Friday, July 29, 2011

Terry Funk: More than Just Hardcore

Author, Ghost Writer, Editor: Terry Funk, Scott Williams
Publisher: ECW Press
Released: 3/05

The Good
One of the most storied careers that reaches into more facets of pro-wrestling than perhaps anyone is that of Terry Funk. A second-generation pro-wrestler who grew up learning from the old-timers only a generation removed from the carnival hookers, Funk’s respect for pro-wrestling’s history is strong without being overly romantic. He criticizes Lou Thesz’s selfishness and the bitterness of old codgers who think the current product has nothing to do with pro-wrestling. Funk’s glory days in the US territories and All Japan are filled with funny anecdotes, astute observations and sound explanations. He is self-effacing without undermining his legacy and he gives candid comments without apology. Terry Funk seems like a man genuinely satisfied with his accomplishments and the bitterness just does not ruin his autobiography as it does others. Although he had his share of personal, physical and career-related problems, Funk does not excessively detail them. He gives pro-wrestling fans a book they want. Scott Williams channeled the Bill Watts’ story into an excellent book, but I would argue that this is better. What it lacks in booking psychology it makes up for in sharp insight into cutting promos, business shifts and stylistic changes.

The Bad
The only complaints I could make about this are the limited length. Obviously, Terry Funk’s in-ring career has spanned four decades and that could supply substantial material for a lengthy book. Heck, Mick Foley produced to bulky opuses with a career that was half that length. Funk also grew up in the business and has been involved as an owner and booker in addition to his in-ring experience. Terry Funk’s career seemed like something so massive and daunting that it could never fully be encapsulated in a average length autobiography. Scott Williams does a tremendous job, but will it satiate everyone’s appetites for territorial wrestling, hardcore wrestling and modern sports entertainment? The paying fans and pending reviews will be the best barometer of Williams’ achievement.

The Rating: ****1/2


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tito Santana [RF Video Shoot Interview]

The Good
What Tito Santana lacks in humor and controversy, he makes up for in having some distinct and sharp criticisms of his peers. You cannot say he is negative and other than Ole Anderson, he doesn't bury anyone, but Santana has a respectable perspective that he is willing to share. He explains how New York was the best place for a pro-wrestler to refine their skills, how Bruno was a better draw than Hulk, why the Hart Foundation and British Bulldogs were "green" before coming to the WWF, how he knew his "El Matador" gimmick had no steam from the outset. Tito Santana is kind of an unsung hero of the Rock-N-Wrestling era, but he was consistently good performer and shows that he had a great mind for the business and specifically the WWF market. While the quality of this particular interview was hindered by Rob Feinstein, it is a good sampling of why Tito is a worthwhile interview to seek out.

The Bad
I understand that many RF Video shoots are done late at night or early in the morning, during conventions, so everyone is tired. However, there are times when Rob is just not paying attention and his questions are so disjointed that it is maddening. Tito Santana is not the most charismatic person and his interviews are best when he gets into his perspectives on different people and events. When he talks about how Bruno Sammartino was very approachable and would off advice, do not ask him immediately after if Bruno was all about himself! This is sometimes an issue, but here it seemed painful obvious and insultingly recurrent throughout this interview. Not knowing your history is one thing, but at least know how to progress an interview. If you've never heard the amazing My Side of the Story with Tito and Greg Valentine, you might think this is excellent, but this is simply not as great as it could've been.

The Rating: ****