Terry Funk: 'I don't want to die in the ring'
TIM BAINES - Ottawa Sun
Terry Funk knows the day will come when he won't be able to stand in the middle of a wrestling ring doing what he does best, raise hell.
Luckily for wrestling fans, that day hasn't come.
Funk is heading to Canada for a Great North Wrestling supershow on May 15 at the Fort William Gardens in Thunder Bay. He'll be the special guest ref in a no-holds barred match between Hannibal and Vampiro. The card also features Kevin Nash vs. Scott Steiner and includes The Genius Lanny Poffo and The Honky Tonk Man. There's a good chance Funk will get involved somehow. His tenacity and fearlessness made him hardcore before there was hardcore. But he's also aware of his limitations.
"I don't want to die in the ring," says the 65-year-old Funk, who has pulled up stakes in Amarillo, Texas. "I want to die on my back porch, drinking beer.
"It gets tougher and tougher in the morning. Hell, I used to jump out of bed, then I rolled out, now I crawl out. I know why I did it, but when I saw the end result, I'd get up the next morning and I couldn't walk, sometimes it was, 'What the hell am I doing?' I've got a tremendous amount of pride in what I do.
"I'll go up to Thunder Bay and when that bell rings, it does something to me. That thrill is back."
Over the years, there have been plenty of obstacles thrown his way.
"All the things I've done in my life, I have no regrets," he says. "My knees have been operated on four times. I don't know how many stitches. I had a broken sacrum (lower back) where I couldn't sit down. On the airplane, I had to get on my knees and kneel down in my seat, leaning over the back side of it. But I just kept wrestling.
"It's the dressing room, the trip, that moment ... It's an addiction.
"I don't need any enhancing drugs. Wrestling is my drug. It's what I love. I grew up in the backseat of a car. I didn't want to be a cowboy. I wanted to wrestle. I went to college and played football. I was with the Kansas City Chiefs. But I had an opportunity to wrestle. And it's been the love of my life.
"Many times in ECW or over in Japan, you're doing things in the ring that you know are going to take their toll ... but you do them anyway.
"You'd see a guy like Dynamite Kid wrestle and he'd come back to the dressing room with a bump the size of a grapefruit on his back. He's just been out there killing himself in a match. In that goofy British accent of his, he'd ask, 'How was my match?'
"I'd say, 'It was great.'
"You watch The Undertaker or Shawn Michaels walk into the ring. They're physically hurt, but they do it. It's the rush you get. It's the same for a lot of guys in the business. They're the true wrestlers. It's in their hearts. For a guy like Hulk Hogan, I think it's the money for him. It's about the bucks."
The times are different for Funk, who has appeared in all the major wrestling associations during his 45 years in the business.
"Hardcore to me is getting out there and busting your ass, going 110%," says Funk. "Hardcore is giving everything you've got whether there are 50 or 50,000 people paying money to watch you.
"Even before my father started wrestling, it was pure. Now, in 2010, it's pure entertainment. You have to create an interest in yourself. But how do you do that if you don't have TV or pay-per-view. You have to create the best match you can, but all you have is word of mouth. You have to have a tremendous athletic match or you have to do a double flip off the top rope and disappear up your ass.
"Wrestling has become what the fans want it to be. The people running UFC, football and basketball have to watch it or the fans will take over those, too. The fans will dictate what's best for them.
Funk is happy to be his own boss these days.
"If I was to work for WWE, I'd be at Vince McMahon's beckoning. I'm not kneeling in front of Vince McMahon. He's made millionaires in the wrestling business. But I'm of a different era, a different time.
"I love the part of the country I'm from. Amarillo, Texas. I believe in keeping my world small. I think it's the same way with the Hart family. I'm a bit of a Bolshevik. I wouldn't be anything else."
He looks back fondly at his time in wrestling. Feud after feud. Sold-out arenas. Matches that will never be forgotten ... including an epic I Quit slobberknocker against "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
"Ric Flair definitely hated me for all the things I said about him," says Funk. "I said he kind of looked like Barbara Bush. And I said he had a banana nose. He really does. What they didn't tell me about I Quit match was if you say I quit, you had to retire. They didn't announce that anywhere until the last night and on a microphone where I couldn't hear it."I wouldn't have quit. I'd like to have him in the ring again. Maybe UFC or MMA. I'd straighten him out. I guess if I don't like him, it doesn't make him a bad person."
His status in the wrestling world was recognized a year ago when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
"The WWE Hall of Fame was a wonderful moment. There are a great bunch of guys in it. I'm not trying to run anybody down, but it's about what turns the turnstiles is what it's become. Really, if one person doesn't want you in, you're not in. Is that really a true Hall of Fame?"
Funk closes off the interview with: "I want to be remembered as a good man. I hope everybody can say: 'I got my money's worth when Terry Funk wrestled.'"
It'll be hard for any wrestling fan to dispute that about Funk, a true
RELATED LINKSMay 6, 2010: Terry Funk Q&A
Terry Funk story archive
Great North Wrestling website
Tim Baines is the Sports Editor for the Ottawa Sun and can be emailed at Tim.email@example.com.