‘I’m really proud of Cactus. I’m proud of him for taking some of the things which I have valued and listening to me’

Funk’s obvious disdain for Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair notwithstanding, when asked about his toughest opponent or match he is reluctant to name one wrestler or style of wrestling over another. Not wanting to play favourites or insinuate that any one opponent stands above another.

However, a crazy man named Sabu, from a company known as Extreme Championship Wrestling, and the headlining barbed wire match of a little known event entitled “Born to Wired”, stand out as one of the most extreme. Even for a man who has been declared ECW World Heavyweight Champion for life.

“I think that was one the most brutal matches I’ve ever witnessed, as far as being in? I’ve had some worse things happen to me like the time I got my arm burned-up with Cactus (Jack), over in Japan (King of the Death Match tournament ’95). But as far as brutal, bloody, hardcore craziness that match with Sabu was the best,” said Funk. “If you watch that match you’ll see at the end where I’m out on the floor wrapped in barbed wire, that the barbed wire was stretched taut around my neck and it was a wonder that wasn’t the end of it for me right there. It was probably the most brutal, graphic match, although the matches in Japan were pretty graphic.”

While on the topic of the King of the Death matches, let us mention Cactus Jack and Japan. It was that final match of the tournament, which Funk ranks as another vicious match and oddly enough, one of the most disappointing of his career.

“Cactus and I were competing over in Japan in the Explosion – Barbed Wire – Bomb match, which was the final match of the King of the Death Matches,” said Funk. “Well, the guy (the promoter) said he spent close to ten thousand dollars on the blow-up system, but what no one can probably believe is that when you go in to these matches you really don’t know what is going to happen. Whether it’s going to blow you up, the ring or what it’s going to do and you just take your chances. Well, this time we were in there and it counted down, ‘five, four, three, two…one!’ and I’ll never forget what happened.”

According to Funk what happened was Cactus Jack, afraid of the explosion, ran into the third row while Funk stood in the centre of the ring waiting. The explosion went off on cue but was nothing more than a little smoke not a big bang the crowd was expecting.

“The fans just went ‘Ohhhhh…’ and they were all disappointed and I turned to the people and just went ‘Why? Why no bomb?’. They understood that and Cactus and I went in there and finished the match. And even though these people were utterly disappointed, we raised them back up. That was when I got badly burned (being dropped arm first onto an exploding barbed wire covered pallet) but Cactus has been through some brutal stuff too.”

Ah yes, Cactus Jack (Mick Foley, Dude Love, Mankind), it is impossible to talk to Terry Funk about Mick Foley and not notice the gleam in his eye or the affection in his words? Cactus is a protege and surrogate son to Funk whom he has conveyed the lessons and philosophies of his life to.

Lessons Foley has taken to heart.

“The premise that I have lived by in this business is to give the people their money’s worth and that is one thing I’ve tried to instill in Cactus,” said Funk in a fatherly tone. “I think Cactus has learned that through watching me and even though I may be overstepping my boundaries, I’m really proud of Cactus. I’m proud of him for taking some of the things which I have valued and listening to me and he’ll tell you that. But, I love him and he has gone beyond the things which even I would do.”

It is hard to imagine anything that Terry Funk wouldn’t do. Here is a man who has been wrapped and hung with barbed wire, pioneered table and chair use, has been blown-up, bleeds like a sieve in almost all his matches and can do a moonsault well into his fifties. But it isn’t what he does that Funk wants people to understand; it’s the why? That’s the important part.

“I just hope people understand why I do these things. I think some people would say what I do is stupid and maybe it is, maybe it is. But I have a real love for this business and for the people and I want to make them hate me more than they’ve ever hated me before and that’s really important to me.”

Hating Terry Funk in this day and age isn’t a popular notion, despite his recent heel turn on Tommy Dreamer in ECW. The question everyone is asking isn’t who is the mysterious greater power the Undertaker answers to? It is when will Terry Funk be returning to either the ECW to finish his feud with Dreamer or when will he re-surface in the WWF for a last dance with Mick Foley?.

“I don’t know whether I’ll be returning to either the ECW or the WWF. This match for the AWF will be my first match back since I had the hepatitis and it took a lot out of me and not for any other reason than I’m fifty-four years old. There are some things I want to do with my wife and I love her dearly. I think it is time for me to be back where I need to be…Nothing is forever in the wrestling business and I’m certainly not, but I don’t mind that, I really don’t. It’s just really important that the wrestlers and the fans understand that,” he said.

Funk’s Extreme recollections
“One time when I was hurt really bad, was when me and Cactus were in a match with Onita over there in Japan. I did a moonsault onto the floor and him and Cactus ran in the other direction and I landed face first on the floor and I had a hematoma the size of a grapefruit on my head and I didn’t know where I was. That dirty bastard Onita wasn’t concerned about me at all and went to pull me back in the ring. Cactus went over and knocked him out of the way and the attendants came up and then they took me to a doctor. People don’t realize the danger in this profession and what the athletes are going through right now.”

Funk on WCW and WWF ripping-off the ECW
“They straight-up rip off everything. I go to church a lot and I’m not into crucifixions and all that but where did they (WWF) get it from? They stole it from ECW’s Raven/(Tommy) Dreamer angle. The WCW does a poor imitation and the WWF does a better imitation.”

Funk on the branding iron and Chainsaw Charlie
“The branding Iron was my idea and I was doing it before the WWF, kind of like Chainsaw Charlie. I was up there running around in the WWF, it was my first night back and they said ‘what do you want to do?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know.’ John Aires from the San Francisco 49ers is a close friend, and his son is my godson. He used to take him to this barber who would give him a dollar and a half haircut and we used to call him Chainsaw Charlie and that just jumped out in my mind and I said ‘Well, I’ll be Chainsaw Charlie.’ They said, ‘What are you going to wear?’ So I got the suspenders from Howard (Finkle), took Bruce’s (Pritchard) Levi’s and I had that shirt on, borrowed a pair of pantyhose from Chyna, cut one leg out of them and there came Chainsaw Charlie.”

Funk on Jimmy Jack Funk
“It didn’t bother me when Vince (McMahon) brought in Jimmy Jack Funk. It’s like that old song — ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.’ I think it is a little bit of an honour when someone wants to use your name and to some extent be like you, I maybe wouldn’t be pleased if they had said he was my brother, but I saw nothing wrong with it.”