365 matches in 365 days, each from that specific date on the calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

Back around the first of the year, there was a whole debate online that started with one person’s opinion of Dory Funk, Jr., then mushroomed into a debate about how wrestling can and should be consumed. If you’re part of Wrestling Twitter, then you probably already saw it, and also, my condolences for being part of Wrestling Twitter.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of it, only to say this: if I believed the quality of a wrestling match or a wrestler only could be determined by evaluating it in its immediate real-time context, and could not be evaluated through the prism of history, well, then I wouldn’t be doing this, now would I?

Speaking of Dory Funk, he’s one half of today’s match selection, going against Billy Robinson in the Houston territory in a Reader Recommendation from Jeremiah Lawson. You can watch the match on YouTube, or below:

The Context

This looked like a technical wrestling classic on paper between two world-traveled, seasoned, decorated grapplers. Funk is the former NWA World Champion, and the brother of Terry Funk, who for the record I always thought was the superior pro wrestler of the family.

Robinson, meanwhile, comes from an amateur wrestling background, learning catch wrestling at the famous Snake Pit gym in Wigan. Robinson went on to train others in catch, including Kazushi Sakuraba and Josh Barnett, and former students of his continue to teach the principles of catch wrestling to this day.

The Match

Certain old-school guys like to criticize the look of up-and-coming wrestlers today: that they’re too short or not muscular enough to be credible. Neither Funk nor Robinson has the physique you’d associate with the prototypical pro wrestler, but their credentials shine through from the opening bell of this match. Unlike many matches, where the chain wrestling serves as a feeling-out process and comes across as more cooperative than competitive, everything here feels like a struggle.

It’s difficult to describe this match without getting into a hold-for-hold description, which is something I specifically have tried to avoid in these write-ups. Funk, an Amarillo native, is the hometown guy in this Houston match, and the crowd is largely silent, though the Englishman does earn several appreciative hoots on his impressive reversal of a double knuckle lock into a single-leg takedown.

The first 10 minutes are largely back and forth but that changes when Dory starts unleashing his trademark forearm uppercuts. Robinson eats several of them, and sells each a little more than the last, emphasizing the steady attrition of weathering Funk’s blows. Both men quicken the pace at the “five minutes remaining” call from the ring announcer (Boyd Pierce, I think?) but with subsequent time calls at three minutes, two, and so on, it doesn’t take a mastermind to anticipate this one is going the distance. The crowd boos the time-limit draw somewhat, and both men shake hands before exiting.

Random Thoughts

— According to Cagematch, Funk and Robinson wrestled as singles opponents 10 times but there was never a winner. Each of those matches ended in either a double countout or a draw.

— Houston was a bit of an odd territory because it usually was affiliated with other promotions, such as Southwest Wrestling or Mid-South.

Paul Boesch, the Houston promoter, is flying solo on commentary for this one and does a competent job. Note near the end, after Robinson hits Funk with a backbreaker but sells his knee, Boesch is sure to point out this little detail. He also refers to “the British bulldog” in Robinson, which is amusing since we’re still a few years away from that team even forming.

— Boesch keeps referring to both men as champions and neither title being on the line, but in my research I couldn’t find which championships they held at the time.

Final Rating: 6.0

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I watched the first night of Wrestle Kingdom and saw a match that went 30-plus minutes but only felt like it lasted about 15 minutes. This match isn’t quite such a breeze, but it still flew by fairly quickly to me. I wouldn’t call it an action-packed match, especially by the standards of modern pro wrestling, but both guys stay busy and keep working throughout. I was surprised at the five-minute call, and that 15 minutes already had elapsed. This is a good, solid match — nothing more, nothing less.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

What’s Next

A Royal Rumble match that you’ve probably never seen before, because it never aired on TV.

Got a match you’d like me to watch as part of this 365 Wrestling project? Agree or disagree with my take on this match? Let me know by using the contact form on this site, or reach me on Twitter.

3 thoughts on “365 Wrestling, Day 16: Dory Funk, Jr. vs. Billy Robinson (Houston, 1/16/81)

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