411’s Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2007: Terry Funk
In 1948 Dory Funk Sr. relocated his family to Amarillo TX. where he took the job of Superintendent of Karl Farley’s Boys Ranch. One of the first acts of his job was instating a wrestling program for the boys. This is where Terry Funk started his wrestling journey at the unbelievable age of 4. Terry would continue to wrestle all through school for private wrestling clubs his father would run. During this time he would also letter in High School football. After high school, Terry moved on to college, and still wrestled. He played college football while mastering his craft of wrestling and made his Pro Wrestling debut against Sputnik Monroe. Up until this point he had done some referee work and after 10-minutes would walk away from his first match with a victory. December of 1965 was the true beginning of terry Funk’s career.
Funk would work shows here and there; basically anywhere he could get a booking until he found a regular gig with the NWA Amarillo territory in 1968. He and his brother Dory Jr. would team together and be a huge hit in the territory. They would go on to capture the NWA Amarillo tag titles 2-times in August and October of 1968. Terry’s time was short lived there however, and come 1969 he decided to move on to the NWA Western States Territory. He would win the Western States Tag titles with Ricky Romero, lose them, and then battle partner Romero for the Western States Title. This was a busy time for Funk, because not only was he working the Western States Territory, but also in Japan. He and Dory would start in Japan in 1970 together and battle Giant Baba and Inoki in a series of very high profile matches. This would serve to make the Funk name an important one in Japan. Next it was off to Florida in 1971 and Funk would go there under the masked persona of “The Texan.” He entered and won a tournament for the NWA Florida TV Title. After his win, he would immediately unmask to reveal his true identity. Soon Dory would join him and they would defeat the Brisco Brothers for the NW Florida Tag Titles. Also during this time in Japan, Baba left JWA and formed All Japan Pro Wrestling. The Funk’s would turn out to be a vital part of Baba’s promotion. Terry and Dory were so trusted that Baba sent 2 of his aspiring students to work under the Funk’s in Amarillo: Jumbo Tsuruta and Genichiro Tenryu.
At the beginning of 1973 it was back to the Western States territory where for the next yeah he would battle the likes of Kung Fu Lee and Bob Backlund. He would later vacate the NWA Western States Title as he moved on to the NWA Florida territory again. He would enter and win a 16-man Tournament for the NWA US Title in 1975. December 10th 1975 came and it would serve to be one of the biggest days in the life of Terry Funk as he defeated Jack Brisco in a grueling 2 of 3 falls match that lasted 60-minutes to become the NWA World Champion. He would hold the title for 14 months and defend it against all comers anywhere in the world; including former Baba/Funk protégé Jumbo Tsuruta in Tokyo. During this time though many felt the NWA title was being devalued through a series of non-finished and screw job like finishes. The decision was made to take the title off of Funk and he would drop the title to Harley Race in February of 1977.
Funk would return his attention to the family’s Amarillo territory and work in Japan for Baba. In December of 1977 Terry and Dory entered the Real World League Tag Tournament. They would defeat Abdullah the Butcher and The Sheik in a bloody battle that helped to change the landscape of Japanese wrestling. Not only did they win the Real League Tournament (Their first of 3 wins between 77-82) but they also came out the victorious heroes and promotion’s top baby faces. This changed the notion in Japan that the American workers could only be portrayed as heels.
Funk would return to the Florida territory and win the promotion’s Southern Title. He then would appear in Puerto Rico where he and Dory would again win more tag titles, this time in the Word Wrestling Council. As 1979 started he and Dory returned to Japan to win their 2nd Real League Tag title. He still continued on at a mad pace in the NWA, winning the Florida Title, the NWA National TV Title and in 1980 the Los Angeles version of the NWA Tag Titles. His next stop was Southwest Championship Wrestling where once again he and Dory were a dominant team. They would win the NWA North American Tag Team titles, SCW Southwest Tag Team titles and SCW Southwest Tag Team titles would win the SCW heavyweight title on is own. In late 1982 he and Dory would once again win the Real League Tag Championship tournament. As 1983 hit, Terry announced his 1st retirement.
He would make in Japan in 1984 as a special referee in the AWA Title match between Nick Bockwinkel and Jumbo Tsuruta. The retirement from wrestling was short lived as he and Dory (renamed “Hoss”) signed with the WWF and were managed by Jimmy Hart. Aside from 2 events, his 3-year or so stay was uneventful. He and Hoss won a match at WrestleMania II against Tito Santana and the Junk Yard Dog. The other was on December 19, 1985 on Saturday Night’s Main Event. In his pre-match interview, Terry Funk actually acknowledged his history of being a former NWA World champion. This was taboo at the time, as promotions did not acknowledge the existence of their competition. In August of 1987 Funk’s career with the WWF was over and he decided to go to Hollywood to try and make a new career for himself.
Funk returned to the wrestling world with a bang in 1989, as he was a judge for the NWA Title match between Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat at WrestleWar. After a hard fought victory, Flair was giving a promo putting over Steamboat and Funk demanded a title shot. Flair explained that he was away in Hollywood and would have to earn his title shot. This enraged Funk who destroyed a beaten down Flair. He would pile drive him through a ringside table and the feud was on. They would battle through most of 1989 in a variety of matches. Flair retained his title at The Great American Bash, but that didn’t stop Funk. The two men would face at Clash of the Champions IX in an epic “I Quit” match. Flair won the match, and we would see a new Terry Funk emerge in the 90’s.
At the start of 1990 Funk went to the USWA where he would defeat Jerry Lawler for the USWA Unified title. Even in his 50’s Funk would work a more demanding schedule than anyone on pro wrestling appearing in ECW, WCW and SMW. In 1993 he would win ECW’s TV Title from Jimmy Snuka. He would lose that title to Sabu in a tag match where the stipulation was his title was on the line. In December of 1993 he would defeat Sabu for the ECW Heavyweight title. Four months later, in the Ultimate Jeopardy 8-man War Games match he would lose that title to Shane Douglas. He would then reappear with WCW and battle Tully Blanchard at Slamboree 1994 to a double DQ finish. Back in ECW Funk would bring in Dory to battle the Public Enemy in a series of matches, which concluded in the Funk Brothers losing a No Rope, Barbwire match. He would make 2 more appearances in WCW that year teaming with Bunkhouse Buck, and lose to The Nasty Boys and Dustin Rhodes and Arn Anderson. In May of 1995 he was inducted into the WCW Hall of Fame and his tenure there was over, for now.
1995 also saw Funk get older and crazier in Japan as he participated in the IWA King of the Death Matches. He defeated Leatherface (Barbed Wire and Chain match) and Tiger Jeet Singh (Glass and Barbed Wire match) to earn a spot on the finals vs. Cactus Jack in a no rope, electrified barbed wire explosion death match. In the truest sense of the word this was a blood bath that saw Jack come out on top, and with the victory solidify his position in Japan. Their feud also was one that was alive in ECW as well, and the matches were almost as crazy. As 1996 began Funk was working more of the crazy style in Japan with FMW (Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling.) He would tag with Mr. Pogo against Masato Tanaka & Hayabusa in a crazy “No Rope Explosive Barbed Wire Time Bomb Land Mine Double Hell Death match.” These years of crazy matches in small Japanese promotions were taking a toll on the battered 50+-year old Funk.
In 1997 there was a retirement show organized in Amarillo, where this was to be Funk’s last stand. He would wrestle and lose to current WWF Champion Bret Hart. But as before, the retirement was short lived as in late 1997 Funk would return to the WWF under the persona of Chainsaw Charlie to tag with long time friend and nemesis Cactus Jack. The two would draw #1 and #2 in the 1998 Royal Rumble and literally kick the shit out of each other with various weapons. After a 12-year absence Funk returned to the WWF’s marquee event, WrestleMania and teamed with Jack to defeat the New Age Outlaws for the WWF Tag Titles in a dumpster match. The match was originally scheduled to be a barbwire match, but the PPV executives refused Vince to air a match like that. Later in 1998 he left the WWF and went back to work for FMW is Japan.
January of 2000 saw Funk’s return to the North American Wrestling scene on a big level as he signed with WCW. Funk was named commissioner and was to clean up WCW. He tortured WCW Champion Jeff Jarrett and along side Larry Zbyzko, Paul Orndorff and Arn Anderson were dubbed “The Old Age Outlaws.” At Souled Out he would lose his Commissioner’s job to Kevin Nash, in what was a laughable squash match, and insult to Funk who still holds a grudge to this day. He reentered WCW as a full time wrestler and would go on to capture the WCW hardcore title, as well as a US Title win from Lance Storm on a house show in Amarillo. His stint in WCW would end shortly after this.
Funk would continue to work a full schedule, as he appeared for All Japan, XWF and 3PW for most of 2001-2003. He would also be a big part of the fledgling MLW promotion ran out of Florida by Court Bauer. He has many bloody matches with MLW Champion Steve Corino that helped to establish the fun, yet shirt lived promotion. In 2004 Funk made a few appearances for the NWA TNA promotion, but due to the way the promotion looked to be headed in and who they would bring in (Kevin Nash) he decided to leave and no longer work for them. In January of 2005 at the Wrestle Reunion he tagged one more time with Dory to face the current NWA Tag Team Champions America’s Most Wanted. The Funk Brothers were DQ’d and at the time, this was said to have been Terry Funk’s final match.
But it wasn’t. Funk decided to help out Shane Douglas in his quest to run ECW revival shows against WWE’s One Night Stand. Funk was part of the “Forever Hardcore” documentary, where he decided to rip up the WWE contract for One Night Stand, saying he wouldn’t help Vince McMahon rape the legacy of ECW. Funk worked these show, including a rematch of the “3-Way Dance” that put ECW on the map. He continued to work some reunion shows as well as the Hardcore Homecoming shows, and was inducted into the “Hardcore Hall of Fame” in November of 2005.
Less than one year, Funk decided to join with McMahon’s re-launch of ECW, and appeared on Raw for weeks leading up to One Night Stand II. He would tag with Tommy Dreamer to face Edge and Mick Foley at ONS II. Funk went out in a blaze of glory that night, beaten, bloody and trapped in barbed wire. If this is the final chapter of Funk’s career, there will be no better one to go out on.
Why Terry Funk was selected…
Not many have had the longevity, or impact on the world of wrestling that Terry Funk had. He will go down as not only an important singles wrestler, but as possibly one half of the greatest tag team of all time. He reinvented himself to fit with the new age of wrestling fans, destroyed his body and never gave it up. A man that has been in the ring since age four know little else what to do in life which is why he probably “retired” so many times. Terry Funk is a truly deserving member of any professional wrestling hall of fame.