411Wrestling Special: Halloween Havoc: 12 Years Of Terror - Part 1
Posted by Michael Benjamin on 10.29.2003
Part 1 of Ken Anderson's special look back at WCW's Halloween Havoc PPVs...
"Ken Anderson twice in two weeks? Hell must finally be freezing over!" - Loyal 411 Readers.
First and foremost, thanks for all the feedback, both positive and negative, on the "10 Ways to Save Wrestling" feature that ran two weeks ago. I appreciate everyone taking the time to read the four-part series, and thanks a million to those who felt strongly enough to respond. If you didn't get a chance to read the series first-run, give it a look sometime, you might just like what you see.
I'd also like to apologize to anyone who I wasn't able to get back to personally. I pride myself on answering every email I receive, but due to circumstances outside of my control, I couldn't get online for longer than a few minutes over the last week and a half. I responded to as many as I could, but if I didn't respond to yours, accept my apology, and know that it was read and appreciated. Things are back under control though, so give me another shot and I'll get back to you promptly.
Thanks also for the warm welcome back from many long-time readers. I really appreciate it guys. I've missed you bastards.
Look for me to be much more visible on 411Mania in the coming weeks than I have in the last year and a half. One of the main reasons I've been dormant for so long is because I just wasn't needed. The wrestling staff was just overflowing with the most talent of any independent sports-related website I've ever seen. With Grut and Bower's retirements though, coupled with the busy schedules of some of 411Wrestling's other heavy-hitters, I figured the time was right to make a return.
Call it stupid male pride, but I want 411Wrestling to remain the driving force of this website. The other zones have been doing some amazing things and putting out some ridiculously high-quality content. Now's the time to flex our collective muscle in the wrestling zone and make sure we stay competitive.
This column goes out to three of the all-around coolest guys on the net: Alex Lucard, John C, and Justin Baisden. Alex because he's a good guy and a hell of a writer, John C because I still think his stuff is some of the absolute best on the net, and Justin Baisden because I miss his stuff immensely.
With all of that out of the way...
For the 20th time in the last two and a half years here at 411Wrestling...
WE ARE OFF...
Halloween Havoc - The Best and Worst of a Twelve Year Tradition.
When Vince McMahon officially bought WCW, he put the final nail into the coffin of the greatest professional wrestling organization in American history. In signing the contract, he also ended years upon years of wrestling tradition.
Starrcade, a show first planned as a one-time extravaganza to showcase Ric Flair, evolved into the biggest pure wrestling show of the calendar year during it's near-20 year run. Wargames, the signature marquee match of the NWA/WCW, has seen it's last battles. The NWA Heavyweight title, with a legitimate lineage of nearly 60 years (disregarding the Flair fiasco of '91), was reduced to a mere plaything by Vince McMahon.
Vince McMahon refuses to believe that anything not created by his own hands can prove viable or profitable to his company. You'll never see Wargames on a WWE broadcast. You'll never see Rob Van Dam hold the title for any extended period of time. You'll never see the company truly get behind Bill Goldberg. Unless it's a product of Vince McMahon's mind, it's useless.
Tragically, there will never be another Starrcade. WrestleWar is gone never to return. And my favorite NWA/WCW PPV of all time, Halloween Havoc, is dead.
With Halloween upon us, I find it only fitting to take a broad, honest look back upon 12 years of NWA/WCW October tradition, and examine both the captivating highs and mind-numbing lows of one of the landmark events that would come to define WCW and everything that it stood for.
Over the next three days, we'll examine 13 (creepy, I know) of the most memorable moments in Halloween Havoc history.
Whether it be because of their historical importance, amazing workrate, or downright absurdity, these are the moments that have come to define Halloween Havoc and its rich history. These are the moments, good and bad, that define WCW. And these are the moments which will live forever in the minds of all those lucky enough to witness them firsthand over the last 12 years.
I. Cactus and Vader settle the score. Halloween Havoc 1993:
The time was late 1992, and after months of teaming up with Abdullah the Butcher to terrorize WCW's top babyfaces, the fans were starting to cheer Cactus Jack. His style was unique, his look was compelling, and he played the part of psychotic heel to an almost loveable level. Furthermore, Jack's matches were groundbreaking, especially for a time period in which the highest impact you'd see was that of the Shockmaster taking a wicked face-first bump through a styrofoam wall.
The cheers eventually became so loud that WCW higher-ups had no choice but to go against standard convention and turn Cactus Jack into a full-fledged fan favorite.
Rick Rude had recently suffered an injury and needed a replacement in the main event of an upcoming Clash of the Champions show. Harley Race signed a match between Cactus Jack and the returning Paul Orndorff, with the stipulation being that the winner got to take Rude's place at the big event.
Midway through the match, Harley Race grew frustrated with Cactus Jack and attempted to attack him. After much provocation, Jack finally fought back. The crowd absolutely exploded. Vader ran out from the back, and together with Orndorff and Race, completely destroyed Cactus Jack. Cactus instantly became a sympathetic babyface, and a new upper-level feud was created instantly.
In the following weeks, Vader and Cactus Jack would go on to have two of the most brutal matches in WCW history.
The first match was so violent and blood-stained that Turner execs flat-out refused to let the match air on their network. A young Eric Bischoff risked his job and took a stand for the match, emphasizing it's importance and begging the higher-ups to reconsider. Two weeks later, a massively edited, nearly incoherent version of the match aired on WCW Saturday Night. There were more crowd shots and extreme-distance angles than on any other match I've ever seen on WCW Television, but nevertheless the match found its way to the air.
Cactus Jack sustained a severely broken nose, dislocated jaw, swollen eyes, and a deep laceration on his cheek during the match, but still managed to come away with a surprise count-out victory over the monstrous Vader. The match drew rave reviews from both the burgeoning smart community and the casual fans alike, and despite it's severe editing, even Jim Ross, then working for the WWF, secretly called Cactus Jack and told him that he wished he was able to be the one in the announce position for a match that amazing. Little did Ross know though that the most violent and compelling chapters of this intense feud were still yet to come.
On the following Saturday Night, live from Atlanta's Center Stage, Cactus Jack and Vader were set to collide yet again. What happened that night was something that the fans watching at home, and especially those in attendance, will never forget.
In yet another horrific bloodbath, Vader and Cactus absolutely pounded the hell out of each other yet again, exchanging brutally stiff blows both inside and outside of the ring. Near the end of the match, Cactus charged towards Vader and dove straight for the beast. Harley Race, ever so wily, managed to push Vader out of the way, sending Cactus soaring straight onto the concrete below.
With fire in his eyes, Vader removed the protective matting from ringside, pushed it aside, and picked up the injured Cactus Jack.
What followed was one of the sickest bumps that wrestling has ever seen.
Vader threw Cactus' head between his legs, signaling for the powerbomb. The crowd audibly gasped. Vader hoisted Cactus high into the air, paused, and then drove Mick Foley head-first into the pavement. Even as a relative youngster, the sickening "smack" of Foley's head hitting the hard concrete made my stomach turn.
For nearly 45 minutes, Mick Foley laid ringside on the cold, hard floor of Atlanta's Center Stage, waiting for an ambulance to arrive. He had no feeling in the left side of his body. He was unable to move neither his arm nor his leg. Despite the show being long over, the fans had not moved an inch. Many were in tears. It was one of the most memorable moments in WCW history.
Luckily, the feeling later crept back into his body, and the diagnosis was that of a severe concussion, as opposed to the initial fear of a badly fractured skull.
Foley knew the risk he was taking by allowing Vader to powerbomb him onto the concrete. He even went as far as to write out a will of sorts before the match, hiding it in the house and instructing his wife not to find an open it unless the worst occurred. Dusty Rhodes tried to talk him out of it. Vader tried to talk him out of it. His family tried to talk him out of it. But Foley knew that if things played out properly, this powerbomb could make his career.
WCW had a sure-fire angle in the bag, and to the surprise of roughly no one, they dropped the the ball in the most absurdly tragic way humanly possible.
Instead of using Foley's recovery time to play up his massive heart, commend his incredible will to win, and emphasize his sympathetic nature, Dusty Rhodes used the next four months to completely ruin the momentum that Cactus Jack had created for himself. In the process, he also completely nullified every reason that Cactus took the life-threatening powerbomb for to begin with.
I'll leave the fine details to RD over at Wrestlecrap (who's a hell of a guy and has a HELL of a book now available), but let's just say that instead of using the originally-planned vignettes of Cactus slowly recovering in a hospital bed from the terrible injury sustained at the hands of Vader, Dusty decided to go in an alternate direction. The result was "Lost in Cleveland."
Instead of portraying Cactus as badly injured wrestler determined to get his revenge, Dusty turned Cactus Jack into a clean-shaven, comedically insane, amnesia patient, wandering from city to city, stealing bicycles, pretending to be a sailor, and befriending children. To further hammer home the absurdity, Cactus was "being chased" constantly by a horrible, D-Grade actress pretending to be a tabloid reporter. Unfortunately for our hokey reporter, she was always one step behind him. When she arrived at the spot from which Jack had just departed, there was always another mentally ill patient there waiting to give her an idiotically vague clue. Just mind-numbingly horrible in every sense of the word.
By the time Cactus Jack returned from his hiatus, the feud had lost almost every ounce of the heat it once had. Fortunately though, Cactus Jack wasn't about to let that stop him from going out and putting on what would turn out to be, blow for blow, quite possibly the best match of the series.
The place: Halloween Havoc.
The stipulation: Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal.
The bout was to be a "Texas Death Match," as determined by the now-rigged Wheel made famous a year earlier by Sting, Jake Roberts, and Cheetum the Midget.
Both men absolutely killed each other, as Jack took sickening bump after sickening bump. Cactus was splattered onto the concrete without mercy, thrown out of the ring repeatedly, busted open in numerous locations with a chair, and pummeled with massive closed fists landing hard enough to break his nose yet again.
The sickest moment of the evening came towards the end of the match as both men fought for an advantage on the rampway. Vader was pummeling jack without mercy when suddenly Cactus slipped behind Vader and jumped onto the back of the massive beast. Vader looked to the crowd, jumped straight upwards, kicked his legs out, and fell with all 400 pounds of his weight straight backwards onto Cactus. Mick Foley's kidney was instantly ruptured, but in typical fashion, he struggled back to his feet and kept on fighting.
Because Dusty Rhodes was back in control of the company, the match ended with a tazer attack on Cactus Jack by Harley Race, rendering him unable to continue, and giving the victory to Vader. Despite the horribly typical Dusty-inspired finish, the crowd absolutely loved the match, and for a fleeting moment, Cactus Jack was WCW's number one babyface.
Putting all booking shortcomings aside, Cactus-Vader III was an absolutely mind-blowing match, and could very easily top the list of the most brutal, violent matches in Halloween Havoc history.
II. Philadelphia turns on the Dudes.
Halloween Havoc 1989:
Philadelphia has always been a city of cynics. They boo their sports teams, turn on their heroes the instant they make a mistake, and basically act as the complete and total antithesis of most normal, traditional crowds.
In a city like Boston, Dallas, or San Francisco, wrestling crowds would obediently cheer the good guys and vengefully boo the rulebreakers. Never would they break kayfabe and openly rally behind a heel, and never would they go against the grain and jeer a fan favorite. It just didn't happen.
Philly did all of these things, and did them as unapologetically as humanly possible.
The greatest and most famous example of this phenomena occurred at Halloween Havoc in 1989 during the an NWA Tag Team Title match between the hated Freebirds and hot young sensations The Dynamic Dudes.
The Dynamic Dudes were a Jim Herd creation, aimed to capitalize on the success of pretty boy tag teams like the Rock N' Roll Express and the WWF's Rockers. In theory, they'd bring a large, vocal female fanbase to arenas and draw well with the men as well.
Unfortunately, the Dynamic Dudes were the most generic, unappealing tag team that I've personally ever seen. Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace were chosen for this ridiculous gimmick based on their boyish good looks and flowing blonde hair. They'd dance to the ring as horrible rock music played, wearing pink tights and making corny California hand signals. They'd also bring skateboards to the ring, despite having absolutely no use for them. I could understand the point of their inclusion if they skateboarded out, or maybe popped an olley in the middle of the ring, but alas, they didn't, and thus the skateboards served no practical purpose whatsoever.
To completely hammer home the gimmick, the Dynamic Dudes would ascend the turnbuckles, frisbees in hand, and throw the circular plastic toys to the kids in the crowd. It's was enough to induce vomiting. Because they were babyfaces though, the country sat idly by and half-heartedly cheered these moronic characters. It was pathetic. Not Philly though. On this particular night in October, Philadelphia turned the Dynamic Dudes into the most hated wrestling entity since Kevin Sullivan worshipped the devil.
The Dudes fought the Fabulous Freebirds, who were at the time the most hated team in the NWA. They were arrogant, Southern rockers who had both a penchant for bad rock music and two unquestionably flabby physiques.
The Fabulous Freebirds got the loudest babyface pop of the night, while the Dudes were greeted with dowright hostility.
Philadelphia booed every move Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace made. The Philadelphia Civic Center, mother, father, and child alike, all stood throughout the match and delivered deafening chants of "YOU SUCK!" towards the Dudes, while chanting "FREEBIRDS!" at the top of their lungs. It really was an amazing site. The Dynamic Dudes looked like Deer in headlights. The more they tried to ignore the situation and act as babyfaces, the more venomous the crowd became.
It was downright hilarious.
At the ten minute mark, the Freebirds blatantly broke the rules. They recieved massive cheer, and went on to pin Johnny Ace to a reaction similar to the reaction that your local team would get for winning the World Series.
The Philly crowd continued with the heel/face role reversals for many of the other matches, but nothing could come close to comparing to their complete and total hatred of the Dynamic Dudes.
III. Mask vs. Title: The Greatest Pure Wrestling Match in Halloween Havoc History
Halloween Havoc 1997:
The date was October 29th, 1997.
On this particular October evening, Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero would deliver a match that would come to define and personify everything that was unique and special about cruiserweight wrestling. Any critic of smaller, non-heavyweight wrestling need look no further than this match to see just how effective and powerful the division could be if handled properly.
As is the case in most cruiserweight wrestling, the backstory was simple. Eddie Guerrero was injured earlier in the year. He returned with a previously unseen fire in his eyes, quickly turning heel and destroying everyone who got in the way of his procession towards his ultimate goal, the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.
Eddie's campaign of destruction culminated two and a half months before Havoc at Fall Brawl in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho engaged in a twenty minute Cruiserweight classic to open up the PPV, with Eddie defeating Jericho to become the new Cruiserweight Champion.
A month later, enter Rey Mysterio Jr. into the championship hunt. Despite the technical prowess of legendary cruiserweights such as Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, and Eddie Guerrero, Rey's amazing aerial feats, revolutionary offense, and edge-of-your-seat speed is really what made casual wrestling fans take notice of WCW's exploding lightweight scene.
In early October on Monday Nitro, Rey challenged Eddie Guerrero to a match for the title at the upcoming Halloween Havoc PPV.
Eddie agreed to the match, but on one condition:
Rey Mysterio Jr. must put his mask on the line against the Cruiserweight title.
Sometimes I don't think the storyline creators of today's wrestling realize that male pride is often times a much more compelling reason to fight than spilled coffee, electrocuted genitals, stolen rubber ducks, or anything of that other nonsense.
The introductions were made, the bell was rung, and the best opening match in WCW PPV history (and second best opening match to ever take place in American PPV wrestling) began.
I'll spare the tedious play-by-play, because not only is it not my thing, but it's painfully boring to read, but I will say that the match was twenty minutes of brutal maneuver after brutal maneuver, innovative spot after innovative spot, and enough masterful psychology to have the entire NWO-loving crowd hanging on their every move and living and dying by the numerous near-falls.
When the smoke cleared, Rey Mysterio Jr. had reversed a Splash Mountain attempt by Eddie Guerrero into a insane rana, rolled him up, and pinned him cleanly to retain his mask and win his first ever WCW Cruiserweight Championship. It was a truly emotional moment, as Rey held the belt high above his head and the crowd gave a standing ovation to an incredible match.
This is the match that made wrestling fans open their eyes and truly take notice to what was going on in the Cruiserweight division. If not for the Christmas Night classic between Brian Pillman and Jushin "Thunder" Liger at the Omni in Atlanta (a match I was lucky enough to be in attendance for), this match would be considered the greatest Cruiserweight match to ever take place on American soil. It's available on the Rey: 619 DVD, and the match alone is worth every penny of the price of the disc.
A true classic, in every sense of the word.
IV. Flair-Hogan: Title vsn Career. Halloween Havoc 1994:
1993 was not a pretty year for WCW. By the time December rolled around, the once-profitable company had lost nearly $25,000,000 in less than twelve months. Eric Bischoff's job as head of WCW was far from secure, and the company was looking at the very real possibility of going bankrupt. Even Ted Turner, a stout rasslin' supporter due to the strong ratings it would bring to his early television stations, was beginning to get nervous.
Despite WCW's horrific financial woes in 1993, there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel as the year came to an end.
WCW head-man Eric Bischoff, desperate and frustrated, had given full booking power to Ric Flair, the main who had historically saved WCW each and every time he was called upon.
Ric Flair immediately put the wheels of change in motion, setting up logical, old-school feuds between credible wrestlers who could deliver in the ring, while catapulting his feud with Vader to levels never thought possible under the tutelage of Bischoff.
The epic war between the most feared man in the business, Vader, and the most storied athlete in modern, post-Thesz wrestling, Ric Flair, was set to culminate in Ric Flair's hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina at WCW's biggest show of the year: Starrcade 1993.
What resulted on this snowy December evening was quite simply one of the most emotional moments in WCW history.
In one of the more brutal matches you'll ever see not involving guys named Valentine and Wahoo, Ric Flair overcame all odds against a man twice his size in winning his historic 11th NWA/WCW Championship.
The crowd was in a state of near-riot, many crying, many embracing their loved ones, and all screaming at the top of their lungs because their hero, their hometown favorite, and the one man who came to personify everything that separated WCW from the rest of cartoonish pack, Ric Flair, was back on top of the world.
Unlike very few things that have ever happened in the WWE, that moment was real.
It's hard to explain why so many people were so crushed, like a part of their life died, when WCW finally went under, but when you look at moments like Starrcade, and moments like Ric Flair's return to Nitro in Greenville, and moments like Arn Andersons retirement speech on live television, and moments like Sting and Ric Flair's emotional last match on Monday Nitro, there's a certain realness that you'll never see on Vince McMahon's television shows. You could just tell that WCW meant so much more than a paycheck to so many people. Speaking as a wrestling fan, it was a damn shame to see it die, but it must have been even harder for all those who took such pride in what WCW came to stand for, and held so dearly the timeless moments and memories that were created and could only have been created in World Championship Wrestling.
Back to Flair...
Flair was a smart booker, despite claims by others (Foley) that he only looked out for himself.. Flair knew the importance of having a strong heel champion headlining each show, and even more importantly, he realized how vital it was to properly groom up-and-coming babyfaces into a position where they could not only feud with him, but ultimately take the title given the right set of circumstances. Flair knew that he, and he alone, could create stars by allowing them to defeat him when the time was right. Many called it egotistical, but again, Flair knew how important his role was within the company, and booked accordingly. Anyone who felt otherwise probably should have taken the time to pop in archived footage of any WCW show during Flair's two-year hiatus from Turner television. Even when Flair was up North wrestling for the WWF, the loudest chants in WCW night in and night out were clear and emphatic: "WE WANT FLAIR!"
When the time was right, Flair was willing to put younger talent over.
Flair was very big on Sting, and if it wasn't for the vast measure of support and confidence Flair had in the young wrestler, Sting could very well have never even made it past the mid-card in WCW.
Flair was also very big on Scott Steiner. Steiner had the look, ability, and charisma to go very big places in WCW, and Flair recognized this instantly. On two separate occasions, Flair offered to be pinned cleanly by Steiner to help push him into the stratosphere. Dusty Rhodes vetoed the idea, and instead suggested that Rick Steiner, not Scott, pin Flair cleanly in less than a minute at a major WCW event.
Flair balked. Personal problems with Dusty aside, Flair knew that Rick Steiner just wasn't capable of carrying a good, main-event caliber match on a nightly basis like the job required. For the same reason, Flair refused to drop the title to Lex Luger on a number of occasions in 1988, when Luger was the hottest babyface in the company, yet couldn't even deliver a proper hiptoss.
Some people call it selfish, I call it smart.
As rumor had it, Flair had his eyes on another young wrestler that he believed could very well be the future of the company. Unfortunately for WCW, due in large part to the cancer that was about to enter their promotion, this wrestler was never given the opportunity to prove himself to the company. He was ultimately let go by WCW, had a brief stint with Paul Heyman's ECW, and moved into the WWF as a low-card wrestler. Once there, he was finally given the chance to prove his worth to the company. Three years later, Steve Austin was arguably the most popular athlete on the face of the planet.
A few months prior to Austin's release, a meeting was held between Eric Bischoff and WCW owner Ted Turner. Turner was a pretty hands off man when it came to his rasslin' company, but with numbers as bad as WCW's had been in the last two years, Turner felt it was time to make major changes.
Turner wanted ratings. Turner wanted media interest. And Turner wanted Hulk Hogan.
Hogan was approached while filming his perversely horrid "Thunder in Paradise" series, which Hogan referred to in his biography as if it was the modern-day ratings equivalent of Friends and ER combined.
Eric Bischoff made Hogan an offer he couldn't refuse.
Hogan was not only given a large base salary, but in an unprecedented move, he was also given a percentage of EVERY WCW PPV that took place. To further nail the proverbial coffin of WCW shut, Hogan was given complete creative control over his character in WCW. This would be the point where you cue your ominous music at home...
Hogan signed the contract, and a huge "ticker-tape" parade was set up for Hogan at Universal Studios.
On one of the saddest days of my entire life, I turned on WCW Saturday Night and saw a rail-thin Hulk Hogan cruising down the streets of Universal Studios with what had to be a good 20 or 30 people following him. They were all wearing generic bright-yellow "Hulk" t-shirts, waving "Hulk Rules America" red flags, and making less noise than you'd hear at the retirement center past 4:00 o'clock. It was tragic. It was horrible. To me, it was the day that the true NWA/WCW died.
Hogan immediately came into WCW with about a hundred buddies. Gone were the wrestlers that I had grown up watching on WorldWide, and in were Hogan's ass-buddies like Brutus Beefcake, Hacksaw Duggan, Jimmy Hart, and the Big Bossman. Not only were they employed, but they were pushed to the moon. Jim Duggan beat Steve Austin for the U.S. title in less than fifteen seconds. At the risk of sounding redundant, the whole situation was absolutely atrocious.
Ric Flair, hesitant about Hogan's arrival yet excited to finally be able to have the dream feud that they couldn't in the WWF, agreed to quickly turn heel to set up the feud, despite being the hottest babyface in WCW at the time.
Thus, the historic first ever PPV encounter between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan was set for WCW's Bash at the Beach PPV.
What happened in that match, and in the months to follow, was enough expose Hogan for the manipulative, lying sack of shit that he is, and enough to turn me on him forever.
When the main event of Bash at the Beach came around, not only did Hogan blatantly no-sell just about everything Flair threw at him on that night in Orlando, he also acted like Ric Flair didn't even deserve to be in the same ring as him. It was ridiculous. Absolutely, totally ridiculous. All throughout the match, in typical Flair fashion, he attempted to work Hogan's knee over. I don't think Hogan as much as hobbled in the match. As would become the trend in the next few encounters between these two, Flair easily had the crowd in his corner at times as well. Despite a larger population of Hogan marks (many of whom who were given free tickets), Flair had a downright hostile fanbase, with each fan probably making as much noise of five Hogan fans combined.
How did the match end you ask?
Don't be silly friend, of course Hogan won. Flair knocked Hogan out cold with brass knuckles, but the bald, saggy old bastard did his stupid Hulk up routine (that of course symbolized everything that WCW was NOT supposed to stand for), and pinned Flair cleanly in the middle of the ring. OF COURSE it wouldn't make sense to celebrate his title win without Mr. T. and Shaquille O'Neal in the ring, so they joined the party too. Again, it was a disgrace to WCW.
The feud was far from over there. It was time to even the playing field a bit. Flair had agreed to put Hogan over cleanly in the match, under the condition that Hogan return the favor in the near future.
Two months later, the Clash of the Champions came around. The main event was set to be a return match between Hulk Hogan and "The Nature Boy" Ric Flair.
Hogan agreed to in advance to be pinned, with the help of a foreign object, that night, giving Flair the title and setting up a huge Halloween Havoc retirement match between the two.
On the day of the show, Hogan had a change of heart.
Instead of jobbing cleanly to Flair and setting up the biggest match in WCW history, Hogan exercised his previously mentioned creative control. Instead of losing to Flair, Hogan would now be brutally attacked early in the show and taken to the hospital. Once returning in an ambulance, Hogan would courageously hobble his way to the ring, beat the hell out of Ric Flair for 15 minutes, and then be counted out after all of Flair's cronies came down and attacked him.
Pardon my language, but it was a big fucking joke.
Regardless, the final blowoff match of the feud was still scheduled to take place at the annual October PPV, and the stipulations still held that Ric Flair must put his career on the line against Hulk Hogan's WCW title.
Thus, after thousands of off-topic, biased words by yours truly, we get to Halloween Havoc and the monster retirement match that would go on to shake wrestling to it's very core.
In what many consider to be greatest match of Hogan's career, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan fought a battle for the ages, with Hogan (knowing that he had nothing to lose) actually making an effort to sell, and Flair bumping like a madman. In typical WCW fashion, a simple match that could easily get over on it's own merits was overbooked into oblivion, featuring Mr. T as the guest referee and run-ins from half of the locker room. It was still a great match though, and was every bit the epic blowoff of the two that fans had been waiting a lifetime for.
When the final bell rang, Ric Flair lay defeated as Hogan goofily posed in the ring.
Flair's career was over for the time being, and the symbolic passing of the torch from old-school WCW to new-school shit took place.
I was heartbroken. I truly believed that I had seen the last of Ric Flair in World Championship Wrestling, and even in my younger days, that sat with me about as well as the idea of engaging in sexual intercourse with my Grandmother.
The story didn't end at Halloween Havoc though.
In the weeks before Havoc, the plan was intricately laid out by Bischoff, Hogan, and Flair. Flair would lose to Hogan at Havoc, but eventually find a loophole back into WCW. This would result in a final Flair-Hogan rematch at WCW's biggest show of the year, Starrcade. In the main event, Flair would heelishly defeat Hogan, cheating of course, adding new fuel to the fire of the Hogan-Flair feud.
As Starrcade approached, Hogan once again refused to go ahead with the match. He flexed his creative control, the very poison which killed WCW, and instead maneuvered his way into a main event squash against Brutus Beefcake at the company's seminal PPV.
If you want a laugh, read Hogan's pitiful attempt to spin this story in his favor within his book. It's laughable at best, reprehensible at worst, and a downright lie on all fronts.
If you really want a laugh, read Dave Meltzer's page by page dissection of every blatant lie in Hogan's book. It's laughably absurd.
Trust me friends, we'll be hearing a lot more from Hulk Hogan in the next two installments of this column. He was single handedly responsible for some of the very worst moments in Halloween Havoc history. He came up with the ideas, he forced them upon the company, and he went on to participate in them. The end result: some of the very worst concepts and very worst matches in WCW PPV History.
Tune in tommorow for part two of the series, where we take a closer look at Dusty Rhodes' stupidity, Hulk Hogan's continued destruction of the company, and the single most ludicrous match in professional wrestling history.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check back here at 411Wrestling tommorow for the second installment of this three-part series.