There will never be another quite like Terry Funk.
He is a former NWA World champion, and has lived one of the most fascinating lives in the history of pro wrestling. A second generation wrestler — whose brother, Dory Jr., also reached the pinnacle of the sport as NWA World champion — Funk has done it all. He’s wrestled clean, wild and dirty, pioneered the hardcore style, delivered unforgettable interviews, promoted shows, earned huge laurels for his work in Japan, and been inducted into every hall of fame that counts — The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 2004), The George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (Class of 2010), The Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame (1996), and even the WWE Hall of Fame (Class of 2009).
The Funkster is heading north of the border for a massive show under the Great North Wrestling banner. It’s on May 15th at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The main event is Kevin Nash vs. Scott Steiner, and Funk will be a special guest referee in a no holds barred match between Hannibal and Vampiro, who is from Thunder Bay and will be making his first-ever wresting appearance there. Other famous names appearing on the card include “The Genius” Lanny Poffo and The Honky Tonk Man.
Terry Funk graciously took time recently to answers questions sent in by SLAM! Wrestling readers, from his home in Amarillo, Texas.
Q: Is it true that you had to wrestle your brother Dory for the NWA world title? If so, how did that come about, what was it like, and was the match held at the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens? (Paolo Del Nibletto, Toronto, Ontario)
A: It came about in Japan and it was at the end of a tour. It was a championship tournament and we weren’t supposed to be against each other but Bruiser Brody got hurt so I stepped into the tournament and wrestled my own brother. It was very different, it really was, you know, my brother was — well, he’s my older brother, he can beat me up anytime (laughs). The older ones are always tougher than the younger ones.
Q: I have recently read the book Ten Pounds of Gold: A Close Look at the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, and in it — if I remember correctly — the night you won the title, it’s mentioned that it was your brother Dory that was supposed to have the shot that night. I was just wondering how that came about? (Alan O’Melia, Halifax, NS)
A: That is correct and it was a ploy to get the better part of Jack Brisco. It worked very fine and it worked well with the fans down there in Miami too. One thing I’d like to say about the 10 pounds of gold — it’s gone. Where’d it go — all the gold? All of a sudden they got the belt back, the belt that had 10 pounds of gold in it, and the gold is not in it anymore. That’s a mystery. Ask somebody out there where’d the gold go? 10 pounds of gold. Where is it? Where’d it go? I want to know.
Q: Please ask Terry about his memories of working in Toronto and any specific memories of the night he lost the NWA belt to Harley Race at Maple Leaf Gardens. (Andrew Calvert, Maple Leaf, ON)
A: He used the figure four leg lock — and that was quite an unusual thing for Harley to do. I don’t think he’d ever used that hold before that night. But he used it that night and won a victory over me. And I remember that big ramp you’d come out on at Maple Leaf Gardens.
Q: Is there one particular great match or memory you have wrestling with your father, Dory Funk Sr.? (Abe Peters, London, ON)
A: As a tag team I can remember many of them, but as a single one of my most memorable matches was my very first match. And it was with Sputnik Monroe and my father came down there and says, “Get yer ass off the mat and get up and do something!” And I did. It was a wonderful and memorable moment.
Q: Considering all the miles Terry drove, what make and model car did he and other old school wrestlers prefer? (Scott Norris, Charleston, SC)
A: A dozen different makes and a dozen different models. Wore ’em all out.
Q: And did he ever repeat the trick of wrecking 3 cars in 3 weeks? (Scott Norris, Charleston, SC)
A: Two cars in one day. I was proud of that (laughs).
Q: The best promo I ever saw was Terry Funk standing in a shower talking about Jerry Lawler wanting to be a filthy, stinky, greasy, Florida cracker…..then Terry poured Quaker State motor oil and dirt all down his face and over his body. Was that real motor oil going into your eyes? (Chris Linklater, Crestview, FL)
A: Yes, and that was the dumbest thing I ever did because like a fool, I was real, and always wanted to be real and I actually poured engine oil — it wasn’t molasses or anything else — and it burned the piss out of my eyes.
Q: I remember how excited I was when Terry Funk came to the WWF in ’85, and the first match I saw of his was against Lanny Poffo at the Boston Gardens. It was a great match and I’m wondering what Terry remembers about wrestling Lanny Poffo (who will be on the card in Thunder Bay) back in ’85? (Lonny Crick, Camrose, AB)
A: Lanny as a wonderful wrestler. That character that they had for him up there in New York, I didn’t think it suited Lanny. He can do a great deal of wrestling and a lot of moves but they got him into the handsprings and cartwheels. I thought Lanny was a heck of a wrestler and he knew all the moves and he was trained by the greatest, by his dad. I think they had him in the wrong character his whole career. But you know, he entertained and did it well and made a good living up there in New York and otherwise, what’s he gonna do? Tell Vince what he wants to do? When you went into the Boston Gardens and you’d hear the people roar and you knew that they really hated ya, and before the matches were over you saw 15 fights in the stands, and you knew that you were in Boston. They were a bunch of brats up there, and I’m telling ya, when they loved ya they loved ya and when hated ya they hated ya. Oh, it was a classic (laughs).
Q: What was it like working with Junkyard Dog? I understand he was no Lou Thesz, but what do you attribute to his success in the 80’s time period? (Courtney Marshall, Silver Spring, Maryland)
A: Absolutely. And Lou Thesz wasn’t a Junkyard Dog, either. With JYD, it was a long night, every night for me. And I think it was a pleasure for him and it was a long night for me. And I don’t mean that to be critical either.
Q: Is there an art form to covering or carrying a limited worker ? I saw you have a lot of matches with limited wrestlers. (Courtney Marshall, Silver Spring, Maryland)
A: Absolutely. 100%
Q: How would compare Vince McMahon to Eddie Graham? (Courtney Marshall, Silver Spring, Maryland)
A: One of them is a Cadillac, and of course we all know who the Cadillac is. You know who the Cadillac is? It’s Eddie Graham. He’s the greatest. You thought I was going to say Vince McMahon (chuckles). But no, it’s Eddie Graham. He was a great promoter, a great creator, he always had respect for his business and the people respected him. Whenever he walked down the street, or into the bank, he went in there with his head held high. He was a wonderful man with a tremendous mind for wrestling and Vince is a great creator of entertainment — which is two totally different things.
Q: Is there a rivalry between you and Dusty Rhodes outside of the ring? (Courtney Marshall, Silver Spring, Maryland)
A: (Long pause) I’d like to have a rivalry with the fat bastard.
Q: What convinced you to join the NWA in 1989? (Courtney Marshall, Silver Spring, Maryland)
Q: How did you get involved with acting, especially in the movie Roadhouse? (Frank Daniele, Hartford, CT)
A: I got involved with acting with Sylvester Stallone. I heard that he was looking for a wrestler and I applied. I think I was the only wrestler who paid any attention to it at the time. So sure enough I went out there and got the job, and thought, well man this is a great way to make money. So I stayed out there for about six months and never got another job. Then later on I was contacted by a producer from Disney, by the name of Tom Green, and they wanted a video of me so I sent it to them and they liked me and brought me out there and read for the directors and producers, and got the job for Wildside, which was a TV series with Meg Ryan and Howard Rollins and did that thing. I just did numerous commercials in between, numerous movies in between. It’s a wonderful gig and why was I doing it? I was doing it for insurance for my family. Because in wrestling you have no insurance. You can’t get any insurance.
Q: What was it like working with Patrick Swayze on Roadhouse? (Frank Salemi, Etobioke, ON)
A: Patrick was a wonderful guy. A wonderful talent.
Q: Did Terry ever regret calling for chairs to be tossed into the ring? He got nailed in the back of the head pretty good one time at the ECW Arena — they used to play it on the TV show intro. (Dave Read, The Double Cross Ranch in North Hampton, PA)
A: Of course (laughs). It takes an idiot to lead idiots and I was the lead idiot.
Q: BTW: Eddie Gilbert is the true King of Philadelphia, no matter what you or Tod Gordon says. (Dave Read, The Double Cross Ranch in North Hampton, PA)
A: Well, he is in my mind and heart too. Eddie was a great guy. He did a wonderful job up there for Tod Gordon.
Q: What was it like to wrestle CM Punk at Ring of Honor? What’s his opinion on Punk? (Joonas Virtanen, Helsinki, Finland)
A: (Long pause). Talented guy.
Q: Do you see yourself doing commentary for an ROH or Dragon Gate USA? (Courtney Marshall, Silver Spring, Maryland)
A: Not unless somebody asks, y’know, and I’m not sure if I wanna do that. What the hell do I wanna do? Keep on going the rest of my life? I’m gonna sit on my back porch one day and drink a Pilsner.
Q: What was it like wrestling for JCW (Juggalo Championsh*t Wrestling), with its reputation for being the bitch of all wrestling promotions? (Del Low, Smyrna, Delaware)
A: The Juggalo Promotion by the Insane Clown Posse? It’s the greatest experience in the world to go up there — it’s a classic, it’s special. They have more nuts than I’ve ever seen compiled in one area. They’re all out in the woods and they just disappear and then all of a sudden in they come, and there’s 25,000 there. It’s amazing, it’s amazing — it just is. The wrestling matches, it’s not even normal wrestling matches — it’s Juggalo. I enjoy going up there and I’ll tell ya what, they’ve got a lot of manners. They’re good people too — nutty — but I always have a great time goin’ up there and wrestling for Juggalo.
Q: Have you ever been called by CZW (Combat Zone Wrestling) to wrestle? (Del Low, Smyrna, Delaware)
Q: Have you ever been in the ring with Necro Butcher? (Del Low, Smyrna, Delaware)
A: One time, I think it was with the Insane Clown Posse.
Q: During the infamous Hell in a Cell match with the Undertaker and Mick Foley, what communication did you have with Foley immediately after his fall from the cell? (C.F. Hunter, Pro Wrestling Illustrated)
A: There was no dialogue. I looked down at him and his eyes were just glazed over. There was no communication, and I was just happy to see him get back up.
Q: When the Undertaker choke slammed you during that match, how did your shoes go flying off? (C.F. Hunter, Pro Wrestling Illustrated)
Q: When was the best time for you to wrestle in: the 70’s, the 80’s or 90’s? (Frank Salemi, Etobicoke, ON)
A: Two decades: I would say the ’70s, ’80s…and mid-’90s
Q: Is there a title that you wished you had have won in your prime? (Frank Salemi, Etobicoke, ON)
A: Titles never meant anything to me. Not even the world championship. It meant money to me and I was proud to wear the thing, but I never thought of myself as being able to beat up every wrestler or anything. I never thought of myself as the greatest worker in the world. I thought of myself as someone goin’ out there to do a job and get the best response I could from the fans.
Q: Out of today’s wrestlers and the guys you wrestled, who do you wish you could have a dream match with? (Frank Salemi, Etobicoke, ON)
A: I’d like to go in the ring with guys like Wayne Martin. I could name people that you may not even know who were great in-ring performers. I’d like to go in the ring with Baron Michel Leone. I was in the ring with Lou Thesz — I wrestled him. There are tons of people who I haven’t been in the ring with that I would love to get in the ring with — there’s tons, just tons of them. Then there are guys who I’ve been in the ring with before, like Johnny Valentine, who I loved to wrestle. He was great. He was fantastic.
Q: I’d like to know if Terry watched WrestleMania this year and keeps up on WWE these days? (Mattias Dombrowski, Owen Sound, ON)
A: Hell no! I don’t want to spend the 50 bucks or whatever it is. But I do keep up on it.
Q: Terry Funk’s autobiography, More Than Just Hardcore, is one of the best wrestling books I’ve ever read. I’d like to know if Terry has read or recommends any autobiographies by other wrestlers? (Christopher Hamilton, Suffolk, VA)
A: I loved Bret Hart’s book. I thought it was excellent. I thought it was wonderful, and you got to remember that it’s the world according to Hart. If you keep that in mind, that’s a good way to look at it. He came straight forth with all of his feelings and all of his thoughts and all of his dirty laundry and all the good parts too, like family and everything else. Oh, my gosh it was great. If fans out there haven’t read my autobiography, then go buy it on Ebay ’cause I don’t have any copies left. I got in a pissing contest with the publisher. It’s a very good book.
Q: I understand that Terry and his wife have their 45th wedding anniversary coming up this year. Can he please share some marital advice for this wrestling fan who’s going to be getting married this summer? Thank you sir! (Christopher Hamilton, Suffolk, VA)
A: Yes I do and I can’t think of a better day. Marital advice? Be very honest, it’s never easy to be married that long. And if you get a rough time, you just got to love the person that you’re with, and she’s got to love you and then it will last…and it’ll be ok.
Q: I read that Terry wrestled in an 8-man tag match in January of this year at the annual NJPW Dome Show, teaming with Manabu Nakanishi, Masahiro Chono, and Riki Choshu to defeat Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Takashi Lizuka, and Abdullah the Butcher. I remember those crazy bloodbaths between Terry and Abdullah in Japan going all the way back to ’70s. Could Terry please share some thoughts on Abdullah the Butcher — one of my favourite heels of all time? (Mattias Dombrowski, Owen Sound, ON)
A: Oh gosh, Abdullah was a great in ring performer. Now there was a guy who could draw a buck. He was a tremendous heel, the Butcher was. People believed in him and were afraid of him. Like The Sheik, he terrified you. I was afraid of him (laughs). I was scared to death of him. He and the Sheik both. At that Japan show earlier this year, that was last time I was in a wrestling match back in January.
Q: I once read somewhere that, as a child, you spent a lot of time in Ontario, Canada. Is this true? (Julia Fontaine, Kingston, ON)
A: Yeah, North Bay, Ontario. I would go to North Bay as a kid every summer and my father would wrestle up there all summer long and I’d go up there and I just loved it. And my brother lived in an ice house up there, you know, in the summertime and he’d be hauling that ice. I love Canada. There was a Bobby Hart who was a wrestler and his father was a wrestler too, and they were north of North Bay — way North. And North Bay was a hot bed for wrestling for a while, a long time ago. I’m looking forward to going to Ontario for this big wrestling show comin’ up. This time going all the way up North to Thunder Bay, I really am looking forward to it.
Q: Lastly, this isn’t a question but rather a comment for Terry Funk. I was listening to a recent phone interview on Rock ‘94.3 radio from Thunder Bay on YouTube and I heard you say this upcoming show in Thunder Bay is the biggest independent card you’ve been a part of in the last couple of years. I just wanted to say thank you for coming to towns like Thunder Bay at this point in your career, and entertaining fans like me who hail you as one of their all time favourites. You are a wrestling God (sorry JBL), and a living legend. Thank you Terry! (Mattias Dombrowski, Owen Sound, ON)
A: Oh, thank you. It makes an old man feel good.