Dick Murdoch – Always Controversial, Always Himself

With a fusion of scientific brawling, superb mic skills, and impeccable timing in the ring, Dick Murdoch was a natural of the mat game.

When called upon as a heel, he had no problem getting under fans’ skin and eliciting real heat. He wasn’t blessed with a classic wrestler’s physique, but he was athletically gifted for his size, adaptable, and always ready for action in and out of the ring. But has his suspected ties outside the squared circle and stories of him taking practical jokes too far tarnished his wrestling legacy?

This is the story of “Captain Redneck” Dick Murdoch.

Dick Murdoch over the years.
Dick Murdoch over the years.

Dick Murdoch was a mainstay with Dusty Rhodes as one-half of The Texas Outlaws for many years. He also made his mark working solo in various territories and overseas. But on June 5th, 1996, the beer-swilling, tobacco-chewing big man from Waxahachie, Texas, unexpectedly died at the age of 49.

Years later, his peers are not shy in expressing how much Murdoch touched their lives. And thanks to a long trail of stories that will continue to entertain for generations to come, his legacy is secure with the fans.

Dick Murdoch – The Texan Heat Magnet

Often accompanied by Jerry Brisco, John “Bradshaw” Layfield invites past wrestling greats to share unforgettable stories from their time in the wrestling business on his YouTube channel. On one occasion, Ricky Morton — still with his long bleached blond hair and still one-half of the Rock’ n’ Roll Express — showed up and joined the conversation about their unique experiences with Dick Murdoch.

Bradshaw started the ball rolling by recounting one of his earliest but more memorable experiences in the wrestling business.

“The first riot I was in, we were coming out of the Dallas Sportatorium. We were coming out of the ring and I think we left the Von Erichs laying [in the ring].”

Layfield continued, “Some fan hits’ Killer’ Tim Brooks across the face with a whisky bottle, I mean right across the face. Killer does a blank [and no-sells it]. I mean he almost kills the guy. Murdoch says, ‘Pile in, kid!’ and we’re piling in, and we start fightin’!

“We fought our way all the way back to the dressing room, and we’re all busted open and bloody. Killer needed stitches all the way down his face and Murdoch looks at me [half sneering, and half smiling] and goes, ‘Good heat, kid!’

“I loved it. It was great! You know, the old heels just lived for that, man.”

Ricky Morton also reflected on Dick Murdoch’s unique sense of humor and proceeded to tell his story.

“In Charlotte, we had the A team and the B team. Well, they put Dick Murdoch on the B team which was where I was too. I… this is the greatest line I’ve ever heard in my life. We’re in the dressing room, at a big show and Dusty [Rhodes] asked him, ‘Alright, Dickie. You ready to come back to the A team?’

“Murdoch goes, ‘Well, hell no. The B team makes more money!’

“I lost my mind when he said that! Dickie was such a worker, man. I loved Dickie. He was so funny.”

Layfield continued, “Jim Cornette says that Dick Murdoch is to wrestling what a trick shot artist is to pool. He gets there, but he gets there in ways you can’t believe! I tagged with Murdoch, and he’d tell me every single night, ‘Hey, kid, go ahead and start. When it turns to s***, tag me in. I’ll straighten it out!'”

To this, Morton added, “He was in a six-man tag once with us and [Murdoch] goes, ‘Alright guys, y’all go in and start doing that fake s*** and then I’ll come in an do the real s***.'”

All three men started laughing.

Dick Murdoch called his right first
Dick Murdoch called his right first “Old Bertha,” and wasn’t reluctant to use her! [Photo: historyofwrestling.com]

Terry Funk and Dick Murdoch Go Way Back


“I could tell Dick Murdoch stories all day. What was great about Murdoch was that he was completely goofy. I loved that goofy bastard, I really did.”

– Terry Funk


In his book, Terry Funk: More Than Just Hardcore, Funk explains that Bradshaw being a Dick Murdoch fan wasn’t surprising given JBL was “half-goofy, just like his hero.”

Funk adds, “What can I say about a guy who idolized Dick Murdoch? Dick Murdoch was a nut! What does that make Bradshaw? It makes him a pretty unique guy.

“Here was a guy emulating Dick Murdoch, and yet he was a guy writing a book on the stock market and how to invest!”

In 1948, Dory Funk Sr. had a running feud with Frankie Hill Murdoch (Hoyt Richard Murdoch Sr.), who later became Dick Murdoch’s stepfather.

“[Dick] always was a little a**hole like I was,” says Terry Funk. “We both ended up following in our fathers’ footsteps as wrestlers.”

Paul Murdoch, who wrestled as Farmer Jones, was his uncle, and “Killer” Tim Brooks, was his cousin.

Funk also remembers how as kids, they’d sit around the arena for at least an hour waiting until their fathers got paid.

To pass the time, they’d go around and collect cups, and once they got around 50, they’d set them down one at a time and stomp them on the floor to make them pop.

Terry Funk also concedes that every time his father and Murdoch’s stepfather wrestled, the building would be sold out, which he admits wasn’t the case when he and Murdoch started.

Here they don’t look it, but Terry Funk and Captain Redneck Dick Murdoch could be two of the most ornery wrestlers in the game.
Here they don’t look it, but Terry Funk and Captain Redneck Dick Murdoch could be two of the most ornery wrestlers in the game.

Football and Later Wrestling

Before wrestling, Terry Funk and Dick Murdoch found themselves at West Texas State, with Funk playing football. But according to Funk, even though Murdoch was a frequent visitor and partier at the university, he never officially enrolled! Yet, somehow, Murdoch convinced everyone he was an alumnus and played in the “Exes” game.


Fun Fact: West Texas State (West Texas A&M since 1993) birthed many future pro wrestlers including, Stan Hansen, Manny Fernandez, Ted Dibiase, Tito Santana, Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, Scott Casey, Kelly Kiniski, Bruiser Brody, and the Funk Brothers (Dory Jr. and Terry).


Once Funk and Murdoch started wrestling, they’d cross paths several times throughout the territories and even outside the USA. Funk isn’t shy about putting his friend over and echoes the sentiments of many of his peers.

“Dick Murdoch was really one of the greatest workers in the entire business, but he was temperamental.

“If Dick, for whatever reason, decided he was going to go out there and have a stinkeroo of a match, he’d have one. It would be stinkier than what anyone else in the world could do. But when he wanted to work, by God, he could work.”

Dick Murdoch and Ted DiBiase.
Dick Murdoch and Ted DiBiase.

Why Wasn’t Dick Murdoch an NWA World Champion?

Terry Funk claims that Dick Murdoch’s name came up once in the early 1970s as a possible NWA Worlds Champion. However, Murdoch didn’t have the political allies within the organization to be taken seriously as a world titleholder.

Pondering about what kind of champion Murdoch would have been, Funk believes he would have drunk a lot of beer every night, and half-jokingly says that he “would’ve traded the world belt for a case of beer on the right night.”

Funk remembers Murdoch having a 6-year-old son who wore a hat that held a beer with a plastic straw going from the beer to his mouth. He’d run around slurping the bitter brew, and Murdoch, as proud as ever, would exclaim, “That’s my boy!”

But in 1989, Murdoch got kicked out of WCW (still calling itself the NWA at the time) when he gave his unfiltered opinion about what was wrong within the company, an opinion many shared but didn’t tell straight to the boss’s face!

“We were having one of our meetings in the dressing room, with Herd trying to figure out what was wrong with the company when Murdoch walked by. Jim Herd (Executive Vice President in charge of WCW from ’88 through ’92) had always liked Murdoch, so he called him in and said, ‘Dick, come in here and tell us what you think is wrong with the business.’

According to Funk, Murdoch, who rarely pulled any punches and was probably indulging in his usual chewing tobacco, told the boss, ‘Well, Jim, it’s you. You don’t know a godd***ed thing about this business.’

“About a month later, Murdoch was gone,” claims Funk.

But he soon landed on his feet and became a goodwill ambassador for Coors where, according to Funk, for $90,000 a year, he’d go to different bars and buy people Coors and talk with them. This job didn’t last long, though!

He did return to WCW after this brief hiatus and teamed with Dick Slater to form The Hardliners tag team in 1991.

Later, Puerto Rico’s WWC and Japan’s hardcore W*ING promotion brought the Texan in for several shows.

Dick Murdoch – More Than Just a Brawler

Former Four Horseman JJ Dillon is regarded as one of the savviest minds in the business. Over the years, he has seen and worked with many talented wrestlers. Even when some promoters didn’t, he held Dick Murdoch in very high esteem.

“Dickie was so talented,” Dillon shared with Sean Oliver in an episode of Kayfabe Commentaries.

“There are people who agree and think that he would’ve made a great world champion. But Dickie…” Dillon paused, “… didn’t like to go to the gym.

“He was a naturally brute strong country boy with a tummy on him which was deceiving. He made everything he did in the ring look so easy, and he had a lot of fun. He was fun to be with.

“His work was very solid, but the promoters sometimes saw that he was having fun, and they thought that he wasn’t serious enough. Which was unfortunate because he was.

“I’m a little over six-foot tall and probably at that time [as Jim Dillon] 230 lbs soaking wet. And Dickie was probably 6’7″ (more like 6’3″ or 6’4”), a big guy, 275, close to 300 lbs, and I’m the heel, and he’s the babyface.

“You’d think the roles would be reversed, and he ‘made me’ in these small towns like Amarillo, Texas. But I didn’t go out to bars and put myself in positions of vulnerability. And that’s where he went all the time.

“The fans would look at him and think, ‘Well, he can’t be all that tough,” and he’d get into fights every night at the bars, and he’d kick the daylights out of everybody. In the towns, they knew how tough he was and because he’d say I was tough. Well then, ‘I must be tough.'”

“The Texas Outlaws” – A Special Friendship Between Dick Murdoch and Dusty Rhodes

Looking at “Dirty” Dusty Rhodes and “Dirty” Dick Murdoch, you might think they were separated at birth. For years they were known as the formidable, top heel tandem called The Texas Outlaws.

From 1968 until around 1974, they wreaked havoc and won championships in the many territories they wrestled in and were infamous in every saloon and honky-tonk they frequented.

In later years, when they crossed paths, such as in Florida, Georgia, and Mid-South, they would occasionally reform or battle each other as rivals.

Whether or not they held the belts, The Texas Outlaws "Dirty" Dick Murdoch and "Dirty" Dusty Rhodes drew large crowds and had prosperous runs in various territories, including Australia.
Whether or not they held the belts, The Texas Outlaws “Dirty” Dick Murdoch and “Dirty” Dusty Rhodes drew large crowds and had prosperous runs in various territories, including Australia. [Photo: shitloadsofwrestling on Tumblr]
When interviewed by Steve Austin in 2013, Dusty Rhodes remembered how special Dick Murdoch was in the ring and how cheap the son of a gun could be with his beverage of choice: beer.

 

Rhodes also detailed the special bond they developed over the years, a brotherhood that stuck through thick and thin.

“Besides Dustin [Rhodes], Barry Windham was the most naturally talented and probably one of the greatest in-ring performers in our history. But there was no one, my friend, as great a performer as Dick Murdoch.”

Rhodes continued, “I always thought José Lothario was close, but Dick Murdoch some nights went at 50% or 70% on other nights. But at 95% and 100%, NO ONE could touch him, period.

“We had things in common. We loved the road, loved to travel, loved country music, and we loved beer. We’re not talking about taking drugs or anything like that; we’re talking about beer. And he was a cheap son of a b****, God rest his soul.

“He would buy beer in New Orleans, Lousiana to make a trip to Alexander City, Alabama [about 6 hours away], but with no label on it! It would be in a white can, and I didn’t know where this s*** came from. It tasted like panther piss! I don’t know where it came from.

“When it was my turn to buy the beer, I’d try and get something that AT LEAST had a name on it, Jax or Pearl or something like that, something cheap. We’d put 24, sometimes double that in styrofoam coolers that would break, and you’d get water coming into the back seat. We did that many times.

“The first thing we’d do when we got to a town wasn’t going to the arena. We’d go to the store, get the beer, ice it down, and put it in the back seat. That was the most important thing that was going to happen that night.

“We didn’t have SiriusXM Satellite Radio, didn’t have what you’re doing right now and all this stuff, no social media. Every night we’d tune into 820 AM out of Fort Worth, Texas, which was Bill Mack’s show (radio DJ and award-winning country music songwriter). Murdoch would throw his head back and was the worst singer in the history of the world and would just sing me songs, and we’d just go down the road night after night after night.

“One morning, I woke up in some old hotel, and I looked across the bed next to me, and I saw some old white BVDs [underwear] all yellow-stained sitting over there, and a big a** sticking out from under the covers. The place smelled like donkey piss! That’s when I realized that I wanted to try this on my own.

“We were in Detroit,” Rhodes continued, “so I went in and spoke with Eddy Farhat (The Sheik), and Jack Caine was the booker. I gave them my notice and told them that I wanted to move on. And right then I looked behind me, and it’s Murdoch! He said, ‘Well, me too.’ And I said, ‘No, no!’ I then told Ed, ‘Excuse me, Sheik for a minute, let me walk out here.’

“I said, ‘Dick, I just want to go on my own. We’ve been together so long, night and day. I just want to go and try something on my own.

“We always remained close, but never again that day-after-day travel, road stories, getting beer, shooting guns, or putting Khosrow [The Iron Sheik] in the back of the truck telling him to kayfabe and lay down while it was twenty degrees in Minot, North Dakota and we wouldn’t let him out of the bed of the truck, while Murdoch and I were inside the truck with the heater on. That guy nearly froze to death! We ribbed unbelievably during that time.”

When Fiction Meets Reality – Watch The Texas Outlaws Get into a Bar Fight:

Arn Anderson on Murdoch

Long-time wrestling veteran Arn Anderson had a few stories of his own to share about Dick Murdoch on The Arn Show co-hosted by Conrad Thompson.

“Dick Murdoch was as good as he wanted to be that day. If he was in the mood to entertain, he was a hell of an entertainer. If he wanted to go out and play it straight, he was a hell of a wrestler and a tough guy.

“I never went out with Murdoch, but I heard all the stories. He was one of those guys that whoever he was travelling with, he’d be the passenger and the bartender unless there was another guy in the back seat. It would be a case of beer a night and when he’d be telling all his stories, he was just one of those guys that was so fun to be around. Once he got drinking and rolling and we’re going down the road developing that friendship, that camaraderie… he was just fun to be around.”

Controversial or Misunderstood Dick Murdoch?


“He was not a racist as people think he was, but he had his beliefs and the way he believed, period. And that’s what it was. I’ll defend him to the end. I loved him as close as my brother.”

– Dusty Rhodes on Dick Murdoch


Controversy was not something that seemed to concern Murdoch. After all, his bread and butter were working as a loudmouthed heel. It’s in the heel’s job description to make people upset, get heat, and, as Terry Funk once said in his book, “create controversy.”

Dick Murdoch was, well, Dick Murdoch, and he never missed an opportunity to fan the flames. But being outspoken and remaining true to himself created misunderstandings amongst co-workers and fans.

Case in point, despite management approving the July 31st, 1984, Tuesday Night Titans segment, and even with Vince McMahon co-hosting it with Lord Alfred Hayes, many felt that “The North-South Connection” (Murdoch and Adrian Adonis) went too far with how they repeatedly disparaged Chief Jay Strongbow’s Native American heritage and character.


Note: The North-South Connection paired Murdoch and Adonis in an “odd couple” sort of relationship. You had the no-nonsense, tough Texan teaming with the arrogant and irritable city slicker from New York. Their main rivals were Tony Atlas and Rocky Johnson, known as the Soul Patrol, and from whom they won the belts. They had memorable matches in 1983 and ’84.


In stark contrast with Murdoch’s trucker cap, dirty blue jeans, and Adonis’s always peculiar clothing taste, Strongbow wore an ornate headdress and dress slacks. He did seem somewhat taken aback by the duo’s brazen wisecracks and just stared stoically ahead as McMahon attempted to do the interview despite Murdoch’s and Adonis’ discourteous interruptions.

Since the mid-’80s, wrestling has slowly evolved from the non-PC product that Murdoch started in to become the sports entertainment of today. Nowadays, most know that Strongbow was an Italian-American from New Jersey and not a Native American. But at the time, this segment was very uncomfortable to watch and would probably still create a massive backlash if aired today.

Terry Funk further shares in his book that “Good promos are half-shoots, all the time.”

Funk continued, “To do a good promo, you need to be ready to d*** near shoot (go off script). There’s an artistry to it- you have to live, breathe and believe what you’re saying and doing. Heel promos take a great deal of thought, because you want to get people hot, but you also want to be somewhat clever in doing so.”

Dick Murdoch [and Adonis] certainly fit the bill with their half-shoot promos that often had the fans on their feet bellowing insults towards them. Imagine that. Two wrestling heels who were “too convincing” with their characters. How refreshing would that be today? Or would this kind of heat not fly in today’s wrestling product?

“Get to the back of the bus, boy, we’re the world tag team champions!” was probably Murdoch’s most infamous line in the segment involving Strongbow.

As told by former black bodybuilder Tony Atlas on The Hannibal TV, he remembers barely averting disaster when unwittingly being ribbed by Murdoch, who was delighted in helping Atlas attend a meeting with the promise that he’d fit in just fine!

“I was training for the Mr. USA competition, and [Murdoch] told me that he was going to give me a paper [invitation] to go to this meeting. So, I asked Tommy Rich to take me to the meeting.

“Tommy is driving, and we’re all sitting there smoking and drinking. I was off that night, so I said, ‘Let’s go to it.’

“Dick Murdoch kept saying, ‘You’re gonna be the light of the party! The light of the party!’

“Then Tommy continued up this dirt road, and all of a sudden his eyes widened, and he yelled, ‘Get down T!’ and I said, ‘What?’ and he yelled again, ‘Get down T!’

“Tommy and I were like brothers, we’re still brothers. I love Tommy Rich more than any wrestler I’ve met in my life. Well, I got down, but I looked up out the back window, and I saw a guy with a hood, a shotgun, walking around patrolling the place!

“Next time I was in the dressing room, I was upset and said, ‘Dickie, why did you try and do that?’

He simply answered, ‘Well, we didn’t think you’d really go!'”

In the interview, Hannibal asked Atlas if Dick Murdoch was part of the KKK or if it was just a rumor. Atlas didn’t hesitate when affirming that it was true and stated, “He told me himself. It came straight from his mouth.”

Hannibal further claims that Rocky Johnson told him the same.

Atlas then added, “Dickie didn’t hide it. He wasn’t ashamed of it.”

Despite Murdoch’s controversial beliefs, he worked with many African-American wrestlers over the years and was booked in Mid-South by African-American legend Ernie “The Cat” Ladd. Murdoch teamed with Junkyard Dog for a spell in Mid-South as well.

An atomic drop is nothing compared to what could've happened to Tony Atlas if Dick Murdoch's ribbing would've gone too far.
An atomic drop is nothing compared to what could’ve happened to Tony Atlas if Dick Murdoch’s ribbing would have gone too far. [Photo: @WrestlingIsKing on Twitter]

Dick Murdoch and the Legacy He Leaves Behind

As his career slowed down in later years, Dick Murdoch kept active in rodeo events and ran his own bar aptly entitled, “Dirty” Dick’s Dive.

He participated in anti-drug campaigns for the Elks’ Lodge clubs in Texas. He would also make periodic appearances in the ring, including the 1995 Royal Rumble and a “Legends Match” at that year’s Slamboree in WCW.

Dick Murdoch had just worked a rodeo when he suffered a massive heart attack, dying at age 49 on June 15th, 1996.

Although WWE hasn’t inducted him into the Hall of Fame, others have. In 2010, he became a member of the St. Louis Hall of Fame, and in 2013, Murdoch was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, located in Wichita Falls, Texas. Before his passing, he was the 1965 NWA Rookie of the Year, and in 1974, he was voted PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year by the readers of Pro Wrestling Illustrated.

The brash and often opinionated Dick Murdoch stuck out like a sore thumb wherever he went, but few were more adaptable in the ring.

Unwilling to keep his head down and mouth shut, Murdoch often clashed with management and could either talk or drink you under the table. And whether you wanted it or not, Murdoch always brought the “whole rodeo and brewery with him.” But the world wasn’t always willing to partake in his fun.

I guess you can never take out the Texan from someone born in Waxahachie. Murdoch never wanted to be anybody other than himself, which he accomplished all too well.

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https://popcultureretrorama.wordpress.com/author/javierojst/

Javier Ojst is an old-school wrestling enthusiast currently residing in El Salvador. He's been a frequent guest on several podcasts and has a few bylines on TheLogBook.com, where he shares stories of pop culture and retro-related awesomeness. He has also been published on Slam Wrestling and in G-FAN Magazine. He can be contacted by e-mail at jojst1@gmail.com.