Friday, February 03, 2023

U.S. Champion Terry Funk

Edited from Original NWA Promotional Photograph

If you are looking at this photograph and thinking to yourself, "Wow, I've never seen a photo of Funk with the old Crockett U.S. title belt," well - - you still haven't.

You see, even to this day as of this writing, there has never been a legitimate photo to surface of Terry Funk wearing the Crockett/Mid-Atlantic Wrestling version of the U.S. title belt. The night he won the championship in a tournament in Greensboro in 1975, the actual belt wasn't present and they used a stand-in (a WWWF tag belt of all things.) Funk then only wore the original belt to the ring one time, in his first defense on Thanksgiving night against Paul Jones, the man he beat in the finals of the aforementioned tournament. While there certainly had to have been a photo taken by the wrestling media that night, one has never surfaced, and believe me  - - we have searched long and hard. One may show up one day.

The above photo is a well done photoshopped image originally from a mid-1970s promotional photograph when Terry Funk was NWA World Heavyweight Champion. In the original, Terry is wearing the "domed-globe" NWA title belt. Longtime Mid-Atlantic Wrestling fan Steven Chandler (aka Jesse Santana in his wrestling persona) did a great job in modifying the photo to have Terry wearing the Crockett version of the U.S. title belt from that same era. It gives us all a great idea of what Terry would have looked like wearing that classic cast U.S. title belt.

Funk briefly held that U.S. title in November 1975, in the weeks leading up to his historic win over Jack Brisco for the NWA World title in Miami Beach, FL in December 1975. It was all part of classic booking from that era to simultaneously build Funk up as top world title contender as well as establish Paul Jones as U.S. champion and the #1 contender for Funk's world title when he would later win it. 

You can read more about the famous tournament Funk won in Greensboro to win the U.S. title, as well as the aftermath that Thanksgiving, in our feature on its 40th Anniversary published back in 2015. You can also read about my brief interaction with Funk at the NWA Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte in 2010 where he posed for a photo with a cast replica of the U.S. belt.