Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

1977 Match of the Year

Harley Race v. Terry Funk NWA Houston 7/1/77

PAS: Dear god what a match!! Maybe the best example of a classic NWA title defense we have on tape. 2/3 falls, traditional build with a absolutely off the charts finish. We have an expected long feeling out process, and it is really great matwork. Funk goes after Race's arm with some great arm wringers where he would bootscrape Race in his mush, and yank back violently. Unlike many other great wrestlers (Flair, Bret Hart, Santo) Funk is more of an improv guy then a stick to the script, Bosch mentions on commentary that Funk is doing thing he has never seen before, and I get the sense he is just making moves up in the match. I also loved the sequence built around Race's headscissors where Funk tries to scramble to his feet, such a unique escape. There was also really great variations of tempo in this match, lots of the early work was very deliberate, but there would be moments of speed and explosion, the finishes to both falls were set up by one of the two guys shifting into high gear and catching his opponent a step behind.

3rd fall is what elevates this from a classic to a legend. After Funk planted Race with a piledriver to get the second fall, you could tell he felt the match was his and he goes after the spinning toe hold with reckless abandon. Race counters the toe hold with straight shots right to Funk's eye and Terry starts leaking badly. However Funk will not be deterred, he keeps going back to the hold, tearing away at Race's knee and keeps eating right hands. Funk is betting he can destroy the knee before Race can destroy his face, he decides to walk through fire betting he can drag Race to hell and come out ahead,  he loses the bet as he gets Race down but is too dazed to apply the hold and the ref calls the match. Awesome blood loss selling by Funk and a classic finish.

ER: This was simply amazing. I can't decide what I love most about it, but I know that I love all of it. Funk is one of my three favorite all time wrestlers, and he breaks out some things I've never seen from him. Phil is right that he's more of an improv guy, and I tend to like a lot of his failures while his hits are my favorite wrestling ever. This is all hits. Do you remember Terry doing press slam spots? I don't. Here he does two, and they look amazing. Terry should have done press slams more often. Race looked bigger than him and Funk just hoisted him up and dumped him. I'm a big fan of modern catch point grappling, but there's something far more impressive about these two 240+ lb bosses locking on snug headlocks and ripping arms out of sockets. I don't understand how wrestlers do it. Sometimes I sleep the wrong way and end up with a stiff neck for a month. But here Funk violently yanks Race's arm around, bends it behind his back, yanks it behind him while forcing his other arm back. I tried picture my own arms in that position, without a large human bending them into that spot, and just holding my arms there hurt like hell. I can't imagine these guys going through this nightly. Race locks on a headlock with his good wing and everything revolving around that headlock is some of the best mat based work I've ever seen. Ever. Every flinch and movement had so much to it that I oddly found myself on the edge of my seat, watching matwork. It's not a reaction I often experience while watching any kind of pro wrestling. Excitement, sure, but rarely edge of my seat tension. Race would crank it, bringing his arm down on Funk's ear, Funk would twist to get out, trying to constrict Race's breathing by hooking Race's leg and forcing his own knee into his chest, looking for openings; it was dramatic as hell, and after seeing countless perfunctory headlock exchanges in NWA title matches, this was a revelation. There's so much to talk about that I just can't talk about all of it. To watch this match is to love damn near every single section of this match. If someone asked, I could easily write 2,000 words on this match. Phil is right that this may be the best example of a classic NWA title defense that we have seen.

I'm amusingly opposite of Phil on what I think made the match legendary instead of "merely" classic. I loved the 3rd fall, but it was this opening fall that made this legendary. This was one of the few times I felt actual intentions amongst the feeling out. There was no "we're going long so we gotta start on the mat" feel to this. The truth of this match was in the details, and these two were not killing time just to build to the go go go. Watch the lock-ups, a simple part of a match that often gets ignored today; these two use a lock-up artfully, and apply them so sturdily that you'd think it was the most important part of the match. These kind of details to a portion (a long portion) of this structure that often gets ignored, made this legendary, made every single second of this match feel important. Few matches in wrestling history are better than this.


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