Terry Funk


Hardcore wrestling great Terry Funk has permanently retired aged 79. A member of the influential Funk family (father Dory was a pioneering promoter and elder brother Dory Jr is another popular figure), he was billed as hailing from the Double Cross Ranch and made his debut in 1965. Though not as chiseled as the typical wrestler, he made up for it with his versatility. He was adept as a technical wrestler, but perhaps most renowned for a brutal creativity where he used props like chairs or baseball bats as weapons to bloody up the ring. He proved popular enough to win the NWA World Title in 1975 before losing it to routine NWA champ Harley Race.

Funk was one of the rare western wrestlers to make inroads into 70s Japan, where he proved so popular that the Land of the Rising Sun accorded him almost deity-like reverence. He fought the earliest empty arena match (as the name implies, brawling in an empty venue) against Jerry Lawler, and in the early 80s was a regular Hogan rival in the early throes of Hulkamania. During this time, he started retiring-not retiring so often that Elton John would blush, for reasons from pursuing an acting career (he played a bouncer opposite Patrick Swayze in Road House) to his horse being sick.

He was always lured back into the wrestling world, and come the late 80s he fermented a feud with Ric Flair. An acclaimed “I Quit” match between the pair was perhaps the definitive display of Funk’s hardcore wrestling and furnished Nature Boy’s stardom in the NWA. Funk remained hardy as ever, withstanding accidentally being set on fire and being kicked in the stomach by a horse (not the sick one). Though perhaps the most definitive trait of his long career, even above his faux retirements or gruesome brawls, was his kindness – he was happy to further the careers of numerous tyro wrestlers (mostly in the ECW, and most famously his best friend and protégé Mick Foley) by losing to them to give them industry cred.

Funk finally retired for keeps in 2017, 52 years after first entering the ring. Even though you could never truly rule out a comeback, the revelation in 2021 he was ill with dementia made it clear he’d be sticking to his guns this time. Despite his publicised ill health, he was a unique selection for Grappling with Mortality.

Terry Funk
30 June 1944 – 23 August 2023, aged 79
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