REVIEW: Terry Funk – More than Just Hardcore (2005)

A book by Terry Funk and Scott E. Williams

It’s not too often that I go back and read a book that I read upwards of fifteen years ago, but I did that very thing this week when I drug out my old copy of Terry Funk – More than Just Hardcore and gave it a second go. This was brought on by my recent foray into listening to Mick Foley’s new podcast, and thinking that I’d like to get Terry’s take on some of the stuff that he was saying. I remembered bits of this book, but with it being something I read that many years ago, most was hazy. This book came out when wrestling biographies had hit their absolute zenith in popularity. With Mick Foley being a multi-time New York Times bestselling author, tons of 80’s and 90’s wrestlers started tossing books out there with varying degrees of success. This was one of the few not churned out by the media machine that was the WWE at the time, and while it meanders a bit, it had far more heart than most of their output. Now the question is, was it worth checking this back out? My answer is yes.

“He’s been a fixture in professional wrestling for five decades. He helped introduce a hardcore wrestling style that you see in the WWE and Japan today. He’s made his mark in Hollywood. He’s Terry Funk, and this is his story. In this captivating look at the life of a living legend, Funk opens up about growing up in a wrestling family, working with various entertainment companies (including the ECW, WWE, and WWF), and so much more.”

This book is one of those ghost-written affairs where you know Scott E. Williams likely sat down with Terry Funk for a series of discussions and ultimately turned that material into the book. This is done a lot with books from sports stars and wrestlers alike. That said, I’ve read some utterly terrible books written that way from other publishers, and this was not only very well done, but it retains the style and personality that fans have seen from Funk in interviews and promos for decades. It seems like there was a concerted effort here to get the mans words on a page rather than just churn out a book to showcase a popular person.

The book chronicles Terry’s life from his early childhood, his entire wrestling career in its different phases, his flirtations with Hollywood, and more. Everything goes all the way up to around 2004, and the book was then published in 2005. I found it quite funny that the book talks about the numerous times he attempted to retire from wrestling, most of which were brought on by promoters and hyped without Terry really being on-board for such a life-changing event. I think one of the first times I really became a big fan of Funk’s was through the 1999 Barry W. Blaustein documentary Beyond the Mat, which chronicled his 1997 attempt to retire as one of it’s many subjects. The fact that he went on another TWENTY YEARS is crazy to me. He finally retired in a 2017 match with Big Time Wrestling in Raleigh, North Carolina. He teamed with The Rock N’ Roll Express in a six-man tag team match, where they defeated Doug Gilbert, Jerry Lawler and Lawler’s son Brian Christopher via disqualification. Considering he is nearly 80 now, and suffering from some kind of dementia, one can only hope he stays retired, but crazier things have happened in the world of wrestling.

When Funk wrote this, he was north of fifty years old, and from an older generation that sometimes say off-color things. As one can imagine, he sometimes can be a tad colorful with his language, for example calling a suspected pedophile a “baby banger”. He never gets too bad or veers into any bigoted territory, but one should be prepared for it if they get upset by stuff like that. The majority of the book is Funk going through his career chronologically and talking about various people he knew in the past. One can see a pattern of stories beginning with ” I remember this guy named ____, he was a tough SOB and he could work, he was a hell of a guy. I remember this one time ____”. It can get a bit repetitive, but considering the nature of how the book was written and how one would address road stories involving your friends, I can definitely understand why it was done this way.

One of the more interesting parts of this book is the epilogue where Funk basically makes predictions of what the future of professional wrestling would be like. Not only does he literally predict the start of NXT being helmed by HHH and existing as a in-house developmental system, he basically predicts the rise of UFC, which at the time wasn’t very popular. Then again, he attributes the MMA explosion (he called it “shoot fighting”) of the mid 2000’s as something he felt Vince Mcmahon would get into, not many predicted the 2007 expansion helmed by Dana White. He also talks about the futures of both Ring of Honor and TNA, which is now called Impact Wrestling, as being companies to look out for, little did he know a brand-new competitor would show up to challenge Vince much later on in All Elite Wrestling. For all the talk of older wrestlers refusing to understand modern wrestling, Terry Funk seemed to have his finger on the pulse of modern wrestling and the future. Then again, I guess it helped that he never really left, and stayed a part of wrestling in one capacity or another for upwards of 60 years.

One sad thing in the book is a section where he talks about guys he feels are “the future of wrestling” which consisted of men like Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit amongst others. As fans will know, Eddie died in 2005 and Benoit would later commit an infamous murder suicide in 2007 that risked killing the wrestling industry entirely. Much like the feeling I get when I looked at the pictures I have taken of wrestlers that have died from shows and conventions, stuff like this is always very sad.

Overall, it was fun revisiting this book, and honestly it hits better now than it did before. With Terry’s career now unquestionably over, and his opinions on modern wrestling and the future in hand, this book becomes that much more interesting and would be a great read for any wrestling fan. Terry Funk – More than Just Hardcore may not have the intimacy of a Mick Foley book, but it has all the character and twists and turns one can imagine from a man that wrestled for nearly sixty years. It’s a shame we never got a new edition of this with additional chapters later on, or perhaps a full-on second book, but as it stands this is a great way to get to know Funk, and get ideas for matches one should seek out. I think I may eventually go back and re-read some of the Mick Foley books as well, as I can imagine a new look at those would be very interesting.

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