By Mike Mooneyham

Nov. 30, 2003

Who says there’s no quality wrestling on WWE television these days?

Those lucky enough to have been watching the Nov. 22 edition of Confidential were treated to one of the most intense, entertaining matches in years. Unfortunately the bout between Ric Flair and Terry Funk took place 14 years ago.

Aired as one of the show’s weekly “From the Vault” classics, the match undoubtedly made many longtime fans yearn for the good old days, if 1989 actually can be considered “old.”

Flair, in his wrestling prime at 40, enjoyed possibly his finest year in the business in 1989 when his NWA title programs with Funk and Ricky Steamboat captivated the wrestling world. In their memorable “I Quit” match from Troy, N.Y., on Nov. 15, 1989 (mistakenly listed on the show as being held Jan. 15, 1989), Flair and Funk put on an amazing two-man clinic. At that time it was the second-most-watched match in the history of cable television.

Terry Funk

Terry Funk

Although only an abbreviated version of the bout was shown, it was enough to give newer fans a taste of what wrestling was like just 15 years ago, when the business was more about telling a compelling story than coming up with catch-phrases in order to elicit Pavlovian cheers.

Taking the match to an even higher level was the announcing tandem of Jim Ross and Gordon Solie, regarded by many as the greatest play-by-play men of their respective generations. Although Solie was in the twilight of his career at the time, Ross was just hitting his stride. Always at his best when the action and characters inside the ring warranted it, Ross’s work in this match was genuine and inspired, unlike the clichéd version that he is forced to resort to on some WWE broadcasts.

Referee Tommy Young, one of the finest officials the game has ever seen, complemented the all-star cast.

Mick Foley aptly introduced the match as “not only the greatest, but hauntingly beautiful.”

There’s a lot more where that came from. The recently released Ultimate Ric Flair Collection, a three-DVD set of classic Flair, is already the hottest-seller in WWE history. Simply put, it’s nothing short of spectacular. The collection includes matches with Funk, Ricky Steamboat, Harley Race, Sting, Barry Windham and others. The fact that it doesn’t even scratch the surface of this amazing career means that fans can expect more Flair collections in the future.

– Fast-forward two nights, and many of those same fans had to endure yet another awkward, unsatisfying non-finish main-event on Raw, with Kane’s interference cutting short a Triple H-Bill Goldberg world title bout. Worse yet, “the hideous monster” Kane, as Jim Ross called him, might as well have been playing patty-cake with “the invincible” Goldberg, as his lame punches were badly missing their mark.

– Dick Hutton, who won the NWA world heavyweight championship in 1957, passed away Monday in Tulsa, Okla., at the age of 80.

Six-time NWA champ Lou Thesz, who considered Hutton the best mat wrestler he ever knew and his greatest opponent ever, handpicked Hutton to be his replacement as world titleholder when Thesz left the NWA to tour the world in 1957. Hutton held the title for 421 days before dropping the title to Pat O’Connor in St. Louis on Jan. 5, 1959. Hutton closed out his career as “Cowboy” Dick Hutton and retired from the ring in 1964.

Hutton was a four-time NCAA finalist at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State), winning three national championships and dropping a close and controversial decision in the 1949 finals to the University of Minnesota’s Verne Gagne, who also would achieve fame in the pro ranks. Hutton had defeated Gagne the year before in the 1948 national tournament.

Hutton was a member of the 1948 Olympic team but injured his arm and had to withdraw after the third round of action.

Hutton was inducted into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in Newton, Iowa, in 2001. Others in that class were Dan Hodge (also a three-time NCAA champion at rival University of Oklahoma), Earl Caddock and Joe Stecher.

“When Dick was inducted, he was every bit a gentleman and humble as he was a champion,” recalls Bill Murdock, author of “Brisco,” an upcoming biography of former NWA world champion Jack Brisco. “When receiving the award he remarked, ‘I can’t believe all this fuss for me. Today, you made me believe that I really was somebody.’ Dick Hutton was somebody, indeed – a true gentleman and great champion as an amateur and as a professional. He carried the title with honor and respect long after he left the ring. He personified the word ‘champion.’ He will be greatly missed.”

– Kurt Angle, who is recovering from neck surgery, is expected to be out of action until January.

Angle originally was scheduled to undergo surgery to shave off a bone spur two days after Survivors Series. When doctors made the incision, however, it was discovered that his disc was worse that he initially thought.

“The disc basically exploded,” Angle told the WWE Web site. “A bunch of the inside just exploded out and went off in different directions. They found part of it in my spinal cord and that’s why I was feeling the symptoms.”

Since neck surgery earlier this year, the former Olympic gold medallist also had developed a large blood clot in his neck. “I look like I have a golf ball stuck in the front of my neck,” he said. “The doctor said he doesn’t know how it happened, but he said it’ll go away in a few weeks.” He said he’s currently having a hard time swallowing or looking up, and coughing is excruciatingly painful.

– WWE apparently isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

An emergency meeting of the Boise State Women’s Center Advisory Board convened Nov. 18 after concerned members learned the Boise State Pavilion was hosting WWE’s Smackdown event last Tuesday. The board consists of 13 members and is made up of students, faculty and community members.

Women’s Center coordinator Melissa Wintrow said she was embarrassed to learn that an institution of higher learning like Boise State would allow an event like the WWE to come to campus. “I would challenge people to examine why they find it ‘entertaining’ to see women disrobed, attacked and figuratively raped in the middle of a cheering crowd.”

“We’ve been devoting precious staff and monetary resources toward violence prevention activities, including a 24-hour sexual assault response team,” Wintrow added. “This event works against all those efforts. It is one more roadblock to our success as a university in promoting a safe and healthy learning community.”

BSU Pavilion executive director Joyce Grimes said that neither the university nor The Pavilion was sponsoring the event. The WWE leased the facility and direct all promotional activities for the event.

“I’m kind of ashamed that someone thought the university should be sponsoring this sort of spectacle. Presumably they thought it would make money,” said BSU English professor Janet Holmes. “That it might, instead, contribute to yet more violence against women or men is a rather chilling trade-off for whatever profits roll in.”

– Wonder if Vince McMahon’s heard about this one?

Russ Clear, an ex-convict and current member of The Power Team, recently told a reporter how his born-again faith led him to abandon a $1.5 million contract from WWE so he could work with The Power Team. “You can’t serve two masters,” he told a Harrisburg, Pa., newspaper.

The Power Team, a Texas-based group of bulked-up motivational speakers who wow audiences by ripping telephone books in half, smashing stacks of bricks and snapping baseball bats like twigs, spoke recently at several schools in the Harrisburg area.

– WWE has reported third-quarter profits of $17.1 million. The number represents a significant increase over last year’s net loss of $1.6 million.

Half of the profit jump can be attributed to a lump sum won in a lawsuit in the Owen Hart harness case and an extra pay-per-view during the third quarter. There also was a significant increase of $9 million in profit because of expense cutbacks and international expansion. Ticket price hikes offset a drop in house attendance, and TV rights fees were up 18 percent due to a revised agreement with UPN and new international TV agreements.

– One of WWE’s more creative storylines of late has revolved around the romantic interaction between Chris Jericho and Trish, and between Christian and Lita. Unlike a number of recent storylines that have either made little sense or been too sophomoric, this one has been cleverly scripted and adds some much-needed suspense to the show.

Matt Hardy’s jump to Raw gives the angle an added dimension. Hardy, the real-life beau of Lita (Amy Dumas), recently became the first performer to go back and forth between the WWE brands. Hardy said on his Web site that he was thrilled at being a part of Raw.

“To me, nothing compares to the atmosphere of live television. There’s that ‘no safety net’ pressure, which I love – you know that every move you make will be seen, good or bad. Crowds are typically more excited because with the show being live, they know anything can happen. Whether you like it or not, Raw is the show – the most well-known and most successful wrestling show ever … Although I’ll miss a lot of good friends on the blue team, I’ve been reunited with a lot of great friends on the red side. Lastly, Matt Hardy publicly thanks Vince McMahon and company for taking care of me on a personal level. Contrary to many stories on the ‘net,’ VKM really took care for me and was happy to do so, and I appreciate it.”

Hardy also said the recent death of Crash Holly (Mike Lockwood) at the age of 32 hit closer to home than any previous deaths among the wrestling fraternity.

“Crash was a friend of mine that I had traveled with, ate with, worked with, laughed with – and he was so close to me in age. I still talked to him every few days and he had just called me two days before he died. Every time we spoke on the phone, he always greeted me by saying ‘Hi, Boss’ – from our days of working together as a unit. Crash would leave me the longest and most ridiculously funny voicemails that I’ve ever heard. I can’t believe I won’t ever hear another long message or another ‘Hi, Boss.’ I’ll never forget his big heart and his unique sense of humor – Crash was truly one of a kind. May God bless him, his daughter and his family.”

– Edge (Adam Copeland) is expected to be cleared for light in-ring work beginning Feb. 1. His full clearance is expected to come in early March.

– Billy Gunn (Kip Sopp), recovering from a shoulder injury, should be released to return to the ring Dec. 1.

– Today marks the one-year anniversary of the day the wrestling died. Tim Woods, the original Mr. Wrestling, embodied the spirit of wrestling – amateur and professional – as much as any man who ever laced up a pair of boots.

A massive heart attack claimed his life last Nov. 30, but his memory will forever live on in the hearts of wrestling fans.

– The midget wrestler who appeared last week on Raw was Beautiful Bobby, the son of former midget world champion Lord Roger Littlebrook (Eric Tovey).

– Brian Pfohl, son of Lex Luger (Larry Pfohl), has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at Mercer College in Macon, Ga. The 6-8, 230-pound post player, a first-team Class AA all-state selection as a junior at Atlanta’s Pace Academy, averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds last season. He boasts a 3.5 GPA and will be eligible after making 1150 on the SAT.

Pfohl also was recruited by Furman, Davidson, Tennessee Tech, Middle Tennessee, Stetson and several Ivy League schools.

Mercer, the defending Atlantic Sun Conference champion, turned its record around last season – from 6-23 to 23-6 – and the 17-win improvement was the largest by a Division I school in almost three decades.

– The Hart family has put their father’s storied house in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, up for sale. Stu Hart, who passed away Nov. 16, bought the 22-room mansion in 1951 for just $25,000.