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NWA World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk vs Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW 6/11/76

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NWA World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk vs Jumbo Tsuruta 6/11/76 Two out of Three Falls

 

There may be nothing more frustrating about footage gaps than the lack of Terry Funk in the 70s. Yes, towards the end of the 70s, we get plenty of tags with brother Dory, but if this match is any indication we are missing out on some absolutely fantastic wrestling. For instance, I believe this is the only full NWA World Heavyweight Championship defense we have from his year long reign as champion. I enjoyed him moreso than Jack Brisco or Harley Race in this one outing.

The first fall features probably the greatest surfboard struggle spot in history. It really felt like they were shooting over who win control over that surfboard. It was just so compelling to watch to see who would come out on top. I loved the beginning amateur work and Funk's arm work was superb. Unlike some other 70s wrestlers, he is not afraid lay it in there and we get hear the smack of flesh on flesh., Even with Funk on top, Jumbo looks good being able to pick Funk out of double wristlock and then setting him down on the top rope or the top wristlock into a bridge. Holy shit, Terry Funk was so smooth setting up that top wristlock! The match was a perfect representation of babyface control with the heel creating movement only for the babyface to thwart him by restoring order back into the original hold. The best part of this sequence was Jumbo not letting go of wristlock when Funk lunged for the outside and then Jumbo yanking him back in over the top rope. Funk creates more movement, but Jumbo takes advantage with a barrage of pinning combinations scoring the fall with a sunset flip. If Jumbo worked the armbar harder, this would have been a pitch perfect fall. Jumbo 1-0.

 

Fucking awesome second fall!!! This match is living up to the hype. Funk gets a quick handshake and starts throwing wild rights to upset Jumbo, which works. Terry wrangles a neckbreaker and never looks back. He drops all his weight onto Jumbo's neck, while Jumbo is in the sitting position. Damn, that spot needs to be cribbed. I thought the piledriver was going to knot this up in short order, but ain't to be. Funk hurls Jumbo to outside and dropkick and posts him. He looks to be in total control then Jumbo wakes up with a wicked European Uppercut. He throws Funk into the buckles who bumps big and then bumps even bigger over the top rope for a Jumbo right hand. Jumbo is much better working from underneath and facing adversity. It gets him going. Great struggle over the ab stretch (one of my favorite 70s/80s spots) into a Funking Rolling Cradle!!! Funk ties it up at one apiece! In six minutes, Terry Funk showed why he is awesome on offense, bumping, selling and psychology. Loved the rolling cradle finish. Tied 1-1.

You can tell Jumbo is pissed at himself. At this point in his career, he has that confidence where he believes that not only can he hang with the Funks, Brisco and Race that he can beat these guys. He is frustrated with himself for not being able to put Funk away and letting his lead slip away. He starts throwing wild rights and things are getting chippy. Jumbo just goes full fucking bore: wicked ab stretch and suplexes galore. The struggle over the gutwrench suplex was excellent. Jumbo is fucking crazy strong; he deserves more adulation in that regard. He has been dead lifting dudes all over the place. Funk looks absolutely done. Jumbo is feeling it and you really feel like he believes he is going to win. I don't want to say this begins the long standing feud of Jumbo vs. The Hotshot, but this is the first time I have seen it, but it must have been one of the first instances of him going in for the kill, but succumbing to the hotshot. Funk is able to retain his title.

 

Absolute classic. Funk demonstrated how smooth he could be on the mat, vicious during a heat segment and sold huge in the third fall. Jumbo is definitely better coming from underneath in these 70s matches. When he works those face control segments early he has a tendency not to work the hold and be a bit cold and that keeps this from being a perfect match. Definitely the best 70s match I have watched so far, the whole way through you just believed these two were totally invested in winning the world championship. ****3/4

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Be warned, this is a slow paced match, so it's not for everyone. The slower parts of the match consist of Funk and Jumbo trading arm holds. There's always a struggle going on and Funk has no problem throwing out some strikes and nasty chops to get out of a tricky predicament. You feel rewarded when the match picks up and every suplex feels like a big deal. Jumbo might be green at this point, but he pulls out a gorgeous sunset flip during the finale of the first fall. This match features a genius ending involving Funk's giving out on him at just the right time. I won't spoil it for you, but it's very worth checking out. Just great old-school wrestling. ★★★★

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Even after years of watching shootstyle, lucha title matches, World of Sport and funky ARSION matwork, the deliberate technical work in this bout has lost nothing of it's fascination. The match starts great enough with a tireless chant for Jumbo, while Funk shoots for the leg, Jumbo sprawls and they end up doing a lock up on their knees, with Funk sliding across the ring on his knees. This whole match with it's graceful wrestling and proper title match atmosphere feels like the equivalent to Atlantis/Blue Panther, Myers/Grey, whatever you like.Then Funk brings forth the greatest arm work I've ever seen. I hate when lousy wrestlers go for trite wristlocks over and over, and it is so nice to see Funk making so much out of one of the most simple holds. Really, the whole match is a testament to the greatness of Terry Funk: we love him as the psycho brawler, the erratic madman, but in this match he looks like the greatest wrestler to ever live. Always keeping things interesting with his unique counters and aggression, brilliant transitions, impeccable timing. The headbutts from the greco roman lockup, elbow grinding Jumbo in the face, making great use of the rolling pin combo, working the neck, conveying desperation and of course his awesome signature weeble wobble selling. It's a masterclass if I've ever seen one. Jumbo is quite good as the unstoppable olympic superman - I liked how he would knock Terry's arm down from the lockup, and he can deliver quite the bomb throwing with his slow motion suplex moves, bringing Terry to the edge of defeat, understands how to sell (at times) - still it's hard not to see this match as Terry dragging Jumbo by the ear to a great match, and not be a little disgruntled Jumbo takes so much of the work, with his stuff just not being on the level of Terry. Well, I won't hold it against him, because Terry was #1 that night. Terry Funk, what a wrestler you are.

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I've never watched any Terry Funk matches from this period before. The pacing is really different to what I'm used to. Rather than the match just slowly building over time it goes through flashes of excitement in between them struggling through holds and each time you think someone might be able to get a pin. So there isn't the issue I have with a lot of long matches nowadays of the first half being inconsequential padding.


The pin on the first fall was so much fun I proper yelled for Jumbo getting the win. What a sunset flip. Funny how it's what would seem like a basic opening spot in most matches now. But it being positioned at the end of a build of tension and the crowd bought it as a potential finish just makes it feel so different.


The second fall is so different to the first. Switches from a carefully paced technical match into a brawl. Funk even does a drop kick on the outside! Far more aggression from Funk, he really sells the embarrassment of getting pinned by Jumbo in the first fall, and this time he's not messing about. Funk gets a pin with a rolling cradle, I've seen that move get kicked out of so many times it never occured to me this would be a finish, but there you go!


Funk slams Jumbo to open the first fall. He feels in control now, but before you know it Jumbo's caught him and spinned him into an abdominal stretch. Love the way Jumbo is rocking his head synching it in like he's trying to tear Funk's torso. Jumbo's got the crowd behind him in the final fall as he takes control and is suplexing Funk. It feels like Jumbo's got the upper hand until Funk jumps over Jumbo's head as he was charging at him (reminded me of Brock vs. Goldberg!), and when Jumbo comes back around off the ropes Funk drops him forward onto the ropes neck first which Jumbo sells like he's badly hurt at the neck, and Funk gets a three count. What a finish.


Very enjoyable long match. My rating is ****1/4

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Just watched this one last night. The slow burn took a little patience in the beginning, but it's an absolute clinic on how to wring drama from the tiniest of things, like back-and-forth tests of strength.

 

The slowmo replay on the sunset flip - which was especially gorgeous from a guy Jumbo's size - made it look like the poor fella landed right on his tailbone. Ouch!

 

I love the fact that Terry had to get a little nasty to retain the belt, ending with bouncing Jumbo's throat off the top rope. I also noted that big as Jumbo is, Terry is almost as big. I never think of Terry being "big". But he was.

 

This match was fantastic.

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