If you were wondering, it is still unanswered question as to whether or not Terry Funk – who turns 71 today – is retired from the wars in and out of the wrestling ring. As a fan who has watched the former NWA World Champion over the course of five decades, I am not sure if given the chance the man who helped put hardcore wrestling on the map in ECW wouldn’t get in the ring for another run or two.
Funk is known mainly for the hardcore wrestling style he adopted in the latter part of his career that inspired many younger wrestlers, including Mick Foley. He worked for at least 63 promotions around the world over his 49-year career, including all major American and Japanese.
I remember him as the villain who had many great matches with the likes of Jack Brisco, Bobo Brazil, Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Harley Race and Eddie Graham in my childhood.
In major promotions, Funk is a three-time World Champion, having held the NWA World Heavyweight Championship once and ECW World Heavyweight Championship twice. He has been inducted into the WWE, WCW, Professional Wrestling, NWA, Hardcore, Wrestling Observer, and St. Louis Wrestling Halls of Fame. Those accolades put him in some pretty rarified air.
He is one of the toughest SOBs to ever get in a ring and when he wasn’t showing off his supreme technical skills, much like his brother, Dory Funk, Jr., he was brawling all over the country and in the Orient.
Funk was a primary subject of the documentary film Beyond the Mat, and is often noted for the longevity of his career, which has included multiple “retirement” matches.
Funk is one of those rare breeds of wrestlers who made it work in every promotion he was worked in and with different styles of wrestling. He can honestly say he changed with the times and when the business would turn, he would turn with it – mainly because wrestling and the “sport” was and still is his life.
Like Jake Roberts, Ric Flair and Roddy Piper, the business – regardless of the outside world – has been their life and his years both inside and outside of a squared-circle, have been chronicled over and over again.
Wrestlers who got into the business in an age where hardcore rules had become the norm like Foley, Sandman, Raven, Tommy Dreamer and to some extent Dean Ambrose – they all owe Funk a debt of gratitude. If it were not for him forging the edge of the envelope, these careers might not have flourished and Funk for that matter, may not have had the longevity he enjoyed.
I remember Funk and his brother Dory tearing up Florida in the late 1970s. I have fond memories of watching him at the announcer’s table with Gordon Solie, holding the “ten pounds of gold” that the NWA World Champion wore. I remember his matches with Rhodes and Brisco or Mike Graham, where hold and counter hold were more important than coming off the top rope with a trash can in hand to knock an opponent out.
I’d like to think Funk was a pioneer. His prowess in the ring allowed him to do a great many things and in the golden age of wrestling, there were few better brawlers. He was an original in a business of unpredictability. He will always be remembered, even today, as one of the greatest to ever get in the ring, in a cage, or anywhere he was “invited” to showoff and get his “fix,” in whichever culture he was being asked to perform.
As a fan, all I can do is say thanks and happy birthday.