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