Terry Funk, one of the all-time great stars of U.S. and Japan, dead at age 79

By Wade Keller, PWTorch editor

Terry Funk (photo credit Wade Keller © PWTorch)


Terry Funk, one of the top wrestlers of his generation, died today. He was 79 years old.

Funk was a top wrestler in the United States during the territory days from 1965 into the 1980s. He also spent 20 years as a featured wrestler in All Japan, most often teaming with his brother Dory Funk Jr.

He joined the WWF in 1985 with his brother, who was renamed “Hoss” Funk in WWE. He wrestled Hulk Hogan in main event matches in 1986, including on WWF Saturday Night’s Main Event on NBC.

Funk also had a run as a main event singles wrestler in WCW, headlining against Ric Flair in 1989 in an “I Quit” match at Clash of Champions IX that aired on TBS.

Ric Flair wrote on TwitterX today: “In my entire life, I’ve never met a guy who worked harder. Terry Funk was a great wrestler, entertainer, unbelievably fearless, and a great friend. Rest in peace, my friend… No one will ever replace you in the world of professional wrestling.”

Funk was instrumental in ECW’s rise to prominence, utilized as a main event wrestlers including matches against Shane Douglas, Sabu, Mick Foley, and Tommy Dreamer.

Mick Foley wrote on TwitterX today: “He was my mentor, my idol, one of the closest friends. He was the greatest wrestler I ever saw.”

Funk headlined an ECW Arena show in Philadelphia, Pa. on Feb. 5, 1994 against Shane Douglas and Sabu, regarded as the spark that has led to three-way matches being a regular match format in pro wrestling ever since.

Funk commented on that match in a Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter cover story. “It was an exceptional match,” he told me. “It was good because a lot of people busted their asses, they put their total heart into it. It’s probably as good a match as you’ll see today. We were all on. We all hit. … It was a very fulfilling night. The reaction from the fans to our match was sincere, from the heart. There were a bunch of people out there doing what they did for the love of the business – money wasn’t the motivator.”

(PWTorch VIP members can read the full cover story including quotes from promoter Tod Gordon and Sabu HERE.

The late Lanny Poffo shared a story about wrestling Terry Funk early in his career in a “Torch Talk” interview with me in 2008.

“My dad went to [the Amarillo territory],” he said. “He got me involved. [My brother Randy Savage and I] were a tag team as the Poffo Brothers. What was so great about that, Terry Funk took a liking to me. He wanted to wrestle me, so he had me wearing ballet tights and he wanted me to get really fruity, so I did. He had an idea on TV. He took a razor blade and gimmicked my tights and he stripped me naked right on television. It was the happiest time in my life because I always thought Terry Funk was the greatest worker of the ’70s – him and his brother Dory. I knew these were the greatest. I felt so honored that he chose me at the age of 20. I thought that was fantastic. ... Losing to Terry Funk, he was so great, he made me look better than if I had beat 20 guys. He sold me and sold me and sold me and then put in the spinning toe hold and I gave up.


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