Monday, April 04, 2016

Wahoo Pins World Champ Terry Funk - - on TV!

by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

As much as I enjoyed watching the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show in the 1970s, it wasn’t a show that featured what you would call “main event” matches. Which was perfectly okay with me; just watching my favorites wrestle whoever they were matched with was absolutely fine. But it was certainly a special treat when that rare occasion occurred when “main eventers” squared off in a television match.

It was an even rarer event when the NWA World Heavyweight Champion appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV program. Rarer still, was when the World Champion actually WRESTLED on television. For the World Champion to wrestle a top contender on television, well, that was just about unheard of! But on April 21, 1976, that’s exactly what happened when NWA World Champion Terry Funk squared off against “Chief” Wahoo McDaniel in a non-title bout taped in the WRAL TV studios in Raleigh, North Carolina! Color commentator David Crockett remarked, “This is Christmas early!” And he was right on the mark!

Play-by-play announcer Bob Caudle opened the commentary on the bout, with a reluctant Terry Funk leaving the ring before the opening bell even rang. Caudle exclaimed, “Wahoo McDaniel, definitely the favorite of the crowd, and this has got the World Heavyweight Champion Terry Funk, a little mad. He says he’s not going to wrestle him!” Terry grabbed the ringside mic and loudly bellowed, “I am going to refuse to wrestle this man, because I am the World’s Champion! I don’t need to go in there with an overbearing, overweight egomaniac, that is on the downhill side of his career! And I am refusing to wrestle the Indian right now!”

David Crockett ranted that Funk was afraid of Wahoo, and Caudle insisted, “He’s gonna have to wrestle; he’s gonna have to fight! Because Wahoo’s gonna go right in after him.” And Funk did eventually enter the fray. And as the match actually began, David Crockett foreshadowed later happenings in the bout saying, “There’s something in the air. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something in the air.”  Caudle responded, “You can cut it with a knife, is what you can do right now! That’s the tension in this studio!”

Wahoo took early control of this match with consecutive picture-perfect arm drags. Funk took quick refuge outside the ring on the floor. Caudle explained, “He’s gonna rest that back for a minute; he got a couple of good arm drags from Wahoo McDaniel.” When both men faced each other again in the center of the ring, Caudle said, “Look at the stare from those eyes; Wahoo looking him right in the eye, and you can almost see the daggers fly.” Crockett added, “Neither man is backing up an inch; each man is giving 110%.”

Very soon, the punches and chops started flying. Then Funk did something that wasn’t real smart. Caudle exclaimed, “There’s a little slap; that’ll really get that Indian mad! Oh, Wahoo’s gonna lose that Indian temper of his!” David Crockett then indicated that he thought that was part of Terry’s strategy, to try and get Wahoo to lose control of his emotions. After the slap, the two grapplers continued to knock away at each other. “Big hard left hand; and he’s left-handed. He’s got a lot of power in that left,” Caudle commented about the World champ. “It’s like that wrong arm coming at you, and it’s got so much power in it. Another big hard straight left.” Funk dominated briefly during the middle portion of the bout.

Of course, Wahoo was going to fire back in time. And it didn’t take long! Crockett loudly said, “A chop by the Indian…another chop!” Caudle added, “Wahoo with those big hard chops of his, he’s gonna chop him right out of the ring. That time Terry Funk did a complete flip.” The two continued with their bar room brawl, and as they both got near the ropes, they became entangled and fell through the ropes simultaneously. Outside on the floor, the two continued to battle out of control. Referee Tommy Young then called for the match to end via a double disqualification, which deeply angered the studio fans and both wrestlers!

Then, surprisingly, referee Young made a startling announcement. Caudle explained, “He said hit the bell and let ‘em go! He said let ‘em go! Somebody could lose a head right here! They’re gonna slug it out!” And slug it out they did. Wahoo quickly got the advantage in the re-started match, catching Funk in a high vertical suplex. The Chief got a two count, and the champion saved himself in the nick of time by putting his foot on the bottom rope. After Terry escaped that close call, he was able to roll Wahoo up in a small package hold, but Wahoo rolled through it and caught Funk for a quick three count and the win!!!

The studio crowd went bonkers with joy! A deliriously happy David Crockett yelled at the top of his lungs, “WAHOO WON; WAHOO WON!! Just think if this had been a championship match, Wahoo would’ve won the World’s Heavyweight belt!!” Bob Caudle added, “You would’ve had a new champion right now!” As the crowd chanted, “WA-HOO, WA-HOO” Caudle focused on the fallen champion. “Look at Funk, he’s out of his mind…out of his mind,” Caudle observed.

After this amazing outcome, newcomer Dino Bravo was introduced to the Mid-Atlantic fans in his television debut on the same TV show, and commented, “That was quite something we just saw, Wahoo McDaniel pinning the World Champion. If he ever has a championship match, I know the people will be behind him.” Wahoo in fact wrestled Funk for the title in Norfolk, Virginia the next night, and won via disqualification in a bloody brawl. The Chief got another shot at Funk for the championship on April 25th in Asheville, North Carolina, but could not ace the belt then either as Terry completed his pass through the territory.

To this day, it’s still amazing to think back to Wahoo defeating the World Champion Terry Funk on Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling TV on that Saturday afternoon in April of 1976! Even with it occurring after the match had seemed to end on a double disqualification, and that it didn’t really lead to a red-hot program between the two. Over the years the TV announcers would often say about matches, “anything could happen.” As skeptical as I might have been about hearing that phrase, this result from April 21, 1976 TV always stuck in the back of my mind as proof that the unexpected REALLY could happen on my favorite Saturday afternoon television program.