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Lawler vs. Funk feud resumes with a !BANG!

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Where it all began: Lawler vs. Funk Jr. in 1976. (Courtesy of memphiswrestlinghistory.com.)

More than 35 years after their first bout together in Memphis on Aug. 2, 1976, Jerry Lawler will headline vs. Dory Funk Jr. at the next !BANG! TV Taping at the Funking Conservatory Wrestling Sound Stage in Ocala, Fla., Saturday, September 10.

Lawler won that initial with Funk Jr. in 1976, mere days after his manager Sam Bass had been killed in a car accident. Lawler, who had been knocking off the top-10 NWA contenders, had beaten Harley Race a week earlier in Memphis to become the No. 3-ranked challenger behind Dory Jr. at No. 2. Following the Race bout, Bass was killed along with Pepe Lopez and Frank Hester en route to Nashville.

As was a typical storyline at that time, Lawler had to defeat Dory Jr. as part of his climb to get a shot at the king of the mountain, NWA World champion Terry Funk, who had defeated Jack Brisco for the 10 pounds of gold on December 10, 1975. Likewise, when Dory Jr. was champion years earlier, Terry picked up plenty of bookings around the country to set up local challengers for shots or rematches against his brother. Lawler and Terry wrestled to a classic one-hour Broadway in their first NWA title match on Aug.22, 1976.

To get a rematch with Terry, Lawler agreed to take on Dory Jr. in a Texas Death Match weeks later. For years, the Funks often billed themselves as being undefeated in Texas Death Matches, which were no-disqualification bouts in which pinfalls were followed by a 60-second rest period, then a 10-count to determine the last man standing as the winner. (I believe the longest such match in Memphis history was a Texas “Tornado”–meaning a tag bout with all four participants in the ring at once–Death Match in 1986, with Lawler and Dutch Mantell defeating Bill Dundee and Buddy Landell in a showdown that went 26 falls and lasted nearly 85 minutes.)

Of course, Lawler defeated Dory Jr. under Texas Death rules on Oct. 11, 1976, to get the return shot at Terry, which ended inconclusively. Years later, when I discussed the death of Brisco with Lawler, he rated Terry and Dory Jr. among his favorite opponents ever.

For more on the Lawler vs. Funk family feud, check out the following links:

A Funkin’ Amazing Feud;

Eye for an Eye: Terry Funk Seeks Revenge on Jerry Lawler in Memphis; and

Are You Funkin’ Kidding Me?: Lawler, Funk Resume Feud in the ’90s

Finally, here are some clips of Dory Jr. serving as one of Jimmy Hart’s bounty hunters shortly after the King returned from a broken leg in 1981, with the idea that Funk Jr.’s spinning toehold would snap Lawler’s limb like a twig and put him back on the shelf.

  1. Daniel
    August 11th, 2011 at 21:32 | #1

    Scott,
    I seem to remember as a little kid a 44 round bout that featured Don and Al Greene and someone against Jackie Fargo, Eddie Marlin and a Hawaiian wrestler named Oni Wiki Wiki.
    This had to be shortly have Jackie lost his hair. It lasted until the fire marshall, I believe, made them stop because of a curfew.

  2. Jeremy
    August 12th, 2011 at 06:33 | #2

    My first wrestling memory and what got me hooked on wrestling instantly. Was the empty arena match with Funk vs Lawler. I believed Funk had lost his eye!

  3. admin
    August 12th, 2011 at 10:42 | #3

    Daniel, wow–44 falls? Let me research that, and I’ll write a piece about it if I find anything.

  4. admin
    August 12th, 2011 at 10:45 | #4

    Yeah, Jeremy, that footage was insanely real to me as a kid, but it seems silly in hindsight, especially with Lawler arriving in his crown and cape. (Lawler has since told me that he wishes they had both shown up in street clothes to give it a grittier feel; he also says he has no idea why he decided to wear his full regalia to the ring for a street fight.)

  5. chuck Morris
    August 15th, 2011 at 11:02 | #5

    Lawler also wore tights in a Badstreet match with Austin Idol versus The Freebirds in 85.All his muscle shirts were in the laundry,I reckon.

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