Date: November 1982
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Source: Wrestling Observer Radio, Matt Farmer, WrestlingClassics.com
Terry Funk played a big part in helping the career of Hulk Hogan early on. But their friendship almost ended when the two nearly came to blows in what would have been a huge story had it gone down at the time.
Rewind to 1982. All Japan and New Japan were the top two promotions in Japan, and the real-life rivalry between them was huge. It was in many ways similar to the WCW vs WWF Monday night wars, except the Japanese took it much more seriously.
The top foreigners at All Japan were Stan Hansen (who had just jumped from New Japan), Bruiser Brody and the Funks (Dory and Terry), while the top foreigners at New Japan were Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant. In those days, losing matches meant far more than it does today. As such, the top foreigners almost never did jobs. Especially if they were to ever face each other in another promotion overseas.
Even though the management at All Japan and New Japan were at odds, the Americans working for both groups were friends. Terry Funk was able to get a booking that pitted him against Hogan in South Africa, in a match that would pay Hogan $70,000. Funk would also get a good payday, though not quite that much. The reason for the big payday is that South Africa was going through its own promotional war at the time, and Hogan was coming off worldwide fame from the Rocky III movie that had just been released (in which he had a major role beating up Sylvester Stallone).
The only problem was who would win the match. Funk agreed to lose to Hogan, but only on the condition that Hogan never tell anyone about it. This was long before the days of the internet. The only media outlet for wrestling news was magazines and newsletters, and since it was in South Africa, no reporters would be there to spread the result. Funk could therefore lose without any consequences, as only the people in attendance would know.
If word got back to Japan that Funk lost, it would be disastrous for him. For one, it would hurt his drawing power. Secondly, it would be a blow against All Japan in the wrestling war. Third, All Japan would be furious with Funk for losing to Hogan.
Hogan told the story of this match on Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show, saying he was driven to the airport by three mobsters. He claimed they kept pointing an unloaded gun on him and pulling the trigger, and it scared him so much that he never bothered asking for his money and never got paid. He claimed he also called Funk and told him not to even bother asking for his money from the promoters (one would think that if Funk knew he wasn’t getting paid, he wouldn’t show up).
Like much of what Hogan says, it was likely untrue. Funk talked about the match in his book, and said Hogan did get paid. It’s true Hogan left South Africa before getting paid, but only because he didn’t have time to change the currency to US dollars before having to fly back to Japan. He asked Funk to take care of that for him, which he did, and it did take awhile. Funk said he regretted promising Hogan he’d take care of that for him, because he had to go on some wild trip to the location where the transaction would take place.
As for the match, it went as planned. Hogan won, though it’s not known if it was by pinfall or disqualification. No Japanese or American reporters were there, so the result never got out.
Back in Japan, Hogan completely violated his agreement with Funk by telling the press how he had beaten Funk in South Africa. This is exactly what he wasn’t supposed to do.
Funk was understandably furious. He was doubly upset because he had helped Hogan early in his career, getting him into Georgia and recommending him to promoter Jim Barnette, let along the Rocky 3 gig he helped him get. Of course, he also helped him get his money for the match in South Africa, which wasn’t easy.
Worst of all, his standing in Japan would take a hit, and it would get him in trouble with the All Japan office. It would be the equivalent if, in 1998, Bill Goldberg and Steve Austin did a match in South Africa and Austin agreed to lose at the height of the Monday night wars. Imagine how pissed Vince would be, and WWF fans would’ve heard that the top WWF guy lost to the top WCW guy.
Funk was mad enough to fight. He gathered up some Japanese reporters, went to the hotel where the New Japan wrestlers were staying and found out which room Hogan was in. He was very drunk and definitely had every intention of beating Hogan to a pulp. He pounded on Hogan’s door, but no one answered. Hogan was absolutely inside the room and knew why Funk was pissed, and also knew he was drunk and wanting to fight. He never answered the door.
In a sense, Funk got “revenge” because the Japanese press saw Hogan too scared to confront Funk. Still, years later Funk admitted he was glad Hogan never answered, because if Hogan had won the fight, his career would have been finished.
This is a great story involving two American and Japanese wrestling legends, and the visual of a drunk Funk pounding on Hogan’s door, as he’s inside hiding, is priceless.
Funk quickly dropped the subject and there was no heat between the two after that. They worked together in the WWF during Hogan’s initial WWF title run and there were no problems.