You didn’t think we’d seen the last of Ric Flair, did you? Following his iconic series with Ricky Steamboat, it didn’t take the Nature Boy long to find his next opponent. Just minutes after their final match Terry Funk put his boot up Flair’s ass and all roads led to Clash of the Champions IX in an I Quit match.
Before we get going can I point out that this is 1989 and Terry Funk is already 45. Yet, he only announced his most recent (and what may well be his final) retirement last year. He is a machine and even as a fan who grew up with him as an older man I have nothing but love for the Funkster.
This match couldn’t be further from Flair’s technical masterclasses with Steamboat. Funk is here to fight, and it’s now Flair who is playing the plucky babyface. Ric starts hot, chopping Terry out of the ring and when he’s on offence, he’s working fast and fiery. Funk, on the other hand, is all crazed precision. Closed fists are the order of the day, and he’s working the unhinged gimmick wonderfully. He ends up focusing on the neck of Flair, hitting several neckbreakers and even piledriving him on the ramp.
What stands out about this match is how little the stipulation hurts it. Recent I Quit matches are plodding affairs that fall into a pattern. Move, microphone, move, microphone and so on. This, however, is all action from the start. The two brawl both in and outside the ring and even when they are looking for the ‘I quit’ they continue the attack. Slamming the microphone into the other man’s head or choking them with their spare hand.
The other notable aspect of this match is the selling. Flair’s selling is famous for a reason, but Terry is right there with him on this one. He bounces around for Flair like a drunk child on Christmas, and when Ric begins to work the leg around the fifteen-minute minute mark, Terry sells it like a champ. Both men come out of this looking tough as all hell because every move executed looks like it is crushing bones and tearing limbs.
The match goes 20 odd minutes, and quite frankly I don’t know how either man is standing at the end. There are no rest holds, and it’s not until the 20th minute that things slow down for a second when Ric locks on the Figure Four. It’s the first time in the match that he manages to get it and it turns out to be all he needed as the pain is too much for the Funkster and he quits.
Post match Funk grabs the mic and despite the protestations of Gary Hart shakes Ric Flair’s hand and declares him one hell of a man. This leads to Gary Hart turning on Funk and The J-Tex Corporation rushing the ring and beating down Flair. It’s a moment that becomes famous as it is Flair’s rival Sting who comes to the rescue, but that’s a story for another day.
This is a brilliant brawl. Recent years have seen me sour on this kind of wrestling. Too much time watching ICW saw the style be diluted and it takes something special for me to care. This is special, and it proves that the I-Quit match can work with the right performers in the ring. It’s one of those matches that a lot of people will have seen but if you haven’t, go out of your way to track it down.