When Empty Arenas Were Hot!

(Here’s a guest review from Dave Newman, who’s been bugging me for weeks to review the Memphis empty arena match and then finally took it upon himself to do it.  Good for you, Dave!)  

With the world going tits up, I thought I’d review a few bits from YouTube when empty arena matches were the stuff of legend, as opposed to doing stand-up comedy without an audience.

Lawler vs. Funk!


The Challenge!


First of all, Lance Russell shows Jerry Lawler a prerecorded interview he conducted with Terry Funk. Funk says Lawler is a son of a jackass and a lover of chickens (that’s just… unkind!). He starts off in a slow whisper before quickly descending into a paranoid rant about how Lawler has everyone in town on his side. Funk decides to appeal to his ego rather than his greed by offering a challenge to him in an envelope. He just wants Lawler, Lance and a cameraman there so they can FIGHT and he can hear Lawler holler for mercy IF HE HAS THE GUTS!


Back at the studio, Jerry teases Lance about already having opened the envelope. Lawler’s nonplussed and walks off.


Jerry Lawler No-Sells Terry Funk’s Taped Promo – Re: Empty Arena Match (April 1981)



The Match!


Lance and Dave throw to the prerecorded “match” earlier in the week between Funk and Lawler, who has accepted the challenge. Lance wants to do an opening in case “this crazy thing comes off!”, in a classic Lance-ism. Lance sparks up a cigarette while waiting, which he quickly discards when the cameraman says he’s ready to go. WASTEFUL!


Lance recaps the feud before they fade out and then fade back in when Funk arrives a few minutes ahead of the hour. Funk is immediately swearing up a storm, which is bleeped out. No fucks or bastards, more damns and sonovabitches, but an uncensored version is out there as well. Terry is offended that the King isn’t there already (Lance: “He might be stuck in traffic!”, Terry: “I came all the way from Amarillo!”). Terry sarcastically counts him out while cutting a promo to nobody present.


For the lack of anybody else to fight, Funk starts picking on Lance who immediately begins backpedalling in a funny moment. At this point, Lawler shows up in his cape and crown and wrestling gear (Funk: “Look at this clown! I’m gonna break his crown!”). Funk starts thinking he’s got a gun or a knife on him, giving him a chance to leave if he admits that he’s tougher.


The match starts at last with them flailing away on the ropes before heading outside. To the chairs, as Terry goes to throw him in and hilariously trips and falls himself. Funk goes for a skidding bump on the chairs, but the legs have no traction. Funk’s bleeding already and grabs a section sign, which he starts breaking apart and commences with the piggy squealing. Piledriver on the floor, but Lawler’s back up quicker than you’d expect for Memphis!


Funk now starts destroying the steps to get a piece of debris to stab the King with. Lance gets fucked about with (“Alright, Terry, knock it off!”) before both return to the ring, Terry with spike in hand. He goes for the eye, but is blocked while cutting a promo on Lance. On wobbly legs, Terry gets his hand kicked back by Lawler, spike in his grip, and spikes his own eye in a famously fake looking moment, like Adrian Adonis twatting himself with garden shears. Lawler goes for the spike to deliver the killing blow, but discards it in a visual that was done better in the Magnum/Tully I Quit match. Funk writhes around on the mat, “blinded”, crying and begging for a doctor (“My eye! My eye!”).


The bottom line on the match: It’s more about the novelty than the match, which really doesn’t have a lot going on. Definitely worth a watch and a re-watch for historical curiosity, but don’t expect a balls to the wall stunt show.


Empty Arena Terry Funk vs Jerry Lawler Original Broadcast 04/25/1981 MEMPHIS WRESTLING



Terry Funk Cussing Mad – Funny Interview at Empty Arena Match (4-6-81) Memphis Wrestling



The Aftermath!


In a promo for a match against Crusher Blackwell, Lawler talks about how he did feel sorry about what happened to Terry Funk, but he’s found out that Blackwell is out for a revenge for Funk, so that’s out of the window now. He knows that he’s WRONG! It was an accident and he doesn’t feel sorry for Funk or Blackwell, who’s got a beating coming.


Jerry Lawler Promo After Empty Arena Match With Funk 05/02/81 MEMPHIS WRESTLING



Weeks later, Funk, with missing teeth, bandages and an eye-patch, swears revenge. In the interim, Funk had to be pulled off Lawler when he attacked him, but their upcoming cage match means nobody will be able to get involved. He’s promising broken legs and revenge and he’s going to take the sickness out of his mind!


1981 Terry Funk After Empty Arena Match 05/16/81 MEMPHIS WRESTLING



And finally, on the Saturday morning show, Funk show up in the middle of a tag match while Lawler is out of town looking for trouble and beats up anyone he can get his hands on while referee Paul Morton, Ricky’s dad, runs around with his arms flapping. Jimmy Hart and the Nightmares, who had been clapping gleefully, scarper quickly as soon as he sets his eyes on them.

Back to complaining to Lance, as he punches and headbutts a chair. Terry goes into a strange analogy about horses while claiming to be the biggest stud around as Lance deftly tries to move him on (“Yep, well, we can talk to you about that later…”). To the commercials, as a middle-aged housewife and her husband don’t look too impressed while some black kids laugh as Funk starts getting closer to them.


Terry Funk – Most Insane Promo Ever! (1981) Classic Memphis Wrestling Performance



Can’t go wrong with a bit of Lance, Lawler and Funk. Hope you enjoyed reading, feel free to comment below.