The three-way dance between Terry Funk, Sabu and Shane Douglas at ECW Hardcore Heaven 1997 where Douglas walked away with his third ECW World title is still talked about today as a key point in ECW’s history. Friday night, the three go at it again. But Funk is worried about expectations.
“It scares me. I know that we’re all going to raise the bar for that match,” Funk told SLAM! Wrestling. “The thing that scares me is, ‘Are we capable of raising that bar at this time without physically endangering ourselves?’ Why do I say that? I’m 60 years old. Why do I say that about Sabu? There’s a guy that’s suffered a lot of injuries. Why do I say that about Shane? There’s another guy that has something to prove.”
The rematch of the August 17, 1997 three-way dance takes place at the highly-anticipated Hardcore Homecoming show in Philadelphia at Viking Hall, aka the world’s most famous bingo hall, and home to many, many ECW memories. Fans who don’t have tickets to the sold-out show will be able to see the match down the road on a DVD.
“We must make it a good match or else it’ll be a night to forget for the rest of my life, and I will never be able to do that,” Funk said. “I think they feel the same way about that. They don’t want it to be a night to forget, they want it to be a night to remember. I think all three of us are that way. Entering that ring, with that attitude, it’s going to be tremendously difficult to duplicate what we did the last time. There were so many innovated moves, and it was such an innovative match and everything that none of that had ever been seen before, a match like that. A lot of things were done in that match, all three of us were on that night. Plus, the fans have had 10 years to build it up in their minds even more than it was.”
Funk said that the same thing happened in Japan with fans’ memories of his early bouts with Abdullah the Butcher. The two couldn’t live up to expectations all those years later. “It’s a kid, when he was young, his bedroom was very big; he grows up to be a man, and goes into his bedroom and it’s really small. It’s not quite what he remembered it to be. Hopefully that doesn’t happen in this match.”
With a second ECW-inspired event on Sunday — WWE’s One Night Stand pay-per-view — airing live from New York City, Funk had to decide which of the two shows to do. At 60 years old, he knew he wouldn’t be able to wrestle two high-impact bouts in a weekend.
“I thought about it a great deal because the monetary end of things was about three times greater with WWE than it is for the organization that I’m going for,” said Funk. “I chose the one because I figured that, I certainly don’t blame the guys for going and wrestling for WWE, picking up a good night. It’s just that I can’t accept that organization myself because they put out the DVD, Rise and Fall of ECW, and here’s a man [Vince McMahon] that created the fall of ECW. He’s profiting by it because his organization wasn’t doing the numbers that he wanted to. So what does he do? He puts out something that he destroyed, or helped to, not necessarily destroyed, but certainly helped to destroy ECW. Now he’s going to go ahead and profit from it again because the product that they put out was something that was special; copied the product to get himself out of a jam … I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. ”
It’s certainly a case where the victor gets to write the history book, he said. “Victors, they do write the history books, and they do write it. I’d like to edit their writings a few times for them!”
The ECW fans and Viking Hall do mean something to the second-generation, 30-plus-year veteran of pro wrestling. “It’s close to my heart, and that’s why I’m going there, and the only reason I’m going there,” he said. “I can’t speak for the fans, but I can speak for myself. And the reason I picked that is that place is close to my heart. Truly, money is not everything to me.”
The workers that made up ECW are equally important to him. “It’s very special to me because it’s a group of guys, ECW was a group of guys that got together. They banded together. They were oddballs, crazies, absurb misfits, whatever they were. But one thing that they did have in common was that they loved the world of professional wrestling and they wanted to perform, and they needed a stage to perform. By golly, some of them turned into the greatest performers in the world that we have today.”
Indeed, many of the game’s top names – Benoit, Jericho, Austin, Raven, Van Dam, Dudleys – came out of ECW’s ranks. “I’m tired of hearing people say that Paul E. [ECW boss Paul Heyman] was ECW. I’m tired of hearing that anybody was ECW. Terry Funk wasn’t ECW. It was a combination of all the guys that made it work. Let me tell you something, you can take a name, and you can take that name, but you cannot become that. Vince McMahon cannot become ECW. He is Vince McMahon pretending to be ECW as long as he owns it.”
The current state of pro wrestling depresses the former NWA and ECW World champion. “The business is very unfresh, and why? Why? That’s the question they have to go back and dig up ECW? That’s how unfresh they are. Doesn’t he realize that, how unfresh the business is when they pull out stuff from 1994 and put it on a DVD and it outsells anything that he’s putting out, any product that he has right now? That’s rather amazing to me.”
But he doesn’t think WWE is ripe to fall. “I don’t think that Vince is going to disappear at all,” Funk said. “He has a tremendous need to be successful. Success becomes more important, a way to measure your success, that’s just money. His need is to be successful in the sport of wrestling. I can live without it. I don’t think he can.”