Masakatsu Funaki (船木 誠勝) is a Japanese mixed martial artist and professional wrestler, who has previously wrestled in All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, PWFG, UWF and Wrestle-1. He is also the co-founder of Pancrase, one of the first mixe8d martial arts organizations and non-rehearsed shoot wrestling promotions (following five years after the inception of Shooto but predating America's Ultimate Fighting Championship). Funaki was also Pancrase's biggest star; Josh Barnett described him as the "symbol of Japan", Frank Shamrock labeled Funaki "the golden boy" of Pancrase, and Guy Mezger called Funaki "hands down the smartest and most skilled fighter in Pancrase next to Ken Shamrock".
Not only the organization's co-founder, Funaki was also one of Pancrase's most successful fighters to date, scoring submission victories over numerous MMA champions such as Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger, Yuki Kondo, Minoru Suzuki and Bas Rutten through the course of his 50-fight career. He is the only fighter in mixed martial arts to hold wins over both Shamrock brothers and Bas Rutten, and was the first man to win the King of Pancrase title twice.
Funaki is widely considered to be one of the greatest Japanese fighters in mixed martial arts history. Sherdog.com ranked him as the #1 mixed martial artist in the world for the years 1996 and 1997, and also had him ranked as a top 4 pound for pound fighter from 1993 to 1998.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Professional wrestling career
- 3 Return to pro wrestling
- 4 In wrestling
- 5 Championships and accomplishments
Early life[edit | edit source]
The son of a movie theater owner, Masaharu Funaki was exposed to martial arts films at an early age. He idolized Bruce Lee above all others, but also eagerly watched the films of Sammo Hung and Sonny Chiba. His father would ultimately abandon young Funaki and his family.
Professional wrestling career[edit | edit source]
New Japan Pro Wrestling (1985-1989)[edit | edit source]
Instead of entering high school, he applied to New Japan Pro Wrestling's dojo. He was in the same class as Keiichi Yamada (better known as Jushin Thunder Liger), Shinya Hashimoto, Minoru Suzuki, Masahiro Chono, and Chris Benoit. The New Japan Dojo had a reputation for being particularly harsh on its trainees, both mentally and physically, with the intent of only graduating the very best of each class. However, Funaki stunned the New Japan trainers with his athleticism, timing and natural talent for submission grappling. Along with the former Olympic alternate Minoru Suzuki, Funaki formed a strong bond with the dojo's head grappling instructor, Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Funaki debuted as a Jr. Heavyweight at the age of 15; it was a record for the youngest debut in NJPW.
After debuting for New Japan with a time-limit draw against fellow New Japan Dojo graduate Chris Benoit, Funaki was not given much of a chance to shine, as the Jr. Heavyweight division was in a transition period. And as such, the owner, Antonio Inoki, decided to shift the focus towards his heavyweight division which dominated the cards. He did, however have many matches with Naoki Sano and Keiichi Yamada (who would later become Jushin Thunder Liger) and was the first person to take the Shooting Star Press from Yamada. In 1988, he wrestled an excursion in Europe, competing in Catch Wrestling Association in Austria and Germany and for All Star Promotions in England.
When New Japan top draw Akira Maeda became so frustrated with backstage politics that he shoot kicked Riki Choshu and broke his eye socket, he was fired after refusing to go on an excursion to Mexico, and left to form Newborn UWF. Funaki, seeing an opportunity to shine and showcase what he could do, wanted to follow. Maeda negotiated the acquisition of his, along with friend Suzuki and mentor Yoshiaki Fujiwara's contracts for an undisclosed amount of money.
Newborn UWF and Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi (1989-1993)[edit | edit source]
Funaki became a top draw and a nemesis to Akira Maeda. When Newborn UWF folded in December 1990, Funaki decided to sign with mentor Fujiwara's new Fujiwara Gumi promotion. Funaki left Fujiwara Gumi in 1993 to form the mixed martial arts promotion Pancrase.
Return to pro wrestling[edit | edit source]
All Japan Pro Wrestling (2009–2013)[edit | edit source]
In August 2007, Funaki and Keiji Mutoh discussed the possibility of Funaki returning to regular professional wrestling in Mutoh's company, All Japan Pro Wrestling. On August 31, 2009, Funaki signed a one-year contract with All Japan, following a tag team victory with Mutoh against Minoru Suzuki and Masahiro Chono.
On January 4, 2012, Funaki made a special appearance for New Japan at Wrestle Kingdom VI in Tokyo Dome, where he teamed with Masayuki Kono to defeat the Seigigun of Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue. During the match, Nagata broke Funaki's orbital bone, sidelining him from in-ring action for an estimated six months. Funaki returned to the ring on June 17, 2012. On July 29, he defeated the man who had injured him, Yuji Nagata, in a grudge match to become the number one contender to the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. On August 26 he defeated Jun Akiyama in a match that lasted less than five minutes to become the 45th Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion. He lost the title to Suwama on March 17, 2013. In June 2013, Funaki announced his resignation from All Japan in the aftermath of Nobuo Shiraishi taking over as the new president and Keiji Mutoh leaving the promotion. Funaki's final match for the promotion took place on June 30 and saw him and his Stack of Arms partners Koji Kanemoto and Masayuki Kono, who were also leaving All Japan, lose to Akebono, Osamu Nishimura and Ryota Hama in a six-man tag team match.
Wrestle-1 (2013–2015)[edit | edit source]
On July 10, 2013, Funaki was announced as part of Keiji Mutoh's new Wrestle-1 promotion. During the promotion's inaugural event on September 8, Funaki teamed with Masayuki Kono in a tag team match, where they were defeated by Katsuyori Shibata and Kazushi Sakuraba. Following the match, Kono turned on Funaki, hitting his mentor with a steel chair. Funaki and Kono faced off in a singles match at Wrestle 1's second show on September 15, where Kono was victorious with help from Kazma Sakamoto and Ryoji Sai. A rematch between the two took place on October 12 and saw Funaki emerge victorious. Bobby Roode in an interpromotional match, after which he challenged Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle to a match. At Wrestle-1's July 6 event, Funaki defeated Kohei Sato to win Pro Wrestling Zero1's World Heavyweight Championship. He lost the title back to Sato on September 19. Three days later, Funaki entered the Wrestle-1 Championship tournament, defeating Tajiri in his first round match. The following day, Funaki defeated Akira to advance to the semifinals of the tournament. Prior to the semifinals of the tournament, Funaki entered a storyline, where his former rival Tajiri came to his aid to help him prepare for his match. On October 8, Funaki was eliminated from the tournament in the semifinals by Masayuki Kono, after Tajiri turned on him. In June 2015, it was announced that Funaki would be leaving Wrestle-1 and going freelance following his contract expiring at the end of the month. His final match for the promotion took place on June 20.
Freelancing (2015–present)[edit | edit source]
Funaki wrestled his first match as a freelancer on August 18, 2015, at a Masahito Kakihara cancer benefit show, where he and Minoru Suzuki defeated Mitsuya Nagai and Takaku Fuke. On September 18, Funaki won his first title since turning freelancer, when he defeated Super Tiger to win Real Japan Pro Wrestling's Legend Championship. He lost the title to Daisuke Sekimoto on December 9, before regaining it on June 23, 2016. On September 10, Funaki lost the Legend Championship to Shinjiro Otani. On January 9, 2017, Funaki and Yukio Sakaguchi defeated Konosuke Takeshita and Mike Bailey to win DDT Pro-Wrestling's KO-D Tag Team Championship. On Febuary 26 he lost the Bakuha-ō Champion to Atsushi Onita. On June 29 Funki defeated Otani in a rematch to win the Legend Championship for the third time. After the match Super Tiger was announced to be his first challenger. but he would lost the titleto him on Sepetmber 14.
In wrestling[edit | edit source]
- Finishing moves
- Cross armbreaker
- Heel hook
- Hybrid Blaster (Hammerlock kneeling reverse piledriver) – 2013–present
- Roundhouse kick
- Signature moves
- Ankle lock
- Belly-to-back suplex
- Body blow followed by palm strikes
- Double leg slam
- Double underhook suplex
- Multiple kick variations
- Missile drop
- Spinning back
- Shoulder lock
- Sleeper hold
- Triangle choke
- Megu Fujiura
- Entrance themes
Championships and accomplishments[edit | edit source]
- All Japan Pro Wrestling
- Cho Hanabi
- Bakuha-ō Championship (1 time)
- DDT Pro-Wrestling
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI ranked him #115 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2010
- PWI ranked him #176 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2011
- PWI ranked him #65 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2013
- PWI ranked him #182 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2014
- PWI ranked him #276 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2015
- PWI ranked him #375 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2016
- PWI ranked him #408 of the top 500 singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2017
- Pro Wrestling Zero1
- World Heavyweight Championship (1 time)
- Real Japan Pro Wrestling
- Legend Championship (3 times)
- Tokyo Sports
- Fighting Spirit Award (1990)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame (Class of 2006)