Re-Viewing The Book: Terry Funk-More Then Just Hardcore

(Author’s note: Re-Writing The Book will return in two weeks with the absolutely huge finale to the InVasion story arc. In the meantime, I present to you this review of Terry Funk’s autobiography, and implore you with my entire being to go to my blog here at the site for some important RTB news. See you in two.)

I discovered the Dusty Rhodes biography by accident; I was checking out WrestleCrap a while back, and there he had it, a scan of the cover of Dusty’s forthcoming book. Considering my newly-acquired position as site book reviewer (although assumed would be more like it, since Widro never “gave” me the spot, and no one else seems to be doing this), I figured, “Hey, I’m sure someone out there has heard of it, and wants to know if it’s good.” So, I contacted the publisher, who says; “Sure, we’ll hook you up. Say, we’re also doing Terry Funk’s autobiography as well. Would you be interested in that, too?”

It didn’t take me but half a second to respond to that.

Every smark on earth has wrestlers they like, wrestlers they love, and wrestlers they admit to being “marks” for. It’s that extra level of fandom, a magnet that draws you to them for no explicable reason. I got plenty of ’em myself, and I ain’t afraid to admit it: Mick Foley, Steve Corino, Brian Pillman (the “Loose Cannon” years”), Kurt Angle … and Terry Funk. I didn’t get into Funk until way late in his career (the 90’s!), but through old tapes and my buddy Kurtis, my knowledge of the Funker was expanded. To this day, if you asked me to list my most memorable moments in wrestling, in the Top 10 would be that Shotgun Saturday Night where Terry, either drunk off his ass or just pretending to be, wandered up to the announce booth, put on a head set and started jawing with Jim Ross, which produced the memorable line; “Shut up, JR, your momma’s a whore! I wanna rumble!” I liked that, and I immediately liked the Funker.

So the chance to not only read the words of Funk, but the history of the Funk? A plum too sweet to leave on the tree; so, naturally, I accepted, and was soon presented with the written word of Terry Funk. Would it live up to my expectations? Can Foley’s idol produce a book as good as Foley?

The book

Well, funny thing I mention Foley, cause guess who does the foreward? Well, who’d you expect, Banana-Nose Flair? Or that egg-suckin’ dog, Dusty Rhodes? Or the baby-banger Lawler? Hell no, Cactus Jack himself! And I must say, it sure is nice to see Mick’s pen back on paper. Sure, he wrote a children’s book and a novel … but I want more non-fiction from him. Nobody spins a yarn like him. Anyway, it’s a nice introduction.

But this isn’t the kiss-Mick’s-ass review, this is on the Funker. And … hey … wait a second … this book’s smaller then Rhodes’ book! What the hell? 242 pages?!? A thirty-year career, some 1,100 retirement ceremonies, and Funker ran out of material at 242 pages?!? Does Sports Publishing have some threshold, some publishing limitation that they can’t go any higher then X-number of pages in a book? I’m not maligning the publisher in any way; Maurey and the people at SP have been nothing but great to me … but seriously, guys, CHYNA’S book was longer then 250 pages. I know it takes time to explain a sexual conversion surgery for non-medical people, but that’s only 25, 30 pages, and that’s STILL longer then this! And if this was Terry Funk simply tapping out, well, give him another bottle of scotch and get the man a pen!

So, nnow that I’m done ranting and raving, I can get to the meat of the book (what meat there is in 242 pages … seriously, I expected filet mignon, and this is a chicken wing … okay, last time I gripe, I’m done now). The book is more of a strict auto-biography (as strict to a format as Terry Funk can follow), that charts the course of Funk’s life … but more, because, as much as it is his own book, his life, as an old school wrestler from the territories, makes it a study in those territories and the old school way of things. Starting with how his father, Dory Sr., came to own the Amarillo territory and ran a tight ship that helped break his sons, Terry and Dory Jr.

From there, the book follows the course of Funk’s life and the events around him that effected him, and the world around him as well. There’s a chapter on his brother’s winning of the NWA Title, and how that affected his own career (he got to be the build-up man for his brother in territories). The death of his father, as well, serves as a pivotal moment, not only because of the loss, but in how it affects Terry’s career, his marriage and the territory. There’s also glimpses into his personal life, from parenting (want to get rid of your daughter’s annoying boyfriend? Piss in his gas tank!) maintaining a happy family while balancing a career. And, of course, the road; there’s plenty on the effects of the road, and some wild road stories. The story with Dick Murdoch riding in a car trunk for 150 miles had me on the floor rolling, as will the million other stories sprinkled through out the book.

You also get a look, from Terry’s POV, at the major events in the industry: Vince McMahon, pursuing the national dream, and crushing the territories (especially the NWA) in his wake; the slow, sad destruction of WCW; the inevitable collapse of ECW; and the domination of the industry by Vince; the dissolution of the Japanese Wrestling Federation, which led to the All Japan/New Japan split (and, in subsequent years, FMW and Pro Wrestling NOAH). And, charting a career course through almost all of these is Terry, from the NWA to the indies, from Japan to XPW to WWE and all points on the map, in a casual, sing-songy narrative style that puts Terry’s voice in your ear. Flea described it as sitting down with Funk with a bottle of booze and shooting the shit, and he’s not far off; I felt like we were sitting at the bar, Funk, me and Jose Cuervo, sharing a bowl of pretzels and killing time, an old-schooler sharing stories with some young whippersnapper. It feels and reads a hell of a lot like Foley’s book, only an irrascable Texan instead of a pleasant Long Island boy.

The only point at which the book deviates from the good-natured trip through his life and career are the final chapter and the epilogue, which seem to have drawn inspiration from the infamous “second half” of Mick Foley’s second book; you know, the long-winded, well-thought-out but semi-reactionary diatribe agianst the PTC and the WWF’s critics? Well, Terry has one too, but it’s aimed at the industry and its obvious, undeniable rut. Namely, he criticizes the three main federations at this point (WWE, TNA and RoH) for continually raising the bar wiht high-risk, daredevil moves that don’t help tell a story and help cripple young, aspiring wrestlers (and, indirectly, contribute to drugs problems and unnecessary deaths). He emphasizes a return to mat wrestling and telling stories in the ring, and foretells a return to that via a new avenue … new to the states, anyway. Some may see this as a broken down old codger whining about how “things ain’t what they used to be” and how the world would be a better place if they just went back to “the good old days”. I say bollocks to them, because A: this is Terry’s book. When you get a book, you can say whatever you want. B: He’s been through more shit then most wrestlers will ever conceive of, so I think he’s earned the right to call ’em as he sees ’em. And C: I happen to think he’s correct, too. Whether it’s place at the end of an autobiography is up to debate, but he felt he had something to say, and I’m cool with it.

But aside from that, Terry sticks on topic: his life, and what shaped it. You won’t find any axes to grind, any scandals revealed, because Terry ain’t like that; he wants what’s best for business. If losing is best for business, Terry stares at the lights. And if holding his tongue while others make jackasses out of themselves … well, far it be from Terry to do anything to stop them. The only time you’ll find when he breaks from this is responding to Ric Flair’s incendiary comments about Foley and Bret Hart in his own autobiography, and even then, it’s Funk just saying. “I beg to differ”, not “ya damn fool, you’re a moron for thinkin’ that!” It’s refreshing to see someone (the second person in a month, I might add) rise above the petty name-calling and bullshit that is Backstage Wrestling Politics, and not take the cheap opportunity afforded by a book to lash out at people.

“So, do ya think you could shut up long enough to just say Yea or Nay?”

Yea. Without a doubt. Again, the only complain I had is the length, or disturbing lack thereof. A legend like Terry Funk deserves his own wing in a library. The least he could get is 500 pages. I don’t know if that was Terry’s decision, or an order from the publisher; if it is indeed the latter, I beg of you, oh mighty publisher: INCREASE THE LENGTH FOR FUTURE AUTHORS! Men like Dusty Rhodes, Terry Funk and others have so much story to tell, so much history to offer … to be harnessed by a 250 page limit is … unfathomable.

But if it’s simply their choice, sorry. Ignore those statements. Either way, don’t let the shortness deter you from what is, bar none, the best wrestling autobiography since Mick Foley. Seriously. It’s just that damned good.

I would be remiss if I did not let you know that Dusty: Reflections Of An American Dream is available for $24.95, at your major bookstores, online at Sports Publishing LLC’s website, and by calling (toll-free, cheapskates!) 1-877-424-BOOK (2665).