AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Last week, the professional wrestling world lost a superstar, a legend, and a Hall of Famer, and Amarillo lost a community leader and a lifelong son. Of course, we are talking about the one and only Terry Funk.
KAMR Local 4’s Jack Kessler interviewed Terry Funk in October 2017.
“I’ve loved the business ever since I was five years old. I was out at Boys Ranch, they had wrestling out there and when I was around five years old, I was out on the mat wrestling. Loved it. I wanted to grow up to be a wrestler. I didn’t want to grow up to be Long John Silver or Wild Bill Hickok or Roy Rogers or any of them, I wanted to grow up to be like my daddy,” said Terry Funk.
Terry Dee Funk was born in Indiana, but he was Amarillo-raised.
Son of the legendary Dory Funk, Sr. Terry would blaze his own trails in the wrestling business after debuting for his father’s promotion Western States Sports in 1965 after graduating from West Texas State University.
“We ran a stiff ship and it was known throughout the country, that if you want to go ahead and get in the business, you may not get in, but if you go there. That’s the place to go,” said Funk.
A decade later, Funk would defeat reigning NWA World Heavyweight Champion Jack Brisco to win the “ten pounds of gold” and would remain champion for 18 months.
“It was not only a great honor, it was a hell of a responsibility and a responsibility was come rain or shine, if you were sicker than a dog or whatever might be wrong or if your family was sick, you still got to get up and go because those people are there. A champion was wrestling probably five nights a week, 52 weeks a year at that time,” said Funk.
Funk and his brother Dory Jr. to this day are the only brothers to have both won the NWA World Championship.
Also in the 1970s, the Funks established a partnership with All Japan Pro Wrestling, deepening American/Japanese wrestling relations.
“It was a wonderful place to go, the reason it was so wonderful is because of what it is, it’s a country over there that loves wrestling…We were some of the first guys to be accepted by the people over there and we have continued to be accepted and it’s just amazing…. And of course, we started some of the best Japanese wrestlers in the world by bringing them over here and putting them in the wrestling business here. Jumbo Tsuruta, not only Jumbo Tsuruta but tons of them. We were business partners with Giant Baba.”
Funk would continue to grow his legacy in the 1980s, as he would head to the World Wrestling Federation, where he and Dory would compete at WrestleMania 2 against Junkyard Dog and fellow WTSU alumni Tito Santana.
His path would eventually cross that of WWF World Heavyweight Champion Hulk Hogan, whom he would challenge for the belt on multiple occasions, including once on Saturday Night’s Main Event.
Funk would finish out the 1980s in World Championship Wrestling, where he would compete against the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair in a feud for the ages.
The 90s would see Funk endorse and embrace a new brand of hardcore wrestling both in Japan with FMW and IWA’s King of the Deathmatch Tournament and in the US with Extreme Championship Wrestling.
“I got the microphone and we were in a tag match against somebody and I said you people, just bear with this organization. ECW. Just bear with it a little while, it’s going to get better and we did and we grew very slowly. But I’ve always been a bolshevik, I’m always pulling for the dogs. Always have been that way.”
Funk would continue to wrestle, with an occasional retirement, until 2017 while always reaching back and helping the next guy.
“I always find my students already within the business… A student to me is a guy that’s been in the business for I don’t know how long but asks me to watch his match, rides with me or something and I give him a whole lot of information. Either chew his a** out or tell him he did a pretty good job.”
Jack Logan, the owner of Top of Texas Pro Wrestling talks about the impact Funk leaves behind.
“Terry impacted wrestlers around the everywhere. Japan. United States, everywhere he went, he was such a kind man and a great person to be around. I think he’s one of the kindest people I have ever met in the business and I have been around since the 80s. Terry came up here and did some seminars for us and it just had an impact on the younger wrestlers. My son is a professional wrestler, himself and he did a lot of training with Dory down in Florida and Terry gave him pointers too. So he got double Funked, if you will. Terry, you would see him around town eating at a restaurant or whatnot and it was always a positive experience to be around Terry,” said Logan.
To non-wrestling fans, Funk may be best known for his numerous film and television credits, such as Morgan in the movie Road House with Patrick Swayze and Over the Top and Paradise Alley both starring Sylvester Stallone. Funk was also featured in the pivotal 1999 wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat.
Funk is in multiple halls of fame across the world, including the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame, the Hall of Champions at WTAMU, the WWE Hall of Fame, the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“I did it my way and that’s the most important thing. I did it my way,” said Funk.
Terry Funk’s service is scheduled for Friday and Brooks Funeral Directors said the graveside ceremony will be private.