America's greatest poet is bleeding on the concrete.
Terry Funk is eighty in spandex, knees bowing out wider than his shoulders. His body is the kind you get from a lifetime of boiled eggs, beer, and throwing yourself at the ground. He has no joints, chicken legs, pig gut, barrel chest, a crooked stiff back and a forty pound brow. His forehead looks like the schematic for a landmine, and if you look at it the wrong way, it explodes into blood. When he takes a step, he has to pivot on his hips and swing all his weight to move his feet an inch at a time, bridging backward like a gymnast to mount a curb or clear a pothole.
Around age sixty, Terry Funk started to dive backwards off balconies and painter's ladders, miraculously hanging upside-down in midair before crashing twenty feet onto plywood and barbed wire. He did this out of faith—that they'll catch him, that he'll fall right, that his body can take a few more bruises and broken bones in spite of all it's been through before. That the crowd will smile and cheer and that the idiot-mark promoter will like it enough to pay him again. That he'll feel it tomorrow in bed. On the floor, accusing fingers pulse in time with the rhythm of his chest, framing his muscles in the green patina of the canvas.
About fifty years ago, Terry Funk tried to retire, choking tears through the streamers in the Tokyo Dome. The words poured out of him: "Forever! Forever! Forever!" and I guess he really meant it. But he didn't know how to quit, how to leave behind faking death and settle into the real thing gracefully. He only ever learned one thing. So he keeps going. His body forces every move to look awkward and strained, but behind his muscles is the hidden electricity of practice and habit. If everything is right, if the tension and pressure and booking are all in the right places, the electricity will overtake him and replace his body with a burning pillar of light. You forget, for an instant, that this is an octogenarian play-fighting and pretending to be hurting when you know very well that he is but for different reasons, you forget that you're smart to it all and that you know any better, you forget all that worthless shit, because it's a reason to breathe and a comfortable chair, it's sunday morning with your older brother walking around the county fair, steel chairs cracking past the hot dog stand, eating cheap hamburgers out of aluminum bags while calliopes turn you to sugar, it’s here and wrong and ugly and true, it's somebody you know that you love when everything says you really shouldn't, it’s bleeding, it’s real. Shining brightly under animal heat, Terry Funk embodies everything good and powerful about the human experience, every punch to the gut and every kiss on the lips, the passion play as it’s played to-day. He is pirate, poet, psychologist and storyteller, great texan boundary shaman screaming again red cross disciple of Christ today all the way to heaven. He's a man. He's a professional wrestler. He's the greatest of all time.
Terry Funk will never die, because he's older than God and would beat the shit out of him, too. His body may disappear, but his spirit will live forever in our blood, the creaks of our turnbuckles, the stains on our teeth. He has painted his soul on the floors of every armory and chicken stand in America. Terry Funk will live because he demanded it, because he created his own paradise. Heaven is his mark and must oblige. So. One more:
“Forever! Forever! Forever!”