Remembering The WWF’s Funkin’ Dojo

Brian Damage

Most wrestling fans are well aware of WWE’s Performance Center which was founded in Central Florida in 2013. It’s a modern, high tech facility that trains the next generation of “WWE superstars” of tomorrow. While the Performance Center is the place every newly signed WWE wrestler goes to learn the WWE way of performing….it wasn’t the first place that the McMahon family conjured up. Long before the Performance Center broke ground, there was the WWF Funkin’ Dojo.

There would probably be no modern age facility, if not for the Dojo. The Funkin’ Dojo wasn’t in some fancy location and it certainly did not have all the bells and whistles that the Performance Center has. It was located in a warehouse in the back of WWF headquarters aka ‘Titan Towers’ in Stamford, Connecticut. In between workers constructing sets for television and people moving around old WWF memorabilia…there was a single wrestling ring where WWF hopefuls trained.

The Funkin Dojo was founded in January of 1998 and led by head trainer and former NWA world champion Dory Funk Jr. He was assisted by veteran wrestler Dr. Tom Prichard and WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson. Before the Funkin’ Dojo was established, Vince McMahon would send talent that was not used or underdeveloped to the USWA promotion based in Tennessee to which they had a working agreement with. After the USWA folded in 1997, the WWF wanted another sort of training ground to develop new stars.

Dory Funk Jr. ran the Funkin’ Dojo like the dojos in Japan. There was a very tight schedule and extremely strict regimen that the trainees had to abide by. The day for all members of the Dojo started at 8am with breakfast on the second floor of Titan Towers. That was followed by a gym work out to work on muscle building and cardio for two hours. It was then down in the warehouse for in ring workouts to learn moves and take bumps. Twelve noon was lunch and then back to the warehouse for more in ring training until six in the evening.

New recruits were expected to arrive for their day a few minutes earlier than the trainers or more established talent in the Dojo. If you were ever late or did not follow the Dojo’s regimen, it was grounds for expulsion. Some of the Dojo’s most notable trainees were Mark Henry, Adam Copeland, Sean Morley, Darren Drozdov, the Hardy Boys and Kurt Angle. Many times, WWF management like Jim Ross and even Vince McMahon came down to the warehouse to evaluate the progression of their signed talent and at times offer advice on what to improve.

The Funkin’ Dojo camps lasted until early 1999, after Jim Cornette paid a visit to one of the sessions. According to Cornette, he hated the entire Dojo setting and found the wresters training with sounds of hammers banging and the nauseating smells of sawdust and paint was no way for a wrestler to learn the craft. Cornette had hated his time living in Connecticut and wanted to return home down south. Cornette had a friend named Danyy Davis who was running a very small wrestling promotion in Kentucky called Ohio Valley Wrestling. Cornette had invested some money into OVW and thought it would be a great idea to ship trainees down there.

They could train in an actual wrestling facility and get some much needed television exposure and experience, as OVW had a local TV deal. Cornette approached Vince McMahon with his idea and McMahon agreed to ship his wrestlers down with Cornette to OVW. That began the birth of WWF’s developmental territory system with other small promotions around the country. Dory Funk continued his wrestling school by moving it down to Florida.

The WWE Performance Center and NXT were born from these early roots of WWF development programs.

One thought on “Remembering The WWF’s Funkin’ Dojo

  1. Pingback: Downed On The Farm: Top WWE Developmental Prospects That Never Made It…Part 4 | Ring the Damn Bell

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