I never really wanted this column to become a play by play column.
I didn’t want to sit in front of my laptop screen and write down move after move after move in an attempt to dissect and review some of the best matches of the 1980s. However, at times, my preparation for these columns has been little more than that. Sure, I’ve spent time then weaving a narrative or adding flavour to what would otherwise be a tedious list of holds and slams, but sitting with a pen and paper in hand was not my primary desire when I chose to explore a list of matches, the majority of which I’d never watched before.
Halfway through this match, I threw away the pen and paper.
Wrestling is all about characters and stories, with the moves much further down on the list of importance. If you want to know what move Brody hit after nailing a piledriver on Dory Funk Jr., the video link is at the top – with the four names on the marquee (so to speak), you are guaranteed a match worth watching – one that, at only 12.30 on the clock, will barely eat into your free time on your day off. I just wanted to enjoy four of the best wrestlers and characters of the past thirty years batter each other senseless in front of a baying crowd of Japanese wrestling fans.
The fact that the ending is a let-down is also something that shouldn’t dissuade you from this. I mean, I did feel deflated by it. Endings like the one in this match were ten a penny in Japan during the 80s – maybe I’d been spoilt by Snuka and Brody’s clean victory over the Funks from the previous year. However, the finishers don’t always matter as much as the story told on the way; all four men make up for a poor finish by delivering an interesting and engaging story along the way.
You could argue that it is the obvious ‘David vs Goliath’ style story, and you’d probably be right; but in the hands of Funk, Funk Jr., Brody and Hansen, it just feels so much more than that. There is no wasted motion, every move matters and the crowd are hot throughout. Hansen is more than apt enough of a replacement for Snuka – I was surprised by what I saw from Snuka last time; I know what to expect from Hansen.
Brody and Hansen dominate throughout, as they should in these circumstances. From Brody’s casual slams to Hansen’s high knees to the face, both of the big men use their size to their advantage, ragdolling the two Funks around. This puts The Funks, especially Terry, in a position where they excel; fighting from underneath. There is arguably not a man who can play the underdog as legitimately and engagingly as Terry Funk. He is a scrapper and the crowd response to every perceived comeback, even though it inevitably leaves Funk down on the mat at the hands of another Brody/Hansen elbow or dropkick. His individual attacking of the knees of his opponents as they attempt to pick him up off of the mat is one of the highlights of the match – if he is going down, he is taking one of them with him.
The contrast between Dory and Terry makes Dory more palatable than he would be in singles action in my opinion. The rugged, hot-head meshes well with the crisp technician, and at times in the match, Funk Jr. shows that he can match strikes with the best of them, rocking Brody with elbows and European uppercuts. The biggest pop still comes from the teased spinning toe hold, a move that Brody is desperate to stop, a nod to how over and dangerous it was perceived by the crowd in attendance.
Hansen is also one of the wrestlers I most enjoy working tags, as he eschews the normal expectations of tag wrestling, with the heel heat building to the hot tag, by just bulldozing through whoever gets in his way. Dory Funk Jr. in particular is victim to this, Hansen barely giving him a chance to get into the ring before continuing the beatdown he was doling out on Terry.
The sympathy for the underdogs is ratcheted way up by the use of Hansen’s knee to bust open Terry and another strike which busts open Dory. From this point onwards, it feels like the Funks are just fighting to survive, but they go down swinging, Terry and Hansen in particular swinging for the fences when standing in the crowd. A lariat at ringside does for Terry as he ends up a mummy wrapped in streamers, leaving Dory at the mercy of Brody and Hansen. This is where the one black mark of the match is earned, as Hansen lariats a Brody-held Dory, whilst also nailing the referee who just happened to be standing really close to the two men upon impact. Another referee enters the ring, and for shits and giggles, Hansen starts to roughhouse him as well. This referee decides that he has had enough, throwing the match out on a DQ and awarding the match to the bloodied and beaten down Funks. Not content with this decision, Brody and Hansen spend a few minutes beating down wrestlers at ringside just to further assert their dominance and ‘couldn’tgiveafuckery’. I never believed that Brody and Hansen cared that much about winning the tournament anyway.
The end of the footage I watched (which I wasn’t able to link to, unfortunately) shows the Funks receive their award – both victors in a literal and moral sense of the word. However, looking at their faces, and the destruction that Brody and Hansen caused, it is a victory in name only.