WWE Hall of Famer, Terry Funk passed away on August 23, 2023. ‘The Funker’ enjoyed an epic 52-year career, and was renowned for renouncing his repeated vows to retire again and again.
Funk participated in an endless array of legendary matches during his long career. As this feature demonstrates, not only was Funk a tremendous wrestler, he was always willing to do business. ‘The Funker’ without exception, would always put over his rivals when appropriate. Indeed, Funk was on the losing end of all five of the matches listed below.
This feature reflects back on his greatest-ever bouts.
#5 Terry Funk vs. Jerry Lawler – CWA Memphis Championship Wrestling TV (March 23, 1981)
Terry Funk fought Jerry Lawler in the King’s own backyard in Memphis in a bloody and chaotic No Disqualification bout at the peak of the pair’s hostilities in the early 1980s.
Lawler smashed Funk’s head on the ring bell causing the Amarillo native to bleed profusely. Funk’s manager, Jimmy Hart interfered liberally much to the crowd’s chagrin. Hart’s assistance allowed Funk to gain the initiative in the contest before Lawler made his usual comeback.
The finish came when Lawler dodged a chair-wielding Funk and wrestled the chair from him. ‘The King’ then proceeded to smash Funk in the legs with the chair until Funk could no longer stand. Lawler then rolled into the ring to take the win via countout.
Although the finish was somewhat cheap, the action that proceeded it was first-rate. Intense, logical, packed full of realistic selling and excellent brawling, supported by a white-hot crowd. The match was first-class and demonstrated Funk could brawl with the best of them, even before his rebirth as a Hardcore wrestler in ECW a decade later.
#4 Terry Funk vs. Stan Hansen – AJPW Grand Champion Carnival I – Tag 20 (April 14, 1983)
Terry Funk and Stan Hansen were two of America’s greatest exports to Japan. The pair were tremendous draws in the Orient which meant it made perfect sense to pit them against one another.
Their contest at All Japan Grand Champion Carnival I was their best. It was a brutally violent war.
Physically overmatched by the larger, Hansen, Funk frantically spent the match trying to trap Hansen in the Spinning Toe Hold after Hansen had busted him open.
Funk’s selling was masterful and the live crowd was literally fearful for his safety. The contest was an exceptional brawl and tremendously bloody.
The finish came when Funk was disqualified when his brother, Dory came to his rescue when Hansen was seemingly choking his rival to death. In an incredible dramatic sequence, Dory took out the referee before brawling with Hansen.
Somewhat of a forgotten classic in Funk’s extensive back catalogue, but it was a phenomenal encounter.
#3 Terry Funk vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat – WCW Clash of the Champions VII (June 14, 1989)
1989 is widely renowned to be Ric Flair’s finest year in wrestling. The same can be said for Terry Funk. After time away from the ring in Hollywood, ‘The Funker’ returned to the ring with a vengeance in the summer of 1989.
After brutally assaulting Flair and purportedly breaking his neck, at the conclusion of his title win over Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat at WrestleWar, Funk found himself opposed by the former champion at the seventh Clash of the Champions television special.
Steamboat took offence at Funk’s conduct and clashed with the former NWA World Champion in a terrific collision, in which the number one contender slot was also at stake.
‘The Dragon’ took the fight to Funk in a more intense contest, than the technical bouts, Steamboat is renowned for. The match was fought at a good pace and packed full of stiff shots as the crowd loudly cheered Steamboat and jeered Funk. Surprisingly, the match ended in a disqualification victory for Steamboat after a frustrated Funk nailed him with a microphone. The post-match mirrored WrestleWar, as Funk tried to break Steamboat’s neck until Lex Luger apparently made the save, only to swerve turn on Steamboat.
That led to Steamboat forgoing his title shot to tackle Luger at The Great American Bash instead, whilst Funk got the match with Flair which led to an even better match.
#2 Terry Funk vs. ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair – WCW The Great American Bash (July 23, 1989)
A returning Ric Flair, recovered from the neck injury, Terry Funk inflicted at WrestleWar earned a measure of revenge against the Texan at The Great American Bash.
In one of the finest bouts of the decade, the pair competed in a wild brawl wherein Funk repeatedly tried to reinjure Flair’s neck by nailing him with neckbreakers. At one point attempted a piledriver on the concrete floor.
Notably, the Baltimore crowd hushed in response to Funk’s brutal attacks, legitimately concerned Flair was about to suffer a broken neck for real.
Their ultra-intense brawl culminated after the pair had exchanged counters to the spinning toe hold and Figure Four Leglock. Funk pulled ‘The Nature Boy’ into an inside cradle which the champion reversed for the win.
Epic match, with world-class selling, intensity, and the required amount of violence for a blood feud. An all-time classic.
#1 Terry Funk vs. ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair – WCW Clash of the Champions IX (November 15, 1989)
Terry Funk’s classic feud with Ric Flair culminated in their finest-ever match at the ninth Clash of the Champions event. Typically, there was also a retirement stipulation added to the bout which raised the stakes significantly.
Fought under “I Quit” rules, the pair took each other apart in a brutally violent and suitably epic encounter.
Funk targeted Flair’s neck which he had broken earlier in the year by trying to nail him repeatedly with piledrivers.
Flair demonstrated that he could match Funk in the brawling department by sending Funk sprawling into and over a ringside table.
The finish came when Flair locked in the Figure Four Leglock. Fearing, his leg was on the verge of breaking. Funk loudly uttered the words, “I Quit” earning Flair the win and seemingly sending Funk into retirement. Although Funk would return to the ring, he wouldn’t compete in WCW again for another five years.
You can watch many of Terry Funk’s greatest matches and moments exclusively on the WWE Network.