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Wrestling / Terry Funk

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"Crazy. can't be an act. That CAN'T be an act. It's either the greatest work in the history of the business, or that man is a little nuts."
Joey Styles, Forever Hardcore: The Documentary

Meet the prime minister of hardcore wrestling.

Known as "The Hardcore Icon" and "The Funker", Terrence Funk (June 30, 1944 - August 23, 2023) was an American Professional Wrestler who was a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion, a pioneer of the hardcore style in North America, and one of the ECW Originals. He also made appearances in Japan with AJPW and (around 2011) NJPW and Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW), as well as in Puerto Rico with the World Wrestling Council (WWC), the WWWF/WWF/WWE and WCW (both during the later NWA/WCW days and near the end of WCW's run), as well as MLW, SMW, Ring of Honor, TNA, Juggalo Championship Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerilla and MANY others.

He was known as a member of the Funk Wrestling Family, which includes his late father Dory Funk Sr. (May 4, 1919 – June 3, 1973) and his older brother Dory Funk Jr. (born 1941). (As a bonus, Terry and Dory Jr. are the only brothers to date to ever hold the NWA World Heavyweight title.) In addition, there is his acting resume, starting with Paradise Alley in 1978.

He may not have looked like much, but he's taken bumps men a third his age would not consider, let alone attempt. While not quite the living embodiment of hardcore (that would be Abdullah the Butcher), he ranks pretty close; the Funkasaurus was a walking museum, proselytizing the heritage of the sport as it originated in mid-20th century fairs. Unsurprisingly, he had a love-hate relationship with modern pro wrestling, despite numerous attempts to break into it (even making light of his hypocrisy in Forever Hardcore). He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.

Oh, and too many Ten Minute Retirements to count. He was last noted to have partnered with The Rock 'n' Roll Express against Jerry Lawler, his son Brian Christopher and Doug Gilbert in 2017, so he's a Long Runner, too (if not the LONGEST-runner).

He passed away on August 23, 2023 at the age of 79.

Spinning Trope Hold!:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Terry Funk has had more retirements than most wrestlers have had victorious matches. His first "official" one was in 1984. He puts Barbara Streisand to shame.
    • His latest retirement in September 2016 was announced almost a year after his last match in October 2015 (against Jerry Lawler) and he hadn't wrestled in the interim. The guy is 72 at the time. It'd be reasonable to think he's actually be done this time... Nope!. He got us again. In September 2017, now 73, he teamed with The Rock 'n' Roll Express to take on Lawler, his son Brian Christopher and Doug Gilbert (winning by DQ). It was joked that the universe will probably undergo heat death before Terry Funk genuinely hangs up his boots for good, and he'll probably survive that too.
  • Affably Evil: In Funk's pre-hardcore years, he was generally very soft-spoken and often came off as jovial and good natured. Don't be fooled.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: Seen throughout the 1970s and 1980s in typical cowboy garb: cowboy hat, poncho, and chaps. He also had his "double-cross" branding iron at times.
  • Autobiography: 2005's More Than Just Hardcore.
  • Ax-Crazy: He wouldn't be Terry Funk without this trope.
  • Badass Bystander: Served as a ringside enforcer during Roderick Strong's title shot at Tyler Black during Glory By Honor IX.
  • Badass Family: He's a Funk, it's a natural.
  • Bash Brothers - Had a massively successful tag team with his brother Dory Funk Jr.
  • Berserk Button: In Memphis, he doesn't like sissies. (*cough* Jim Cornette *ahem*)
  • Big Word Shout: Yelled out "Son Of A Bitch" at Naohiko Yamazaki for targeting one of his knees at 1999 FMW Judgement Day loud enough to be heard without aid of a mic, while sitting down.
  • Blessed with Suck: Being NWA World Heavyweight Champ back in The '70s meant lots of travel from one territory to another, seven days a week. Traveling so much led to his February 6, 1977 title loss to Harley Race, as he was sick and tired of the travel schedule.
  • Blood Knight: In Memphis, aiming straight for Jerry "The King" Lawler.
  • By the Hair: Ignored Naohiko Yamazaki's complaints about such during the Funk Brother match at Judgement Day 99. It's not as if he was going to be disqualified for something so minor in FMW.
  • Captain Ersatz: He wasn't left out of Fire Pro Wrestling, even though it wasn't him "officially".
  • Chainsaw GOOD: As Chainsaw Charlie in the WWF in 1997/1998.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Had a tendency to stab his allies in the back in a second if he thought he wasnt getting what he deserved.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Felt that Memphis fans, wrestling announcer Lance Russell, and Memphis police were all on Jerry Lawler's side in 1981. This led to him challenging Lawler to an Empty Arena Match. (See Eye Scream for the results.)
  • Cowboys and Indians: The Cowboys to the "Native Americans" Jack Brisco and Jerry Brisco.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mick Foley recounted an interview Terry gave when he was NWA champion and had traveled to one region to wrestle that champion (which was the way it was done through the late 70s). When a reporter chastised Funk for the supposed 'paegentry' of professional wrestling, Funk laid this on her.
    What if I came to the ring and a band was playing? And some girls in short skirts were dancing. And then, by golly, some cannons would go off. Wouldn't that be great? *reporter nods* I just described what happens every time the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown.
  • Defeat by Modesty: Known to inflict this on others, most notably having ripped off Jim Cornette's pants in Memphis in 1983. note 
  • Determinator
    • During a tag team match in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) in 1977, Abdullah the Butcher and The Sheik cut up his arms to the point that his brother Dory had to take over against both foreign madmen. Terry rolled out of the ring, got his arms taped up while in the crowd, and came back in the ring to continue the match, which the Funks won by DQ.
    • Another time back in Memphis around 1981, and this was after the piece-of-wood-based Eye Scream, he would stop at nothing to get his hands on Lawler.
    • During a hardcore match on WCW Thunder he got kicked by a horse in the arm while giving Chris Candido a pile driver but still completed the move and the match.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Remember when Terry and Cactus Jack winded-up from being tearing apart eachother to form an impromptu tag-team against "Public Enemy" at Hardcore Heaven '94? Known as "Metal Rain" and more ingeniously "Chair-nobyl" it all started after Funk ask the audience for a chair... the crowd proceeded to flood the ring with at least 2 metric tons of folding chairs. Needless to say that Funk and Foley just scram out of that ring.
  • Expy: Terryman in Kinnikuman. Terry Boy (aka MEN'S Teioh) in Michinoku Pro Wrestling.
  • Eye Scream: Twice, both in 1981. First, the "Empty Arena Match" against Jerry "The King" Lawler: Got himself stabbed in the eye with a piece of broken-off wood. The second one, in the "Florida Cracker" promo, in which motor oil gets into his eyes.
  • Finishing Move: Spinning Toe Hold, Piledriver, Sleeper, and the Moonsault.
  • Forgot Flanders Could Do That: People tend to forget he was a great technical wrestler
  • Fun with Acronyms: His FMW Heel faction, Funk Masters of Wrestling.
  • Garbage Wrestler: Subverted. Even though he's the Trope Codifier, he was a great technical wrestler during his NWA World Champion days. Additionally, he's widely considered to be one of the greatest wrestling psychologists and promos of all time.
  • Going Native: The "Florida Cracker" promo. In 1981, when he was feuding with Jerry Lawler, this time in Florida, he was saying that Lawler wanted to become a real Floridian (Lawler's from Memphis, Tennessee), "not a transplant". The Funker wanted to know what it'd be like to be a "true Florida cracker". He then really mocks the people of Florida (and what he said was Lawler's desire to become one of them) by dumping Quaker State Super Blend motor oil on his head, upper body, and face, which burns his eyes. (Damn, Terry could've blinded himself right then and there!) He then pours dirt and sand on himself to really drive it home and then wants to challenge Lawler to a loser-gets-covered-in-motor-oil-and-dirt match. (At this point, Terry shuts his eyes tight enough due to the oil burning his eyes. Ouch.)
  • Hair Color Dissonance: Depending on the arena and studio lighting, as well as hair dampness and length, he could either be an Evil Redhead/Fiery Redhead or a brown-brunette.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He, his brother and Mil Mascaras were the first gaijins of AJPW to undergo face turns that stuck.
  • Heroic Second Wind: He's gotten so fired up he's grabbed and almost struck the head of his own tag team partner and brother Dory, but managed to calm back down before the mistake could be made.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Terry Funk was an imperial 6'1, and known for teaming with Jean Antoine, who was 4'11, in mixed tag matches.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: A very close one onscreen and off with Tommy Dreamer
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Earned some financial success by pulling out of the business side of wrestling at least twice: he sold the Amarillo NWA territory before cable TV killed the territory system, and decades later sold his stock in WWE just before the value plunged due to the WWE Network's slower than anticipated growth.
  • Lampshade Hanging: At ECW Ultra Clash 1993, Terry Funk and Stan Hansen faced Kevin Sullivan and "The Madman from the Sudan" Abdullah the Butcher in a "Bunkhouse Match." The match went to a DQ when "Hot Stuff" Eddie Gilbert, who had left the company the night before and announced his "retirement," interfered and attacked Funk. Joey Styles explained that in Eastern Championship Wrestling, which it was called back then, you can use weapons but can not have outside interference. Eventually, ECW got rid of the "no outside interference" rule.
  • Laughing Mad: At the end of his "Florida Cracker" promo in 1981.
  • Leitmotif: Desperado by the Eagles fit him in the mid-90s when it was used in an ECW video promo. It fit him even more by the time of what proved to be his last match in 2017.
  • Made of Iron: Not so much in his last days, but his segment in Beyond the Mat involved him going to a knee doctor and looking bewildered when the doctor said that he shouldn't even be walking comfortably now.
  • Mark of Shame: The "branding iron" aspect of his mid-1980s WWF "evil cowboy" gimmick, wherein he'd take said object and stamp his hapless opponent in the back, with the jobber selling it as though he was legitimately being branded with a hot iron.
  • Older Hero vs. Younger Villain
    • The older hero to the younger villain Raven in the original ECW.
    • Vs Chris Candido on WCW Thunder over the hardcore title
  • Older Than He Looks: He seemingly stopped aging some time in the mid to late '90s, as for the rest of his life he looked almost exactly as he did back then.
  • Playing with Fire: Used a flaming branding iron as a weapon in ECW and MLW. In fact, the Funkin' Army (Terry/the Sandman/"Dr. Death" Steve Williams/Sabu/Bill Alfonso) defeated the Extreme Horsemen (Steve Corino/C.W. Anderson/Simon Diamond/PJ Walker [Justin Credible]/Barry Windham) in the War Games match at MLW War Games when Funk burned Corino with the branding iron and forced him to submit to the Spinning Toe Hold.
  • Power Stable:
    • The Royal Family (in Florida led by "King" James Dillon [JJ Dillon])
    • The J-Tex Corporation (led by "Playboy" Gary Hart in NWA/WCW in 1989-1990)
    • F.I.T.E. (in SMW led by Jim Cornette)
    • The Stud Stable (in WCW in 1994 led by Col. Robert Parker)
    • (see Fun with Acronyms above)
    • On the January 10, 2000 WCW Monday Nitro, Funk, then the WCW Commissioner, came together with Arn Anderson, Paul Orndorff and Larry Zbyszko as The Old Age Outlaws. It didn't even last a week, since Kevin Nash beat Funk for the "Commissionership" that Sunday at the Souled Out 2000 pay-per-view.
  • Pre-Final Boss: During Dory Funk Jr.'s run as NWA champion, Terry served as his brother's "policeman". He would come into the territory ahead of Dory, and anyone who wanted a shot at the title had to go though him first. Of course the guy would win, either through skullduggery if they were a Heel; or valiant effort but coming out softened up for Dory if they were a Face.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: As recounted in Beyond the Mat, Funk once went to the doctor's office and was told by the flabbergasted doc that he shouldn't even be walking, let alone wrestling, with the amount of punishment his knees have taken. Twenty years later, he was not only still walking but still wrestling, of course.
  • Red Baron: "Terrible" when he started with the WWF in 1985/1986, "The Funker" and "The Hardcore Legend" from the 1990s to today (even after his passing). In Japan, "Texas Bronco".
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Red Oni to his Blue Oni brother Dory Funk Jr. You should only need one match, preferably after both of their NWA World title reigns, to see who was what half of this trope.
  • Ring Oldies: One of the oldest; born during World War II, he was at this since December 9, 1965 and until his death was only listed as semi-retired, having wrestled at least as recently as 2017!
  • The Rival: Ric Flair, the Briscos (especially when Terry teamed with Dory Jr.), Dusty Rhodes, and Jerry Lawler.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Famously walked out of the Survivor Series 1993 "knights" match note  over concerns about how he was being used. He wrote a note to Vince McMahon saying his horse was dying. For the rest of Terry's life, Vince asked about his horse whenever he saw Terry.
  • Spectacular Spinning:
    • Spinning around with a ladder on his shoulders, knocking people around till he gets dizzy.
    • And his signature Spinning Toe Hold.
  • Talk Show with Fists: Funk's Grill in WCW, circa 1989/1990.
  • Tareme Eyes: More squinted than doe-eyed, but he does have pretty droopy (around the outer corners), sad-looking eyes.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: To elaborate, his first retirement was in 1983 in All Japan Pro Wrestling. A more well-known retirement match was in 1997 against Bret Hart, documented in Beyond the Mat, which had been broken during the film's editing. As of 2013, due to finally getting knee replacement surgery (which was recommended on camera in Beyond the Mat), it looks like he might finally be unable to get back in the ring, though he might still do it for a ridiculous amount of money. Fast-forward to his return to the ring in 2017...
  • Theatrics of Pain: His selling grew more exaggerated and over-the-top as he got older. He is noted for his unusual psychology when selling: Unlike most wrestlers who simply act hurt, Funk often asks for mercy or help from opponents by name. This is showcased in the Empty Arena match against Jerry Lawler - after sustaining his eye injury, Funk veers between calling Lawler a "Yellow Bastard" and begging him for assistance.
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: His promo about the new wrestling company "The FFF: Funk, Funk and Florida!" in Championship Wrestling from Florida in 1987. He and Dory Funk Jr. didn't have millions of dollars to throw around or 220 syndicated stations, but they were the best athletes. (He then proceeds to rip into Blackjack Mulligan, Mike Rotunda aka IRS, Kevin Sullivan, and Dusty Rhodes. Oh, and he also said that Oliver North -- and this was after the Iran-Contra Affair broke out -- wouldn't take a chance on either Terry or Dory!)
  • Too Kinky to Torture: According to the New Age Outlaws, when they tied him to the cage during their cage match with him and Cactus Jack, they started hitting him for real as revenge for working too stiff in the past, only for Funk to keep yelling "More!" at them.
  • Unrelated Brothers: Both straight with Jimmy Jack Funk (Jesse Barr, son to wrestler and promoter Sandy Barr, older brother to WCW and AAA wrestler Art Barr) in Rock 'N' Wrestling Era WWF and averted with Real Life brother Dory Funk Jr.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Mick Foley. If they worked at the same promotion at the same time, they'd have brutal matches against each other and team up in a short span of time.
  • Vocal Dissonance: A crazy-as-hell Texan with a soft-spoken voice. Yeah, he'd scream, but he did start his promos off like a Southern gentleman.
  • Wrestling Doesn't Pay: His forays into acting, which afforded him health insurance by way of the Screen Actors Guild (and its successor SAG-AFTRA).
  • You Don't Look Like You: Fans might have trouble believing that the clean-shaven, curly-haired NWA World champion of the late 70s is in fact Terry Funk.