Masakatsu Funaki

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Masakatsu Funaki
Masakatsu Funaki.jpg
Funaki in 2010
Born (1969-03-13) March 13, 1969 (age 45)
Aomori Prefecture, Japan
Other names Yomigaetta Samurai ("Modern Day Samurai")
Nationality Japanese
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Weight 209 lb (95 kg; 14 st 13 lb)
Division Middleweight
Style Shoot Wrestling
Teacher(s) Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Years active 1993 - 2000, 2007 - 2008 (MMA)
1985–1993, 2009 – present (Professional wrestling)
Mixed martial arts record
Total 53
Wins 39
By knockout 4
By submission 34
By decision 1
Losses 13
By knockout 3
By submission 8
By decision 2
Draws 1
Other information
Mixed martial arts record from Sherdog

Masaharu Funaki (船木 優治?) is a Japanese mixed martial artist and professional wrestler, who has previously wrestled in All Japan Pro Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, PWFG, as well as the UWF. He is also the co-founder of Pancrase, one of the first mixed 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".[1][2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

Early life[edit]

The son of a movie theater owner, 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. Though his father would ultimately abandon young Funaki and his family, the exposure to such films influenced him greatly.[original research?]

Pro wrestling career[edit]

New Japan Pro Wrestling (1985-1989)[edit]

Instead of entering high school, he applied to the New Japan Pro Wrestling Dojo. He was in the same class as Puroresu legends Keiichi Yamada (better known as Jushin Liger), Shinya Hashimoto, Minoru Suzuki, and Masahiro Chono. The Canadian grappler Chris Benoit, who went on to fame in the WWE, was also a classmate of his.

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 stellar matches with Naoki Sano & Keiichi Yamada (who would later become Jushin Liger) & 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. And 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]

With his flashy moves and movie star good looks, Funaki became a top draw and an excellent nemesis to Akira Maeda, and their matches had many fast paced strikes & exciting slams. 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.

Mixed martial arts career[edit]

Pancrase (1993-2000)[edit]

Funaki's MMA career began when he founded Pancrase along with Minoru Suzuki. Pancrase became immensely popular and paved the way for other mixed martial arts organizations to make their way in Japan, including Pride Fighting Championships. Funaki went on to become one of the greatest fighters in Pancrase history, defeating other MMA legends such as Bas Rutten, Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Minoru Suzuki, and Guy Mezger.

Funaki is known as a master of catch wrestling. Funaki was so skilled that he often took other Pancrase fighters, including Bas Rutten, Frank Shamrock and Ken Shamrock, under his wing in order to increase his competition. Frank Shamrock said, "Funaki was like a mad scientist. He took the idea of submissions to an even higher level than the rest of the Japanese contingent. He had this insatiable desire to learn more and push his body harder. And as an entertainer he understood the need to entertain."[5]

This realization for the need to entertain often resulted in Funaki (along Minoru Suzuki) "carrying" some of their opponents during fights. In essence, in order to entertain the crowd, Funaki and Suzuki would occasionally give their opponents opportunities to create drama before finally finishing them off. Josh Barnett said, "when you're that good, you can have a guy thinking he's doing so much better than he expected and have no idea that they're just letting you last like a cat playing with a mouse."[5] Frank Shamrock added, "I know for a fact those guys (Funaki and Suzuki) were light years ahead of everyone else, and they were so good that they would go towards entertainment before they finished a match."[5]

However, this did backfire on Funaki on at least one occasion. In a match against Jason DeLucia, Funaki allowed Delucia to catch him in a kneebar in order to create drama and planned on using a rope escape once Delucia had the submission locked in. Unfortunately, Funaki mistakenly allowed himself to get too far from the ropes and was forced to tap out. This concern for entertainment helped the young sport of mixed martial arts to thrive and grow in Japan. Kazushi Sakuraba would similarly play around with inferior opponents years later.

Funaki retired from Pancrase after a win over Tony Petarra in September 1999 due to accumulated injuries and, according to fellow Pancrase fighter and friend Bas Rutten, being burnt out from the hectic Pancrase schedule.

Masakatsu Funaki vs. Rickson Gracie[edit]

Despite Funaki's body being very broken down from injuries, he returned for a fight against the legendary Rickson Gracie at Colosseum 2000 held at the Tokyo Dome. The show was almost canceled due to Rickson trying to change the rules to make knees and strikes to the head illegal, but the problems were overcome and the show continued.[6] The event was broadcast to 30 million TV Tokyo viewers. While there was no championship title at stake, Funaki had a lot on the line in his fight against Gracie; if Funaki were to beat the legendary Rickson Gracie he would become a "godlike" figure in Japan and enjoy immense popularity and fame.

Funaki walked to the ring in samurai attire with a samurai sword which garnered a roaring excitement from the Japanese announcers and crowd. Funaki and Rickson clinched to the corner, where Funaki appeared to have secured a guillotine choke, but the hold was loose. Nonetheless he scored the first knockdown of the bout, punching Rickson once and forcing him to stay in the mat. They traded kicks to no effect, until a well timed kick from Gracie blew out his injured knee. They clinched again, but Funaki's injury rendered him unable to wrestle correctly, and he was taken down by the Brazilian grappler, who promptly mounted him. Masakatsu looked stunned while Rickson bloodied his face with ground and pound, and finally Gracie forced his way into a rear-naked choke. Funaki refused to submit to the hold, passing out before the referee intervened. After the fight, Funaki stated that he thought he was going to die from the choke.

Funaki then retired from mixed martial arts competition. He had a retirement ceremony in Pancrase in late 2000 in which many of his past mentors and training partners emotionally and tearfully embraced the legendary Funaki.

K-1 and Dream (2007-2008)[edit]

On 12/31/2007, Funaki came out of retirement to fight fellow MMA legend Kazushi Sakuraba at the K-1 Dynamite event at Kyocera Dome Osaka. Although both fighters were significantly past their primes, this matchup was intriguing because it was a bout between arguably the two greatest Japanese fighters in mixed martial arts history.

After exchanging professional wrestling-inspired entrances, the submission specialists traded strikes. Funaki's arsenal of punches and kicks appeared to be quicker and more powerful, but Sakuraba was able to sneak in a double-leg take down after Funaki committed heavily to a missed right cross. On the ground, Funaki closed guard around Sakuraba before opening it up to spin for a knee-bar. For a moment, Funaki appeared to secure Sakuraba's leg only to be thwarted by a combination of Sakuraba's submission acumen and their position against the ring ropes, which blocked Funaki from rolling with the hold. Sakuraba then maneuvered to Funaki's back, only for the Pancrase founder to roll back into the guard position. Breaking away from the grappling contest, Sakuraba stood up and began to assault the still-prone Funaki's legs with a series of kicks. Funaki answered with a kick of his own, blackening Sakuraba's eye and cutting his face. Sakuraba returned himself to the ground, where Funaki immediately attempted to sweep him. However, Sakuraba blocked the attempt and secured a double wristlock, eventually forcing Funaki to submit.

Funaki signed a contract with FEG's MMA promotion, DREAM. On April 28, 2008, Funaki participated in DREAM's first ever Middle-weight Grand Prix. Funaki was matched against another legendary Japanese fighter Kiyoshi Tamura at the opening round of the DREAM.2 Middleweight Grandprix 2008 in Saitama, Japan. After a hard opening exchange between the two, Funaki was staggered by a punch and pulled guard on Tamura, from where he was pounded to an eventual TKO at 0:57 of Round 1. This was his first (T)KO stoppage loss since September 14, 1998, when he was knocked out with a body blow by Semmy Schilt. Funaki was eliminated from the Middle-weight Grand Prix.

After losing twice in a row since Funaki's comeback to the MMA ring, Funaki was determined to prove that he was still a worthy competitor of the sport and participated again in the DREAM.6 Middleweight Grandprix 2008 Final round event that took place on September 23, 2008 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Funaki was matched with one of his former Pancrase students, fan favorite "Minowaman" Ikuhisa Minowa. Prior to the bout, Funaki suggested that if this fight was going be equivalent to a ritual suicide, there was none he found more worthy than Minowa to assist him in carrying it out.

At the opening seconds of the first round of the match, Funaki came at his former charge with a series of kicks, practically forcing Minowa to catch one of the kicks. The former two-time King of Pancrase capitalized immediately, leaping directly into a heel-hook. Minowa escaped the hold, but Funaki maintained control of his leg and immediately attacked with a heel-hook from the cross-body position, forcing his protege to tap at 52 seconds of the first round.

RINGS (2012)[edit]

Masakatsu Funaki was scheduled to face Russian MMA legend Magomedkhan "Volk Han" Amanulayevich Gamzatkhanov in a fight resembling the Pancrase Hybrid Wrestler format. The fight went the distance with a draw between the two MMA legends, in which Volk Han announced his retirement afterwards.

Return to pro wrestling[edit]

All Japan Pro Wrestling (2009–2013)[edit]

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 3, 2010, Funaki and Mutoh won the World Tag Team Championship from Suzuki and Taiyo Kea. On March 21, Funaki defeated Suzuki in a cage match at All Japan's Sumo Hall show.

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.[7] During the match, Nagata broke Funaki's orbital bone, sidelining him from in-ring action for an estimated six months.[8] Funaki returned to the ring on June 17, 2012.[9] 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.[10] On August 26 he defeated Jun Akiyama in a match that lasted less than five minutes to become the 45th Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion.[11] He lost the title to Suwama on March 17, 2013.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

Wrestle-1 (2013–present)[edit]

On July 10, 2013, Funaki was announced as part of Keiji Mutoh's new Wrestle-1 promotion.[15][16][17] 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.[18] 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.[19][20] A rematch between the two took place on October 12 and saw Funaki emerge victorious.[21] On March 2 at Kaisen: Outbreak, Funaki defeated Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) representative Bobby Roode in an interpromotional match, after which he challenged Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle to a match.[22] At Wrestle-1's July 6 event, Funaki defeated Kohei Sato to win Pro Wrestling Zero1's World Heavyweight Championship.[23]

Accolades[edit]

In 2006, he was elected to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame. According to Sherdog.com's ratings, he was one of the top four mixed martial artists in the world from 1993 to 1998 (being the top-rated mixed martial artist in 1996) and is currently rated as the second most successful Japanese fighter of all-time behind Kazushi Sakuraba.[citation needed]

Appearances[edit]

Anime[edit]

Movies[edit]

Video games[edit]

In wrestling[edit]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Mixed martial arts[edit]

Professional wrestling[edit]

Mixed martial arts record[edit]

Res. Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Draw 39-13-2 Volk Han Draw (majority) Rings/The Outsider: Volk Han Retirement Match December 16, 2012 1 15:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 39–13–1 Ikuhisa Minowa Submission (heel hook) Dream 6 September 23, 2008 1 0:52 Saitama, Japan
Loss 38–13–1 Kiyoshi Tamura TKO (punches) Dream 2 April 29, 2008 1 0:57 Saitama, Japan
Loss 38–12–1 Kazushi Sakuraba Submission (kimura) K-1 Premium 2007 Dynamite!! December 31, 2007 1 6:25 Osaka, Japan
Loss 38–11–1 Rickson Gracie Technical submission (rear naked choke) Colosseum 2000 March 26, 2000 1 12:49 Japan
Win 38–10–1 Tony Petarra Submission (punches) Pancrase - 1999 Anniversary Show September 18, 1999 1 1:16 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Draw 37–10–1 Ebenezer Fontes Braga Draw Pancrase - Breakthrough 4 April 18, 1999 1 15:00 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 37–10 John Renken Submission (punches) Pancrase - Advance 12 December 19, 1998 1 5:50 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Loss 36–10 Kiuma Kunioku Decision (lost points) Pancrase - Advance 10 October 26, 1998 1 15:00 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 36–9 Semmy Schilt KO (punch to the body) Pancrase - 1998 Anniversary Show September 14, 1998 1 7:13 Tokyo, Japan
Win 36–8 Osami Shibuya Submission (arm triangle choke) Pancrase - 1998 Neo-Blood Tournament Second Round July 26, 1998 1 6:07 Aomori, Japan
Loss 35–8 Guy Mezger Decision (unanimous) Pancrase - Advance 5 April 26, 1998 1 30:00 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 35–7 Semmy Schilt Decision (lost points) Pancrase - Advance 4 March 18, 1998 1 15:00 Tokyo, Japan
Win 34–7 Katsuomi Inagaki Submission Pancrase - Advance 2 February 6, 1998 1 2:36 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 33–7 Yuki Kondo Submission (triangle kimura) Pancrase: Alive 11 December 20, 1997 1 2:20 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 32–7 Jason Godsey Submission (calf slicer) Pancrase: Alive 10 November 16, 1997 1 7:12 Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Win 31–7 Guy Mezger Submission (triangle armbar) Pancrase: 1997 Anniversary Show September 6, 1997 1 3:58 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Win 30–7 Osami Shibuya Submission (guillotine choke) Pancrase: 1997 Neo-Blood Tournament, Round 1 July 20, 1997 1 2:34 Tokyo, Japan
Win 29–7 Wes Gassaway Submission (achilles lock) Pancrase: Alive 7 June 30, 1997 1 1:05 Hakata, Fukuoka, Japan
Loss 28–7 Yuki Kondo Submission (triangle armbar) Pancrase: Alive 4 April 27, 1997 1 2:34 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Win 28–6 Paul Lazenby Submission (top wristlock) Pancrase: Alive 3 March 22, 1997 1 4:36 Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Win 27–6 Semmy Schilt Submission (toe hold) Pancrase: Alive 2 February 22, 1997 1 5:47 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Win 26–6 Jason DeLucia TKO (leg injury) Pancrase: Truth 10 December 15, 1996 1 2:34 Tokyo, Japan
Win 25–6 Yuki Kondo Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Truth 9 November 9, 1996 1 1:43 Fukuoka, Japan
Loss 24–6 Bas Rutten KO (knee) Pancrase: 1996 Anniversary Show September 7, 1996 1 17:05 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Win 24–5 Takafumi Ito Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: 1996 Neo-Blood Tournament, Round 2 July 23, 1996 1 2:01 Tokyo, Japan
Win 23–5 Vernon White Submission (achilles lock) Pancrase: Truth 6 June 25, 1996 1 2:34 Fukuoka, Japan
Win 22–5 August Smisl Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Truth 5 May 16, 1996 1 2:01 Tokyo, Japan
Win 21–5 Katsuomi Inagaki Submission (kneebar) Pancrase: Truth 2 March 2, 1996 1 1:14 Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Win 20–5 Ryushi Yanagisawa Technical Submission (americana) Pancrase: Truth 1 January 28, 1996 1 8:42 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 19–5 Takaku Fuke Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 7 December 14, 1995 1 0:31 Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Loss 18–5 Frank Shamrock Submission (toe hold) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 6 NOvember 4, 1995 1 10:31 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 18–4 Guy Mezger Submission (achilles lock) Pancrase: 1995 Anniversary Show September 1, 1995 1 6:46 Tokyo, Japan
Win 17–4 Leon Dijk Submission (achilles lock) Pancrase: 1995 Neo-Blood Tournament Second Round July 23, 1995 1 1:01 Tokyo, Japan
Win 16–4 Gregory Smit Submission (achilles lock) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 5 July 13, 1995 1 7:30 Tokyo, Japan
Win 15–4 Alex Cook Submission (heel hook) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 4 May 13, 1995 1 7:14 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Loss 14–4 Manabu Yamada Submission (heel hook) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 3 April 8, 1995 1 4:43 Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Win 14–3 Frank Shamrock Submission (toe hold) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 2 March 10, 1995 1 5:11 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 13–3 Jason DeLucia Submission (heel hook) Pancrase: Eyes of Beast 1 January 26, 1995 1 9:04 Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Loss 12–3 Ken Shamrock Submission (arm-triangle choke) Pancrase: King of Pancrase Tournament Second Round December 17, 1994 1 5:50 Tokyo, Japan
Win 12–2 Vernon White Submission (americana) Pancrase: King of Pancrase Tournament Opening Round December 16, 1994 1 5:37 Tokyo, Japan
Win 11–2 Todd Bjornethun Submission (armbar) Pancrase: King of Pancrase Tournament Opening Round December 16, 1994 1 2:20 Tokyo, Japan
Win 10–2 Minoru Suzuki Technical Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Road to the Championship 5 October 15, 1994 1 1:51 Newark, New Jersey, United States
Win 9–2 Ken Shamrock Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Road to the Championship 4 September 1, 1994 1 2:30 Osaka, Japan
Win 8–2 Scott "Bam Bam" Sullivan Submission (heel hook) Pancrase: Road to the Championship 3 July 26, 1994 1 0:56 Tokyo, Japan
Loss 7–2 Jason DeLucia Submission (kneebar) Pancrase: Road to the Championship 2 July 6, 1994 1 1:01 Amagasaki, Hyogo, Japan
Win 7–1 Gregory Smit Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Road to the Championship 1 May 31, 1994 1 1:58 Tokyo, Japan
Win 6–1 Takaku Fuke Submission (rear-naked choke) Pancrase: Pancrash! 3 April 21, 1994 1 6:55 Osaka, Japan
Win 5–1 Vernon White KO (palm strike) Pancrase: Pancrash! 2 March 12, 1994 1 1:13 Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Win 4–1 Bas Rutten Submission (toe hold) Pancrase: Pancrash! 1 January 19, 1994 1 2:58 Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Win 3–1 Kazuo Takahashi KO (palm strikes and knees) Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 4 December 8, 1993 1 3:09 Hakata, Fukuoka, Japan
Win 2–1 Cees Bezems Submission (americana) Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 3 November 8, 1993 1 1:42 Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Win 1–1 Ryushi Yanagisawa Submission (kneebar) Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 2 October 14, 1993 1 1:35 Nagoya, Aichi, Japan
Loss 0–1 Ken Shamrock Submission (arm-triangle choke) Pancrase: Yes, We Are Hybrid Wrestlers 1 September 21, 1993 1 6:15 Urayasu, Chiba, Japan

External links[edit]

References[edit]

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  4. ^ Sherdog.com Power Ratings, 1993-1998
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