Legendary professional wrestler Terry Funk, whose influence was felt across multiple generations, has died at the age of 79. News broke of Funk’s death on Wednesday afternoon.
During his career, which spanned more than 50 years, there was almost no meaningful wrestling promotion in which Funk did not have an impact. After starting his career in 1965 for Western States Sports, a promotion ran by his father, Dory Funk, Terry Funk often wrestled alongside his brother, Dory Funk Jr.
Funk exploded to the top of wrestling in 1975, defeating Jack Brisco to win the NWA world heavyweight championship. He held the title for more than 420 days before dropping the title to Harley Race. Race was also the man who ended Dory Jr.’s title reign in 1973.
Funk earned a reputation as a rough and rugged brawler through various rivalries, including a feud with Jerry Lawler that led to a now-iconic empty-arena match and a lengthy rivalry with Ric Flair that included a shocking moment for the time that saw Funk piledrive Flair onto a ringside table.
After stints in Japan, NWA, WWF and WCW, Funk’s career found a second wind when he joined Eastern Championship Wrestling, later Extreme Championship Wrestling. Funk had appeared in Japan as a “hardcore” wrestler, participating in brutal and violent contests.
Funk utilized that hardcore style as a cornerstone of ECW, eventually winning the promotion’s top title in the main event of their first-ever pay-per-view event, Barely Legal on April 13, 1997. He would go on to have more stints in WWE, WCW and ECW throughout his career, as well as time in TNA and on the independent circuit.
During that time, Funk would routinely retire, only to return to the ring again and again. He would have his final match in September 2017, finally hanging up his boots for good.
Funk also took on several acting roles, most notably appearing in the 1989 Patrick Swayze film Roadhouse.
Funk was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2009.