Puroresu Pulse, issue 166: More Funk Than George Clinton

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Akebono & Hama retained over Kojima & Nishimura.

Dragon Gate: Doi & Yoshino beat Yamato & Shingo, with Doi pinning Yamato. Shisa wrested the lightweight title from K-ness.

New Japan: Marufuji retained over Kanemoto. Looks like the next challenger is Liger.

NOAH: Makabe and Rikio & Yone retained at the Budokan show. Kawada downed Morishima.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Mutoh will miss the Champions Carnival (and perhaps beyond that) with a knee injury.

Dragon Gate: More unit movement, as Kagetora joined Kamikaze, Horiguchi and the still-injured Ryo Saito joined Warriors, and the remaining Real Hazard members renamed themselves Deep Drunkers. Added to Sumo Hall are Juventud & Dragon Kid vs Yoshino & Hulk, a Drunkers vs K-ness/Yokosuka 4-on-2 handicap match, and Shisa defending the lightweight belt in a three-way against Horiguchi and Sawa. King of Gate will take place next month between the 3rd and 14th. First round matchups include CIMA vs Yoshino, Doi vs Gamma and Mochizuki vs Yamato. So either way the champ will be in the tournament.

Misc: Asashoryu, a sumo mega-star who recently retired from it, announced that he’s starting his own wrestling company. He’s the brother of former New Japan wrestler Blue Wolf, and the focus will be aiding his fellow Mongolians rather than relying on Japanese talent. Wolf said he was going to train Mongol wrestlers several years ago, so they might have some ready. Asashoryu isn’t well-loved by the Japanese public, but he’s a big enough name that he could probably link up with any promotion he wants. The debut show is coming on very short notice, at Shinjuku Face (~600 seat venue) on the 21st. The promotion will be of no real consequence other than hinting at his willingness to enter the business, though the real key is whether he’ll wrestle himself. It looks like he might, but it would an odd decision to debut there when I expect they could at the very least do 1500 at Korakuen, if not a sellout at hiked ticket prices. Perhaps they couldn’t get a Korakuen date in time?

New Japan: Kanemoto suffered a knee injury against Marufuji.

NOAH: Sugiura is out with an arm fracture. They have a small tour later this month, but the real key is whether he can be on the April/May tour. The March tour wraps up at Pacifico Yokohama, which could be on the expensive side because it’s a high-end building right next to the main train station. The singles tournament will start on that show, and Kanemaru will defend against Ishimori.

Section 2a- Meltzer News

IGF: Josh Barnett missed a crucial hearing in front of the California Athletic Commission, dealing with his (latest) positive steroid test, in order to not miss an IGF show where he wrestled Sapp.

NOAH:
-They drew 8200 for the Budokan show. I’ve heard from someone who went to the show that it was heavily papered/discounted, and based on the lack of crowd heat I’d say that seems likely. They had much better response from smaller/similar sized crowds in the past.
-They’re trying to come up with concepts to draw at big venues after the singles tournament ends. One is a series of interpromotional events, and another is a series of Misawa memorials shows.

Section 3- Usurper of the Contaminated Shill

DVDVR’s top puro of 2009 vote results. I had #1 and #2 flipped. One, a no-nonsense slugfest; the other, an underdog story told in the medium of barbed wire and light tubes. Sign up and you can participate in the upcoming 2002 vote!

A discussion of highspots and what-not. Nothing annoys me more than wrestlers who think that selling gets in the way of a good match. Selling makes it easier to get a good reaction from the crowd! What’s more dramatic: a wrestler hobbling around on one leg desperately trying to survive, or a wrestler who ignores a worked leg injury and just runs through his moveset like normal?

Section 4a- The Funk Brothers in Japan, in words

This is a collection of Japan-related notes from Terry’s autobiography, with a small amount added from a Dory Jr. shoot. Dory Jr. henceforth to be referred to as just Dory. Is it even legal to use the word ‘henceforth’ in a column about professional wrestling? Anyway, the Japan sections of Terry’s book are only a fraction of the volume, so if you want to know more about the half-crazed Texan you should pick it up.

-Dory Jr & Sr first went to Japan in 1969, when Jr. was NWA champ. Dory adds that his match with Inoki was the first NWA title match in Japan since 1957. Dory Sr. hated the Japanese due to WW2, and didn’t hide it. The Japanese fans threw fruit at him. Later, a bar in Hiroshima wouldn’t let the brothers in.

-During a JWA tour, the brothers beat the famous Baba/Inoki team, with a reluctant Inoki dropping the fall.

-Dory mentioned that in 1971 he was scheduled to face Inoki for a third time, and heard rumors that Inoki would try to shoot. The day of the show Inoki backed out entirely, which is when he left JWA to create New Japan. Dory wrestled Sakaguchi instead, and that match went down without a problem.

-Masao Koma, a Baba trainee, came to Texas in ’72. He put in a good word with Baba about the Funks, and between that and Dory looking good in JWA, Baba chose to work with the Funks over Von Erich when it came time to start All Japan. Dory adds that Dory Sr. helped Baba join the NWA when All Japan got started, and they were on the first tour.

-On Baba: “chose his words very carefully”. Dory credits Baba with teaching him some ring psychology elements, which would have been years after Dory won the NWA title, meaning Dory knew just about everything there was to know at that point.

-On Jumbo: Dory did most of the training when Jumbo was sent to Texas to learn the sport. Jumbo had very worn clothes despite being an Olympian. Good with his money, and a good listener.

-Terry cancelled a tour to film his part in Paradise Alley. Baba held back a couple opportunities as a result.

-Baba wanted a cut of things Terry did on the side, including an admittedly bad album in ’83. After the album was recorded he was given a guitar, and the combination of a guitar and too-long hair got him a very thorough search on the way back into the US.

-1977 match with Abdullah the Butcher and The Sheik cemented them as big faces in Japan. Shiek was “sweet” when he wasn’t in character. Terry booked the part of the match that specifically got the crowd behind him (more on that one later). They did varying amounts of booking over the years, though neither of them quite explains how much and when.

-Terry and Brody walked off the set of a Japanese talk show that was making fun of the business. Terry says this actually helped him, though he doesn’t specify how.

-Dory Sr died because it took well over an hour to get him to a hospital. Terry had anxiety attacks afterwards, fearing he was having heart attacks.

-Terry ruined his marriage by focusing completely on wrestling after the death.

-Fritz von Erich was the deciding vote over whether Terry or Race would get the title at the end of Jack Brisco’s reign, and he chose Terry.

-Terry feels Brody & Snuka was the best team the Funks faced.

-Terry made 400k in his year as champ, which was very good money, but looking back he thinks he was probably stiffed on the “10% of the gate” promise some of the time. A knee injury and getting back with his wife led him to ask to drop the belt. He didn’t care about getting it back because he could pick his spots, and being world champ would be too much for his family life.

-Inoki nabbed Abdullah in the early ‘80s, so Baba and the Funks signed Hansen to a long-term deal for big money and a 10% annual raise. It needed to cover Stan’s money from NJ *and* WWF, since All Japan and WWF didn’t work together. Terry announced his retirement around this time, albeit 2 years in advance. He meant it, at least as far as not returning to Japan. Dory adds that NTV’s president came to them after Abby left and specifically told them to retaliate. Since the Funks helped get Hansen his first tour of Japan (in AJ during the mid-70s), Hansen was willing to hear them out.

-Brody got injured before a scheduled match with Dory in 1981, so they did a brother vs brother match. It didn’t go over well because it was face vs face with no ‘issue’.

-Terry says their style in the ‘70s was more physical than what had been in Japan before, influencing Hansen, Brody et al.

-Using Gordy in the retirement match was very deliberate, since they wanted him to be a long-term star. Terry refereed a match for the company in February ’84, then a few months later Baba asked him to return. Terry agreed, because he wasn’t set financially without the AJ money. Terry made sure to make it seem like he was the one breaking the retirement, not Baba.

-Terry thinks taking in Choshu’s group in ’84 was a mistake. Too many stars vying for main event slots, too much to book, etc. Choshu’s group was a clique, and Choshu wanted more control than Baba would give him.

-All Japan first put Choshu against Tenryu because they were friends before wrestling (!) and because Baba wanted to save Choshu vs Jumbo for later. Terry also gives the sense that Baba used Tenryu to feel out Choshu; if it didn’t work out then Jumbo, the more established star, wouldn’t be hurt.

-Terry didn’t like certain choices Baba made. For instance, he thinks Baba had Choshu stiff him in a match. Terry was paid $7500 a week to wrestle AND book, half (or less) what Hansen got, and on top of that they were selling lots of Terry autographs for 2000 yen each without giving him a cut. And Wally Yamaguchi was forging some of the autographs! He also didn’t like the shift towards Japanese vs Japanese matches as the ‘80s progressed

-Baba made sure to get in good with the Tiger Mask creator so that he could buy the rights to it. Terry thinks that might have been a mistake, because Misawa wasn’t sensational under the gimmick like Sayama was. Might have done better as just Misawa all that time. (I agree in principle, though Misawa taking the mask off after Tenryu left was a once-in-a-lifetime moment).

-Terry never got money for the knock-off character on the Kinnikuman cartoon series.

-Terry and Dory talked Baba into taking Brody back after he had jumped to NJ. Brody thought he wasn’t being pushed enough, though he felt that way pretty much everywhere.

-Terry left AJ in ’87, tired of not getting a push. He was okay with Hansen and Brody’s pushes, but Baba REALLY didn’t push Terry after his return. (This is true).

-Terry doesn’t really mention the brief return to AJ, which included the 1990 Tag League tour where the Funks faced Misawa & Kawada. It was a rather unremarkable run so I can understand the omission.

-Terry relays a story from ’80 about Onita pissing off some Dominican wrestlers and getting beat up, leading to him and Fuchi staying at Double-Cross Ranch without “a dollar to their names”. But they were AJ guys and Terry was an AJ booker, so why would they be stranded? Anyway, Terry got them into Memphis. Fuchi sucks at driving but had an international license, so they did a cut-and-paste job to put Onita’s pic on Fuchi’s license so that Onita could drive. Somehow that withstood police scrutiny. Fuchi and Onita took part in one of the famous Tupelo Concession brawls, which later inspired Onita to start FMW. Onita got hurt jumping to the floor after a match because the floor had a water spill. His knee was destroyed, and his athletic ability was gone. Baba discarded him, and the rest is history. At some point after the injury, Onita stayed at D-X Ranch. He tried selling imported jerky and cell phones without success. The concept of Onita selling brick phones in America was worth the price of the book by itself. Terry gives good reasoning why Onita’s injury and leaving AJ was huge: FMW’s success not only led to hardcore wrestling as competition to standard promotions, but it also led to tons of indy feds seeking a niche.

– Onita came to Terry at the ranch in 1993 to ask him to work FMW. He offered 20k for a single match, which Terry jumped at. Terry called Baba for permission despite not having worked there in a while. Terry praises Onita for having variety on the shows and not overdoing the big gimmick matches.

-IWA Japan had a doctor give away 2 tickets to King of the Deathmatch with every circumcision. Yup. Terry had some nasty burns from the exploding barbed wire in the finals, though the big explosion was a flop. Terry wanted Foley to win so he’d get over in Japan.

-For the Weekly Pro dome show, Funk and Foley wanted to use some fire, but they were told that if that happened they’d have to shut the entire show down. They tried anyway, and it didn’t work. IWA boss Asano yelled at them afterwards, and repeatedly slapped the ref for failing to stop them. That night was the last time he saw Baba.

-Foley signed his own skidmarked underwear and sold it to a fan for 2000 yen.

-Terry pretty much ignores his second FMW run, which is harder for me to understand because he wrestled on numerous shows and was part of a big angle.

-Terry got called in for All Japan’s Jan 2001 dome show. He didn’t want to face Abby, because it would be a pale imitation of their old battles, but Terry agreed because of the circumstances behind the show. He doesn’t think anything in particular was wrong about Misawa leaving, since the same thing happened with JWA. Terry and Dory worked the NJ October ’01 dome show because they were no longer bound to AJ since Baba was dead. But he doesn’t mention working the May ‘95 New Japan dome show when Baba was alive.

It’s quite possible that Terry wrestled his last match in Japan on January 4th, over 26 years after his first retirement. Even though Terry could still get crowds riled up after his return, the retirement marked his end as a mainstream superstar in Japan.

Section 4b- The Funk Brothers in Japan, in matches

Note that this is during their prime years, leaving aside things like Terry doing deathmatches, since I’m not a fan of ‘hardcore’ Terry. That stuff should be readily available on youtube or other nether regions of the internet.

Dory Funk vs Inoki, NWA title, JWA August 2nd 1970.

The ’69 match is more important, but this one is just as good and features a young blonde (!!) Terry at ringside.

The Funks vs Baba & Jumbo, All Japan March 13th 1975.

This matchup was a sure thing, which progressed over the years as their roles changed. In this match Jumbo is still on the young side, and so he’s a big underdog against either Funk. Terry’s post-match antics are great.

Terry Funk vs Jumbo, NWA title, All Japan June 11th 1976.

Widely held as one of the best matches of the ‘70s, and one of the very few Terry title defenses available.

The Funks vs Baba & Jumbo, All Japan Tag League 1977.

This iteration features a mature Jumbo who can hold his own. The Funks are less heelish then in ’75, so this is a fairly straight technical match between four of the best at it.

The Funks vs Abdullah & Sheik, All Japan Tag League 1977.

Not an official final, but a de facto one, at the end of the first tournament. Famous for getting the Funks (especially Terry) over as babyfaces, but also quite dramatic and by far the best Abby/Sheik style match. It even has big nearfalls, which is very much against the grain for Abby.

The Funks vs Baba & Jumbo, All Japan Tag League 1980.

Again, this was essentially the final. Now it’s not a question of who can hang with who, but rather who the crowd supports more. Answer: the Funks. This gets really good as they run an angle to play off Terry’s face heat.

Dory vs Terry, All Japan April 30th 1981.

Dory described this as trying to wrestle himself. Dory at this point was not what I would consider a high-end singles wrestler, and if you didn’t like the tags against Baba & Jumbo you should probably avoid this, but I like it and it’s reasonably famous due to being their only match against each other.

The Funks vs Brody & Snuka, All Japan Tag League 1981.

The Funks were in the last match of the first six leagues, until Terry’s retirement. This match has some good action and features Stan Hansen at ringside the very day he jumped from New Japan (he wrestled for them the night before).

The Funks vs Hansen & Gordy, All Japan August 31st 1983.

Terry’s first (and best) retirement match. Nuclear heat, emotional post-match, this one is a definite must-see.

The Funks vs Choshu & Yatsu, All Japan August 31st 1985.

Ten years earlier the Funks were masters of matwork. In ’85 that style was dead, and though Dory never quite adapted, Terry was able to use his charisma to make a ‘dream match’ even more memorable. Upon first watching this I wasn’t sure how good it would be, but then Terry starts bellowing about Choshu during the entrances and there’s no turning away. Terry Funk is pro wrestling.

Next Time: At this rate, Akira Taue getting devoured by piranhas or Takeshi Morishima spontaneously combusting.

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