Terry Funk was renowned for being one of the greatest old-school wrestlers ever for his knowledge and ability, and also for being one of the toughest human beings ever in hardcore divisions around the world. Terry Funk gave so much of his life and career for the business, and there are so many wrestlers who benefited from working with the Funker.
The world mourned Terry’s passing, especially all of us at SmarkDown. And to pay tribute, we look back at the Top 10 matches of the Funker.
10. Terry Funk vs. Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler – No DQ-match (CWA Memphis Wrestling – 23.03.1981)
The King was one of the Funker’s bitterest rivals throughout the eighties. Two polar-opposites who had many vicious and violent bouts against each other, with perhaps their greatest being this No-Disqualification match from Memphis Wrestling. With such a white-hot crowd providing the perfect atmosphere, Lawler and Funk tore into each other again with intensity few could match.
Jerry busted Terry open in no time at all, with the Funker responding in kind…and THEN some. Vicious, stiff, swinging blows were thrown left-and-right, Terry grabbed a steel chair and dissected the King’s knee, torturing him even more with his patented Spinning Toe Hold. But Jerry again was able to turn the tables when he grabbed the chair to attack the Funker’s own knee. The wild brawl escalated to ringside where after beating Terry into unconsciousness with the chair, Jerry returned to the ring just in time to win via count-out (it was JUST No DQs!). Over 40 years on, this remains a hellacious fight with a molten audience!
9) Terry Funk vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat (NWA/WCW Clash of Champions VII)
It was a battle of world-title contenders in 1989, with former world-champion Ricky Steamboat having lost the Big Gold Belt to Ric Flair, and Terry Funk having delivered a piledriver to the Nature Boy on a table right after! More unhinged than ever, Terry was now No.10 in the contender rankings, and would jump right to the top of the queue…if he could beat the Dragon (who was No. 1).
Knowing what was at stake, the Funker and the Dragon both fought fiercely, delivering vicious knife-edge chops, spectacular dives, body slams and piledrivers outside the ring. Steamboat was in his absolute prime here, and Funk himself was enjoying a glorious comeback in 1989. Together, these two produced a fantastic brawl that ended somewhat disappointingly when the Funker grabbed a microphone and nailed the Dragon in the head, resulting in a DQ. Despite the iffy finish and booking, it’s more classic stuff from the NWA/WCW in 1989!
8) Terry Funk vs. Mick Foley (WWF Raw is War – 04.05.1998)
Mick Foley and Terry Funk; protege and mentor respectively. Who would also become best friends, better rivals and Hardcore Legends. They had had many classic battles throughout the years, and this particular match from Raw remains one of Mick’s personal favourites. With Mick Foley determined to earn favour with Vince McMahon and be the No. 1 Contender to the WWF Championship, Vince ordered Mick to earn the opportunity by tearing Terry Funk limb-from-limb.
The two best friends had one of the wildest matches on Raw from 1998. With the Attitude Era in full-swing, Mick and Terry brawled all throughout the arena – with the then-53-year-old Funker doing a moonsault from the balcony to the floor onto his foe! – but Terry ultimately lost the upper-hand to Mrs. Foley’s Baby Boy. Mick dove from the ring-apron, driving a steel-chair onto Terry (who lay prone on the announce desk), and then finished him off with a piledriver onto a steel chair. This is a forgotten gem that also features brilliant guest-commentary from Stone Cold Steve Austin!
7) Chainsaw Charlie & Cactus Jack vs. The New Age Outlaws – Dumpster Match – WrestleMania 14
At the start of 1998, Mick Foley (in his Cactus Jack persona) and Terry Funk AKA Chainsaw Charlie (look it up and you’ll see why!) were sometimes teaming-together, sometimes fighting each other…until the New Age Outlaws (then-Tag Team Champions) placed the Hardcore Legends in a dumpster and pushed it off the Raw stage. Fast-forward to WrestleMania 14 (one of the best!), and Cactus & Chainsaw now had a title-shot against the Outlaws in the first-ever dumpster match, where the only way to win was for the first-team to throw the opponents in the dumpster at ringside and close the lid.
The brawl only lasted 10 minutes, but it was wonderfully-entertaining chaos from start-to-finish. The action ultimately spread to backstage with Cactus Jack knocking out both Road Dogg and Billy Gunn, and a cackling Terry Funk using a forklift truck to dump the Outlaws into another dumpster backstage and trap them there. Mick and Terry had won the tag titles! Although they lost them back to the Outlaws the next night, it was another fantastic moment from a superb WrestleMania.
6) Terry Funk vs. Stevie Richards vs. The Sandman – Three-Way Dance/Terry Funk vs. Raven – ECW World Title (ECW Barely Legal 1997)
In the 90s, Extreme Championship Wrestling had exploded onto the scene, galvanising a massive cult-following, and allowing the business to grow and evolve in ultra-violent, hardcore-glory. Terry Funk had led the way, giving so much of his life and career to the Philly-based promotion, and helping to establish the company and its roster. All the way to ECW finally getting it’s first pay-per-view.
On this historic, magical night…the Funker (AGAIN in his fifties!) had one last chance in the sun; competing in a three-way dance against the Sandman and Stevie Richards, with the winner immediately facing ECW World Champion Raven afterwards. With his insanity, toughness and resolve still in full-swing, a battered, bloodied & spent Terry Funk somehow overcame the odds to eliminate the Sandman and Richards, and finally upset the sadistic Raven to capture the ECW World Title. The ECW Arena exploded with cheers as the Living Legend again found himself on top of the world. It was a massive success that secured ECW’s future on pay-per-view. As well as being one of the most emotional stories ever in wrestling, and arguably the Funker’s finest hour.
5) Terry Funk vs. Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart (ECW WrestleFest 1997)
A live-event produced by Extreme Championship Wrestling, WrestleFest 1997 gathered many legends of wrestling and drew a crowd of 3,800 people to say ‘Thank You’ to the Funker, who would finally retire at this show…for 11 days. Although this was NOT Terry Funk’s last match, it was nonetheless a truly special event event celebrating a man who meant everything to wrestling. And his opponent would be none-other than then-WWF Champion, Bret Hart.
Of course, Terry was long-past his prime at this point, but he was still the tough, maniacal old-school worker who would fight no-matter-what. With the Hitman wisely playing the heel (and at the top of his game), the result was a magical match that blended ECW-style brawling with technical wrestling. What makes this all-the-more special is the fact that it’s such a rare meeting between two of the greatest of all time. The match ended with Funk performing a bridging-belly-to-back suplex on Bret, who got his shoulder up in time, resulting in Terry pinning himself. Bret was the winner, yet showed his respect for Terry afterwards. Along with everyone else.
4) Terry Funk vs. Cactus Jack – King of the Deathmatch Final (IWA Kawasaki Dream)
Of all the times Terry Funk and Cactus Jack were in the ring together, their most legendary match-up was definitely in Japan at IWA Kawasaki Dream. An ultra-violent 8-man tournament was staged at this show in 1995, and the title of ‘The King of The Deathmatch’ would be awarded to the victor. Both Mick Foley and his mentor/best friend had fought through hell to get to the the finals. And now their greatest and most brutal test was against each other.
The ring-ropes had been replaced with barbed-wire. There were barbed-wire boards in the ring laced with C-4 Explosives. And there was a timer counting-down to a big explosion at the end. Although there have been more exciting and action-packed death-match battles in wrestling, this bout was legendary for not only the combatants, but the sickening sight of human-beings having their flesh ripped apart by barbed-wire and burnt by explosives. For over 13 minutes, Foley and Funk’s efforts enthralled the superb Japanese audience, and ultimately Cactus Jack defeated his idol to take his place in history as the King of the Deathmatch.
3) Edge, Mick Foley & Lita vs. Tommy Dreamer, Terry Funk & Beulah McGillicutty (ECW One Night Stand 2006)
One of the greatest things about ECW’s revival in 2006 (initially!) was definitely the second One Night Stand pay-per-view and the build-up towards that historic show. As incredible as this sounds, Terry Funk was STILL playing an integral role in the world of wrestling at the age of SIXTY-ONE! Rising to defend ECW’s honour with Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty against Mick Foley, who had renounced his ECW heritage, spat on the legacy of the promotion, and joined arch-rival Edge (with Lita).
On paper, this match SHOULDN’T have been as amazing as it was, given that Terry could barely take a bump anymore, Beulah wasn’t a professional wrestler (discounting her legendary match with Bill Alfonso!), and that Foley and Dreamer were past their prime. AND YET…thanks to superb booking, a brilliant plan, the talents of Edge and Lita, and the amazing crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom, this extreme intergender tag-match featured everything that made ECW so great. This was an epic bloodbath, with Edge continuing to be the man of 2006 by spearing Beulah and then…ahem, ‘pinning’ her for the win. It was phenomenal stuff from all-involved, especially Terry Funk at THIS point in his life.
2) Terry Funk vs. Ric Flair – NWA World Heavyweight Title (NWA/WCW Great American Bash 1989)
Remember that infamous piledriver that Terry delivered to Ric Flair on the announce table? Right after he regained the World Heavyweight Title at WrestleWar 1989? After the Nature Boy had refused Terry’s challenge to a World Title match because he prioritised the Top 10 contenders’ list? Well…all that kickstarted yet another legendary feud for both men. The Funker was more determined than ever to get back on top, and climbed the mountain whilst the Nature Boy recovered from his neck injury.
With the long-awaited showdown finally on for the Great American Bash, Ric Flair wanted revenge as much as Terry Funk wanted the title. This was an intense, fierce clash from two of the all-time greats. Full of brawling, wrestling, knife-edge-chops, Gary Hart’s interference, Flair bleeding profusely, piledrivers, Figure-Four Leg Locks, Spinning Toe Holds, an excited crowd and a relentless pace. In the end, Flair managed to retain his World Heavyweight Title by countering the Spinning Toe Hold into a inside-cradle for the 3 count! But the amazing brawl continued even after the bell had rung! And things would get even better from there!
1) Terry Funk vs. Ric Flair – I Quit Match (NWA/WCW Clash of Champions IX)
Really, what other choice could there be for Number 1? To this day, this match is still regarded as the definitive “I Quit” match. Even after his loss to Flair at the Great American Bash, Terry was NOT done with the Nature Boy yet. The Funker wanted to humiliate Ric Flair like never before, and wanted nothing less than to make him scream “I Quit!” to the entire world.
Flair’s World Title was no longer at stake here. It was all about the pride of these two legends, and they tore the house down in one of the greatest matches of all time. You simply couldn’t imagine either Ric Flair or Terry Funk saying “I Quit!” into a microphone, and yet as the Nature Boy and the Funker unleashed all-kinds of Hell on each other, you realised SOMETHING had to give. And ultimately, Ric Flair prevailed once again by trapping Terry Funk in the Figure-Four Leg Lock, and MAKING him yell, “YES, I QUIT!!!”. Thirty-four years on, this remains storytelling at its finest. Another masterpiece courtesy of Ric Flair, and the greatest match of Terry Funk’s career.
What were YOUR favourite matches of Terry Funk? Please let us know in the comments below.
All of us at SmarkDown pay our deepest respects and condolences to Terry Funk’s family and loved ones.
REST IN PEACE, TERRY FUNK 1944-2023
On the 23rd August 2023, the wrestling world lost another legend. One of the greatest of all time in Terry Funk. We look back on the Funker’s greatest matches.