...securing the win.
Fans weren't happy as they felt the bear had been cheated.
This would not be the only time a wrestling bear would be featured in the area. Matches were held in Lubbock (a loss for Dory Jr. and Terry Funk in December of 67), and also in Abilene among others.
Bear wrestling is now illegal for the most part in the U.S.