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Happy Birthday Terry Funk

If you look up Terry Funk on the Internet (Wikipedia), you are told about the semi-retired American professional wrestler and former actor known chiefly for the hardcore wrestling style he adopted in the latter part of his career that inspired many younger wrestlers, including Mick Foley. Funk has appeared in the NWA, AWA, WWF/E, WCW, ECW, ROH, and TNA.

That is all fine and dandy and some of the wrestlers today like Foley and Bully Ray credit the former world champion for helping to inspire them to get in the business. Terry will celebrate his 70th birthday with the wrestling world, proving that guys who are crazy enough to nearly destroy themselves in a squared-circle can live for seven decades, an almost five of them spent in the business. Like so many of his colleagues and competitors, Funk never knew when to say, “When” and spent the latter part of his career as a stunt act more than the wrestler he was in the 1970s and a former NWA World Champion.

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 is the only man to have been inducted into the WWE, WCW, Professional Wrestling, NWA, Hardcore, Wrestling Observer, and St. Louis Wrestling Halls of Fame.

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.

As a youngster, I watched Funk and his brother and former NWA World Champion in his own right Dory Funk, Jr., battle the likes of Eddie Graham, Harley Race, Jack Brisco and Ric Flair. He was a hated heel in the states and revered overseas in Japan. It was his rough style of wrestling and the brashness he showed on camera and in interviews that put him over with the fans here at home. His Texas roots and his brawling style were a perfect foil to the gentleman way of Brisco or the flamboyant style of Dusty Rhodes. Funk was as tough as they came in a decade of true division between good and evil. Coincidentally both Funk brothers were defeated for their titles by Race, a distinction that not many talk about in the history as a protected sport at the time. It wasn’t until later on in his career that we say Funk change his style to more of the dramatic brands that packed houses in the northern part of the country, packed houses where more shoot wrestling and antics won favor with the fans. If it was something crazy, leave it to Funk to try it. His Hardcore matches with Mick Foley are legendary and helped to put both men on the map as legends of the business in that regard.

But if you are looking for a mat legend of the 1970s, you need not look too far to find him. He was easily a top five wrestlers – making his way to Texas, the Carolinas, Memphis, Louisiana, Missouri, Florida and Georgia on a regular basis.

If you ask many today about Funk, you get the standard reply about the old man who looked beat up and would wrestle in barbed wire matches, set himself on fire and leap from heights unknown to sell for the fans. He was one of the best of them. And even in his old age to prove he could still lace them up, like in 1989 with Ric Flair in a program leading to an “I Quit” match, Funk still delivered like he was 30.

There are few like him, there were few like and there will be few like him. Funk can honestly be called an “American Original” and I had the opportunity to see him in his prime when I was a young boy growing up in Florida.

His birthday just proves that the greats continue to become great even after their rose loses some of it its bloom. He will always be considered great.

Happy Birthday Terry.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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