THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
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On September 11th, 1997 the stars of three wrestling promotions, Extreme Championship Wrestling, Frontier Martial Arts Wrestling, and the World Wrestling Federation gathered in Amarillo, Texas, to honour one of the true legends of the wrestling business, Terry Funk, as he announced his retirement. To commemorate this event, Funk challenged Bret “Hitman” Hart for the WWF title in the main event of Wrestlefest: 50 Years of Funk, also known as Terry Funk‘s Wrestlefest. Commentary duties are handled by none other than the voice of ECW, Joey Styles.
The show began with Roadkill, before he became an angry Amish warrior, facing Japanese star W*ING Kanemura. Roadkill was still a student at ECW’s House of Hardcore training school at the time, and his gimmick consisted of wearing tattered black clothes, and talking to his opponent and arguing with the referee. For a guy who’d had less than a dozen matches at that point, he looked pretty damn good, pulling off some great looking power moves. It wasn’t enough to get the job done though, as the experience of Kanemura quickly won out, taking Roadkill out with a top rope senton to get the pin. Good stuff.
It’s an all ECW battle next, with ECW TV Champion Taz defending the title against Chris Candido. If you ever wanted a good example of just how good these two were, then take a look at this match. It’s a tremendous contest, with Taz showing some great technical moves, and Candido at his best as the whiny heel, complaining about everything from hair pulling to tights pulling. It’s also an example of how the WWF kind of dropped the ball with these two. Sadly, because this was a TV title match, it only had a ten minute time limit, with Taz getting the win with the tazmission.
Japanese women’s action followed, with Shark Tsuchiya taking on Lady Cooga. No preening divas in this one, just solid wrestling action, with Shark using her power advantage to good effect against the masked Cooga, who countered with some excellent high flying and fast paced moves. Shark got the win here, taking Cooga down with a hard clothesline. Nice stuff.
The first tag-team match of the show followed, with The Youngbloods going up against The Bushwhackers. This was a somewhat confusing match. Luke and Butch came to the ring as faces, slapping the hands of the fans at ringside, but mere seconds later, as the Youngbloods waved the stars and stripes, they became heels, and the crowd immediately began to boo them as they went back to their Sheepherder ways. Inside the ring the action seemed a little disjointed, with Luke and Butch often going to the outside when things didn’t go their way, wasting time, which is something you can’t really do in a match that has a ten minute time limit. This was little more than a brawl, which often broke down into a four way brawl, with the Youngbloods getting the pin after Chris dropkicked his brother Mark as he was about to be body slammed by Luke, with Mark getting the pin soon afterwards. This one could have been a whole lot better, had it not been for the crazy psychology.
Back to singles action, and another ECW battle with The Sandman facing Balls Mahoney. Well, that’s what it was supposed to be, but just as the Sandman was about to get into the ring, having downed a few cold ones along the way, Buh Buh Ray Dudley came running down and attacked the Sandman, taking him out. This brought Mahoney out, and as it became clear that the Sandman couldn’t compete, Mahoney grabbed the microphone and challenged Dudley to a no DQ match. Dudley reluctantly agreed. So what we got here was another brawl, although this one was a damn sight more entertaining than that tag-team match. We had hard hitting action, chair shots a plenty, and Mahoney getting the pin after hitting Dudley in the head with the Sandman’s kendo stick. Some nice, good old fashioned ECW stuff here.
Then it was on to Tommy Dreamer, accompanied by Beulah, challenging Shane Douglas, accompanied by Francine, for the ECW World title, although Douglas tried to make it a non-title match in a pre-match promo where he endeared himself to the fans and their local hero. A great match, with Dreamer and Douglas showing just why they were so highly regarded in ECW circles back then, with some good technical wrestling mixed in with some hardcore action, and some outside interference from the women, which eventually led to a cat fight. Douglas would later raise the ire of the fans even more when he took out Beulah, with Dreamer responding in kind by taking Francine down with a pile driver. In the middle of this, Dreamer came close to getting the pin several times, before Douglas got the title retaining pin after taking Dreamer down with a belly to belly suplex. Needless to say that this didn’t sit too well with the Amarillo fans.
The next match would be considered by many to be a clash of styles, with Dory Funk Jr. taking on Rob Van Dam, accompanied by Bill Alfonso. Despite my own misgivings, this proved to be a good match, with RVD bringing out all of his signature moves, and Funk, although somewhat limited by Father Time, able to keep up with the younger star. Van Dam threw everything at Funk, including a van daminator with a chair and a five star frog splash off the top rope, but a sloppy cover saw Funk kick out and mount a comeback, eventually taking RVD down with a belly to back suplex off the ropes, getting the pin soon afterwards, ending a really enjoyable match.
The first of the two WWF v ECW battles follows, with Mankind facing Sabu, accompanied by Bill Alfonso. It’s a wild brawl between the two hardcore icons, and a damn entertaining one at that, with plenty of chair use, and both men going through a table when Sabu connected with a cross body block over the top rope as Mankind was standing on the ring apron. It’s a great example of two great wrestlers at their best, and it has a wild ending. As Mankind applied the mandible claw on Sabu, Fonzie came into the ring and attacked him. Mankind retaliated by applying the claw to Fonzie, and then to the referee. The decision in the end saw the referee disqualify Sabu for Fonzie’s interference. Things didn’t end there though, as Sabu and Mankind continued to brawl after the bell.
Six man tag action followed, with Jake Roberts and the Headhunters facing the all Japanese team of Hayabusa, Masato Tanaka and Hakushi. A very good match saw some great team work from both combinations. The massive Headhunters, who each weighed in at over four hundred pounds, looked particularly impressive, especially with their top rope moves. Jake was, of course, Jake, doing his usual stuff, and the Japanese stars, especially Hayabusa, looked great. All of these ingredients made for an impressive match, which ended in a wild brawl involving all six men, and Hayabusa pinning one of the big men after a four-fifty splash off the top rope.
Main event time, with Terry Funk challenging Bret Hart for the WWF title in a no DQ match. This is a match I’ve been wanting to see for years, and it didn’t disappoint. A good old fashioned wrestling match between two masters of their art, a joy to watch as the Hitman uses all of his skill to work over his opponent’s left leg, while the Funker uses some good old fashioned brawling to fight back. Funk eventually tries to put Hart through a table, but the Hitman managed to move out of the way. Funk soon put on his trademark spinning toe hold, which Hart countered with an unsuccessful small package. In the end, as the Hitman applied a side headlock, Funk executed a back suplex. Hart held on, but as both men had their shoulders on the mat, the referee began his count, and as the count reached three, the Hitman raised his shoulder to earn the victory. A great way to end an excellent bout.
In conclusion – an excellent tribute to a true wrestling legend. Aside from the somewhat confusing Youngbloods/Bushwhackers match, this was an outstanding event, topped off with a dream match main event between Bret Hart and Terry Funk, the perfect way to end a wrestling career. Well, it would have been had Funk not come out of retirement just a few months later, but that’s beside the point. This is definitely a show worth adding to your collection, especially if you want to see some of the legends of ECW in their prime. You might even get to see Powerslam writer John Lister in there somewhere!