REWIND: Terry Funk vs Bret Hart, 50 Years of Funk
What a wild show to have happen in 1997 of all years! Just two months before the Montreal Screwjob would wrest the WWF World Heavyweight Title away from Bret Hart, The Hitman squared off with The Funker in Amarillo, Texas. With special guest referee Dennis Stamp!
How I've gone this many REWINDs without a Bret Hart match is beyond me, but here we are – and what a way to bring him into the fold.
"50 Years of Funk" was just a wild little show on paper. It brought to it wrestlers from the WWF, ECW, and FMW where WWF wrestlers were obviously the odd ones out. Funk's histories in ECW and Japan were far more decorated than his history in the WWF. In all, Funk only spent a couple of years in the WWF – and one of those years happened after this retirement!
The festivities began with an in-ring ceremony in which Tommy Dreamer, Paul Heyman, and the ECW locker room presented Funk with the Lifetime Championship.
The opening of this no disqualification match started with chain wrestling in the center of the ring, each man attempting to out wrestle the other before allowing things to go to any extremes. Hart and Funk looked perfectly matched here; if either man had an advantage, the other was wily enough to only allow their opponent to have a small advantage and not one which would lead to getting trapped in a serious submission.
Bret became the first in the match to get a little spicy, punching and kicking Funk in the ropes until the fight spilled outside momentarily. The setup of this show was just beautiful, by the way. It was 1997 so a somewhat modern era of wrestling, but everything from the style of posts to the way the first row of the crowd was barricaded off really made this feel like it could have been happening 15 years earlier.
The floor outside of the ring also looked like a particular shade of pea soup green and may have been carpeted? The version of this match that I watched was, of course, somewhat grainy VHS quality ripped directly from the ECW-produced release.
Getting back to the match, Hart targeted the left knee of Funk which had a twofold effect – not only would it prime Funk's legs for the Sharpshooter, but it had the added benefit of possibly rendering Funk's own submission finisher, the spinning toe hold, useless.
Bret continued the onslaught on the outside of the ring, smashing Funk's face into the table before applying an old familiar friend to Terry in the ring – the figure four leglock. From here, Bret (and his brothers at ringside) were in full-on heel mode. Bret used the ropes for leverage on the figure four and Bruce and Keith took shots at Funk as he lay prone on the canvas.
This all only riled Funk up who floored Bret with what are still some of the best straight punches in professional wrestling. Funk took the fight to the floor to reciprocate the punishment delivered to him earlier in the match, but as he awaited Bret back in the ring he was caught in the corner by the WWF Champion. Bret applied his signature ring post figure four leglock, only to have it broken up by Dennis Stamp despite this being a no DQ match.
Hart once again brought the chair in to do some extra damage to the leg, but Funk was able to fight back after Stamp once again removed the weapon from the ring. In a scene mimicking the ECW arena at 1/1000th scale, Funk asked for chairs to be provided to him from ringside fans and a few of them obliged.
Now, it was once again Funk's time to turn things around on Bret. He attacked Bret's leg with a chair before once again going to the outside. Funk laid Bret out on a table and headed up to the apron. With a couple of bounces on the middle rope, Funk launched backward with something of a Vader Bomb but Bret was nowhere to be found sending Funk crashing through the table himself.
Back in the ring, Hart looked for the Sharpshooter but was rolled up in a small package for a near fall. Funk fought back once more to apply the spinning toe hold, which Bret turned into his own small package for a close count.
Fighting back to their feet, Funk dropped Hart with a back suplex. The referee counted two with both men's shoulders on the mat before Bret shot his far shoulder, out of view of the referee, into the air before the three count.
Fans in the crowd buzzed as to what the result may be while Joey Styles speculated on commentary that it looked as though Bret beat the three count. After a moment of confusion, Dennis Stamp raised Bret's hand to declare him the winner. On his last* night in the professional wrestling business, Terry Funk went out on his back like a true pro.
After the match, with blood dripping off of the tip of his nose, Funk left the fans in the arena with some final words: "No complaints about the match tonight. No complaints about the Funk family's life in wrestling. It's been wonderful and it's been a great trip and– hey, I love you guys, too."
*Funk's retirement wouldn't last long at all – just 11 days later, he was wrestling again in FMW before returning to the WWF in December as Chainsaw Charlie.
Funk would retire again in 1999. He would then return to the ring in 2000.
Funk would retire again in 2006. He would then return to the ring in 2011 in a Legends Battle Royal at WrestleReunion.
Funk would retire again in 2016. He would then return to the ring in 2017.
Funk would retire again in 2017.
Terry Funk just passed away last month and I'm sure glad that so much of his career and so many of his matches are still so easily found. This no doubt won't be the last of the Funker you see in one of these REWIND posts.
Ranking of REWINDs
- Jaguar Yokota vs Lioness Asuka
- Keiji Mutoh vs Shinya Hashimoto
- Nikita Koloff vs Magnum TA
- Kenta Kobashi vs Stan Hansen
- Jumbo Tsuruta, Masanobu Fuchi, and Mighty Inoue vs Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
- Brock Lesnar vs The Rock
- Sting vs Barry Windham
- Terry Funk vs Bret Hart
- Cactus Jack vs Terry Funk
- 2 Cold Scorpio vs Sabu
- Big Van Vader vs Davey Boy Smith
- Masahiro Chono vs Kazuyuki Fujita