This article won’t be about Terry Funk’s career, there are lots of excellent articles about that. This is about how, to me, Terry Funk represents a complete wrestler.
It’ll be personal preference and it might not contain everything other people might remember or want.
In Ring Action
Those who think that Terry Funk is a character only are missing so much. You don’t get to work in New Japan, as Funk did during 1972-1991 and you don’t keep getting asked back unless you can so it in the ring.
You don’t get to work in Florida and the WWF and WCW, you don’t get to hang with Ric Flair, as Funk did in a very hot feud around 1989 (the I Quit match at Clash Of The Champions IX received a Meltzer five star rating) without being a great in ring performer.
Credit; Outlook India
But there’s more than wrestling moves between the ropes.
Wrestling tells a story. Some matches of course are spot fests, 2 combatants who we really want to see in the ring, a pure match if you like, handshake before, no follow on, just great wrestling action.
But week by week, wrestling promotions tell stories. That’s really why fans come, the characters, the enmity, the development. And in this age of Tweener wrestlers, some wrestlers stayed Heels for their whole careers; it’s tempting to say that was Funk, except it wasn’t quite.
Credit; Wrestling News
He was unpredictable. That was the beauty of him; oh, he told a story alright, but in his own way, you could never expect what was coming next. May I remind you the plastic bag over Flair’s head moment? May I remind you of the eye gouge attempt in Continental Championship Wrestling against Jerry Lawler? How about his request for chairs from fans in ECW?
Credit; Wrestling Inc
Terry Funk knew what was required for the promotion. Take these three examples, the eye gouging was part of an empty arena match with only camera and Lance Russell watching on, the short match needed an oddness to match the stipulation; the gouging did that perfectly.
The WCW plastic bag and also Funk piledriving Flair through a table cut against the feeling that WWF was character led, WCW was wrestling led.
And ECW? It was hardcore. The use of chairs seemed mandatory – just remember Sabu’s excellent Arabian Facebuster – and he must have known fans would respond and create a great publicity possibility. He couldn’t have foreseen just how much fans would respond, though.
He might share this with his great pal Mick Foley, of course. I certainly was desperate to see the 1995 King Of Deathmatch tournament in Japan’s IWA. Yes, he defeated Leatherface and Tiger Jeet Singh in matches involving barbed wire and glass, but it was the final against Cactus Jack which caused the furore.
For it was a No Ropes Barbed Wire Exploding Barbed Wire Boards And Exploding Ring Time Bomb Death Match.
We’re desentised to fluorescent light tubes over the head, pizza cutters on the forehead, piranha fish in the underwear (OK, maybe not that last one, but I keep looking out for GCW to advertise it).
But then, in those days (young padawan), it was rare. And as Funk participated in a few Death Matches, he’s sometimes seen as that guy.
But then just look at ECW The Night The Line Was Crossed. Funk v Sabu v Shane Douglas, for the ECW Heavyweight belt, 60 minute time limit, Three Way Dance.
What innovative booking. The first real Triple Threat Match which grabbed press attention, that pic of all three engaged in headlocks really becoming popular. And Funk was at the centre of it, as the ECW champ who kept his belt.
Funk was an innovator. And that’s because he knew the business and what would fly. And that’s because he thought differently about the business he loved.
Funk Was Steeped In Wrestling
He grew up in a wrestling family. His father had a territory in Amarillo and Terry understood territories, what was needed, the business and making money; there is a comment about wrestling, old wrestling before the WWF changed things, about coming to a territory and lighting it up before leaving for another territory.
And that’s the way Terry Funk approached it, whether he was in a territory like Florida or whether he was working in one of the big two promotions, he made an impression to get the business up before leaving to do the same somewhere else – Terry Funk never was a company man, he was the wrestling business’ man and entirely his own.
As The New York Times said;
‘Many of his highlight reels show him a bloodied mess, his long wet hair slicked back and his face bleeding from some kind of punch, kick or chair shot. He did not have the chiseled six-pack build typically expected of a professional wrestler. But his frame was wide, his grappling of opponents was precise, and he displayed a barbaric creativity inside the ring that earned him the respect of his peers.’
Storytelling. There’s that word again. Funk could do it, he could surprise and have fun but always served the business.
Allow me to give you an apposite example. I’m watching ECW before it was Extreme, when it was Eastern Championship Wrestling, from 1993 and Terry Funk is a part of it – to have a wrestling icon as part of their fledgling promotion I remember being a big deal.
And he’s done 3 promotions of the weekly programmes I’ve seen so far, all from the Double Cross Ranch. He’s locked into a feud with ‘Hot Stuff’ Eddie Gilbert and so wants to get his attention. And so;
First Promo : he’s been looking for Eddie and finally sees him. Except it’s a horse’s rear end. He addresses it as if it’s Eddie, before the horse breaks wind ferociously and Funk remarks; ‘you sound different, but your breath is just the same’. Childish fun.
Second promo: Terry in his tractor, telling us what a great tractor it is, then a man arriving on his property, seen only from the back, purporting to be a relative of Eddie Gilbert. Cut to a rather ridiculous stuffed dummy being scooped up and run over by the tractor. Even more fun.
Third Promo: Terry fixes the camera with a stare. He speaks quietly. He tells us what the match he’s going to have with Eddie Gilbert, the Texas Chain match, means. He’s serious. He tells us how serious a match like this can be. And I believed him.
Why? Because he’d set it up. He offered us two lighthearted, jokey promos baiting Gilbert, then cut across that by taking it down, stressing the importance of the match and really selling it.
That sold the match, that served the promotion, that showed Funk’s quality.
The Complete Wrestler
In the ring. Out of the ring. In the business. Funk knew it all.
I met him once. At the International Showdown event in Coventry, 2005, if I remember rightly. He had a table with merch and by the time I got there, only one ‘Funk U’ t-shirt left. It was a small. And I’m a large. Terry asked me to buy it; it’s my last one, he said.
And I didn’t buy it. I was a fool. And Terry Funk was a wrestling prince.