The 10 Most Memorable I Quit Matches In Wrestling History

One of the things that adds spice to pro wrestling is the inclusion of a variety of gimmick matches alongside the standard pin-or-submit/one fall format. One of the more intense and inevitably violent match formats in wrestling is the I Quit match. The premise is simple: there are no disqualifications, no pinfalls, and no tap-outs in an I Quit match; the only way for someone to win is for their opponent to say "I quit." Since refusing to ever quit is a common trait of pro wrestlers (cowardly heels aside), this stipulation usually leads to a level of violence that far exceeds the usual fare.

There's also lots of room for storytelling and drama, which are just as important to pro wrestling as the actual violence. For example, things get complicated when one wrestler gets knocked out in an I Quit match, since they have to speak to officially lose. Also, a lot of these matches involve somebody's friend or loved one getting involved, whether it's to help them cheat, or to beg their opponent not to kill them. The I Quit match is a simple idea, but there's a lot you can do with it. So let's look at ten unforgettable I Quit matches, in chronological order.

Magnum TA vs Tully Blanchard (Starrcade 1985)

Magnum T.A. was a fantastic wrestler, and would probably still be remembered today as an all-time superstar if an unfortunate car accident hadn't ended his career in his 20s. Tully Blanchard is remembered as a legend, an original member of the Four Horsemen and close ally of Ric Flair. In 1985, Tully and Magnum were both in their prime, and they just about stole the show at Starrcade 1985, despite Dusty Rhodes putting Hard Times on Ric Flair in the main event. After months of an increasingly vicious rivalry over the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship, an I Quit match inside a steel cage was the only way to settle their differences.

What happens inside that cage is as bloody and brutal a brawl as Jon Moxley has ever had. The hatred between these two is so palpable it's impossible not to get invested, even if you're watching with modern eyes and not much context. Magnum and Tully never let up on each other, constantly using the microphone as a weapon. When Tully's valet, Baby Doll, throws a wooden chair into the cage and it breaks into pieces, a jagged fragment of the arm becomes an even better weapon. Tully tries to drive the wooden shard into Magnum's face, which is exactly the sort of thing a heel like Blanchard could be expected to do. When Magnum escapes Tully's grasp and ends up holding that same piece of wood, however, the fan-favorite babyface makes a dark choice. Deciding he has to stoop to Tully Blanchard's level to defeat him, Magnum attacks his opponent's eye with that piece of the chair, until Tully screams "I quit." Magnum T.A. wins the match and the U.S. Title, but it's clearly not a victory he feels great about, because he had to compromise his values to achieve it.

Ric Flair vs Terry Funk (NWA Clash Of The Champions 9, 1989)

Like most I Quit matches, this one was the culmination of a month's long feud. After Flair had won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship back in the last of his legendary trilogy of matches with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat, Funk asked for the next title shot, and then put the Nature Boy through a table with a piledriver when he felt disrespected. Several matches followed, with the feud escalating to this I Quit match on TBS in November of 1989. There was probably no greater hardcore brawler than Terry Funk, and no greater pro wrestler than Ric Flair, so who wouldn't want to see them face off in a no-disqualification slobberknocker?

Despite being the babyface in this feud, Flair was still the Dirtiest Player in the Game, so he has no problem going move-for-violent-move with Funk as the match gets going. He doesn't just chop Terry so hard it knocks him down, he chokes him every chance he gets. Meanwhile, Funk is working Flair's head and neck, often by beating him with the microphone, to soften him up for future piledrivers. Those piledrivers happen, one in the ring and one on the floor, but Flair still won't quit. Eventually, after a long violent struggle, Ric manages to get Terry in the Figure Four Leglock, and Funk can't handle the pain. After one last moment of stubborn refusal to give up, he screams that his leg is breaking and finally quits. After all that, Ric Flair had regained Terry Funk's respect, and the two shared a friendly handshake.

Bret Hart vs Bob Backlund (WrestleMania XI)

Being memorable isn't always the same thing as being great. This 1995 bout was the first ever I Quit match in WWF, and it's between two of the most successful submission wrestlers in the company's history. Unfortunately it's not nearly as good or fun to watch as you might expect. A big part of what brings it down is the involvement of another legendary WWE Hall-of-Famer — Rowdy Roddy Piper is the special referee for this match, and no matter how much you like Piper, he's really annoying in this role. Whereas the regular refs in these matches tend to stand there quietly with a microphone waiting for somebody to look ready to surrender, Piper keeps shouting, "What do ya say?" into the mic before shoving it into Bob Backlund and Bret Hart's faces, over and over again. Meanwhile Backlund is stomping around the room doing his wide-armed "I'm going to Crossface Chickenwing you" taunt, while the Hitman is stonefaced and trying to catch Backlund in a Sharpshooter. 

It's just a lot of elements that don't quite come together. That said, the New Generation era is kind of defined by things not quite coming together, despite the involvement of talented performers. In this post-Hulkamania period, WWE had no choice but to try new things and see what worked. It's mostly the involvement of another over-the-top '80s star, Roddy Piper, that keeps this from working as well as it might have.

The Rock vs. Mankind (WWE Royal Rumble 1999)

At the exact intersection of Unforgettable WWE Matches and Hard To Watch, we find the Rock hitting Mankind in the head with a chair over and over and over again at the 1999 Royal Rumble. Mick Foley's whole deal, especially as Mankind, was that he was unfazed by pain and would never give up, so it made perfect sense to book him in an I Quit match. Unfortunately, as Foley himself put it to Talking Tough in 2021, "We were trying to do something special that night and we went a little overboard. We don't have a lot of people who ask about that match because it's really uncomfortable, it's not fun to watch."

We're a lot more aware these days about the long term damage that brain injuries can do, which is why most wrestlers don't take chair shots to the head anymore, and there's an outcry when someone does. Mick Foley, in fact, has been particularly open about the problems he's developed after a career full of concussions. So watching Foley get hit again and again with a chair, while he's handcuffed with no chance of getting his arms up to protect his head, no longer feels like entertainment, or sports for that matter. And that the man swinging the chair is Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, now a beloved movie star, doesn't really help.

So if you haven't seen this one, there's no need to rush. Indeed, if you did see it back in the day, it's probably best to stick with your nostalgia tinted memory, unless you want a really visceral reminder of just how violent and dangerous wrestling could be in the old days.

John Cena vs. JBL (WWE Judgement Day 2005)

This I Quit match from Judgment Day 2005 isn't nearly as dangerous as the Rock/Mankind one, but it's still going to be hard to watch for some people. There's just a lot of blood in this match. Like, a Jon Moxley amount of blood, but in this case that blood is flowing directly from the face of future Hollywood star and patriotic superhero John Cena. Even if blood doesn't bother you, it's still just a strange feeling from today's perspective to watch young Cena bleed like a stuck pig in a brutal hardcore match. And at the hands of JBL no less, a man mostly remembered for playing poker and pronouncing Michael Cole's first name funny on commentary.

All that said, there's a lot going for this match. The entrances feel excessive for a non-mania match, with JBL entering the arena in his limo, and Cena arriving atop a tractor trailer truck. Both vehicles pay off as the match goes on, however. They fight all around and on top of the limo, and Cena tries to smash JBL with one of the doors. Then at the end of the match, Cena breaks one of the smokestacks off the tractor trailer, and just the sight of John wielding an enormous metal pipe as a weapon is enough to get JBL to immediately quit. Of course Cena hits him with it anyway, like the classic WWE babyface he is, but since JBL nearly choked him out with his own necklace earlier in the match, it's easy to sympathize with that final bit of brutality on Cena's part.

Ric Flair vs. Mick Foley (WWE SummerSlam 2006)

If you weren't watching at the time, you might easily assume that chair shot party with the Rock was Mick Foley's last I Quit match, and, let's be real, it probably should have been. But Foley's the Hardcore Legend for a reason. Seven years later, a 41-year-old Foley stepped into the ring with a 57-year old Ric Flair, for an I Quit match that grew out of real-life resentments between the two legends.

Fortunately, while this match is bloody, it's not nearly as reckless as much of what both men had done in the past. This is one of those hardcore matches that uses blood and weapon spots to make up for the shortcomings of its over-the-hill competitors. Fortunately, this is Flair and Foley, two guys who know what they're doing, so it totally works. We've got trash cans, thumbtacks, baseball bats wrapped in barbed wire, and that big piece of plywood with the coils of barbed wire stapled to one side that serves absolutely no purpose except for hardcore wrestling (at least the barbed wire bats are also good for fighting zombies).

The ending gets a little complicated. Both men are bloody, but Foley is barely conscious, and of course he still refuses to quit. Mick's friend Melina runs in and tries to throw in the towel and get the match stopped for Foley's safety. The ref wants to end the match too, but Flair refuses to relent because Foley's hasn't quit. Melina puts her own body between Flair and Foley, and Flair acts like he's about to hit Melina with the barbed wire bat, which of course is the thing that finally gets Foley to quit. It's not the greatest finish, but this is the sort of thing you have to do when you put Foley in an I Quit match, since he refuses to care how hurt he is.

Beth Phoenix vs Melina (WWE One Night Stand 2008)

This is one of those WWE women's matches that presages a future still a good six or seven years from arriving. An I Quit match wasn't the sort of gimmick that was common for WWE's women in 2008, and the fact that Beth and Melina were given nearly 10 minutes for it is even more impressive. The bar was low back then, but this match could still hold up today (although ironically, there would be complaints that it's too short).

The match doesn't get as hardcore as most of these men's I Quit matches we've been discussing, but Beth and Melina make up for it with their sheer charisma and talent. Both women employ a variety of submission holds across the match, and one of the more impressive moments is when Melina has Phoenix in an Indian Deathlock, and Beth powers her way to the ropes through sheer force of will and arm muscles. Of course grabbing the rope wouldn't force a break in an I Quit match, so instead Beth pulls herself and Melina out of the ring, forcing Melina to release her as they hit the floor.

The two continue to trade submissions, but it becomes clear that Beth is the stronger of the two, continually powering out of Melina's grip. That sets up the finish, in which Phoenix bends Melina so far backwards she looks broken in half, forcing her to quit.

Kay Lee Ray vs. Toni Storm (WWE NXT UK, February 27, 2020)

NXT UK only lasted about four years as its own brand within WWE, but in that time it featured some amazing wrestlers and launched some major careers on the international stage. One of the most memorable title matches in NXT was this I Quit match between NXT UK Women's Champion Kay Lee Ray, who would later take the name Alba Fyre, and Toni Storm, who would later move on to AEW. KLR had won the title from Storm months earlier, and Toni had been desperate to get it back. That's why this match has the added stipulation that if Toni quits, she'll never get to challenge Ray for the belt again.

Here's the thing, though — Storm is a babyface who never wants to give up, but Ray is just outright mean. Both women are extra aggressive as the match begins, brawling to the outside and against the barricade. Toni gets some impressive offense in, and things seem pretty even. But as soon as KLR starts to get the upper hand, the whole thing becomes an exercise in pure brutality. Kay Lee tapes Toni's hands behind her back and then hits her with everything she has: strikes, kicks, and a Gory Bomb (her finisher). Toni is determined not to quit, but at this point there's no winning for her. KLR gets a folding chair and hits Storm with it, then puts it around Toni's neck and stomps on it from the top rope. Only when she threatens to do so a second time does Toni Storm finally quit.

Roman Reigns vs Jey Uso (WWE Hell In A Cell 2020)

The Bloodline storyline in WWE has gone on so long that it's easy to forget that when Roman Reigns first became the pitiless Tribal Chief, his cousins the Usos weren't necessarily on board. Jey in particular was resistant to what was happening in his family, which led to this I Quit match inside the titular cage of Hell In A Cell. Brutally beating on someone until they have a change of heart and become your ally only really works in pro wrestling, but inside the business it's a time-honored tradition. So that's what Roman does to Jey here.

Obviously there was never any doubt who was winning the match, but the storytelling still works because it's part of a larger saga. Jey is trying to stand up to his bully cousin, and Roman is trying to prove that his ruthless leadership is necessary for their family's success, even if he has to murder his cousin to do it. Jey makes a solid effort, getting his hands on a leather strap and whipping Roman with it to some success. Reigns inevitably gets the upper hand as the match goes on, countering an attempted chair shot with a Superman Punch and putting Uso in a guillotine. He hits Jey with a drive by against the ring steps, and then brings them into the cage and crushes Jey with them. Roman's about to bring the steel ring steps down on Jey's head when Jimmy Uso runs in to stop his cousin from murdering his brother. Jimmy and Roman seem to have a heartfelt moment, with Roman questioning his own actions and taking Jimmy's Hand, but then he pulls him into a guillotine hold. Regaining consciousness in time to see his brother choked out, Jey quits.

Jon Moxley vs Eddie Kingston (AEW Full Gear 2020)

Upon its launch in 2019, All Elite Wrestling quickly gained a reputation for being much bloodier than modern WWE, with a greater emphasis on hardcore matches. It's surprising, then, that they've only had one I Quit match in their history so far. It's less surprising that the match was between Jon Moxley and Eddie Kingston, two old friends who love violence more than just about anybody. This was shortly after Kingston signed with the company, and fans were still getting to know the charismatic indie veteran. This match was a big step in that process, and also led to Mox and Kingston rekindling their friendship and even being a tag team for a while.

As for the match itself, it's as brutal and innovative as you'd expect. Sure, Moxley taking a back bump onto a bunch of thumbtacks is nothing new, but Kingston then grabbling a bottle of rubbing alcohol and pouring it on Mox's back is new, not to mention extremely painful-looking. There are also plenty of actual wrestling moves and holds in the match, including an intense Paradigm Shift from Moxley. Eddie refuses to quit when Mox puts him in a Bulldog Choke, but when Mox does it a second time but with barbed wire around his arm, the match ends. Eddie would later confront referee Bryce Remsburg on "Dynamite" and claim he never actually quit, but nevertheless the finish is what it is.

Hopefully we'll see more I Quit matches from AEW in the future, and we'll certainly see more from WWE as well. It's not the sort of match that should happen all the time, but when a feud is intense enough to justify it, an I Quit match can be just the thing.

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