411Wrestling Special: Halloween Havoc: 12 Years Of Terror - Part 2
Posted by Michael Benjamin on 10.30.2003
Part 2 of Ken Anderson's special look back at the greatest moments in WCW Halloween Havoc history...
Halloween Havoc: 12 Years of Terror (pt. 2 of 3) goes out to the funniest, if not most frightening and deranged, stalker that an internet wrestling celebrity could ever ask for. It's one thing to get the occasional strange, disturbing email from a slightly neurotic reader, but it's quite another to have a slightly-askew fan compose and record a song about you, your personal habits, and your Internet Wrestling Columns.
Give it a listen. Although it honestly makes me fear for my life, certain lines also gave me the biggest genuine laugh I've had in ages. I guess it's a fair trade off.
Without further ado, our comprehensive look back at the most memorable moments in Halloween Havoc History continues with Part II...
V. Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal.. Halloween Havoc 1992:
On August 2nd, 1992, one of the most memorable cards in WCW History took place within the hallowed confines of the Baltimore Arena. Within this very auditorium, some of the greatest moments that the NWA/WCW ever saw unfolded throughout the years. This night would prove to be yet another storied evening in this historic NWA arena.
On this particular evening, Sting was set to compete in a rematch for the WCW Heavyweight title with the Vader, the man who had all but left him for dead at the Great American Bash PPV four weeks earlier. As Sting came out early in the show to be interviewed about the upcoming title match, the crowd was in a complete frenzy. For the first minute of the interview, Sting had the city of Baltimore in the palm of his hand. Unfortunately for the Stinger, things were about to take a turn for the worst.
As the interview was winding down, none other than Jake "The Snake" Roberts emerged from the crowd. He brutally attacked Sting, beating him without mercy. When the Stinger was no longer able to stand, Jake picked him up into his arms, laid a steel chair on the mat, and DDT's Sting into oblivion.
Sting was escorted out of the arena on a stretcher, and needless to say, his World Title rematch with Vader was officially off.
WCW head man Bill Watts was appalled by the situation, but refused to send the Baltimore Arena home without seeing Vader defend his title. In a last-minute decision, "Cowboy" Bill Watts announced that every willing WCW wrestlers' name would be put into a hat. One name would be drawn, and that man would go on to face Vader for the World Heavyweight Title in the main event of the show that night.
Over a dozen WCW wrestlers stood in the middle of the ring as Watts mixed up the names. He closed his eyes, stuck in his hand, and pulled out a single slip of paper.
The name that he drew: Ron Simmons.
Ron Simmons and Vader went on to have an amazing, heavy-hitting power match, with the fans in attendance absolutely blowing the roof off of the Baltimore Arena for "The Natural" Ron Simmons. When the dust had settled that evening in Baltimore, Ron Simmons was the first black Heavyweight champion in wrestling history.
It was an amazing moment that was, once again, much more real than anything you'd ever see in the WWF.
As Ron Simmons stood atop the ropes in tears holding the BIG GOLD belt over his head, flash bulbs exploded as the crowd grew louder and louder by the moment. Thousands had come to the Baltimore Arena to enjoy a standard WCW house show and see their favorite old-school wrestlers up close and personal. They left the famed arena having seen the most storied title in all of wrestling change hands with no warning. And they left having seen history made.
Flash forward to mid-October:
Sting and Jake Roberts hatred for eachother was getting more intense by the day. After nearly three months of feuding, a match was set for Halloween Havoc to blow-off this insane grudge. A normal match wouldn't be enough to end this war though. A special match was needed... a match of FRIGHTENING proportions.
Thus, in October 2002, Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal was made.
For those not in the know, despite the fancy name, Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal was basically nothing more than a goofy, oversized cardboard wheel with ten different match stipulations drawn on. At Halloween Havoc, the wheel would be spun, and whatever match it landed upon, Sting and Jake Roberts would take part in.
The ten match possibilities:
1. Texas Death Match
2. Bullrope Match
3. Prince of Darkness Match (because it was just THAT good at WMVII) 4. Cage Match
5. First Blood Match
6. "I Quit" Match
7. Coal Miners Glove Match
8. Lumberjacks with Straps Match
9. Barbed Wire Match.
10. Spinner's Choice
The wheel was in place, the match was signed, and all that was left to do was to promote Halloween Havoc to the wrestling-hungry mainstream..
Let's play a little game of "Book WCW," shall we ???
Let's say YOU, person X, are in control of WCW.
Would you ...
A) Create exciting video packaging, detailing the highlights of the feud in order to get fans excited about the matchup.
B) Have the announcers hard sell the match on your many cable and syndicated wrestling broadcasts.
C) Spend close to a half million dollars creating a "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" mini-movie in which midgets (with eyepatches) and bikers co-exist in a secret bar, hypnotically chanting "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" in a borderline frightening manor while waiting for Sting. Then when Sting finally arrives, you have the bikers begin pounding the tables along with the midgets as Sting shoots LASER BEAMS out of his eyes at Jake Roberts.
If you answered C, you friend would be next in line to head up WCW if it still existed.
The mini-movie was absolutely horrible, it made the entire thing come off as a joke, and served to further kill off any credibility the goofy gimmick might have otherwise had.
To put it bluntly, Halloween Havoc 1992 was AWFUL.
All three of the "big" matches for the PPV failed on absolutely every front. Rick Rude and Masahiro Chono followed up their ***** NWA Title classic with one of the worst matched to ever take place on American soil. It really was that bad. The ending involved two or three referees, half Japanese, half American all running in circles and screaming. The end result, the crowd was pissed that they had to waste half an hour on such nonsense, the belt still belonged to Rude, and absolutely nobody cared.
The World Title Match also bombed miserably. Ron Simmons was fresh off of his victory for the title and was in desperate need of a credible challenger to be put over. Bill Watt's solution: The Barbarian. Yeah, that's right, the Barbarian. The man forever relegated to squashing Joe Wolfe on WWF Superstars was now fighting for the most coveted title in the business. The crowd HATED this. In fact, it might have been even more apathy than hatred, as not a single person in Philly made as much as one sound for the entirety of this matchup. Oh well, Simmons won, as if there was any doubt of the outcome to begin with.
Now, it was time for the main event. After nearly three months of build, and weeks upon weeks of speculation as to where the wheel would land, the moment of truth was upon us.
Sting gave the wheel a mighty spin as cheap pyros sent pathetic second-grade sparks inches into the air. The damn wheel looked like it was about to fall right off of it's brace. The whole thing looked more like a bizarre combination of a white trash 4th of July and the Price is Right than an actual wrestling angle.
The crowd buzzed as the gimmicked wheel slowed to a stop. The result, a Coal Miners Glove match. Ouch. Bill Watts had filled the wheel with exciting, controversial matches like First Blood and Barbed Wire, and proceeded to gimmick the wheel to land on the absolute worst possible choice.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of a Coal Miner's Glove Match, I'll expand...
A normal wrestling match occurs, with the only exception being that a black glove is placed at ringside. If you can beat your opponent to the glove, you are free to slip it onto your fingers and pummel him with this oven mitt of misery without risk of disqualification. It's actually not as stupid as it sounds though... it's really much stupider.
The match was terrible, the crowd was pissed, and the match ended in one of the inane moments in WCW PPV history.
As the match winded down, Jake brought his snake out from under the ring, removed it from the bag, and attempted to get the slippery serpent to bite Sting. Sting was savvy though. He quickly put on the mitten from hell, grabbed the snake by the neck, and pushed the venomous beast towards Jake. In theory, the king cobra was supposed to sink it's teeth right in Jake Robert's face, much in the same way it sank it's teeth into Randy Savage's arm a year earlier in the WWF. In actuality, the snake seemed about as interested in biting Jake as a Puro fan would be in watching the Chamber of Horrors match from Havoc 91. Jake "improvised" by grabbing the cobra and pushing it onto his face in an exaggerated, completely ridiculous manner. Even more laughably, the snake refused to bite Jake, and instead just kind of grinned as if he knew that he was ruining WCW's October tradition. To end the horrible turn of events, Jake cartoonishly fell over due to the pain and venom of the non-existent bite. Sting counted three, the people watching for free at home on their descramblers laughed, the people who paid cursed, and the Philly crowd nearly rioted.
The match was horrible, the crowd hated it, and the Snakeman was officially gone from WCW within a couple of weeks.
Horrid, yet memorable as all hell.
VI. The Luger - Pillman Classic. Halloween Havoc 1989:
Lex Luger, the NWA U.S. Champion, was fresh off of a killer heel turn, and was arguably the hottest "bad guy" in wrestling by the time October 1989 rolled around. The crowd loved to hate the narcissistic "Total Package", who demeaned the fans, ran down the babyfaces, and arrogantly admired his own massive physique.
Meanwhile, Brian Pillman was setting the NWA on fire with his pretty boy looks, innovative offense, and fiery charisma. Less than a year into his run, he was already getting some of the loudest cheers in the promotion and winning new fans over left and right with his daredevil style. In fact, if it weren't for Pillman, the high-flying lightweight style of wrestling he came to be known for might never have taken hold in America to the extent that it did.
The match had no real backstory, very little build, and no corny gimmicks, but even without that nonsense, both men absolutely tore the house down on this particular evening in Philadelphia.
I know the popular net trend in the last few years has been to say that Luger is one of the worst workers in wrestling history, but if you take the time to watch some of his stuff from 88-91 with Flair, Windham, Sting, Steamboat, Muta, and Pillman, you'd be surprised at just good Luger used to be. Sure, he was usually carried by a more experienced opponent, but Luger always held up his end of the deal extremely well during this time period.
In something that you'll never see today, Luger and Pillman wrestled a fairly straight-forward, interference-free, 20 minute match, with the main plot line being that of clean-cut babyface vs. crooked heel, as opposed to the more contemporary plot line of abusive rapist father against squawky, decidedly butch daughter.
In typical Philly fashion, the crowd was split right down the middle, with half cheering for Pillman, and the remainder screaming their lungs out for the heelish Luger. The match was a workrate lovers wet dream, with nonstop action and little-to-no rest holds applied. Pillman soared through the air injury-free and Luger used offense that you'd never think "The Total Package" capable of if judging him by his later standards. Pillman and Luger exchanged chops hard enough to make Chris Jericho wince, waged war over sunset flips, and delivered a match that still holds up if gauged by today's standards.
Luger won cleanly with a modified stun gun, retaining the title, drawing a massive face pop, and ending a match that I'd have no qualms in giving ****1/2 too.
If you ever have the opportunity to purchase a copy of Halloween Havoc 89, by all means, do so. This is one case in which I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed.
VII. The Giant and Hulk Hogan Redefine Stupidity.
Halloween Havoc 1995:
As WCW officials casually surveyed the crowd before an early 1995 PPV, one man immediately came into view. Like a Humpback Whale in Central park, he stood out like no other wrestling fan they'd ever seen before him. The officials were so impressed by this man's look, build, and sheer size, that they began frantically alerting everyone who would listen of his presence, dragging many outside of the curtains to have a look for themselves.
Within a week, Paul Wight was under WCW contract.
After a brief stint in WCW's Power Plant, where unsubstantiated claims have it that he learned the basics of professional wrestling, Paul Wight was rushed into an early debut on WCW television.
While most wrestlers pay their dues, work their way up the ladder, and earn the right to eventually headline a card, Eric Bischoff had a much different idea for Paul Wight.
Brought in (disgracefully) as the "son of Andre the Giant," Paul Wight would be immediately cast into a main event feud with Hulk Hogan.
Wight had few skills, an entire locker room full of angry veterans who felt as if he had been given too much, too early, and a horrible, offensive gimmick that no one was buying. Despite having all of these cards immediately stacked against him, at least he had a strong, properly told storyline to push the sure-fire angle into the stratosphere, right?
Think again friends, this is WCW we're talking about.
The Giant made his debut at WCW's Fall Brawl 1995, putting an end to one of the worst matches I've personally ever seen.
As the PPV approached, Hulk Hogan was continuing to use every ounce of his political power to transform WCW into a bizarro-world version of the mid-80's WWF. With each passing day, another trace of the legendary, time-honored Southern rasslin' that WCW had preserved over the years was murdered by Hogan and his merry men and replaced with recycled, unoriginal, badly-worked shit.
As a long-time NWA/WCW fan who was never terribly fond of the WWF's product while growing up, it was absolutely revolting to see what was happening right before my very eyes each week. During this pivotal time period, hundreds of thousands of long-time NWA wrestling fans all but abandoned the product. In my humble opinion, this mass alienation planted the seeds for WCW's demise a full six years before the company officially went belly-up. One of the absolute worst things you can ever do from a business perspective is to alienate your loyal, core consumers. WCW managed to drive away a large chunk of their core fanbase in well under a year, and the repercussions would prove very costly. Yes, Hogan's sideshow raised attendance, increased PPV buyrates, and generated a very mild buzz for WCW, but the casual marks that followed Hogan to the company very quickly disappeared, leaving WCW not only without the departed masses of rubes, but also without a very sizeable chunk of life-long company supporters. When the company finally decided that they had enough of Hogan and slowly attempted to digress back towards a more traditional wrestling product, it proved to be far too little, and far too late, as the long time fans who had tuned out had finally moved on to other things, shutting the door on any chance WCW had to turn things around.
Back to Fall Brawl...
The main event of Fall Brawl was an *epic* eight-man match between Hulk Hogan's Hulkamaniacs and Kevin Sullivan's Dungeon of Doom. For proof of just how eerily WCW was starting to resemble the WWF of the mid-to-late 80's, look no further than the participants in this match: Hulk Hogan. Randy Savage. Brutus Beefcake. Kamala. John "Earthquake" Tenta. King "Meng" Haku. It was absurd. Sting and Lex Luger rounded out the babyface team, and in the process, long-time WCW fans were again slapped right in the face when two of their company's brightest self-created stars were demoted to playing the part of subservient lapdogs to the bone-thin Hogan and his WWF playmates.
To further hammer home the irony of what was taking place in WCW at this point, the match would be contested under Wargames rules. I only thank the good Lord that Jim Crockett wasn't around to see this.
You'll probably be shocked to hear this, but for the four billionth time in less than 10 months, Hulk Hogan went over EVERYONE in the main event. Hogan was the last man to enter the cage, and when he did, the heels all begged off as if the Chinese Army had just entered the ring, despite having an obvious 4-on-1 advantage. The match ended with Hogan single-handedly taking out the entire Dungeon of Doom by himself as his teammates lay helpless on the mat. In the worst finish in WarGames history, Hogan weakly applied a reverse chinlock of all things to Beefcake, causing him to immediately submit. It was enough to make me want to beat my head into a wall.
Because Hogan's team, err Hogan, won, due to the special stipulations of the match, Hogan got five minutes alone in the cage with Kevin Sullivan.
Enter Paul Wight, or as the announcers called him, "The Son of Andre the Giant."
Paul Wight ran in from the back, decimated Hogan, and choked him unconscious.
Thus, the new "big money" feud was born, and things plummeted straight to hell. Words just can't describe how horrible the next few weeks were for WCW.
The Giant immediately joined "The Dungeon of Doom," easily the most tragically stupid stable in wrestling history.
Just a couple of short years ago, WCW revolved around Ric Flair's Four Horsemen, the most dominant heel stable on the planet at the time. Now, WCW revolved around a God-awful clan of wrestlers which included a Leprechaun, a Shark, Kamala, Brutus Beefcake painted black, a near crippled One Man Gang, THE LOCH NESS MONSTER, and a fucking MUMMY.
I know it must sound funny to a lot of people, but when put in proper context, it was downright heartbreaking. For so many years, die-hard wrestling fans were able to turn to the NWA/WCW as an escape from Vince McMahon's bullshit cartoon wrestling, While Hillbillies were dancing in the ring, a grown man was pretending to be a dog, and a gigantic bird was popping out an equally large egg, The Horsemen were assaulting babyfaces and causing near riots, The Midnights and Rock N' Roll express were fighting some of the greatest tag matches of all time, and Ric Flair was engaging in 60 minute HOUSE SHOW wars with Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, and Nikita Koloff.
Just a few short years later, a tiny Leprauchan was interfering in matches by biting the legs of the Dungeon of Doom's opponents and a Mummy was headlining major events.
To avoid messy legal situations, WCW eventually stopped referring to The Giant as the "Andre's Son," and instead had him cut ridiculously outlandish promos from poorly designed, mysterious ice caves in which he'd use his popular new catchphrase, "I WILLLLL DESTROYYYY HUCKLMANIAAA, FORRRR I, AM THE SONNNNN, OF A GIAAAAAAAAAAAANT."
More legal threats were leveled, and eventually that reference would disappear as well, leaving Paul Wight known simply as The Giant.
I'll avoid the unpleasantries, but once again WCW took a simple, no-lose angle, and overcomplicated it with ridiculous nonsense, ruining the angle in the process. Instead of simply hyping the upcoming Giant-Hogan match as a battle between wrestling's biggest superstar and a legitimate Giant, they had to go and bring in motorcycles, Snow Beasts, a Mummy, and the Taskmaster.
Plus, Paul Wight just wouldn't be able to be taken seriously as a title contender based on his massive size and killer persona alone, oh no. He needed an edge. He needed something special. He needed a Monster Truck.
That's right, for weeks on end, the Giant would terrorize Hogan using his specially designed, intricately painted Monster Truck. He even went as far as to run over the Hulkster's Harley Chopper with his glamorized Big Wheels Truck.
When The Giant lured Hogan to the secret Ice Cave, attacked him from behind, and beat him into the ground with the help of Kamala, Hogan had finally had enough. Hogan was pissed. Hogan was determined. And Hogan was ready to exact his revenge. What did he do you ask? Oh yeah, he got a Monster Truck of his Own.
All of this nonsense came to a head at Cobo Hall in Detroit Michigan at WCW's Halloween Havoc 1995.
The Giant and Hulk Hogan signed to compete in not only a match for the WCW World Title, but also a MONSTER TRUCK match on the roof of the Cobo Arena.
What happened that night made my intelligence feel more insulted than it ever had as a wrestling fan. EVER. It was also Hogan's idea.
Late into Halloween Havoc, Hulk Hogan and The Giant manned their respective monster trucks atop the roof of the famed Cobo Hall arena. The object of the Monster Truck fight was simply to push your opponent out of a yellow circle which was drawn on the ground. I don't know about you guys, but if someone beats me within an inch of my life, threatens my friends and family, and disrespects my long-dead friend, I don't think the first thing I'd be doing was trying to push them out of a little yellow circle in ma' big bad truck.
In a slightly comical turn of events, Hogan even refused to job in the Monster Truck contest, easily pushing The Giant out of the circle.
The Giant was irate and went immediately after Hogan. Hogan jumped from his Monster Truck and the fight was on atop the Cobo Hall Arena.
What happened next you ask?
The Giant, with a little help from Hogan, FELL OFF THE ROOF of the arena.
Paul Wight, in theory, plunged well over a hundred feet to concrete below. The Giant was all but dead. Hogan sat idly by, mustering up tears and putting on one of the worst acting jobs I've ever seen.
Here's the part that just makes me want to punch the wall though.
Five minutes later, Hogan came out to reluctantly accept his victory in the title match because of the Giant's massive injuries, when out of nowhere, the Giant just comes strolling down to the ring, practically smiling and whistling. We're talking less than half an hour after he supposedly fell off the roof of a major arena. The announcers didn't even mention the fall, and the match went on as normal.
With the help of a Jimmy Hart heel turn and the outside interference of a MUMMY, The Giant went on to become the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion at Halloween Havoc in 1995. What happened next wasn't important. What really was important was the fact that WCW had seemingly changed their entire gameplan in ten minutes, and not even bothered in the LEAST bit to try to make it come together in any way.
Unless you were watching live, I don't think it's possible to fully grasp just how stupid and nonsensical this whole thing was. The Giant fell OFF THE ROOF of the Cobo Hall Arena, and five minutes later he was running the ropes. It's just mind-numblingly STUPID to even think about.
Oh well, here's the man that WCW cut Cactus Jack and Steve Austin to help pay for. Brilliant. Just absolutely brilliant.
VIII. The Butcher Fries.. Halloween Havoc 1991:
This is rock bottom guys.
When the talk of wrestling fans shifts to bad gimmick matches, several matches inevitably come up. Most often mentioned are matches like the WWF's Hell in a Kennel fiasco, Global Wrestling's Bungee Cord bout, or the infamous AWA Turkey on a Pole match.
One match always comes out on top though. Time and time again, this match stands out amongst the absolute worst that wrestling has ever seen. It's stupidity was unparalleled. It's execution was horrendous. And it's production was some of the worst ever seen.
That match is the "Chamber of Horrors."
Without exaggeration, the "Chamber of Horrors" was the most disturbing yet ironically funny match that any promotion has ever sanctioned. This ridiculous match took eight of WCW's brightest stars and turned them into perversely amusing Saturday Morning cartoon characters.
At Halloween Havoc 1991, Sting, El Gigante, and the Steiner Brothers took on Abdullah the Butcher, Cactus Jack, Vader, and The Diamond Studd (Scott Hall) in a match of ridiculously absurd proportions. The rules were as follows:
All eight men would locked inside of the "Chamber of Horrors" steel cage. Once inside of the cage, dozens of "instruments of torture" (baseball bats, chairs, chains, handcuffs, etc..) could be used in an attemp to render your opponent(s) helpless.
What happens when your opponent is helpless you ask? Let's once again whip out the trust old Dusty Rhodes multiple choice approach to find out:
If you were a booker trying to run a respectable, athletic, old-school wrestling promotion, the object of the match would be to:
1) Drag your incapacitated opponent towards the center of the ring, and once there, attempt to pin him... 1,2,3...
2) Apply a shoot-style submission hold to the injured body part of your adversary, allowing the possibility of a quick submission.
3) Drag your helpless opponent towards the tiny cage resting in the center of the ring. Once there, open the cage door, lift up your opponent, and attempt to strap him into the ELECTRIC CHAIR located inside of the small cage. Once he is restricted and secure, signal towards your partner to ascend the cage wall and pull the "Fatal lever," sending hundreds of thousands of watts of current through your opponents body and hypothetically killing him.
Which one would YOU pick ??? I'll give you one guess as to which one Dusty selected.
Old-school WCW fans spent yet another thirty dollars on this shit, not discovering until the PPV what exactly the "Chamber of Horrors" was. No wonder they kept the true stipulations so closely guarded until the event.
Just in case you're wondering, Abdullah the Butcher was the one who ended up getting "fried." In a silly turn of events, his VERY OWN PARTNER Cactus Jack got confused and accidentally pulled the lever. Sparks flew, strange circular pyros went off to signify the "electrocution," and the live crowd sat deafly silent, horrified by just terrible this entire match was.
Well guys, that brings Part II to a close.
As always, drop me an email with any questions, comments, or concerns you may have regarding the series thus far.
I'll be back tommorow with the final installment of Halloween Havoc: 12 Years of Terror, complete with the ten best matches in Havoc History, complete box art from all 12 ppv's, and the final five moments which came to define the NWA/WCW and it's October tradition, Halloween Havoc.
Thanks again for reading, and I'll see you tommorow.