wrestling / Columns

Csonka: Is Chris Jericho AEW’s Terry Funk?

May 18, 2020 | Posted by Larry Csonka
Chris Jericho AEW

Ever since his WWE departure, I have written a lot about Chris Jericho. Jericho has been great for a long time, has a long list of tremendous matches, long list of accolades, title wins, and his career has been great. But it Was when he left WWE is when Jericho really solidified his hall of fame case; he proved he was a draw for NIPW, as each time he wrestled, he boosted attendances and New Japan World subscriptions. This was added to when he signed with AEW, and a company with no TV at first was doing 100,000 buy PPVs in an era where PPV is largely dead. Finally, the TNT deal for AEW was solidified due to the signing of Jericho.

I have been trying to quantify his importance, and have been asked for the best comparison in historical terms. Many right away want to go to Hulk Hogan going to WCW, and I completely disagree there. I love Jericho, I think he’s great, and I do think he is a hall of famer, but comparing him to Hogan here is just wrong. Hogan was the biggest star in wrestling, walking away from WWF, ending up in WCW, and slowly turning the business around leading to the Monday Night Wars, the boom and major money for all. Jericho is great, but wasn’t coming off of being the biggest star in wrestling, he’s leading AEW in tour 2020 Wednesday night scrap, and while I love Wednesday nights, we’re comparing assholes to elbows here. So with all due respect to anyone making the comparison, it doesn’t work.

The next comparison I have seen is closer, and that is Sting going to TNA. The Sting one is closer, Sting was big for TNA, was champion for TNA, did solid numbers for TNA, but what was the most important thing Sting did for TNA was score the international TV deals and he made Spike TV love him, which kept TNA on the channel for much longer than most expected, all while Spike TV was mostly paying for Sting’s contract. According to all reports, Jericho was a huge reason that TNT signed AEW to their TV deal, because he had that history and star power. But where this one differs and loses steam is that TNA kept going back to Sting when the should have been making new stars. Sting wanted to work with and help build and put over guys like Abyss and Daniels, but every time he had the chance, they always changed plans, and Sting’s good intentions never fully surfaced. So the Sting comparison, while closer, doesn’t work either.

And then I did some more thinking, and it finally hit me…

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To put it bluntly, Terry Funk is a fucking legend in professional wrestling, one who should be cherished, watched, studied, and admired by anyone in and or associated with the wrestling business. His list of accolade seem almost ridiculous, tons of tag gold and tournament wins with brother Dory, winning almost if not all of the NWA Florida Championships, many of the Georgia championships, became a legend in Japan and was the NWA World’s Heavyweight Champion. Terry Funk did it all in wrestling. He was a great tag worker, a technician when he wanted as a singles star, and obviously a brawler; he did it all, and while we joke bout Funk’s 33 retirements, the most important thing he did was evolve with the times. While guys like Matt Hardy and Chris Jericho get a lot of credit for doing that as well, Terry Funk wrote the book on it.

Paul Heyman realized that to grow Eastern Championship/Extreme Championship Wrestling into something viable and worth seeking out, he needed a reliable veteran, one with a name, but one that was affordable and that was also not consumed with his own ego and that could help grow and mentor that new generation of performers. By the time Funk was 49, many had written him off, he was done with the NWA/WCW, he was working death matches, and ended up moving on, and he moved onto ECW.

Funk was a very different performer, changing with the times, abandoning his traditional southern style and dropping the technical aspects of his game, not only to evolve due to the times, but to play to his strengths. In the early 90s.he was still enough Terry Funk that he had credibility, but was more believable as the crazy, middle-aged brawling machine. Funk promised to help the fledgling Eastern Championship Wrestling & later Extreme Championship Wrestling or ECW by lending his talent and notoriety, working top programs with Foley, Douglas, Sabu, Sandman and mentoring Tommy Dreamer. Funk’s ECW run was special, winning the TV and world titles, but also like Funk himself, selfless as well as under appreciated and understated.

In almost every interview I have heard where Heyman would talk about Terry Funk, Heyman always described him as the grizzled veteran that was dying to get over as many people in ECW as he could during the time her had there, and not just out them over by simply losing, but by association, working with them, teaching them, and even mentoring them…

Chris Jericho has taken that role in AEW. Like Funk he was a man with an established legacy, a star, and eventually an older champion that many people questioned at first. He was the big star AEW needed to help launch, and he’s been great in his role from his role as a wrestler, promos, commentary, anything really. The Inner Circle has been a great part of AEW TV and has helped elevate others. Jericho sees a young Eddie Guerrero in Sammy Guevara and has taken a mentorship role with him, similarly to Funk & Dreamer, although Sammy has way more upside as a top star in the future. He’s working with so many people, he’s lifting up everyone that gets anywhere near him, even guys like Pineapple Pete. Jericho has worked with Page, Allin, The Jungle Boy, Sky, Kenny, Cody, the whole Elite, SCU, and it’s all worked. Chris Jericho has been vital to the early days of AEW, moving business as far as ticket sales and PPV buys, has been good for ratings growth in his segments, and was the right guy at the right time in the right promotion, much like Funk in ECW. While Terry Funk wasn’t the Terry Funk of old in ECW, he was exactly what he needed to be; much like Jericho in AEW.

After thinking about all of this, making the comparisons, I have decided that Chris Jericho is AEW’s Terry Funk. Please don’t turn this into Larry said that Chris Jericho is Terry Funk because he’s not as they are very different performers. But in terms of what they have done and are doing for pledging promotions, this is the best comparison I can make. Chris Jericho IS AEW’s Terry Funk, and that is one of the best compliments that I can give.

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The 411 on Wrestling Podcast returns to the 411 Podcasting Network for episode 116. On the show, 411’s Larry Csonka & Kevin Pantoja review Ultima Lucha Dos and start their look at the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn events. Jerome Cusson joins to review Dark Side of The Ring: The Road Warriors. The show is approximately 178-minutes long.

* Intro
* Lucha Underground’s Ultima Lucha Dos (Part I – 7.06.16: 3:35
* Lucha Underground’s Ultima Lucha Dos (Part II – 7.13.16: 14:50
* Lucha Underground’s Ultima Lucha Dos (Part III – 7.20.16: 27:50
* NXT Takeover: Brooklyn 2015 Review: 1:02:52
* Dark Side of The Ring: The Road Warriors Review: 2:05:37

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– End Scene.

– Thanks for reading.