re: Official Puro Match/DVD Discussion Thread (NO SPOILERS)
WAIT WHAT? I promise to watch a series of matches today and actually follow through with it (still need to fulfill that promise to watch Finlay/Steen BOLA)? PROGRESS!!
Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr v Abdullah The Butcher & The Sheik, AJPW RWTL Final (12/15/77)
Christ on a cracker this was amazing, largely thanks to Terry Funk and his truly inspirational babyface performance. I mean Sheik was superb as this dastardly cunning heel on the outside constantly looking to maim one of the Funk's, and god bless him Abdullah will stick a fork in you and cut you like there's no tomorrow, but apart from that and one hell of a brutal elbow he nor Sheik are what you'd call talented in the ring. Its just a total fight right out of the gate and Funk's throwing his trademark awesome punches and the whole thing just feels like a bar fight, the actual wrestling moves aren't too pretty bar Dory's lovely uppercuts but the whole atmosphere is just amazingly dark and gritty and it feels more like some grubby Memphis/Monterrey Bloodbath than an AJPW match. The workover of Terry is insane with the fork and the blood loss from his right arm, and he bumps and visibly sells the frustration and pain on his face amazingly, holding his hand out trying to crawl to Dory and constantly building up the moment where he reels off a desperation southpaw punch to delay the torture Abdullah and Sheik are dishing out. The build to Dory finally getting control of the spike and 3 japanese dudes leaping out of their chairs and motioning for Sheik to get spiked was just incredible and despite the finish not being to everyone's cup of tea, I thought it worked well in paying off to the violence which preceeded the finish and felt like something the Sheik would do in the heat of the moment. They were out to brutalise the Funks, rather than simply win the match and they did just that. Also thought the way the Funks got over the brotherly concern for one another's well being (Terry dragging Dory out after he gets hit in the throat, and Dory bailing to check on Terry as he's getting his bloodied arm bandaged) was just superb attention to detail and really pulled you into their struggle against these couple of evil bastards and made you demand they kick their ass and get the win. If you can get past the slightly rough execution of a few moves, the overwhelming crowd heat, emotion, drama and passion in Terry Funk's performance will just leave you breathless, and its not like the other 3 were piss poor or anything, its just there was no way in hell this match reaches the heights it does without that damn wrestling genius pulling out one of his finest performances.
Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr vs. Abdullah the Butcher & The Sheik, AJPW (12/9/1978)
Terrific follow up to their '77 encounter, and in many ways I actually preferred this to that match. Match is again a total seedy pub fight (Motherwell Rules to quote The Thick of It) with Sheik actually really impressing me as this nutjob skulking and plotting new ways to tear the flesh off of the Funks. I particularly dug the spots where he and Abdullah would assist one another in concealing the weapons, and the bearhug spot which Sheik then capitalised on by repeatedly driving the fork into a defenceless Terry. Both Funk's spill a ton of blood in this, and Terry is superb again playing to the back row with his punch drunk selling, pleading to the ref about the illegal objects, there's also this awesome moment where he sort of looks at his hand and looks in disbelief at the trickles of blood that have been drawn from his head from Sheik and you just sense something inside of him change, he also does an amazing job in making every punch and headbutt feel like its the last bit of offence he has left in him and just stumbling and flopping to the floor after taking another move. And holy hell was he incredible upon re-entering the ring and staring down Abdullah with blood streaming down his face, felt like every climax in a horror movie with the pure hero daring the psycho into a final showdown and Terry just unloads with incredible boxing stance punches and just channels this inner hatred and summons up the mother of all comebacks to down Abdullah. Match gets thrown-out and in amongst all the chaos you lose track of just what is going down. Dory particularly impressed me in the closing stretches as he and Sheik just take this intense disliking to one another and Dory becomes a different animal when he spots his own blood, him having to be forcibly held back at the end with the spike in his hand was incredibly dramatic and again felt like some western/horror where the hero gets pushed to breaking point due to the abuse he's taken from this psycho and just does not care what he has to do to get his hands on the scumbag.
Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr vs Abdullah the Butcher & The Sheik, AJPW 2/3 Falls (7/15/79)
OK. MOTHERFUCKING INCREDIBLE....IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. Jesus Christ if you'd have told me the '77 match could end up being my 3rd favourite after I first watched it I'd have laughed you off, but this is without doubt the best of the bunch so far. They take all the great aspects of the first two matches: hot crowd, awesome brawling, plenty of blood, Abdullah and Sheik being king sized heels, Terry and Dory putting in awesome selljobs and pulling you in via raw emotion to invest in their comeback and just manage to make 10x better than what we'd seen before. Terry and Dory bump around incredibly from every shot, collapsing and making you feel their pain, the comebacks are enthralling and my god Funk entering the ring with blood trickling down his face, staring down Abdullah and screaming into his face before unleashing everything in his arsenal is without doubt one of the most dramatic and spine-tingling moments I've ever seen inside a pro wrestling ring. And then the motherfucker tops it by taking a dramatic bump to the floor and demonstrating his unrivalled selling ability by looking legit concussed from the fall and milking the drama in whether or not he can continue for everything its worth. This all builds into Dory putting in a superhuman effort against these two psychotic monsters before being overwhelmed and re-enter Terry to a thunderous ovation before he unleashes one last bit of offence to rescue his brother. Whole ending with Funk valiantly trying to overcome the blood loss and potential concussion/neck damage only to ultimately be too weak to fend off Abdullah and basically collapsing to the mat and dragging the ref with him, and drawing a no contest with all four men just set on trying to peel each other's skin off was just perfect pro wrestling. The crowd was with them every step of the way, they timed the Funks being overwhelmed by 2 on 1 odds perfectly, Terry managed to create two of the most emotionally powerful moments I've seen in a wrestling match and The Sheik and Abdullah put in their best effort yet by utilising every aspect of the heel playbook behind the ref's back, with some of their weapon shots looking as nasty as I've seen, particularly Abdullah driving the fork into Dory's neck during the opening fall. The angle and snap he got off of each shot complete with Dory's reactionary sell just looked vicious and disgusting. Absolutely incredible match and whilst I don't expect the final encounter to top this effort, seeing how well they've structured each match I have no doubt they'll lay out a satisfying payoff to the series. Almost forgot to mention, Funk staggering around with a bloody mouth after biting the cut on Sheik's forehead perfectly summarised his transformation into this deranged psychopath.
Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr vs Abdullah The Butcher & The Sheik AJPW, RWTL Final (12/13/1979)
Ok, so at this point I should probably learn not to dismiss the next match in this enthralling series, because once again I have to go back on my word and say for my money this was the best of the lot. They work more of a STF match here with an extended heat segment on Funk who does perhaps his greatest bit of selling after Abdullah butchers his fecking EAR with the fork. His screeches are chilling and he hobbles around, rolls into the audience like he's ashamed for anyone to see his cut, then the poor bastard gets his wrist and hand torn up by a relentless butcher, and there's this great moment where Funk tries to fight through the pain and choke Abdullah out, but has to give up and from there on he becomes a target for Sheik and Abdullah to torture him and let me tell you, everything Funk does from here on out is pitch perfect. His face tells the story on top of him contorting his body and writing in agony, he looks on the verge of tears as he grips his fingers like he's suffered nerve damage in his hand.....and that moment where he lands a desperation right hand only to clench his fingers in agony and sell the unimaginable pain he risked trying to hurt Abdullah was nothing short of magnificent. Dory is super off the tag as well, and I can't stress how amazingly they built to that hot tag like it was the last remaining hope the Funks had to win the match. The visual of a bloodied Dory choking the life out of Abdullah was incredible, and I'll give props to the Butcher for having some tremendous facial expressions and mannerisms to signify when he's on the backfoot, there was this excellent delayed bump he took off of a double team from the Funks and he just delays on the bump enough to sell the thought to you that it wasn't enough to knock him down, and then he does go down and you ignore the lunacy in the extended theatrics and just embrace it as pro wrestling 101. Honestly this match was just perfection, building off of the prior 3 matches between the teams, somehow retaining the aura of hatred and uncensored violence and keeping the characters as dynamic and enthralling as ever. The Funks just come out of this looking like the most badass and resilient babyfaces there ever were, and between the cunning and maniacal Sheik and the pure lunacy of The Butcher you have two of the more tenacious and menacing heels I've seen in a long time. Every match in this feud to me is The Terry Funk show, with this outing being his absolute best effort in the feud, but credit should go to the other three as well for bringing their own character work, drama and emotion to make the exchanges as gripping and enthralling as they were.
I honestly cannot say enough good things about these series of matches, anyone who's anyone needs to see them and come back and try to dispute that a) Terry Funk is the greatest/smartest/most naturally talented pro wrestler of all time, b) that Terry Funk is without doubt the most emotive, charismatic performer in the industry's history. Everything he did, from the bumping, to the selling, to the dramatic punches, to the mannerisms, to the subtle selling, to the unique boxing stances to his incredible transformation to pure deranged lunatic whenever his blood was spilled was just indescribeable. I can try my best to sell you on his performances in these matches, but you seriously just have to witness them for yourself and try to do justice to the work he put in. I'm legit in awe.