The Funks vs. Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (AJPW Super Power Series N11 8/31/83)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Lance Garrison over on my Ko-fi account. As of this writing commissions are still open, they’re going for $10 a pop.

Tag team matches like this are fueled by denial. While not strictly by that formula, it’s no shock to see that this match draws from the southern tag philosophy more often than not. After all just look at the names involved, a quartet of good ole southern boys right there. And what drives the southern tag formula is riling up the fans by denying them what they want: the hot tag. Yes, the southern tag genre is basically edging.

In this match, it’s not just the big hot tag that the heels are trying to deny though. Rather, it’s about denying the fans a happy ending for Terry Funk. For those unaware, this tag is the first of many, many Terry Funk retirements. According to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter at the time, chronic pain in Funk’s knees led him to make the decision to wind down his career. Of course, we know now that Funk had a couple of decades left in him yet, but that doesn’t take away the high stakes and impact of this particular moment in time. Being the first Funk retirement, and being held in Japan, this one holds a special place in the history books.

And make no mistake about it, the fans in the Kurumae Kokugikan on this night are there for Terry Funk.

They are red hot for Terry, an enthusiasm that doesn’t die at any point in the runtime. It’s a love that extends to Terry’s brother Dory Jr. as well. When Terry tags out the chants of “Terry!” seamlessly shift to “Dory!” There are signs and banners dotting the crowd, there’s even a cheering section with pompoms close to the front row. The Funks are gods in this arena on this night because the fans know this might be their last chance to ever see them in action as a tag team.

With all this love and excitement crackling through the air, the heels do everything in their power to suffocate it. They attack before the bell, initiating the brawl to the outside immediately. But that’s not quite enough to stop a dynamo like Terry Funk. When the action returns to the ring, he’s able to regroup and throw those beautiful trademark worked punches.

The heels take another tact then–isolate Dory. If they can’t contain Funk’s energy head on, they can at least keep him out of the equation. The heat segment on Dory is good, not great. It’s mostly built around arm work, which is not something that really ends up contributing to the match as a whole but there’s at least some nice focus there for as long as it lasts. It really is just a stalling game before Terry can make the big comeback. I love that Terry’s so fired up that he can’t contain himself from interfering even before the hot tag in these little bursts of action that momentarily stun the momentum of the heels.

When Terry finally gets the tag back in, it’s fantastic. Hansen tries to fire some shots in but Terry absorbs them with the kind of 80s adrenaline babyface fire that we’d see from the likes of Lawler and later on Hogan. No one does it quite like Terry Funk though, especially when he starts firing back. He’s such a scrappy wrestler, bursting with charisma in the ways of only the true greats. One truly can not take their eyes away from his performance here, whether he’s selling or fighting back.

It’s after that big hot tag that the match really gets to reach a new level of greatness. Because finally, the heels finally seem to figure out a strategy of how to take down the legend: go for the knee. I only found out about Funk’s knee troubles after watching this match, but once I did, it made everything fit all the better. Hansen can punch and strike with Funk with the best of them but it’s when he starts kicking Terry’s knee out that he’s finally able to make some headway. The pinnacle of the knee work is a truly disgusting moment where Terry’s hanging from the ropes, his bad knee draped over the top strand as the heels just wail on it. It’s the kind of violent, dramatic imagery that I’ve always associated with the best of All Japan, and it’s genuinely affecting stuff when Terry tries to fight through the injury.

Terry’s always so light on his feet and energetic anyway, that when the knee trouble gets introduced into the narrative, the slight stutters and stumbles in his gait feel massive. It’s not a lengthy bout of leg selling he does here, but when it does crop up, it perfectly puts over the dire situation that he’s in. Just a stunning babyface performance on every side from the Funker.

Of course, the match itself is only half the reason that this is so beloved. Even those who haven’t seen the match will likely have seen clips of Terry’s big farewell speech afterwards. With tears in his eyes and blood still drying on his face, he declares that Japan is number one “Forever! Forever! Forever!” It’s become a bit of a meme these days, but the moment itself still feels as raw and momentous as ever, especially when Terry’s cries of “Forever!” are met in kind by the overlapping chant of “Terry!” from the crowd.

Terry Funk had a lot of miles on him left that the fans in that building couldn’t have known about. But if this had been his final chapter, it would have been a hell of a way to go out.

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