Terry Funk passed away on August 23, 2023 at the age of 79 in his hometown of
Amarillo, Texas. Although Terry really only worked 45 FMW matches in the west he
is probably synonymous with FMW more than anyone besides Atsushi Onita and
Terry Funk's connection to FMW would start in 1981 years before it existed after Atsushi Onita was working abroad in the Dominican Republic and booker of the territory Jack Veneno told Onita he was going to beat him twice in a two out of three falls match. Onita refused to do it and during the match would end up stiffing Veveno, and Veveno would counter that by getting four wrestlers to attack Onita in the locker room and injure him.
Onita along with Masa Fuchi knew they needed to get out of the Dominican Republic as a result and they called fellow All Japan wrestler Terry Funk about Onita and Fuchi staying at the Double Cross Ranch in Amarillo, Texas while Onita healed up from his beating. Terry would get Onita and Fuchi booked in San Antonio before getting them booked full time in Memphis in March 1981.
Onita became family to Funk during those months he stayed in Amarillo before going to Memphis. Onita would come back to Amarillo several times between 1985 to 1988 after messing up his knee and being forced into retirement by Giant Baba.
Onita would eventually get back into pro-wrestling following his retirement and would end up starting up his own company called FMW in 1989.
Onita actually wanted Terry in FMW as early as 1990 as Onita's original plan was to have Terry Funk vs. Dick Murdoch in October 1990 at the Ryogoku Sumo Hall, but none of that would end up happening as the Anniversary show would have to be moved to November at the Komazawa Olympic Gym and Terry would be asked by Giant Baba to return to All Japan after a 3 year absence for the All Japan Real World Tag Team Tournament.
Baba would stop booking Funk once again in All Japan in April 1991 although it would be 2 years after that when Onita would once again visit Terry at the Amarillo Double Ranch and request Funk work Onita on May 5, 1993 at Kawasaki Stadium and would pay him $20,000 dollars for the match and to job to Onita. Funk would accept, but not after asking Giant Baba's permission to go to FMW with Baba agreeing.
It wouldn't be just any match though, it would be the very first Exploding Ring Death Match as well as a No Ropes Exploding Barbed wire Death Match. Although the explosives would not be as powerful as they would become, the video editing by BMG would do a great job at making the ending sequence look like a dramatic movie after Onita would defeat Funk and leave the ring, before coming back in and trying to wake Terry and then just covering Terry's body before the ring would explode.
Part of the agreement for Funk jobbing to Onita would be that he
would continue to get booked by FMW regularly and that they would have a rematch
with Onita repaying Funk the favor and put him over. Onita would only make half
good on that promise, as he would book Funk for a half tour in August 1993that
would include another stadium show with Funk and Tarzan Goto defeating Sabu and
The Sheik on August 22, 1993 before teaming up with Atsushi Onita for the first
time on August 27, 1993 as they would defeat Mr. Pogo and Ricky Fuji. Funk would
only end up working two FMW shows in 1994 which would see him defeat Sabu on May
3, 1994 in Nagoya before defeating The Sheik on May 5, 1994 at Kawasaki Stadium.
Onita didn't want to pay Funk's price tag for Funk to be a semi-main event babyface at Tarzan Goto's level and he also didn't want to hurt his value by actually doing another match with Funk and actually putting him over that time so the singles rematch would never end up taking place. Funk upset at Onita for not following up on his promise after considering him family a decade earlier would end up joining up with Victor Quinones who was booking IWA Japan in November 1994. IWA Japan is where Terry would wrestle his first Japanese singles and second overall match against Cactus Jack on January 8, 1995 in a cold Saitama Honjo Civic Gym in what would be a great barbed wire match that would include a flaming chair and a branding iron with fire on it against Jack's back with Funk picking up the win with a DDT in a match that would really create a new identity for IWA Japan as more than just a re-start of W*ING.
Onita would end up retiring in May 1995 and FMW would make
Hayabusa the new ace of the company who did not want the company to continue the
same path way of doing death matches like FMW was with Onita. This would open
the door for IWA Japan to try and take the top death match spot in Japan and
would book Kawasaki Stadium on August 20, 1995 with a death match tournament
taking place which would see Funk take on Jack in the main event. It would also
be a no ropes exploding barbed wire death match, and unlike the FMW match with
Onita, the explosion would be so weak, that no amount of video editing would
have been able to try and make it look good as Funk during the match would
openly complain about how weak the explosion was before putting over Jack in the
Funk would compete in one more tour for IWA Japan after the Kawasaki Stadium show as he would team up with the future Black Buffalo going by his real name Keisuke Yamada in the NWA Tag Team Tournament in December 1995 with Funk and Yamada losing to Cactus Jack and Tiger Jeet Singh for the right to move on to the finals of the tournament that would be won by Tarzan Goto and Mr. Gannosuke.
IWA Japan booker Victor Quinones and IWA Japan owner Tatsukuni
Asano would become at odds with another resulting in Quinones leaving IWA Japan
and joining back up with FMW in February 1996. This would mean that FMW would be
able to once again be able to book Terry Funk for their shows with him teaming
up with Mr. Pogo against Hayabusa and Masato Tanaka on May 5, 1996 at Kawasaki
Stadium in a No Ropes Exploding Barbed wire Exploding Ring Double Hell Death
Hayabusa and Tanaka would end up picking up Funk and dropping him stomach first on the exploding barbed wire, and along with Tanaka fall into the exploding barbed wire barricade outside the ring right as the ring would explode. Funk and Pogo would then end up blowing a fireball at Hayabusa's back before throwing him face first into a chair caught on fire before Funk would pin Hayabusa with a powerbomb for the win.
Funk and Pogo's team wouldn't last long though as Pogo would end
up breaking up with Quinones on May 27, 1996 resulting in Pogo becoming a
babyface. This would setup Funk vs. Pogo on August 1, 1996 at the Shiodome
Railway with in a Exploding Barbed wire Double Hell Death Match which Funk was
supposed to win anyway, but when knocking Pogo down into the exploding barbed
wire barricade outside the ring he would land at a way that would result in his
neck being broken.
Pogo would be unable to move, and Terry would not know what had happened to him, so Funk would go over and blow a fireball at Pogo catching his pants on fire as Pogo would be unable to move to try and stop the fire before it would be realized the extent of Pogo's injury and the match would be stopped.
Funk would become the number one heel in the promotion as after
he and The Gladiator would defeat Hayabusa and Masato Tanaka on September 24,
1996 at Korakuen Hall he would announce the creation of the Funk Masters of
Wrestling that would consist of himself, The Gladiator, Super Leather, Hisakatsu
Oya, The Headhunters, and later Mr. Gannosuke, Katsutoshi Niiyama, Crypt Keeper,
Flying Kid Ichihara, Horace Boulder, and Cactus Jack.
Funk would continue to call out Onita wanting him to come out of retirement and face him which would eventually happen on December 11, 1996 at the Komazawa Olympic Gym with Onita, Tanaka, Tetsuhiro Kuroda, and the retiring Mr. Pogo would defeat Funk, Hisakatsu Oya, and the Headhunters in a bloody street fight. They would have another match on April 29, 1997 at the Yokohama Arena with Onita, Tanaka, and W*ING Kanemura defeating Funk, Cactus Jack, and The Gladiator in a match that The Gladiator says Funk was supposed to put Onita over in it, but during the match Funk would do a moonsault off the turnbuckle with nobody catching him and would be all out of sorts and not remember any spots for the match with The Gladiator having to do the audible and take the pin from Kanemura instead.
The Funk Masters of Wrestling would continue but Terry would only work one more tour as their leader as that tour would conclude with a Kawasaki Stadium show with Terry actually being the babyface for it as he would defeat Kodo Fuyuki.
Funk would come back for the December 1997 tour as a member of
the ECW team even though he had worked FMW more recently even than ECW at that
point. He would also be a full fledge babyface once again as Onita's ZEN group
had taken over the top heel group in the company putting an end to the Funk
Masters of Wrestling. Terry would team up with Tommy Dreamer on December 22,
1997 at Korakuen Hall and defeat The Dudley Boyz and The Gladiator and Hido in a
Three Way Tag Team Match with Terry and Tommy putting Dreamer's manager Beulah
up on their shoulders.
Terry would come back to FMW one more time on November 23, 1999 at the Yokohama Arena as he would team up with his brother Dory Funk, Jr. and they would defeat the young boy team of Yoshinori Sasaki and Naohiko Yamazaki after both Funks would make them tap out to the Spinning Toe Hold.
Onita would come back to Japan for the first time after that as he would return to All Japan for the first time in nearly a decade to team up with Atsushi Onita to defeat Abdullah the Butcher and Giant Kimala on January 28, 2001 at the Tokyo Dome with the bloody Funk and Onita embracing and putting an end to their feud.
Funk would end up working the Yokohama Arena for Big Japan on December 2, 2001 teaming with Men's Teioh who idolized him against Great Kojika under his old Kung Fu Lee gimmick and Mil Mascaras and then do one more tour with All Japan in October 2002 leading to Funk and Abdullah the Butcher defeating Tarzan Goto and Tomoaki Honma on October 27, 2002 at Budokan Hall with Funk delivering a brainbuster off the turnbuckle sending Honma through a table before Butcher would drop an elbow and pin Honma for the win.
Funk's last match for All Japan would be him once again teaming up with his brother Dory Funk, Jr. as they would go to a time limit draw against Masa Fuchi and Osamu Nishimura on October 27, 2013 at Ryogoku Sumo Hall. His last match in Japan would be for NOSAWA's Tokyo Gurentai promotion on December 11, 2014 at Korakuen Hall with Funk teaming up with Masakatsu Funaki and Mil Mascaras as they would defeat Yoshiaki Fujiwara, NOSAWA, and Kaz Hayashi with Mascaras pinning NOSAWA. The last time I am aware that Terry went to Japan would be for Genichiro Tenryu's retirement show at Ryogoku Sumo Hall on November 15, 2015 which would also be the last time he would get to see Hayabusa before his passing. Ricky Fuji who would wrestle on the show would see Terry backstage and tell Terry he looked great, with Funk responding with "Bullshit! I'm old as fuck!"
Onita would also throw out Terry Funk's name as a possible retirement opponent for his October 31, 2017 retirement match, although Funk would end up working his last match on September 23, 2017 and was not in the condition to fly and work in Japan, so it would be dropped before ever becoming more than just something thrown out as a possibility.
Funk would then be interviewed at his home in 2020 for the
Darkside of the Ring episode where he would recall his history with Onita in the
episode with many coming away feeling Funk was the star of the episode. Onita
would end up flying to Dallas, Texas to wrestle at the WrestleCon event on March
31, 2022 with the hopes of wrestling Terry. Onita would not know about his much
Funk had declined in health at that point mentally and physically as he was
living in an assistive living center at that point.
Onita would then state he would just want to meet Funk while in North Texas, but with Dallas to Amarillo being a 5 1/2 hour drive and Funk living in an assistive living facility, it was sadly not meant to be.
Terry leaves one of the greatest legacies in pro-wrestling history. You could break different parts of his career and they all would be a Hall of Fame career. His Japanese independent death match career from 1993 to 1997 is one of them.
He helped FMW draw the biggest show in company history at the time in 1993 with his match with Onita which is one of the matches that is actually more popular now than it was even in the 90s. He helped bring IWA Japan to its peak and the Kawasaki Stadium show is one of the most remembered shows because of him and Cactus Jack. His second FMW run with the Funk Masters of Wrestling brought a spark of the old FMW in the New FMW that seemed to struggle so much through out its time, and then his last run of being brought in as a legend in FMW, Big Japan, New Japan, and All Japan.
The one and only time I would meet Terry Funk in person would be on April 3, 2016 in Dallas, Texas at the Terry Funk BBQ event prior to WrestleMania 32 that day. I went along with my girlfriend who is my wife now, and we would buy one ticket each to walk into the building, you could only use your ticket to either take a picture with Terry or eat the BBQ. I got in line to meet Terry and had him sign my FMW program and got my picture with along with him and my girlfriend and we before walking away he stopped my girlfriend and told her "make sure to always take care of him." so Terry has been a symbol in our relationship always as somewhat of a spiritual grandfather.
The only other thing I can add to having a connection was being a huge influence in the Darkside of the Ring FMW episode getting made where fans would get to really see and enjoy Terry one last time on their screen.