Terry Funk’s 1989 Heel Turn on Ric Flair
One of my favourite heel turns of all-time was courtesy of the incomparable Terry Funk in 1989.
By this point, Terry was semi-retired appearing in movies such as Over The Top (1987) starring Sylvester Stallone along with Roadhouse (1989) starring Patrick Swayze. Also at this stage of his life, Terry had already put 25 years’ worth of service into professional wrestling all over the world, accomplished outstanding accolades and established himself as a legitimately tough and respected veteran.
It was WrestleWar ’89 and Ric Flair challenged Ricky Steamboat for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Following an Inside Cradle, Flair would defeat Steamboat to become Champion.
Note: Ricky Steamboat and Ric Flair produced some of the best matches of 1989.
Along with Pat O’Connor and Lou Thesz, Terry Funk was one of the judges to ensure a winner would be determined if the match went the full 60 minutes. As Ric was delivered his thank you promo with Jim Ross, Terry entered the ring and proceeded to commend the Nature Boy while also challenging him for the newly won Championship.
Terry interrupted Ric several times and noted, “I’d like to be the first one to challenge Ric Flair for that new championship.”
Ric would quickly dismiss the challenge by noting,
Ric: “Terry, I’m honoured you’d like to get in the picture, but as the wrestling fans know you’ve been inactive. You’ve been in Hollywood with Sylvester Stallone while I’ve been being the World Champion and we’ve got a top 10 that the world champion is obligated to wrestle and that’s why we are number one.
Terry: “Wait a minute. Are you really saying I’m not a contender?”
Ric: “No. What I’m really saying is, you are a great wrestler, but right now, you’re rubbing shoulders with Sylvester Stallone and not the World Champion. “
Terry: “You’re saying that I’m not good enough, aren’t you, Ric!?”
As the two disagreed and Ric attempted to thank the fans and conclude the interview, the “middle-aged and crazy” Funk would grab Ric’s attention in a much more aggressive way.
Terry: “I was just kidding you about going ahead and wanting to challenge you. I wasn’t going to really challenge you. I was just kidding you.”
As the two shook hands, Terry clocked Ric with a vicious left hand.
Funk, in a tuxedo, would throw Ric outside of the ring, continue to pummel the Nature Boy with stomps and punches while eventually piledriving him on top of a table in one of the most memorable moments of the year.
“Funk has gone crazy!” screamed Jim Ross.
The two would embark on an incredible feud, which also featured some of Terry’s best work behind a microphone.
Their feud in 1989 was topped off by their 5-star ‘I Quit’ match at Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout in New York City. Terry would quit while locked in the Figure Four Leglock.
By the way, the show drew an impressive drew a 4.9 rating on TBS.
Few have ever played the “middle-aged, crazy man” more convincingly than Terry Funk.
Relive the initial attack from WrestleWar ’89 below 👇