Discover more from Pro Wrestling Illustrated
PWI Weekly for September 18, 2023
Pretty Empowered, IMPACT 1000, Matt Brock's Musings, The Inaugural IWGP Title
IT’S A NEW week and a new Weekly. But, of course, our annual “PWI 500” ranking is very much on the collective minds of fans, analysts, wrestlers, and promoters from all over the globe. If you’re not a subscriber—and if you haven’t already preordered your copy—look for the “500” issue to hit newsstands starting October 3.
FACTION OF THE WEEK
Years from now, we may look back on this era as truly being another golden age for factions in the wrestling industry. Turn on WWE or AEW television and the likes of The Bloodline, The Judgment Day, Blackpool Combat Club, and more are asserting their dominance over the promotions. Over in the National Wrestling Alliance, there’s another gang doing the same thing …. and they’re proving that the coolest gangs aren’t just for the boys.
Kenzie Paige, Ella Envy, and Kylie Paige—together known as Pretty Empowered—showed their collective power(rr) at NWA 75 when they walked out of St. Louis, Missouri, with a haul of championship gold in tow. Envy and Kylie added a third women’s tag team championship reign to the stable’s title history, while Kenzie dethroned the seemingly unbeatable Kamille to claim the NWA Women’s strap—the prestigious prize affectionately known as “The Burke.”
So, if you are on the lookout for a butt-kicking girl group, tune into the NWA, where Pretty Empowered has become pretty … well, empowering.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT …
… And to think they said it would never last.
In the 21-year history of IMPACT Wrestling, the premature death of the promotion has been called for many times. Yet, like the stubborn little engine that could, the promotion is still alive and kicking. Last week, IMPACT celebrated another historic milestone of its existence with “IMPACT 1000”—naturally, the 1000th episode of the company’s flagship television show.
As much as it was a celebration of the past, with the returns of The Beautiful People, Team 3D, and more, the occasion also served as a showcase for the present. A sold-out crowd in White Plains, New York, bore witness to the current crop of talent carrying IMPACT Wrestling into the future.
Although the promotion has changed a lot since the inaugural episode of its weekly television show on FS1 back in 2004, IMPACT still has an important place in the wrestling landscape. And the wrestling landscape is certainly better for it.
MUSINGS, WITH MATT BROCK …
When you’ve been writing for PWI for as long as I have, you end up spending a lot of time on the road going to and from shows. You try to catch up with wrestlers backstage, but sometimes you end up conducting interviews where and when it best suits a particular person. I’ve done it all—from talking with Dusty in a Delaware diner to Stan Hansen in a Saskatoon saloon. I’ve been to some interesting locations. Perhaps, though, not a single one I ever enjoyed more than the Double Cross Ranch in Canyon, Texas.
Terry Funk spent a life on the road. Those who knew him know that his favorite place on earth was that ranch. Through umpteen tours of the U.S. and Japan, home always bellowed him back.
On a beautiful September evening in 1996, “The Funker” and I sat on his front porch looking out at that ranch. We sank a few Miller Lites and talked about the last few years of his career—which had encompassed everything from being blown up (quite literally, by bombs) in deathmatches in Japan to helping ECW reach the elusive next level it had been seeking. Terry seemed content with his contributions to both and the business as a whole. One day, he brought up a certain word that had become something of an ongoing joke between him and the wider wrestling community.
“You know something Brock,” he said. “I think it’s time for me to stay home. Time for the old Funker to retire.”
Of course, Terry had been retiring and un-retiring since 1983. But, on that day in September 1996, he sure sounded like he meant it. Again.
When I pushed him as to why this was the time, he nonchalantly shrugged.
“It’s just my time,” he finally said. “Time to hang back and look after my horses.”
Terry talked that night about what life without wrestling might be. It sounded simple: Run a ranch and spend time with his beloved wife, Vicki. When I offered that he’d miss the business too much to stay away just as before, he dismissed it.
“Eventually, people will get sick of having an old fart like me around,” he said. “And, after they get sick of me, they’ll forget me.”
As it turned out, just about a year later, Terry did retire again … only to come out of retirement. Again. And that pattern would repeat, on and off, until he did finally wrestle his last match. Of course, by then, it was 2017.
The Double Cross Ranch has since changed ownership. In 2019, Vicki passed away. Now, Terry is gone too.
I’ve thought about Terry Funk a lot lately. I think about evenings spent on the porch of his ranch drinking beer. I think about his stories of Texas and Tokyo; of breaking colts and breaking bones.
Terry Funk thought that wrestling would get sick of him and then forget about him. But wrestling never got sick of him and it certainly will never forget him. And, though I hope it goes without saying, neither will I.
FROM THE VAULT
On Sunday, October 1, All Elite Wrestling presents the anticipated WrestleDream PPV. The show is set to take place on the one-year anniversary of the passing of the legendary Antonio Inoki and will be put on in his honor. This rare photo from the PWI Vault captures Inoki as the inaugural IWGP heavyweight champion in 1987. (For the uninitiated: IWGP stands for the “International Wrestling Grand Prix,” which was the supposed governing body overseeing this high-level competition.
The now-world-famous title had previously been contended for in the IWGP Series, which was a tournament dating back several years earlier. But Inoki’s 1987 victory marked the IWGP title’s birth as a championship to be contested and defended throughout the year. This was a banner moment for Inoki’s New Japan Pro-Wrestling—one that paved the way for modern greats of the sport including Shinsuke Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kazuchika Okada to shine on the international stage. Nearly 40 years later, the legacy of New Japan’s founder continues to shape the industry that he referred to as the “King Of Sports.”
Pro Wrestling Illustrated is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.