Every day in October I will be rocking an A To Z Blog Challenge about my terribly terrific tattoos. Every day a new letter. Today is October 24 and the letter of the day is T.
T is for Terry Funk. The Greatest Pro Wrestler of All Time
Terry Funk is one of the all time greats of professional wrestling. Hulk Hogan was the cartoonish muscle headed freak who implored kids to say their prayers and eat their “vitamins” that anchored the Rock N Wrestling connection and headlined Wrestlemania which launched the then WWF into the stratosphere. Ric Flair, meanwhile, was the flamboyant, kiss stealing, wheelin’ and dealin’, jet flying, limosine riding, son of gun working man’s hero from North Carloina. The man that Jim Crockett based Mid Atlantic Championship wrestling around, which went on to become the NWA and then WCW. If those were the men who built the empire of pro wrestling, then Terry Funk was the back-hoe and dumptruck without whom none of it would have been possible. This 69 year old thoroughbred, who hails from the Double Cross ranch in Amarillo, Texas, has been putting his body on the line since 1965. He’s in his SIXTH decade as a professional wrestler and has barely slowed down. Just last year, me, Stauds, Sugar Shane and Rockin’ Rodney Speed watched him have a knock down drag out brawl with Jerry “The King” Lawler at the Mid Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY. Multiple steel chair shots ensued. The Funker never flinched.
Every time I get a chance to see him wrestle, I make the most of it, knowing full well that this time could be his last. But it somehow never is. He’s teaming with his brother Dory Funk, JR next week in Japan, and next month will be back in Poughkeepsie teaming with Tommy Dreamer in what’s being billed as his “last ever” tag match with “The Innovator of Violence.” After all these years, I’ve learned that with Terry Funk, you never say never.
Terry had been pretty much written off as an old timer by the time the 90s rolled around. That is until the ECW svengali Paul Heyman aka Paul E Dangerously hired him to come into the struggling promotion to help show the young turks the ropes so to speak. In April 1997, at 52 years young, Terry Funk defeated Raven to capture the ECW Heavyweight Championship, and helped put that company on the map. 4 months later, on August 9, 1997 Terry Funk lost the belt to Sabu in what many, myself included, consider to be the greatest wrestling match in the history of the business. 1,800 maniacs were shoehorned into a dilapidated bingo hall on the wrong side of the tracks in South Philadelphia to witness a “No Rope Barbed Wire Match.” The rules of the match stipulated that the traditional ring ropes be removed and replaced with barbed wire. The world of professional wrestling would never been the same. 25 minutes later, Terry Funk and Sabu, covered in blood and entangled in in the spiky steel slasher strips, were so caught up in the performance, both literally and figuratively that they had to be cut out by ring attendants. The match was so brutal that ECW head Paul Heyman declared afterwards that there would never be a barbed wire match again in ECW. After watching the match it’s easy to see why.
IF YOU THINK THIS IS JUST A LITTLE BARBED WIRE STRUNG ABOVE THE RING… STOP. AND WATCH THIS! ITS A WRESTLING RING SURROUNDED BY BARBED WIRE!!! YOU’VE NEEVR SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS.
Though that may have been the end of Barbed Wire matches in ECW, that was only the beginning of barbed wire matches for Terry Funk. He spent countless more nights in Japan in all sorts of crazy death matches, most notably against Mick Foley aka Cactus Jack aka Mankind. Matches that not only included barbed wire but also exploding ropes, fire, baseball bats, plywood sheets covered in razor wire, and massive ringside tanks that were filled with flesh eating piranha. Seriously. Fuckin’ Japan, amirite?
Eight years later, at an unofficial ECW “reunion” event in the same building, they did it again. It was billed as a 3 way dance between Terry Funk, Sabu and the mostly forgettable jabroni Shane Douglas. When the match was slated to begin, Terry ambled out to the ring, on his one good knee, to what had become his trademark entrance music, “Depserado” by the Eagles. When he got to the ring and got on the mic, he thanked everyone for coming out, and for still remembering him and all the guys from ECW. He said that him and Sabu had been talking in the back and wanted to do something special for the sold out crowd and ended with “So please just bear with us for a few minutes while we get rid of these ring ropes and get this thing wired!”
Nooooooooooooo! What?!?!?! Could it be? Were he and Sabu going to present us with an encore presentation of their match to end all matches. Right here? IN THE FLESH?!?!?! I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly me spending $250 for my 2nd row seat made all the sense in the world. I still have the chair from that night. In fact, Im sitting in it at the desk in my living room in NYC as I type this.
It wouldn’t be accurate for me say I got a little teary eyed at that announcement. I started full on crying. Like a little girl with a skinned knee n shit. I couldn’t believe that this man, this myth, this LEGEND, just 20 days shy of his 61st birthday, meaning 4 years away from social security eligibility, was going to do that. For US! And by US, I mean a building full of degenerated scumbag halfwits. Or, more accurately, a buncha people who would pay hundreds of dollars to see just that.
When I finally regained my composure, I hustled over to the merchandise stand. To buy a t-shirt from Mrs Funk. When she informed me they were out of my size, I just slid a twenty dollar bill across the table and said “That’s OK. Please take this $20 anyways and give it to Terry.” She said she couldn’t do that and I said “Please. You can’t NOT take it. For what Terry is about to do to his body. To this room full of people, no matter how much they are paying him it just CAN’T be enough.” She stood firm on her refusal so I just loitered at the gimmick table and waited for her to turn her attention to another cretin. And when she did I suplexed Andrew Jackson back across the table and ran away like I had just stolen something. As I fled I heard her shout “Hey, get back heeeeerrrreeee.” But it was too late. I hope that $20 bought Terry a box of band-aids and a handful of Oxys the next morning.
Earlier that afternoon, Backyard Bill and I had made the pilgrimage to the corner of Swanson and Ritner in south Philadelphia for the night’s matches. We went early for two reasons… One because the promoter’s had been advertising that there would be a “Tailgate partY” outside the venue that afternoon, but mostly because, even though we had paid big bucks for our “reserved” 2nd row seats, this was an independent wrestling match in a bingo hall, and well let’s just say that independent wrestling promoter don;t have very good reputations for “doing what they said” or any sort of “customer service” for that matter, so we thought it best to arrive early to lay claim to what was rightfully ours… After one look at the “tailgate party” we decided to move a couple hundreds yards towards the abandoned buildings that littered that garbage dump of a neighborhood. You know, in the interest of safety. Before long a 3 man tag team of a camera crew wandered from the unemployable line over to where Bill and I were and started asking us why we weren’t hanging with the rest of the fans. After a few choice remarks from me, they identified themselves as “from the Discovery Channel” there to make a documentary about pro wrestling fans. I was pretty sure they weren’t from the Discovery Channel, but went with it anyways and decided to give them a few juicy soundbites. A few months later I read on PWInsider.com about a documentary that was rocketing right up the “Straight to DVD” charts that had been filmed that day outside Viking Hall. Bingo! Below is an edited down version of the film. Edited down to the only good parts. Which, coincidentally, are our parts. That’s me and Backyard Bill. I’m the one in the Backyard Bill t-shirt. Backyard Bill is the one in the Chris Benoit t-shirt. (please note that this was a full 2 years before Chris Benoit went crazy and killed his wife, kids and himself)
After that movie came out, Backyard and I were unsure if we would be welcomed back to the indies. But indeed we were. I’m proud to say that of the hundred plus indie shows Ive been t since then I haven’t been hit with one solid shot. Unless, of course, you consider the 12th Annual Gathering of the Juggalos to be an indie wrestling show. Technically it’s a music festival that ALSO features independent wrestling. So for the purpose of this story, I consider my official record to be unblemished. The Gathering will stand alone as my sole defeat, by knockout TWICE in one bout, no less!
But this night was all about Terry Funk. And about Terry Funk it was. It may have been 8 years later, but the guys fought like it was their first time, and delivered a brutal, savage show for us. As bloody as it was brilliant. Sadly, this one seems to have been wiped from YouTube. Hit me up if you wanna come over and watch the official DVD sometime.
Just over 4 years later, another epic night featuring Terry Funk took place at in the Grand Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza in Monroe, NJ. This night wasn’t a wrestling match though. No, it was a Ring Roast! Dozens of legendary pro wrestlers, and never-would-be comedians converged on the happening hamlet of Monroe, NJ (conveniently located just stumbling distance from 2 TWO truck stops AND a WaWa) for a night of loving laughs and jovial jabs aimed at our hero from Amarillo. (Click here for a highlight trailer).
Before the official ceremonies began, there was a meet and greet with the wrestlers. For $100 you got to meet all the wrestlers and have them sign your poster. For $150 you got them to sign your poster PLUS ONE ADDITIONAL ITEM! You know which package I bought. I had a plan. I gotta say it was pretty cool to meet and get pictures with Kevin Von Erich, Kevin Sullivan, Mick Foley, King King Bundy and many more almost forgotten workers, but we were really just there for Terry Funk. And I couldn’t have been more nervous. When we finally made our way to Terry’s Table, I was shaking like the Sandman after eleven hours without a cocktail. For reals. I told Backyard to feel my chest and he tweaked. He could easily feel my heart pounding. I’ve met plenty of famous folks. But this wasn’t a person. This was TERRY GOD DAMN FUNK!!!! When my turn came, I proceeded with caution and greeted him. I laid down my poster and he signed that. Then I pointed out my Special Super Exclusive “I Have Too Much Disposable Income” lanyard and said “I believe this means I have the privilege of getting you to sign on more item of my choice.” Terry nodded and I rolled up the sleeve of my t-shirt and presented him the back of my upper eft arm. I said “Please sign my arm. And please write legibly, because tomorrow I am taking this arm to the tattoo shop to get your signature inked on there forever.”
HE leaned back in his chair, took two good, long, hard looks at me and said “I’ll tell you what, I’ve been in the rassling business a long time, and seen a lot of crazy things. It’s not often that I can say this is a first.. But boy, this is a FIRST!” He signed my arm and I fought valiantly to keep myself from trembling so hard that it displaced the sharpie, and both my efforts and the signature were a success!!!” I quickly thanked him and then he probably said something like “That guy is nuts” but I wasn’t coherent enough to comprehend anything else for the next few minutes. I had the signature, and for the rest of the night all I had to do was to not sweat it off.
I woke up the next day and went straight to see Tasha. While she was digging in we got down to talking about tattoos. Specifically how often people were still strolling into the shop and asking for crap like tribal armbands. she said more than makes sense. Then I asked if she had even done a barbed wire armband and replied in the affirmative and we both laughed. Laughed until it clicked. Terry Funk is known for barbed wire matches, so why not add one single strand of barbed wire as both an homage to Mr Funk and also so I could have one “bro” tattoo. We added the barbed wire piece and then, for good measure, tacked a single droplet of blood as a symbol of all the blood that barbed wire has taken from Terry.
Most of my small tattoos get placed where they fit. Just trying to fill in the small spaces between the bigger pieces. But a couple years after I got the Terry Funk tattoo, I decided to get a Hatchetman – the Insane Clown Posse logo. When figuring out where it should go, I knew instantly that it needed to go next to Terry Funk’s John Hancock. That was because of a story I had read in Terry Funk’s autobiography “TERRY FUNK: More Than Just Hardcore”:
Excerpt Reprinted Without Permission:
“Jerry Lawler approached me about doing the show earlier in 2004, when we both worked a show for the Insane Clown Posse. The Insane Clown Posse is a pair of rappers, Violent Jay and Shaggy 2 Dope, who paint their faces up like clowns. They’re also completely insane and a couple of wrestling fans. They put out a videotape where they were commenting on old matches. (Ed note: it’s called Stranglemania and it’s BRILLIANT! It’s what has inspired so much since, like Colt Cabana’s $5 Wrestling as well as serving as the inspiration for Kevin Gill the Voice of Juggalo Championship Wrestling) One of the matches had me versus Abdullah the Butcher, and they kept knocking us and laughing at us. “Look at those two big goofs, acting like they’re wrestling. Ha ha ha!”
After I heard about that, every time someone told me they were going to see the Insane Clown Posse, I said, “Tell them if I see them, I’m going to go ahead and kick their asses! Goofy bastards, knocking me on a tape and using it without consent!”
Of course, I wouldn’t have known the Insane Clown Posse from Adam and Eve, if I’d seen them on the street. I sure wasn’t listening to their damn music! Finally, I got a call at the ranch from Sabu: “Terry, I’ve got the Insane Clown Posse here. They want to come and see you, but they don’t know if you’re mad at them or not.” “Well,” I said, “bring the sons of bitches out here.” They had just finished a show in Corpus Christi, and their next one was in Houston, so they took their bus all the way from Corpus Christi to Amarillo, and then back down to Houston after they met me! I told you they were nuts!
And so the Insane Clown Posse came into the house, and Vicki had some chili cooked up. They sat down and ate a bowl of chili apiece and talked to me. They said they were sorry if I was upset over what they said on that tape, and we buried the hatchet. Then, Violent Jay said, “Terry, we want to leave you some money for using that tape of you.” I said, “No, no, don’t do that!” “Yes, Terry, we’re going to leave it under this jar, on this counter here!” I kept telling them not to, but I walked into the next room before them. They followed me in, and told me they had to go. We said our goodbyes, and the Insane Clown Posse drove off in their bus. And I walked back into the other room, to get the money I knew they’d left. I have to tell you, I was excited. I was thinking, “Oh boy, I bet they left me twenty bucks, or maybe even forty,” which would have just tickled me pink. I thought I’d have enough to pay for the chili, at least, and so I was really happy at the notion of having twenty bucks. I went in there, lifted up the jar … and there was four thousand dollars there! And so let me tell you people something right now —I love the Insane Clown Posse! The next retirement match I have, they’re going to be in the semifinal! They’re the greatest band in the world, and I have all their records. Haven’t got around to listening to them yet, but I have them here
I guess it was only fitting that the next time I saw Terry was at the Gathering of the Juggalos. Sugar Shane and I wandered backstage at the wrestling tent and tracked him down. When we found him he had commandeered a golf cart and was deep in discussion with former WWF Champion Bob Backlund, who was sitting shotgun. We laid in wait, like Ricky Morton after getting knocked out by the Midnight Express, and as soon as the coast was clear we pounced like Ernie “the Big Cat” Ladd. I was once again fighting a battle against my nerves but found the intestinal fortitde to approach and said:
“Excuse me, Mr. Funk. I’m not sure if you remember, but a few years ago at your Ring Roast in New Jersey you signed my arm and I told you I was going to get it tattooed.”
He cut me off like he used to cut Stan Hanse off from Making the tag to Bruiser Brody in Japan and bellowed “Well dang boy, of course I remember you, don’t tell me you actually went and did it you son of a gun!”
I said indeed I had and then pulled my sleeve up for a quick reveal while Sugar Shane was in perfet position to tag the shutter on my point and shoot… and the result was this gem:
If that was the end, that would have been good enough. But I crossed paths with Terry again this past summer. Me and Kevin Gill aka KG aka The OG Kevin Gill aka the VOICE of Juggalo Championship Wrestling were on a road trip to Philadelphia to see Rancid and made a pit stop at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory to drop in on a “Legends of the Ring” convention where Terry was appearing to sign autographs. Because KG is a “Big Willie” on the Rassling circuit we got in before the general public and made a bee-line for Terry’s Table where he was holding court with James J. Dillon the famed manager of the Four Horsemen. It was then that we learned firsthand why Terry was such a god among men in the eyes of the fans. We started making small talk and to break the ice I asked Terry if I could buy one of his shirts. He said sure and I asked if he had one in Large. He said all he had was XL, and when he saw that he gave me pause, looked at me long and hard and said “This thing is made from 100% cotton. I’ll tell you what, you just put that thing in the washing machine, then run it through the dryer 3 or 4 times, and then put it on and it’s gonna fit you just like it was MADE FOR YOU.”
I couldn’t argue with that logic so I plunked down another Andrew Jackson, snatched up my shirt, and put it on over the shirt I was wearing. And you know what, it DID fit like it was made for me. Then Terry asked Kevin if he wanted to buy a shirt. Kevin told him “I’d LOVE to Terry but Im a DOUBLE XL, and you only have XL.” without missing a beat Terry said “I’ll tell you what Kevin, just like I was telling your friend Jake here… This thing is made from 100% cotton. You put on the XL, run around, get all sweaty, jump in a hot shower, stretch that thing out, get out, take it off and let it dry, and then put it on and it’s gonna fit you just like it was MADE FOR YOU.” this guy could sell ice to an eskimo.
After the ice had been broken I told Terry I had something to show him. I reminded him about meeting him in New Jersey and him signing my arm. Then I showed him the tattoo. He lit up and said “Oh my god. I ain’t never seen nothing like this. JJ Dillon, come and take a look at this. Jake here got my signature tattooed on his arm!!! Can you believe that? I’ll tell you what, Jake, I’ve been in the rassling business a long time, and seen a lot of crazy things. It’s not often that I can say this is a first.. But boy, this is a FIRST!”
Professional Wrestling was born in the carnivals of the early 20th century. Carnies they were. And carnies they still are. I mean that in the most loving way. Terry Funk may have been hit in the head with a thousand chairs, but his enthusiasm IS STILL REAL TO ME DAMMIT!
This is my favorite signed 8 x 10.
Many thanks to the irrepressible spirit and lovely lens of Deneka Peniston for the tattoo pics!