wrestling / Columns

Terry Funk: Always Crazy

August 24, 2023 | Posted by Steve Cook
Terry Funk WCW Clash of the Champions VII Image Credit: WWE

Wrestling fans were introduced to Terry Funk at many different points. As somebody that started watching mainstream wrestling in 1990, my first memories of the Funker involve him teaming with Bunkhouse Buck in 1994 WCW. It was a fun time! Colonel Robert Parker led them as part of the Stud Stable, they ended up in a War Games against Dusty & Dustin Rhodes & the Nasty Boys and it was a good time. Eventually Funk peaced out of WCW, and Buck teamed with Dick Slater instead. Made sense, as I later learned that Slater spent most of his career trying to imitate Terry Funk. That isn’t a knock on Slater, as many wrestlers would have been better off trying to imitate Terry Funk.

The vast majority of you reading this will have different first memories of Terry Funk than I. Maybe you’re lucky enough to remember Terry’s reign as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. His winning the title made he & Dory Funk Jr. the first brothers to hold the NWA crown. You couldn’t find more different brothers than Dory & Terry, but they made one hell of a tag team anywhere they went. Their father Dory Sr. was an incredible wrestler in his own right, and invented the concept of the Texas Death Match.

Maybe you saw Terry in Florida, feuding against that egg-sucking dog Dusty Rhodes. Or maybe you saw him in Memphis challenging the King of Wrestling, Jerry Lawler. That Empty Arena Match with Lawler gouging Funk’s eye with a piece of wood & Funk yelling “MY EYE” still stands out to this day, as does Terry’s almost never-ending rivalry with Dusty that spanned decades. When Terry Funk hated somebody, he hated them with a passion that few ever had. He was the ultimate troll before the Internet ever existed.

Maybe you saw Terry during the “Rock N’ Wrestling Era” of the WWF. Not the Funker’s finest hour, but he did go against Hulk Hogan on a Saturday Night’s Main Event, and teamed with his brother “Hoss” to make some money. Or maybe you caught him in 1989 WCW, where he became the ultimate pain in Ric Flair’s neck. Maybe you grew up on Japanese wrestling, where Terry was one of the most popular gaijins that ever lived.

Maybe you grew up as an ECW fan, and your first introduction to Terry was as the Living Legend of wrestling. You saw him come out on top at ECW’s first PPV event, which was one of the best moments of the 1990s. People say that Terry Funk was the only person of his generation of wrestlers that was willing to give back to the next generation. I’m not sure about that, but he was definitely the one of his generation that gave the most. He always evolved to his climate and was never set in his ways. He started doing moonsaults after he turned 40. He was open to that whole “deathmatch wrestling” thing, which made him a Hardcore Legend. He was open to chainsawing his way out of a box, in fact “Chainsaw Charlie” was his idea. Of course the fans chanted “Terry” because the pantyhose over his head couldn’t hide his idenity to the true believers.

There was one thing that stayed constant about Terry Funk throughout his career. He was always crazy. Whether he was young, or middle-aged, or downright old, he was always crazy. To steal a catchprase from fellow wrestling old-timer Sting, the one thing for sure about Terry Funk was that nothing was for sure.

I saw Terry Funk in person one time. It was the WWE vs. ECW show in Dayton, Ohio’s Nutter Center that served as a lead up to the second ECW One Night Stand. Of course, the prior year Terry had passed on the first One Night Stand because he wanted to work Hardcore Homecoming instead. The second ONS had Terry as a featured player, which meant he would be at ringside for the WWE vs. ECW show when his protege Tommy Dreamer took on Edge. This led to the Funker punching the hell out of Mick Foley 50 feet or so in front of me, which ranks as one of my top markout moments of all time. As much as I love & respect Foley and rate him as one of my favorites of all time, it was Terry Funk. Foley looked back on that moment not too well in his Hardcore Diaries, but it’s still something I remember with bliss.

Another top Foley/Funk moment involved the infamous Hell in a Cell match between Mick & the Undertaker that people still talk about today. Funk off-handedly gave Foley the idea to start the match on top of the Cell. Once that fell apart in brutal fashion, Terry was at least nice enough to take a chokeslam from Undertaker to keep things moving while Mick was still trying to get his senses. Funk & Foley were the ultimate “frenemies” before that word became a thing.

Terry was known for retiring and coming back. It became a punchline for the last couple of decades of his career. The man from the Double Cross Ranch in Amarillo, Texas passed away on Wednesday at the age of 79. Terry Funk is one of the few men I wouldn’t rule out coming back from the dead, but at this moment we have to assume that won’t happen.

As one of Larry Csonka’s best Internet friends I can’t help but note that his last column involved comparing Chris Jericho to the Funker. I don’t know if Jericho has lived up to that standard, certainly opinions would vary on that depending on who you ask. What I do know is that the standard that Terry Funk set for every veteran wrestler looking to put the next generation over hasn’t been lowered. Gonna take a tall man to walk in Terry Funk’s boots.

If you saw Beyond The Mat, you know Terry’s knees were completely shot for the last 25 years or so of his life. It wasn’t something he dwelled on. He kept doing whatever he could for as long as he could to make the pro wrestling business better. If wrestling had a few more Terry Funks right now, the business would be in a much better place.

RIP, Funker. At least you let people love you before it was too late.

article topics :

Terry Funk, Steve Cook