Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita – Value In Violence

In 1982, Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita met. Their meeting would form a bond unlike many others. Onita earned a name for himself after sustaining an injury that was believed to have ended his career.

Before this would happen, he and Funk would meet upon one of Funk’s excursions to Japan. What would follow was a connection that would last a lifetime.

Although Onita would be the first graduate of All Japan Pro Wrestling’s dojo, he would travel to the Double Cross Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, with Dory Funk Jr and Terry Funk and train under them as well.

Onita would immerse himself into Western culture, unlike Funk in Eastern culture.

Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita
[Photo: Atletifo]

Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita – Bound by Bloodshed

Although Onita didn’t have the same connection with Western fans that Funk did with Eastern fans (initially), he was learning under his mentor, and it was through that learning that he gained valuable experience that would make his time so memorable.

However, Onita’s influence in the industry would be felt during the inception of Extreme Championship Wrestling and beyond.

The guy came from absolutely nothing over there. He was a nobody and worked his way into becoming a wrestler, and then had his knee torn up so bad that he had it wired, and he can hardly walk on the same thing.

And he came back from that! He wanted to be a star and became a star on his own. He started out without a pot to piss in and made himself a huge success

– Terry Funk.

Funk valued Onita’s contributions to wrestling in Japan. He valued his drive and determination to succeed and do so on his terms. It’s a case of realizing that someone came from nothing and not only created something but was something.

Onita’s injury could have hampered his place in the industry, but much like his mentor, Terry Funk, Onita would reinvent himself.

The first time Terry Funk came to FMW, I wanted to show him our success wasn’t about money. I wanted him to hear from a lot of people that Onita is a success.

– Atsushi Onita

As Onita shared above, he was proud of what he created and what made FMW so special. He also knew of Funk’s connection as a gaijin to the Japanese audience as well.

Funk had been celebrated in the country previously from his time competing there alongside his brother Dory Jr. While coming to Japan once again would prove to be of the student, showing the teacher how much he had achieved, it wasn’t done in a brash or arrogant way.

Atsushi Onita – The Proud Pupil

It was done so in such a way that Onita was proud of what he had fought to achieve. When he shared that with Funk, the Funker wasn’t only proud of Onita’s achievement, but he would later come to Frontier Mart Arts Wrestling.

Much to the delight of the Japanese faithful. For as much as Funk is celebrated for his achievement’s, he recognized Onita’s in Japan.

Atsushi Onita ended up being a very influential figure in Japanese wrestling, and a very unexpected event started him on his way.

In 1992, Onita took a few castoffs from the major two companies in that country and formed FMW, Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling.

I had known him for nearly 20 years at that point. Onita was full of energy, just screaming banshee of a kid. He didn’t know where he was going but he knew he wanted to be a millionaire and he wanted to be a big star.

– Terry Funk

Terry Funk is like an older brother to me and a master. Without him, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I freeloaded at his house for about a month; he helped me a lot. I have many memories. My deepest condolences to his family.

– Atsushi Onita

It was clear that the relationship between the two was not unlike that of a Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega. Two men who were more alike than they were different. Both had a passion for entertaining and, in the process, would do what they needed to do to succeed.

It was evident that Onita wouldn’t allow an injury to be what hindered him physically to then stop him mentally. It was key to move beyond those hurdles. Onita did that, and Terry Funk applauded it. 

Once Onita created what would become his pride and joy in FMW, he was proud to bring in his ‘brother’ from the Double Cross ranch to be a part of it. Onita valued Funk’s faith in him as much as he wanted him to be alongside him to celebrate his successes.

Terry Funk – Long Live The Funker

On August 23rd, 2023, the wrestling world lost the Hardcore Legend, Terry Fox. With his passing came an outpouring of those who loved him, respected him, or were connected to him. One of those was Atsushi Onita.

Onita’s career may have found new life when he witnessed how the site of violence elevates people’s emotions. But it was his connection to Terry Funk before and after his injury that helped sustain what he had always dreamed for himself. 

If Mick Foley is Terry Funk’s spirit animal in North America, then Atsushi Onitia is his kindred spirit on the other side of the world. The two men were connected from their countless matches against one another.

Terry Funk and Atsushi Onita – Value In Violence

Of the nine times the two stood in the ring with one another, they stood across from one another for eight of those matches. 

No-Rope Exploding Barbed Wire Time Bomb Deathmatch
[Photo: Twitter/Rasslin History 101]
From their legendary, no rope-barbed wire timebomb death match to Texas Street Fight Deathmatches, Onita and Funk would face each other in the most precarious of match situations. 

Without question, their No Rope Barbed Wire Exploding Death Match told the story of adversary, friend, and mentor all at once. Fans will recall the image of Onita covering the lifeless body of Funk in the ring as the explosions detonated.

The feeling of fear overcame Onita at that moment, and she was willing to absorb the brunt of explosions upon their detonation. As Wild Thing played on the overhead speakers, Onita and Funk would walk arm in arm as they returned to the back.

While Terry Funk is no longer with us, his legacy will live on long after he has passed. Also, Atsushi Onita’s impact on death matches and Japanese wrestling will live on after he passes.

Much like the teacher, the pupils made him proud, and their relationship will be remembered as special.