A few of you will remember, that I was last featured on the F4W site as the WWE Superstars Guy (tho I have covered various shows, and topics, over the past *ahem* years). Superstars was a show that I immensely enjoyed covering. Tho the quality of the wrestling was often less than I might have preferred to spend my time watching.
So, to solve this dilemma, I am taking on a brand new project. I'm enormously pleased to return to F4W website with The Five Star Series ~ covering the history of The Wrestling Observer five star matches.
In this series, we will be looking back at many of the best pro wrestling matches that I have ever seen, and also checking out some incredible matches that I have never seen. Thanks to Dave, for the opportunity. Thanks to all of you, for following along, and a special thanks to Karl Stern, for supplying the original inspiration for this epic endeavor.
Speaking of: If you're not listening to the DragonKingKarl Classic Wrestling Podcast, you most certainly should be! Karl, and his contributors, eloquently cover every topic under the pro wrestling banner... and a good number of fascinating topics that fall outside of pro wrestling as well. It's a Five Star Show, and I strongly suggest that you check it out now.
Now then... Let's go to work!
The Five Star Series ~ Part One : The Funker
Terry Funk is my favorite pro wrestling performer of all time. Terry was famously able to adapt to whatever role best fit him at the time. From technical wrestler, to bare knuckled brawler, to insane hardcore legend. Baby-face or heel, he reinvented himself time and time again, while carefully maintaining the core values that made him The West Texas Madman. In the first few installments of the Five Star Series, we will look at some of The Funker's most lauded matches.
Five Star Match Number One : The Funk Brothers ~vs~ Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy
This match took place on December 8th, 1984. It is the oldest of the Observer five star matches. I was ten years old when this match went down. While I was already a full fledged wrestling fanatic (I may have already had a subscription to The Observer), I'm sad to say that I was not hip to the Japanese wrestling scene at this point in my life. As such, I can't tell you all the details behind the setup to this epic match. My research tells me that this match was part of All Japan's 1984 World's Strongest Tag Team League Tournament (also sometimes called The World's Strongest Tag Determination League).
The star power in this match is staggering. All four men are legends of the business, and are huge in Japan as this match comes about. The Funk Brothers had won this tournament three times previously. They won the inaugural tournament in 1977, they won it again in 1979, and once more in 1982 (when they defeated Hansen & Brody in the finals). At this point, Hansen and Brody are the defending champions, having won the tournament in 1983. Essentially, what you have here is : The legendary, multi-championship, Legacy Team ~ Taking on the currently dominate, defending champion, Juggernaut Team. It's Jordan's Bulls vs. LeBron's Heat ~ in a literal pro wrestling “Dream Match”.
Intros ~ Lots of streamers for both teams (the streamer gimmick is in full effect in 1984). Brody's got his chain, Hansen has his Bull Rope. The Funks neglected to bring Terry's branding iron (they may regret that). Brody is doing plenty of pre-match “huss”-ing. The ref checks every wrestler as if they are trying to board a post 9/11 flight. They are obviously very concerned about the idea of foreign objects spoiling this dream match.
Hansen starts out with (his trainer) Dory Funk, and the crowd is super hot before they even touch. The Japanese fans are *not* politely sitting, and respectfully observing this athletic competition. They want blood... and are going nuts in anticipation of a wild brawl between these four West Texas Legends! Brody is actually from Detroit (my home town), tho he played football at West Texas State.
Spoiler: The Japanese fans are about to get exactly what they are hoping for.
The bells rings, and streamers are still being thrown into the ring. Hansen immediately attacks Terry Funk on the apron, before tying up with Dory. An angry Terry comes in and takes the ref, while Dory and Stan do some rope running. Dory gets the advantage with a forearm shot. They tie up again. Stan grabs a Side Headlock, and tags The Bruiser. Hansen holds Dory on the ropes for a Brody running boot to the face, and the crowd pops huge.
I feel compelled to note again, that this crowd is nuclear hot for this match, hotter than perhaps any crowd that I have ever seen before in my entire life. That is not hyperbole.
Brody with a Scoop Slam, and Side Headlock takedown on Dory. Dory fights to his feet and whips Brody into the ropes. Brody does two amazing Leap Frogs(!), and then nails Dory with a stiff boot to the face. Brody covers the elder Funk for a one count, while Terry Funk totally loses his shit on the apron. He is clearly horrified by the idea that his brother might actually lose this match two minutes in.
Terry nearly kills himself, desperately reaching for a tag, but Brody drags Dory to his own corner, and tags Stan. Hansen and Brody with a double whip, and Stan Hansen nails a surprising Dropkick, and then a Knee Drop. Hansen with a Body Slam, and Running Elbow Drop. He covers Dory for another one count.
Hansen grabs a Rear Chin Lock (Superstars Drinking Game Experience fans know that means ~ *drink). The crowd is loudly chanting something in Japanese... I wish I knew what it was. Hansen tags Brody, and they hit a double shoulder tackle on Dory. Brody follows with a Delayed Scoop Slam, and then he grabs a Rear Chin Lock on Dory (*drink again). Dory slowly fights to his feet, and turns into the Chin Lock. He shoots Brody into the ropes. Brody tries for another Leap Frog, but Funk stops short, and nails The Bruiser with a running forearm strike. Funk drags Brody into his own corner, and makes the tag to Terry, which pops the crowd.
Terry immediately goes into his patented Terry Funk Punches. Terry's got his working boots on, as always. He dodges a Brody attempt to counter punch, and hits a running elbow strike to the head. Terry hits a Snap Mare takedown on Brody, and then hits a Dropkick of his own. Terry hits another Snap Mare, but misses a running elbow drop. This brings Hansen into the ring (without a tag). Hansen and Brody manage to halt Terry's momentum, by tangling him up in the ropes, where they land a number a stiff kicks and strikes.
Hansen and Brody continue to double team Terry (illegally), until Brody leaves, and Hansen hits a chop and elbow strike combination. Terry sells this like he has been shot in the face with a cannon. Terry takes a number of closed fist shots from Hansen, all the while selling like Anderson Silva waiting to be knocked unconscious by Chris Weidman. The weak knees... the wobbly legs... the exaggerated facial expressions... it's all there.
Hansen whips Funk into Brody's boot, but Terry refuses to go down. Hansen whips Terry into the ropes, and tags Brody, who hits an amazing Flying Back Heel Kick (Brody is stunningly agile for his size). Funk, in true Terry Funk style, crashes to the mat... immediately pops up... and then collapses violently to the mat again.
Brody whips Terry into the ropes again, but this time Terry ducks under an attempted Knife Edge chop. Terry hits a chop of his own, and then a Headbutt on Brody, before making the tag to Dory, who comes in all “Casa del Fuego”. Dory hits a few few European Uppercuts on Brody. Dory whips Brody into the corner and charges, but The Bruiser counters with a boot to the face. Brody tags Hansen, and they hit a double team Back Drop on Dory. Dory manages to roll out of the way of a follow up elbow drop by Stan.
Dory pops up, hits a few more European Uppercuts, and then attempts to Body Slam Hansen, who blocks it... and blocks it again... Eventually Dory's tenacity pays off, and he muscles the big man up for a huge Body Slam that pops the crowd. Dory follows with a falling elbow drop. Funk hooks the leg, and gets a one count of his own (no two counts thus far ~ nice touch).
Both men up. They exchange European Uppercuts and Chops in the middle of the ring. Eventually, the heelish Hansen rakes the eyes, and hits a Snap Mare on Dory. Hansen hits a *huge* twelve to six elbow strike to the top of Dory's head, and grabs a Rear Chin Lock (*drink). Terry, apparently worried that his legendary brother might submit to this Chin Lock, comes in (no tag at all), and hits his own stiff twelve to six elbow strike to Hansen's head, which gets Stan to break the hold.
Brody comes in, off the tag from a woozy Hansen. He hits a another running boot to the face of Dory. Brody then hits an over the knee Backbreaker, and holds Dory in place, while Stan comes in (no tag) and hits a leaping knee strike to Dory's head. The Japanese crowd is unhappy with these illegal double-team shenanigans, and they boo vociferously.
Hansen leaves the ring, and Brody covers, but he gets a zero count, as Terry is in immediately to break up the cover. Brody hooks Dory, and holds him as he tags Hansen. Hansen come in, and attempts to finish Dory with a Running Lariet, but Dory escapes Brody's grasp, and manages to avoid the devastating finishing strike from Hansen.
Brody leaves, as Hansen and Dory exchange blows in the middle of the ring. They both counter a few times. Eventually Dory catches a Vertical Suplex, and makes a cover. Hansen kicks out at one. The Funks make the tag, and catch Stan with a double team whip and forearm strike. Terry and Stan exchange a series of running shoulder blocks, that neither man gets the advantage from. Eventually, Terry charges at Stan, and Hansen ducks down, and backdrops Terry over the top rope. Terry takes an awkward looking bump to the floor.
Terry (being Terry) pops up to his feet immediately, dazed... but fists raised, and ready for more brawling. However, Brody marches over, and easily lays him out flat on the floor. Terry struggles back to his feet again, but Hansen makes his way to the apron, and lays him out with a Flying Axe Handle. Hansen follows up with a number of shots on the floor, including a very modern looking throw into the announcer's table.
Hansen drapes Terry on the apron, rolls into the ring, and lands a number of sick looking knee strikes to the back of his head. The Japanese crowd is rabidly chanting again ~ I suspect expressing their support for Terry Funk... who appears to be dead right now. Both Hansen and Brody kick Terry square in the skull again, just for good measure.
Hansen tags Brody, and they hit a double team Vertical Suplex. Brody makes the cover, and gets the first two count of the match on Terry (*drink). Brody hooks Terry for a dreaded Piledriver. Terry tries to fight out, by using leg strikes to Brody's head (nice touch), but The Bruiser still manages to drop Terry right on his head. Brody covers Terry, and gets another long two count (*drink). Brody tags Hansen, who comes in and hits Terry with a running Knife Edge Chop. Terry does a slow motion backward bump to the mat, and Hansen drops another elbow drop on him. Hansen covers Terry for another long two count (*drink).
Hansen pulls Terry to his feet, and tries to hook him again, but Terry manages to hit a subtle Mule Kick to the crotch, which the ref somehow misses... even tho he is staring right at them. Terry hits a quick Headbutt, and makes a desperate tag to Dory, who comes in and exchanges blows with Hansen.
Dory gets the advantage with a running forearm smash that staggers Hansen, and he follows up with a running back elbow strike. Hansen falls into the corner and tags Brody. Dory manages to catch The Bruiser with a Snap Mare, and follows up with a quick Dropkick.
Dory hooks Brody for a Vertical Suplex. Brody manages to block twice, but again, Dory's persistence pays off, and he eventually hits the move. Dory covers, and the Funks get their first two count of the match (*drink). Brody pops up quickly, and makes the tag. Dory whips Hansen into the ropes, and drops down looking for a Back Drop. Hansen kicks Dory in the head, and hooks him for another Body Slam. Hansen hits some more more stiff stomps, and elbow drops. Hansen then tags Brody, and holds Dory, so The Bruiser can hit a Flying Axe Handle from the top rope!
Brody hits an ugly looking Running Power Slam on Dory, and scores another two count for his team (*drink), while Terry totally loses his shit, and bounces up and down wildly in the corner. Another tag from Brody & Hansen, who hit a double big boot to the face on Dory. Hansen makes the cover, but Funk is already in the ropes, and the ref refuses to count.
Hansen locks in an Abdominal Stretch, while Terry continues to totally lose his shit in the corner. While Dory sells, Terry bounces up and down, and actually flips himself into the ring, and has to be restored to the corner by the referee.
Hansen transitions into a Gut-wrench Suplex (called a “Saito Suplex” by the Japanese commentators), and another cover, for another long two count (*drink). Brody in off the tag, and he hits a leaping Splash to Dory's back. Brody hits more Axe Handle shots to Dory's lower back, before hooking another Vertical Suplex, and hooking Dory's leg for another two count (*drink).
Dory is spent... he's selling his back as if it is broken. Terry is going completely bonkers on the apron, nearly “dying” for a tag. Hansen and Brody continue with fast tag, double team tactics. Eventually, Dory manages to counter a Brody Side Headlock, with a Back Suplex, and he manages to finally make the legal tag to Terry... but (naturally) the ref is tied up with Hansen, and he doesn't see the tag!
All four men are brawling wildly in the ring, with the ref desperately trying to put Terry back on the apron. Dory sloppily Back Drops Brody over the top rope and to the floor. The ref takes Terry out of the action, as Hansen whips Dory into the ropes. Brody holds the middle ropes apart, so that Dory crashes to the floor. Hansen hits a running strike to the back of Terry, who falls into the referee, which sends both of them violently crashing to the floor as well.
With the ref out of the action, Brody and Hansen go after both Funks on the floor. Hansen and Brody grab what appears to be a small table, and they repeatedly pound it over Dory's back. Terry eventually makes the save for Dory, and he slams Brody's head into the same table a few times for good measure.
Meantime, Hansen manages to roll Dory back into the ring. Terry tries to get in the ring, but Hansen boots him off of the apron, and he tumbles back down to the floor. Brody rolls into the ring. Hansen brutalizes Dory's back with numerous elbow drops, while Brody keeps knocking Terry off of the apron.
We get a quick shot of the referee, who is still down from being knocked to the floor earlier. Terry eventually manages to get in the ring, but Hansen and Brody quickly double team him, and dump him back out to the floor. Brody pulls the (mostly unconscious) referee into the ring, presumably so that he can make a three count on Dory, who appears to be dead.
Terry stumbles around wildly on the floor, and eventually he finds a chain (presumably the one that Brody brought to the ring with him). Brody sees Terry coming back into the ring with the chain, and he shoves the groggy ref in Terry's direction. The ref bumps into Terry, sees the chain, and tries to grab it from Terry... who responds by Headbutting the referee, and then striking him with a chain wrapped fist.
Terry kicks the downed ref (for good measure), and then attacks both Hansen and Brody with chain wrapped fist shots. Both men go down as if they have been punched by Superman. Dory is still down. Terry continues to attack both men with the chain. He wraps it around Brody's neck, and whips him into his own partner. He then wraps it around Hansen's neck, and chokes him with it, while also punching him in the head with the remainder of the chain.
Next, random folks at ringside (whom I'm afraid I can't identify) start to get involved in the action. A New Japan official comes in, and tries to stop Terry's rampage. He gets exactly what you would expect. Terry has gone completely bat shit insane at this point. He viciously attacks everyone who comes anyone near him. He brutally whips a downed Stan Hansen repeatedly with the chain, as the bells rings over and over again at (around) the 20:30 mark.
Hansen and Brody somehow manage to roll to the floor and escape into the crowd. Dory is still down and selling his back in the ring... and I am wondering exactly what the hell has actually happened here. I assume the Funks have been disqualified for Terry's homicidal chain wielding attack.
Just as I think things have settled down, Terry sees Hansen retreating thru the crowd, and he flies from the ring, over the barricade, and attacks him in the crowd. Hansen sees Terry coming, and (sort of) Back Drops him on the floor, but Terry no sells it, pops up immediately, and starts hammering both Hansen and Brody with the chain... AGAIN!
Terry is eventually swarmed by a number of All Japan “Extras”(the guys in the Red Jump Suits), which allows Hansen and Brody to escape to the back. Dory continues to sell in the ring, and Terry continues to be swamped by Red Jump Suits, and other members of the All Japan roster. Terry is threatening everyone with the chain. He whirls it wildly around his head (Brody style), and literally everyone (wrestlers, extras, photographers, security, fans) runs for their lives. Funk is exactly forty years old in 1984, so he's not quite “middle aged” yet... but he certainly is full on “crazy” at this point.
Terry makes his way back to the ring, and promptly attacks the people who are attempting to help his brother. He chases everyone out of the ring, and then paces around (dragging the chain) like a caged animal. Eventually Giant Baba makes an appearance at ringside, tho even the big man is wise enough to know better than to attempt getting into the ring with a crazed Terry Funk. Eventually, Terry storms off on his own, and Baba and the “extras” help Dory from the ring.
Wow! Just... Wow...
A simply phenomenal match, followed by the most epic meltdown that I have ever seen. What a way to start the Five Star Series! Everyone in this match was incredible. Dory is a bit past his prime here, but he plays “Baby-face in Peril” pitch perfectly. Brody and Hansen are a terrifying force of nature, and Terry Funk is truly THE Mad Genius of Professional Wrestling. He was already my favorite performer of all time, this kind of performance only serves to further cement that opinion.
So, does this match hold up... nearly thirty years later?
Hell yes, it does. If this match (and post match), were to air on a WWE PPV today, it would likely the best match (and angle) of the year... and Terry Funk would be an immediate mega-star. The psychology of Terry's slow build into total crazy-pants meltdown mode, as his brother is brutally double teamed by the bully team, is completely fantastic.
I admit that I was a bit surprised by the finish. You expect a five star match to end with a clean finish. Especially one from Japan. Tho, this match had a palpably American feel to it. Which makes sense, when you consider the participants. The Internet Wrestling Database lists the result of this match as a victory for the Funks by disqualification. Watching it myself, I assumed that the Funks had been disqualified. In reality, the “official” result of this match, is somewhat pointless now. The story of the end of the match was Terry Funk's total meltdown.
I thought the ending of the match worked perfectly. Any let down from the non-finish was quickly abated by Terry Funk's incredible post match performance. The finish left me wanting to see a rematch, and it left everyone involved looking super strong as well.
I could not find an instance of these teams meeting again. Brody went to New Japan not too long after this. The closest thing to a rematch looks to be the Funks meeting Stan Hansen and Terry Gordy during a 1983 All Japan show ~ hilariously billed as the “Terry Funk Retirement Show”.
I do know that both of these teams finished the 1984 World's Strongest Tag Determination League in a three way tie for second place. Along with the incredible team of Nick Bockwinkel & Harley Race. The winners of the 1984 tournament (by one point) was the incredible team of ~ Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta.
The team in a distant forth place that year? Two guys named Davey Boy & Dynamite... you may have heard of them. What an amazing tournament that must have been. Perhaps, someday, I will go back and cover all the matches from the All Japan 1984 World's Strongest Tag Determination League... but, for now, I've got 70 other five star matches to track down and watch.
Thanks for joining me on this epic journey Gang! See you next time.
Three word teaser: “Yes, I Quit!”