Whether it be as a master technician, hardcore brawler or crazy old man, Terry Funk is a name that any fan from any era can relate to.
10. TERRY FUNK
Aliases – Chainsaw Charlie
Hometown – Amarillo, Texas
Debuted – 1965
Titles Held – NWA Florida Heavyweight; NWA Florida Southern Heavyweight (2x); NWA Florida Television; NWA Florida Tag Team (with Dory Funk Jr.); NWA Florida North American Tag Team (with Dory Funk Jr.); ECW Television; ECW World Heavyweight (2x); NWA Georgia Tag Team (with Dory Funk Jr.); NWA Georgia Television; IWA World Heavyweight (2x); WCW Hardcore (3x); NWA/WCW United States (2x); NWA Americas Heavyweight; NWA International Tag Team (with Dory Funk Jr.); NWA Los Angeles World Tag Team (with Dory Funk Jr.); NWA World Heavyweight; 3PW Heavyweight; NWA Western International Tag Team (2x, with Dory Funk Jr.); NWA Western States Heavyweight (7x); NWA Western States Tag Team (2x, with Ricky Romero); NWA Western World Tag Team (2x, with Dory Funk Jr.); SCW Southwest Heavyweight; SCW World Tag Team (with Dory Funk Jr.); NWA Missouri Heavyweight; USWA Unified World Heavyweight; WWF Tag Team (with Cactus Jack)
Other Accomplishments – Winner (with Dory Funk Jr.) of AJPW World’s Strongest Tag Team League in 1977, 1979, and 1982; Winner of PWI Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year award in 1997; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Brawler award in 1989; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Heel award in 1989; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best on Interviews award in 1989; Winner of Wrestling Observer Newsletter Feud of the Year award in 1989 (vs. Ric Flair); Winner of PWI Wrestler of the Year award in 1976; Winner of PWI Feud of the Year award in 1989 (vs. Ric Flair); Named ECW Lifetime World Champion by Paul Heyman in 1997; Inducted to WCW Hall of Fame in 1995; Member of Stampede Wrestling Hall of Fame; Inducted to Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996; Inducted to Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2004; Winner of Cauliflower Alley Iron Mike Mazurki award in 2005
Out of all the columns I’ve ever written this will be the easiest.
I love Terry Funk. I love him beyond words. Very few wrestlers have consistently entertained and excited me throughout my 10+ years of fandom as the Immortal Funker. In his career spanning over 30 years Funk has been part of some of wrestlings greatest angles, matches and confrontations. He has been able to evolve for every new generation that has watched wrestling. Whether it be master technician, hardcore brawler or crazy old man, Terry Funk is a name that any fan from any era can relate to.
Funk wrestled anyone who’s anyone in the wrestling business during his career from Ric Flair to Mick Foley to Bret Hart to CM Punk. He’s been NWA World Champion and he was at the forefront of the ECW Revolution. He’s been blown up in Death Matches in Japan and competed in excellent technical matches with men like Harely Race.
I’m not going to go through Funk’s career step by step because we honestly would be here for hours, his contributions to wrestling have been so great. Instead, I’ll take a look at some of my favorite Funk memories.
For a start, his empty arena brawl with Jerry Lawler still remains as one of the best train wrecks in wrestling history. The match itself is pretty short but the build up and pay off is excellent. Funk’s vicious pre-match promo is one of the best promos I’ve ever seen as he tears strips off Lawler, Memphis and anything else he can think of at the time. The match ending angle, where Funk has a spike shoved in his eye, has become iconic thanks to the sheer brutality and the fact that Funk screams “My Eye, You Bastard Lawler, My Eye”. I can forget some things on Raw a day after watching it but that moment is embedded in my memory.
People like to talk about Funk’s performance in the IWA-Japan King of the Death Match Tournament and it certainly deserves mention. Funk, then in his 50’s, bleeds buckets in the baking heat for three matches. Even though Mick Foley wins the tournament, Funk’s desperate and gutsy showing almost eclipses Foley’s win. However, the most memorable garbage match that I remember funk for is the Exploding Ring match from FMW’s Kawasaki Stadium show in the summer of 1996. In this match, Funk teams up with Mr. Pogo to face Hayabusa and Masato Tanaka. Not only is the match exciting and brutal but Funk steals the show again by cutting a promo on the whole of FMW, calling them chickens a goading Astushi Onita to throw water on him. Brilliant! You can find the match on You Tube but sadly I can’t find Funks promo. Still, if you want to see a good match here’s the link.
I love Funk’s Japanese music!
Anyway, Funk may have partaken in some garbage matches but he also was one half of one of 1989’s best feuds in his war with Ric Flair. 1989 may forever be remembered as Ric Flair’s year and indeed he was on fire. However, as the old expression goes, it takes two to tango. Funk’s angry promo on Flair followed by a piledriver through a table remains one of the best heel turns ever devised. Also, I defy you not to laugh as Funk calls Flair a “Banana Nose”. Just because I’m a nice dude I’ll provide a link for THAT too.
This of course led to a series of great matches between the two including a classic I Quit match, that Flair would eventually win.
Of course Funk’s been a part of some Wrestlecrap too. For instance, getting kicked in the head by a horse in a hardcore match with Chris Candido and let’s not forget that silly feud with Dustin Rhodes where he kept hitting him with rubber chickens. However, fans have come to think fondly of these silly angles and matches because quite simply, Terry Funk could make anything entertaining. He’s an all round top performer and even in advanced age he’s still able to deliver the goods as his performance at One Night Stand two years ago showed.
Overall, Terry Funk is a bona fide legend. The term legend was created for a man like him. He is not only one of the most talented wrestlers ever but he has a natural warmth and charisma that makes it near impossible to hate him. Also, judging by accounts from other wrestlers, Funk appears to be a friendly and humble man who’s prepared to put business before ego. It was his selfless performances in ECW that helped make stars of the opponents he worked with. Paul Heyman has openly said that there wouldn’t be an ECW without Terry Funk, his contributions to that company really helped legitimize it in a lot of peoples eyes.
What’s more, Funk reminds us of that eccentric family member we all love. He’s been a wrestler, a hardcore warrior and middle aged and crazy but what attracts us most to Terry Funk is the fact that he’s human. He may not be one of us, but how many of us could Moonsault at 60?
I’m glad Terry Funk has made it so high on the list. I truly think it’s deserved and I hope you all do too. If not, you’re a no good Satchel Ass!!!
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.