This Pro Wrestling Radio interview features the legendary former NWA and ECW champion and WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Terry Funk. Terry came by to talk about his book, the resurrection of ECW, Bruno Sammartino’s loyalty to Baba, Dusty Rhodes and a whole lot more. Originally broadcast May 21, 2005.
A Terry Funk promo is played to open the show in which Funk discusses the Funk Masters Of Wrestling.
Eric Gargiulo: Terry, welcome back to the show.
Terry Funk: Well it’s great being back on again, the last show that we were on, I thought it was a dang good one, you know? I am just wondering, who that guy was that was on the front of that promo right there? Who was that guy hollering and screaming? That guy could talk. (Laughs)
Eric: Who was that crazy man?
Terry: I don’t know, that boy was wild wasn’t he?
Eric jokes that his producer who is a non-wrestling fan looked at him during the promo and asked, “Is this your guest?”
Eric: What do you remember about doing that Funk Masters of Wrestling deal? It sounded like a lot of fun.
Terry: It really was and the reason I went with Funk Masters of Wrestling if you think about it see as I could play right off of the FMW see. Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling was what it was. So that was FMW so I played off of the same letters of it, FMW was Funk Masters of Wrestling and it worked wonderful, it worked great, it was really a hot item over there in Japan and did big business with it you know? We did 45,000 people over there for a match without any television. 40,000 I don’t know if it was 45, 38, 45, 42 whatever they said it was. But it was a hell of a crowd you know? It was pretty much a full stadium.
Eric: An obvious question to start the interview off with is how you are feeling?
Terry: I am feeling absolutely, um I am not going to say great. I’d be lying to you. I ‘m feeling much, much better than what I was, and doing better day by day, and it just takes a little bit of time. Coming off of all of that different stuff that I came off of and you also have to get your confidence back too. You know? You have to believe that you’re feeling good before you can feel good.
Eric: Speaking of professional confidence, towards the end of your last run in WCW did you ever begin to question your own confidence?
Terry: Not my confidence I just questioned my sanity. I also questioned their sanity at the time, you know? I just thought that I had a great deal to offer to them and whenever I got there it was evidently somebody up in the hierarchy that wanted me but the people immediately, my superiors weren’t sure whether they needed me or not. They certainly didn’t loosen the reigns and let me take off running. Well and I don’t blame them it’s their business. But I try not to, I try never to hurt a territory. You know I love coming into a territory and popping it. That was one of the great things. Going down to Florida you know or to any place, you know? Going in and actually increasing their attendance and then whenever I leave is to leave that attendance where it is if not better.
Eric: Do you think that you have more of an appreciation for that kind of mentality from the way that you were brought up in the business, owning your own territory and seeing your father operate his territory?
Eric begins to tell a story about Terry in ECW, pointing out that before he started ring announcing for ECW he’d weasel his way into the locker room.
Terry: Isn’t it wonderful to have to weasel your way in there and not just be accepted into there? It really is and when you make it, you really appreciate it don’t you?
Eric agrees and says that he thinks people really don’t realize the importance of having you or someone of your stature in a growing company like an ECW and the kind of asset someone like Terry would be to a new company.
Terry: Well you know as I often talk about this, what is a leader and everything else you know and my favorite leader of all time in professional athletics was John Ayers of the San Francisco 49ers, he was an Offensive Guard for them, he was a great player, he and Randy Cross were the guards for them at the time, Joe Montana was their Quarterback, and they had just won two Super Bowls back to back, and John Ayers was a leader of that time, but it was really funny because John Ayers, and Joe Montana will tell you that today if you ask him, that John Ayers was the leader, he (Ayers) later passed away with cancer at 44, and I’m the godfather of his children. John Ayers was a great, great man and the reason he was such a good man is because when he would come back to the sideline, when he was on the sideline and he wouldn’t sit next to Coach. By golly he’d sit down on the end of that bench. And by golly he’d sit there and he’d go back in whenever it came his turn and he’d do his job. John Ayers wasn’t the guy that said, “Let’s go attack,” or let’s go this and that, he did it by his actions and not by his words and that is why everybody loved him so much. He was a very quiet man. I’ll never be the man that he is, or was, but I would really like to be that kind of person and if somebody asks me a question, I’ll answer it in the dressing room. If they ask me to watch their match I’ll watch it. If they ask me to critique something, I’ll critique the whole show for them. It’s a way I think a person should do it and lead by his actions and try to give people 100% when you go into that ring so that the others can see that, and try to do it for the fellow wrestler and not for the pay off.
Eric points out an example of the last pair of MLW shows and not taking anything away from anyone else, he could sense a difference in the presence of Terry on night two of the shows.
Terry: Well I don’t know if I have got that kind of a presence, maybe something else happened in the locker room that we didn’t know about or something. Because I don’t know if I have that kind of presence, but I sure do love those boys. I love all the young guys in the business.
Eric: Does it bother you when you see peers from your eras that don’t give back to the business or thumb their noses in a locker room at the younger talents?
Terry: You know my wife and I were talking about that just like last night you know and it just amazes me that those people that do that sometimes surpass all of the others. They totally expect to be treated like that and they just don’t understand. They just don’t understand that it’s the guy that they are dancing with that makes him. Even a guy that they are dancing with even if he couldn’t hold up his tutu or tights, or whatever you want to call them, if he couldn’t hold up his tights, you can’t do it by yourself in the ring, you know, you can say you can dance with a broomstick but brother, it better be a short dance.
Eric tells a story about a weekend at MLW where Jerry Lawler may have been having a bad night and Terry took it upon himself to talk to Lawler and more or less tell him to lighten up a little bit.
Terry: Well I don’t know if I told him to lighten up (laughs) I don’t know if I ever told Jerry Lawler to lighten up, but I will tell you one thing about Jerry is I just love him, you know and I have never seen Jerry go into a ring and not perform, he can be in any attitude that he is but he’s one of those guys to that are just great performers, and then again who’s the great workers in the business? I got to thinking about that. And you know that gawd-dumb Dusty Rhodes is pretty great because he was able to make a lot of money, a lot of years and without a whole lot of effort. He was doing something right you know? (Laughs) But I’ll be darned, it’s the truth you know? Is the one that makes the most money the greatest worker? Possibly he is. Possibly he is because he’s working with that promoter to and he’s working with the people and everyone else. You know, I don’t like to think of things that way but possibly it’s true. A lot of those squeaky wheels, they certainly got the grease at WCW didn’t they?
Eric: Speaking of Jerry Lawler, will you be making any more appearances for him down in Memphis?
Terry: Well Cory Macklin called me back up and he wanted me to come back down there and go one more round with Lawler and I promise you that I’m shooting you straight right now. That ECW show (Hardcore Homecoming) that’s coming up with Shane Douglas and I know that is going to take a lot out of me, and it really is. I truly and a lot of you fans think I’m nuts and say, “Oh he says he’s retired”, I have. But I have gone out there, I buried wrestling in the backyard, dug a hole for it, put it down in there, and I forever find myself going back out there and digging it up for my love of the business, and I continue to do that. Again, don’t quote me as “God I’m going to quit the business.” Certainly if somebody offered me five million dollars to do one more moonsault, I probably would do it. Or maybe a double moonsault and disappear out of my butt or whatever. It’s a business and I just love it, I want to continue on in it, and like I said I keep on going back there, and I keep on going back to it, and again, as Cory Mack, as concerning him, gad-dungit he wants me to come down there and commit to a date and right now, I’m not trying to commit to any dates. I’m just tired, just thinking about doing one last real good one up there at ECW (Hardcore Homecoming). And I really want to and I could have gone either place, and I picked the one. So I better be good in the one.
Eric: Just to clarify, you are not going to be involved in the WWE’s ECW Pay-Per-View?
Terry: No I am not, they sent me a contract and to be very honest with you it was a much more lucrative contract, I could have done them both, but again I want to perform at my best and I don’t want to perform like a fool at my age, and I want to perform at my best and I feel like I can only do one of those shows and perform greatly in a weekend, so I picked the one closest to my heart. That is the Shane Douglas show because I feel that is the ECW fans. I feel that the other fans at the other show are going to be wanna-be ECW fans. They’re going to be make-believe ECW fans, they’re not going to be real ECW fans at Vince’s (McMahon) show. The real group, even though you might want to believe that they are, they aren’t. The real ECW fans are going to be in Philadelphia at Shane Douglas’ show. And the money is triple of what Shane Douglas is going to pay me and by golly I still want to show the fellow that there is, it’s a true thing that you need competition in the wrestling business. And if you don’t have competition it’s a proven fact that business’ die. It might be true about people to you know? So what I want to do is I want to be competition to Vince.
Eric: What do you remember about the first Three Way Dance you had with Shane Douglas and Sabu in ECW?
Terry: Well it was very creative, it was the whole thing was a new situation, a new look to wrestling, it really was, it brought wrestling into the present state of the put your butt on the line state, the 100% state. That’s what you have to do, kind of establish that, it established because we went so long and wrestled so hard, it established a level or a bar that needed to be reached before things would be accepted. It was such a creative match to, it really was. It was sixty minutes of a whole lot of creativity that was going on just mentally that was taking place in the ring itself among three guys. Very hard to duplicate and that’s what really scares me. Because we are coming up, Sabu, I and Shane. Here I am, a really old toot right now and Shane is not as young as he used to be, and Sabu, he’s been through a lot of physical trials and I hope we can produce what they want and I think that we are going to give it heck.
A promo is played coming back from the break from 1989 in which Terry Funk brings out the “fake” Ric Flair.
Eric remarks how that has become one of most legendary interviews and angles in wrestling history.
Terry: (Laughs) I didn’t know that was still alive, my gosh. (Laughs)
Eric remarks how he enjoys when he has the reaction to the legends he has had on the show to their own classic promos when they are played. Eric remarks that Dusty Rhodes said two weeks ago that he was humbled by his own interview that was played.
Terry: (Laughs) He said that. Yeah that gad-dumb Dusty is humbled, he’s amazed, he thought that he was some heavenly body that he heard speaking there (laughs). He was humbled by himself. (Imitating Dusty Rhodes) That sounds very much like the dream, he gets so humbled, and he’s the American Dream, he says the heartbeat of America, he says my little baby is on my chest. He says, “What do you hear?” And she says, “I hear the heartbeat of America. (Laughs)
Eric remarks how funny it is that Terry and Dusty both tell the same Dr. Jerry Graham story in both of their autobiographies.
Terry: But they’re different versions. But they’re truthful! Ray Stevens always used to tell me this and I put it in the book, “If it’s good enough to tell, it’s good enough to color up a little bit.” But honestly I haven’t read his version. I am sure he’s read my version though. Because I am not going to read that fat, egg-sucking dog’s book! That hermaphrodite! (Laughs)
Eric also remarks that Dusty’s story about how Dusty got into the wrestling business is different than the version Terry tells in his book.
Terry: His wrestling career? (Laughs) Well which one do you believe? But I’ll tell you one thing about the Dream though is that he is the American Dream. And that’s one wonderful thing to about our business you know? And that’s the one great thing that I discuss in the book you know? One of the good things, not great, one of the good things that I discuss is that for years we were extensions of our own personalities. That was our character and Dusty Rhodes is the American Dream. But Vince wanted to go a different route and do the dialogue, but I like wrestling the way it was, and I think that’s why there’s such a great resurgence in the 70s and 80s as I go to the Carolinas and wrestle for Tony Hunter and he draws like crazy, you know? And I go over there and the crowds that Harley (Race) has are all so respective and wonderful over there and he does great business to. It’s wrestling the way it was, it’s not how it is, it’s the way it was. Who knows where we are heading? It’s really becoming very difficult to predict right now.
Eric mentions how ironic that is being that Terry predicted Wrestlemania years ahead of its time.
Terry: Well by golly I just love it, if I make enough predictions they forget the bad ones and keep the good ones. They forget about the mistakes like Chainsaw Charlie and Doctor Nose It All. It’s honestly the truth. It sounds so stupid it sounds like a big lie, but it’s not. Find Joe Blanchard if he’s not in the San Antonio phone book and ask him if I wasn’t Doctor Nose It All for one week on his television.
Eric: Do you think that has always been a misconception about the Chainsaw Charlie Character in that it was your idea and not Vince McMahon’s?
Terry: Yeah it wasn’t Vince, it was me. I’m not a fond lover of the man either but I’ll be honest. I don’t want him to get credit for creating that fiasco.
Eric: You write a lot in your book about how you were pushed into retirement in 1989. Ric Flair has said in interviews that he had nothing to do with that decision and puts the blame on Jim Ross and Jim Herd. What are your thoughts?
Terry: Well see as he knew it was theirs. See and was that, and by golly I don’t care, that’s water under the bridge, but it happened. I never said it was because of this one person I just figured as I knew that it had happened, I knew that it took place, and you assume that it’s the whole committee, you know?
Eric: When they talked to you about pushing you into retirement, was there any thought to trying to make a jump to the WWF?
Terry: Not, not really. You’ll find me as at that time I was very happy with the situation down there. The money was great, I wasn’t happy with the behind-the-scenes politics of it. I was somewhat happy with the scheduling. It was hard work, but it was, it’s awful tough on me to go to New York (WWF/E), it’s a long way from here ( Amarillo, TX.). It sounds rather silly but I’m going to do the same thing over and over again and I don’t care who it’s for or what. I have always been my own boss, and I love being my own boss, and I’m a bit of a Bolshevik and I like to go out earn a bunch of money in as quick a time, as short a time as I can, and come back home, enjoy life and be thankful for the people that came to the arenas, whether to boo me or to cheer me, they paid admission to see me, and thank you to them by gummitt the Funker goes, so I can make as few dates as possible and be home more with my family and be home on the place that I love, and if you’re from New York, think about it a little bit, if that’s home it’d be a pretty good place to stay, but that’s not home.
Eric: What was the reaction like from management like after the infamous angle in which you placed a bag over Ric Flair’s head?
Terry: Oh gosh, afterwards it was just chaos. They came to us and it was so absurd, it was such a small thing, it really was, but just for some reason. Here you look at the violence that we have on television today, and the violence that’s in the movie screens, and what we depict on the news shows, and everything else. What I did? Hold a plastic head over his head there, the people went insane all across the United States (laughs), and they had to jerk the show. For what reason I don’t know? I guess it was just, “Oh my God.” Then again you have to remember the suspension of disbelief. See, back then you could suspend disbelief, nowadays that is very difficult.
Eric: Gary Hart told me a story and said that TBS was irate, the two of you were called into an office and asked who’s idea the angle was. Gary said that you immediately said, “It was his idea.”
Terry: (Laughs) That’s right it was his idea. Gary Hart is very proud of that though, if I tried to claim that now he’d get mad at me.
Eric: What has the reaction been thus far to your book?
Terry: It’s going very well, they are going through two editions now, hopefully going to start a third one. It’s a very good response, hopefully it picks up on its own as I’m not Jane Fonda and I can’t get up and go on Good Morning America and sing the blues and say, “I’m sorry and went and dressed up like a Viet Cong over there,” went running around with them, shed some tears, and then sell a million books. It doesn’t work that way.
Eric jokes that maybe he could try and go on television and apologize for putting a bag over Ric Flair’s head.
Terry: Well if I could, I’d darn sure try and get on. (Laughs) What the deal is though is that it’s much more difficult than that for me because it’s hard work. And a lot harder work than I thought it was. Writing the book was a piece of cake and dealing with Scott Williams was great, he’s a great person and a great writer too. It’s a whole lot different with that was the easy part. The hard part is getting it out there and letting people know. Just like your show right here, I bet I’ve done and this is no exaggeration, I bet I have done over 200 shows, you know radio, and here and there, book signings, going here, this and that, and it seems like I’m going to continue on but it sure makes you think. “Gad-dummit Funk are you doing the right thing here?” Hopefully I am, but I think I am. I really wanted to tell the story because sometimes we have a need to tell a story or a story needs to be told and I tried to tell a story, the story of wrestling for the past forty years in that book and it how it has changed, and somehow of how it evolved from my father’s time until now and I felt that I needed to do that. Without Scott Williams I couldn’t have done it because he’s such a wrestling historian and I can go back and say, “Yeah I was in Atlanta and then I went from Atlanta to Vancouver, and Vancouver to Houston,” and I can remember where I went but I’d be Gad-gummitt if I can remember the year, and the date, and he can look up, I can remember the time that Wahoo (McDaniel) and I wrestled, and he knows it, and that’s what takes that tremendous time off of the writing of the book. That book would have taken me years to write but we whipped it out pretty fast and that’s because of his wonderful knowledge of wrestling.
Eric: I have Bruno Sammartino on quite often and he is coming on next week. He has been very surprised at the negative things that have been written about him over the last few years by Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, and Hulk Hogan. You say some very kind things about Bruno, what are your thoughts on all of the negatives written about Bruno over the last couple of years?
Terry: I love Bruno. Let me tell you there is a very honorable man. There is a guy that certainly protected his profession and I don’t mean this bad whenever I say this. I’m not knocking Dusty. Certainly protected his profession more than Dusty. Certainly protected his profession more than Ric Flair. Certainly protected his profession more than Hulk Hogan. But also he certainly protected his profession more than Terry Funk. I think that’s a wonderful trait and I think that he’s one hell of a man, and gosh I really mean that. I have always admired him to no end. He dog-gone almost split up with Vince McMahon, SR. Because Shoei Baba, and he met him, and they became friends. Whenever you become one of Bruno’s friends, well he’ll never let you down, he’ll never forget that. Vince, SR. went with Inoki. Bruno says, “I’m not going to do that Baba’s my friend,” he went with the threat of Vince McMahon, SR. going ahead and destroying his career. If he took the belt from him he would have destroyed his career but he went with that threat. He went right over there to All-Japan, which was Shoei Baba’s company and wrestled for him because Baba was his friend and he would not in any way perform or do anything to hurt him and I know for a fact he went over there for a pittance of what he could have gotten. Just expenses because he wanted to help the guy out, because he was his friend. How can you knock a guy like that?
A promo from 1985 with Terry is played coming back from the break.
Terry: I am so good aren’t I? (Laughs)
Eric jokingly asks if he has humbled himself.
Terry: (Imitating Dusty once again) I am so humbled right now, I am getting more and more humbled with each moment that I hear from the past. What really po’s me is, dang, I’d like to do promos like that again. (Laughs)
Eric plugs a local book signing for Terry Funk on June 11.
Terry: I want to tell you one thing though. I want to tell you very seriously right now. You know the show that Vince (McMahon) is putting on? It can look like ECW, it can smell like ECW, it can have ECW performers, but it’s not E-C-W and don’t forget it! It’s Vince McMahon. Now you can come over here or you can go there and you can be a pretend ECW fan or you can come to the ECW show and you can see a three way dance and I’ll tell you one thing. I am there because I want to be there, I had a choice and I picked what I wanted to do because that is what is in my heart and I don’t want to see Vince McMahon just like he did with the Rise and Fall of ECW. Oh his ratings went down a bit, so what does he do? He puts out a video on the rise and fall of ECW. And he goes ahead and puts that out, and Paul Heyman who is supposed to be the creator and everything else? Paul Heyman evidently said that he owned whatever, he didn’t own anything of those boys, but I never saw one check from that Rise and Fall of ECW. I never saw one penny from it, I don’t think that Sabu has or anyone else. There was the highest selling DVD that he (WWE) had ever put out I believe. And now he goes ahead and takes in all of that money, because he couldn’t produce it himself, it was the guys that produced that. And now he is going to go ahead and produce this pay per view. A pretend-to-be pay per view, called ECW again? Who does this man think he is? Who does he think he is? And I’ll tell you what. I’m not the fondest guy of Shane Douglas, nor am I the fondest guy of the people running that show, but by God we are a bunch of individuals over there. We are a bunch of guys that are still around out there. There’s still people around out there that you can call them what you want. Nuts, crazies, or whatever but I like to call them pro wrestlers that God-gummitt they are just looking for a doggone stage to perform on and they need a stage, and by golly we got one there, and we are going to give you a heck of a better show than the others do. We are going to try our best because by golly we know it has to be.
Eric: Could you share some memories and thoughts on Chris Candido?
Terry: A great guy. And the reason I love Chris Candido so much is because he was a breath of fresh air every night. Chris Candido was. He’d come into that dressing room and no matter what happened all day long, the day before, or whatever, and he’d come in there and boy, he was just a wonderful breath of fresh air. It’s a great way to describe him whenever he would come in there. Gosh he was a fun guy, he loved the business probably more than anybody else I know and he could do a better Terry Funk interview, are you sure that wasn’t Chris Candido doing those (promos played earlier)? I’ll bet you money, you better check that out. I think that’s Chris Candido, that isn’t Terry Funk.
Eric mentions that he would also wear Terry’s tights.
Terry: (Laughs) Yeah he’d come in there in the ring and wrestle, he’d wear them whenever I wasn’t around but finally he went ahead and wore them in front of me one night. Gosh darn I just wish he was still around. That’s really a sad situation you know, whenever you get your life straightened out, get everything going right, you think you’re doing right, have that gad-dumb injury, and that’s what is tough about it, we (Pro Wrestlers) have to pay our own bills and everything, he didn’t want to stay in that hospital because he wanted out of there. He flew back home and grew a blood clot, it’s just a shame. It’s a real tragic story and a great guy, that I just thought the world of him.
Eric mentions that it goes back to the possibilities of a union for wrestlers that Terry writes about extensively in his book.
Terry: There should and it’s not something that and I doubt that it ever will happen. It should happen. I’m not talking about for myself, but they should get together and bind together, and get something at least medical. I have seen too many guys die, seen too many guys die in this business and not even be able to pay for their funeral, more or less medical, and it would be easy to do. It should be done.
Eric thanks Terry for joining the show and wishes him the best of luck with his new book.
Terry: And I want to be sure to tell everybody out there like I told you before is buy that gad-dumb book and if you like it, go ahead and tell somebody else, maybe they’ll buy it, and if you don’t like it, keep your gad-dumb mouth shut.
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