Ever look at WWE’s roster and marvel at how long some of the superstars have been around? From Dolph Ziggler to Natalya to Sheamus, the list of wrestlers who have been with WWE for a decade or more is a long one (although maybe not as long as it used to be).
What’s even more impressive is when someone from the Attitude Era lasted to the PG Era, like Funaki. By 2008, Funaki had spent a decade in WWE. Yet for such a long-tenured wrestler, he was rarely given storylines or gimmicks…
…and when he was, like his run as a badly-dubbed Japanese movie villain, it was usually a tad – just a tad – insensitive.
In that sense, Funaki’s 2008 gimmick overhaul was no different, albeit much, much dumber.
Funaki’s transformation came when R-Truth ran into him backstage and asked him his full name, thinking it a good use of precious air time. Now, I really thought I knew my Kai En Tai, and that Funaki’s given name was Shoichi (or “Sho”)…
…but according to the man himself, that wasn’t the case. In fact, Funaki wasn’t his name, either. In the most dubious name reveal since Hugh Morrus came out as Hugh G Rection, Smackdown’s number one announcer informed his friend that his middle name was Fu…
…his last name was Naki…
…and his first name was Kung. I’ve included the captions lest you think I’m oversimplifying the dialogue.
Now, I’ve never heard of a Japanese person with the first name of Kung…
…or with the middle name of, well, anything, since the Japanese do not have middle names…
…but who am I, the culture police?
The revelation of Kung Fu Naki’s real name (Kung Fu Naki) led R-Truth to burst into song, furnishing the 1974 hit “Kung Fu Fighting” with new lyrics.
Lyrics that referenced sake and Kawasaki. I will give R-Truth credit: at least those things are Japanese, unlike kung fu.
While R-Truth’s version of Kung Fu Fighting has been edited off Peacock, Kung Fu Naki’s entrance theme remains…
…even though it sounds even more like the Carl Douglas record. Listen for yourself. Jim Johnston and WWE were surely hoping to skirt copyright law by claiming parody…
…but one can’t simply rewrite a comedy song about kung fu into a near-identicalcomedy song, also about kung fu, and expect an exemption.
And at least R-Truth’s lyrics rhymed; the official theme tried to rhyme “Kung Fu Naki” with groggy, snobby, gossipy, and – well, just have a look:
- Naki (?)
- Abu Dhabi
- histor-aty (??)
- Hard Copy
It just went on and on as the vocalist, clearly in distress, strained to sound like he was enjoying himself.
Decked out in a karate gi and an Imperial Japanese headband, Kung Fu Naki made his re-debut teaming with R-Truth.
Despite never having used martial arts in his entire career, Kung Fu Naki’s offense now heavily featured chops and thrusts.
And don’t forget this flying tomahawk chop. I mean, martial arts chop. Sorry, I mixed up my stereotypes.
It’s as if Kung Fu Naki had had those martial arts skills downloaded directly into his brain.
That’s not to say that this Matrix allusion was intentional; never one to go to the pictures, Vince McMahon had only just gotten around to watching the popular talkie The Karate Kid…
…as evidenced by Kung Fu Naki’s new finisher, the Crane Kick.
Mr. Naki and his partner went on to beat future Hurt Business members MVP and Shelton Benjamin.
Weeks later, Kung Fu Naki made short work of a distracted MVP, who was in the midst of a losing streak angle. Though Kung Fu Naki ate his own name with chopsticks in his Titantron video…
…it was his critics who would have to eat their words now.
Kung F. Naki’s luck would soon run out, losing in under two minutes to both Edge and Umaga.
He made a much better showing when he teamed with Jimmy Wang Yang against Miz & Morrison. They still lost, but not as quick.
Along the way, Kung Fu Naki made a cameo on Raw’s 800th episode. The segment began with the Japanese superstar alone in the ring, practicing his Chinese martial arts while his theme music played (WWE was willing to put anything on the air just to fill three hours of TV time) (unlike nowadays).
But soon, the ring filled up with WWE’s resident weirdos Hornswoggle, Boogeyman, Goldust, Jesse & Festus, Michael Cole, and others. It was your standard Freak Show Interrupted by Ron Simmons Saying Damn.
On two separate occasions, Kung Fu Naki would come just two victories shy of the WWE title…
..when he was thrown into qualifying battle royals for Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. Rubbing elbows with the likes of Kizarny and Scotty Goldman, Funaki came up short each time.
Kung Fu Naki disappeared for year before wrestling his final WWE match, still as Kung Fu Naki, in the dark match battle royal at Wrestlemania 26.
When Funaki re-surfaced in WWE years later as an interpreter and Japanese language broadcaster, he had traded in the gi for a proper suit…
…finally ditching his kung fu gimmick. There have been a lot worse gimmicks in WWE, but few were quite so schlocky.
Hey, come to think of it, why didn’t they put that into the song?
His name is Kung Fu Naki/
His gimmick’s really schlocky