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Terry Funk, a true wrestling legend

By Staff | Oct 27, 2009

Terry Funk has been wrestling for more than 40 years, and his accomplishments are almost as long: In February he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame; he’s been crowned the ECW World Heavyweight champ for life; he helped spawn the hardcore wrestling style made famous by Mick Foley; and he’s appeared in eight different wrestling organizations.

Yet, in typical Funk fashion, these accomplishments aren’t what he’s most proud of. That would be busting his ass every match, whether 20,000 people or 35 came to see him, and always staying true to who he is as a person.

On Nov. 6, West Virginians can get an up close and personal look into this man and his wrestling history when he guest-referees the IWA’s Big Japan World Title match between Miyamoto and Mad Man Pondo. The match will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Milton’s Pumpkin Park. A meet and greet with Funk will occur at 5:30 p.m.

As Funk promised in the interview that follows, the match will be entertaining, even if he has to mix it up a little himself.

Graffiti: Tell us first what you’ve been up to recently, as far as wrestling goes?

Funk: As far as wrestling goes not much.

I was inducted into the Hall of Fame by WWE and I received word I’m going into the Dan Gable Hall of Fame. I’m going into in Iowa and I’ll be down there refereeing that death match tournament and that’s going to be an exciting night for me.

I wouldn’t say it’s the last time but it will definitely be one of the last times I’ll go into the ring again.

I look forward to going into the ring (in Milton) and I realize what you have to do going into those matches and that’s why they (the IWA) wanted me there.

If they’re (Miyamoto and Mad Man Pondo) breaking the rules, if they don’t break it up after my five count, I’m going to punch them right in the nose, and if that don’t work I’m going to do more than punch them. I’ll beat the heck out of them and possibly get control of things.

Graffiti: You’ve retired a bunch of times in the past. How sure are you that this will be it, that there won’t be other “unretirements?”

Funk: Right now I haven’t wrestled in a year and a half, but I have refereed matches throughout the country and I don’t intend on doing that (again). This is a special favor to that promoter.

I definitely like the people that run that promotion; I appreciate them giving an alternative to the WWE. That’s something that you don’t find much anymore.

I’ll do everything I can to help them. I know those guys appreciate everything I do for them and I appreciate everything they do for me. I’ll go out there and do my best for what I’m supposed to do.

Graffiti: I understand you have a little bit of a reputation of being willing to help out young up and coming wrestlers and organizations when this is something a lot of wrestling veterans aren’t into.

Funk: A lot of them are into making a buck. They’ll have wrestling school, but they teach it for money. I have never charged a person in my entire life.

Everybody that I’ve always helped has done very well with it (my teaching).

It’s not a matter of money made, it’s a matter of getting the right guys to carry on the banner of professional wrestling. There isn’t much of a banner right now. It shouldn’t have an America flag on it; it should have a picture of Vince McMahon on it.

I want there to be a group of guys that have their own mind, have heir own ability and have the chance to do what I did for a lifetime. Sometimes it doesn’t work for them; it’s not the most profitable business in the world. That’s why I come out there is to help establish an alternative.

Graffiti: I grew up watching wrestling, as did many young boys over the last 30 years or so. When I grew up watching it, it seemed to be a lot more geared toward young kids. But then in the late ‘90s, early part of this decade, it seems it became more “extreme,” more “adult,” with bloody, violent matches and scantily clad ladies. And yet, recently the WWE has made strides to get back to those family entertainment roots. You’ve been involved in both sides of this as well. How do you think wrestling should be marketed? Is there room in the market for both kinds of wrestling?

Funk: I’ll tell you what, Vince will do whatever turns the turnstiles. He’ll do whatever makes money. It’s not wrestling, it’s directed by the audience — it’s by who pays and how many pay to watch it.

I hate to say this but if there was a clown or a buffoon out there and if that clown or buffoon drew 25,000 people every night then Vince McMahon’s wrestling star would be a clown or a buffoon.  Unfortunately, he grabbed all of the stations and made it what it is today.

It’s a circus, but let’s give them an alternative to the circus.

Graffiti: Is there a market for something different than the WWE? Do you think people want something different?

Funk: Yea, they do. Look at MMA, look at UFC. That’s wrestling too.

So you have to look at different kinds of things.

If you’re going to classify something as wrestling classify that too. Is there another venue for them? You bet. There is another venue, there’s the IWA.

Graffiti: You’ve been elected to the WWE Hall of Fame, you have a large following in Japan, and you’ve been the heavyweight champ for multiple organizations. What do you see as your proudest accomplishment?

Funk: That’s some pretty darn good accomplishments. I’ve always been who I am, that’s one of the positive factors. I am what I am and I don’t try to be anybody else.

I always have been Terry Funk, and it’s been successful for me.

Every place I’ve been to, I’ve been successful.

I’m always going to give people their money’s worth. I don’t care if there’s 20,000 or 35 people out there. I know those 35 people would pay the same price that the 25,000 would, and I’m going to bust my ass for them every time because they believe in what I do; they love what I do, and they paid to come see me.

Graffiti: Who was your favorite wrestler to go up against?

Funk: There’s been many. Some of my favorite wrestlers, Harley Race was a tough one.

There are so many different styles. Boris Malenko, out of Florida. Jerry Lawler, I loved to go up against him.

I love to go against all of those guys that the people wanted to see me against, and the more they wanted to see me against them the more people there were (there at the match).

I love the guys I went up against. But there were guys all over the country. The Briscos in Florida. The Billy Robinsons. Different guys around the world, I’ve met and wrestled. It’s pretty amazing, you know?

Graffiti: Well, that about does it for us. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the people reading this?

Funk: I’m looking forward to seeing the wrestling fans out there, and I really mean it. It’s going to be a blast.

I’m going to keep control of that ring, I promise you that. There will be no monkey business in that ring. I might be old, but the older you get the meaner you get.

Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com