Welcome back once again to the final day of Twelve Years of Terror. Over the last three installments, we've taken a comprehensive look at the best and worst moments of WCW's annual October PPV.
I'd like to quickly apologize for Part 4's late arrival. I planned on putting the finishing touches on Part 4 late Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, my real-life twin brother, and fellow 411 columnist Jay Bower, collapsed in our living room about an hour before we were supposed to go out and celebrate Halloween. We rushed him to the emergency room, where we stayed until 8 in the morning. I'm not terribly fond of hospitals, and seeing my best friend in the world hooked up to an IV and an EKG was enough to take my mind off of wrestling for the rest of the weekend. The nurses attached a portable heart monitor to Jay's chest, which he had to wear for 24 hours. Luckily, it looks like the whole episode was an isolated incident resulting from stress, dehydration, and way too much caffeine and ephedra. The whole situation provided one of the least fun scares I've ever had on Halloween, and unfortunately also prevented me from going out, getting hammered, and finding a hot sorority girl dressed in a Britney Spears Catholic school girl outfit. There's always next year though.
Anyway, things are much better, thanks for asking, so let's get on with the show...
To conclude our in-depth review of Halloween Havoc, we're going to take a look at our final event of importance, a moment that is not well suited for the weak of heart. We'll also go over a few honorable mentions that didn't make the top 13 list, select the Ten Greatest Matches in Halloween Havoc History, and look at some of the promotional posters and box art from past Halloween Havocs.
Strap on your seatbelts kids, as we are OFF into the fourth and final installment of Twelve Years of Terror.
XIII. Hogan - Warrior II..
... The Worst feud in WCW History produces the Worst Match that Halloween Havoc ever saw. Halloween Havoc 1997:
As 1998 unfolded, one thing was becoming readily obvious to both wrestling fans and those within the business as well -- Vince McMahon's WWF was THE dominant force within the industry, and was showing no signs of slowing anytime in the foreseeable future. The very same WCW that had dominated the Monday Night ratings war for well over 80 weeks was now getting it's proverbial ass handed to it by very the company they had so arrogantly claimed they would put out of business. Aside from Bill Goldberg's spontaneous combustion, nothing within WCW was truly clicking anymore, as the backstage chaos and anarchy slowly trickled its way onto the screen and Hulk Hogan's stranglehold on Eric Bischoff and WCW became more and more apparent to those watching at home.
In a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding and reassert WCW as the #1 wrestling organization on the planet, Eric Bischoff again listened to Hogan and brought in a marquee name long-rumored to be on his way to WCW: The Ultimate Warrior. Hogan generously offered to resume his long-dormant feud with the Warrior, assuring Eric Bischoff that the feud would draw millions of new fans to WCW, as well as bring in hundreds of thousands more who had been desperately waiting years for the rematch between himself and the Ultimate Warrior.
Due to a messy lawsuit with the then-WWF, Jim Hellwig, a certified lunatic, legally changed his name to The Warrior. By doing so, he gained the legal right to refer to himself as "The Warrior." He was no longer "Ultimate," under threat of lawsuit, but he was still a mighty, if slightly neurotic, Warrior.
The Warrior was offered an astronomical amount of money by Eric Bischoff, especially by today's standards, and given moderate creative control over his character as well.
The Warrior burst immediately onto the Nitro scene with one of the most famously outlandish promos of all time. His long-winded, unintelligible diatribe measured nearly 15 minutes in length, despite total crowd apathy and the fact that not one OUNCE of what he said made any sense whatsoever. You just couldn't understand a single word of what the Warrior was saying, although in all fairness, it wouldn't have made any sense regardless.
Things didn't stop with the silly promos though, for the Warrior, again exercising his previously mentioned creative freedom, had apparently developed magical powers during his time away from the business.
In segments too horrendously stupid to ever stand a chance of being accurately described, The Warrior would raise his arms in the backstage area, allowing a magical smoke to fill the ring. The catch: the smoke would temporarily knock the entire NWO unconscious, leaving Hogan standing alone in the ring surrounded by a heap of wrestlers getting paid millions of dollars a year to lay in the ring and pretend to sleep..
It gets better.
The Warrior would then appear magically from the smoke, via a hidden trap door under the ring. Not only was the entire thing absolutely HORRIBLE, but the trap door that was specially built into the ring for this special-ed magic show not only injured many wrestlers, but also all but ended the career of Davey Boy Smith when he took a faulty bump THROUGH the trap door. Ugh.
The angle continued to run its course, with the Warrior playing mind game after mind game with Hollywood Hulk Hogan, as both men slowly began to lose their minds. Things all came to a head live on Nitro. What resulted was easily one of the worst moments in WCW history.
Hogan was sitting in his dressing room in front of a mirror, looking at himself and preparing to head towards the ring. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the Warrior appeared IN THE MIRROR. He looked like a science project hologram. It was awful. Hogan cartoonishly dropped his jaw, as if he had just seen a ghost. To make matters worse, nobody knew what the fuck was going on. The original intent of the scene was to be that Hogan was the only one able to see the Warrior, with everyone else thinking that Hogan was going crazy. Of course, in typical WCW fashion, the entire Nitro audience could see the Warrior in the mirror, and Tony Schaivonne screamed, in a ridiculously over-the-top fashion, "The Warrior... he's IN THE MIRROR." In even more typical WCW fashion, Eric Bischoff comes strolling into Hogan's dressing room, but is seemingly unable to see the Warrior in the mirror. Bischoff is of course on an entirely different page than the production crew and the announce staff, but then again, organization was never exactly WCW's strong point.
In a desperate attempt to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time, a *cough* epic return match, almost 10 years in the making, was signed for Halloween Havoc between Hollywood Hogan and the not-so-Ultimate Warrior.
The match was hyped as if it was the most important match in the history of wrestling, despite complete and total crowd indifference towards the Warrior. He had a different name, different music, and cut promos so bizarre, so long-winded, and so downright insane that they made Hogan's mid 80's promos, in which he likened himself to Christ backstroking through Heaven's waters, seem like the Gettysburg address in comparison. The hype was in place, the match was upon us, the day had come, and the crowd could not care less.
Hogan and the Warrior did everything in their power to recreate the epic feel of their Wrestlemania VI showdown. Unfortunately, it was now 1998 and Pat Patterson wasn't there to script out every last move of the match.
As the Warrior sprinted towards the ring at full-speed, you could literally hear pins dropping and random spurts of laughter. It was just THAT bad. The match was equally horrendous. Tests of strength, double-clotheslines, evil referees, massive interference, and criminal overbooking took a match that could have been generously called a DUD and transformed it into one of the very worst matches in the company's decades of existence. Fittingly, the end came when Horrace Hogan, life-long jobber and Hogan's biggest fan, interfered with a chair, KO'd the Warrior, and gave Hogan the pinfall.
Luckily, the Warrior was injured in the match and required a few weeks off. During his days days of recovery, it was decided by the WCW braintrust that the Warrior was so ridiculously useless that WCW would be better off paying him massive amounts of money to sit at home, rather than risk the repercussions of ever having him on television again.
The Warrior's psychosis, coupled with Hogan's political games, nearly killed WCW four years prematurely.
If you truly care about me, which I'm sure none of you do, NEVER watch this. Ever.
Two Halloween Happenings which can't go unmentioned.
The Horseman Ride Again: Halloween Havoc 1995.
After weeks of bickering, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, best friends and former Four Horseman stable-mates, locked horns for the first time ever in an emotional match at Fall Brawl. The crowd loved it, but it was obvious that Flair and Anderson were far from seeing eye to eye anytime in the near future. Meanwhile, Brian Pillman was beginning to further attach himself to Arn Anderson, forming a deceptive heel duo to torment Ric Flair. Flair, starting to feel the heat, enlisted long-time rival Sting to be in his corner at the upcoming Halloween Havoc PPV. Sting agreed. To the surprise of roughly no one, Flair turned on Sting, rejoined Pillman and Anderson, and reformed a strong incarnation of the most dominant stable in professional wrestling history, The Four Horseman. The crowd, despite heavily supporting Sting, blew the roof off of the building for the heelish Horseman, as they prepared to once again dominate WCW through strong-armed bullying and outside interference
The Phantom Unmasks: Halloween Havoc 1991.
Unadvertised, a masked wrestler calling himself "The Halloween Phantom" appeared at Halloween Havoc and demanded a match. Tom Zenk was the Phantoms opponent, and the masked man wasted no time in dominating the match and putting away Zenk with a reverse neckbreaker. Several minutes later, Paul E. Dangerously burst onto the interview podium. Having recently been given the axe from his color commentating position, Dangerously had found a loophole in his contract that still allowed him to manage. Pissed at WCW and looking for revenge, Paul E. announced the formation of his new mega-group: The Dangerous Alliance. The first member, The Halloween Phantom. The Phantom removed his mask, proving himself to be none other than "Ravishing" Rick Rude, fresh off a WWF release resulting from an argument with Vince McMahon. Together, Dangerously and Rude vowed revenge on WCW, starting with Sting. The angle was great, those involved were amazing, and Rude and Dangerously would go on, along with Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, and Larry Zybsko, to form a group rivaling that of the Horsemen in sheer talent and intensity..
The Promotion of Halloween Havoc..
Because I love you, I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the various promotional posters and original box art from WCW's annual Halloween tradition. Before you send me vengeful emails, YES, I know 1996 and 1998 are missing. I searched long and hard for this stuff, but unfortunately, neither 96 or 98 popped up. Both events sucked, so we'll just pretend like they never happened, negating the need for box art. It makes all of our lives easier.
The Ten Greatest Matches in Halloween Havoc History..
Before we head out, let's a take a look at the ten greatest matches in Halloween Havoc History. Some of them we may have covered previously, some of they we may not have. Before you get all obnoxious and smarky over the match ratings, I'll explain the criteria. The top ten matches have been compiled and ranked based on a combination of build, historical importance, and match quality. In other words, a **** match that meant nothing in the long run will rank much lower than a *** match that significantly changed wrestling. For this reason, don't expect to see many of the late 90's Cruiserweight matches on the list, although based solely on *cough* workrate, they'd obviously rank quite high. With that in mind, let's take a brief look back at the 10 Greatest Matches in Halloween Havoc History.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. Bill Goldberg
Halloween Havoc 1998: WCW World Title Match.
Bill Goldberg and DDP had the unenviable task of following up the tragically bad rematch between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior. The crowd was all but dead after such a horrendous bout, and few thought that Goldberg, a legitimate draw but sorely lackluster wrestler, and DDP, losing heat by the second, would be able to generate any crowd interest, let alone save the show. Surprisingly, DDP and Bill Goldberg would go on to completely tear the house down and have the best Halloween Havoc Main Event in four years. Goldberg looked like a man possessed, breaking out obscure wrestling holds, going for various submissions, and selling like he was Bret Hart circa Wrestlemania 10. Goldberg won the match after ducking a Diamond Cutter, but the true winners where all those watching at home. The match was easily the best match Goldberg has ever had, and inspiring effort by both men took a crowd ready to riot and sent them home with smiles on their faces.
Lex Luger vs. Brian Pillman
Halloween Havoc 1989: US Title Match.
While we discussed this match in detail back in part 2, it bears repeating that this is one incredible contest. Like Bill Goldberg in the previously mentioned matchup, Luger proved without a shadow of a doubt that he could wrestle if need be. An awesome match, and a match worth checking out if the opportunity ever arises.
The Midnight Express vs. Tommy Rich and Richard Morton.
Halloween Havoc 1990.
This is where the historical significance factor starts to work its way into our list. While Chris Jericho and Gedo may have had a much better pure wrestling match at Havoc in 98, when looking at the big picture, it just couldn't compare to the importance of this tag-match, the very last match the Midnight Express ever wrestled together in a major promotion. The Midnight Express, along with the Rock N' Roll Express, revolutionized American tag team wrestling, taking what was once a gimmick match and turning it into a true art form. The Midnight Express were the greatest tag team in the world for years, but truly became something of legend when Jim Cornette, Stan Lane, and Bobby Eaton came together permanently.
Bobby and Stan were just incredible to watch. It was as if they shared one mind. They communicated with eachother through eye contact and secret hand signals in order to always be on the same page. Go back and watch tapes, and you'll have a hard time even picking up their signals, yet you'll notice that they were just always DEAD-on, no matter the circumstance. While the Road Warriors may have been more feared, Arn & Tully may have been more technically gifted, and the Rock N' Roll Express may have been more popular with the ladies, no single tag-team in wrestling history has ever been as succinct, connected, and seamless as the Midnight Express.When Jim Cornette and Stan Lane left over creative differences and formed Smokey Mountain Wrestling, the greatest duo to ever step foot in the ring together finally went their separate ways. While still a great match, the Midnight Express' final battle at Halloween Havoc 1990 just couldn't come close to comparing to the legacy the team left behind.
Raven vs. Chris Jericho
Halloween Havoc 1998: WCW TV Title Match.
This match makes our list for two reasons. First, the match was amazing. While only clocking in at around ten minutes, you'll be hard pressed to find a more intense, action-packed ten minutes anywhere in the McMahon family vaults. More importantly though, this was the match that MADE Chris Jericho. Jericho is one the great examples of a wrestler with no real direction, no true push, and limited TV time, getting himself insanely over on personality alone. Chris Jericho's Super J Cup performance in 1995 brought Jericho to the attention of the hardcore fans. Chris Jericho's feud with Dean Malenko made "smart" fans sit up and take notice of him. And Chris Jericho's win over a red-hot Raven pushed Jericho into the stratosphere. After nearly ten minutes of insane bumps, near-falls, and downright brutal blows, Raven tapped out cleanly to the Liontamer, giving Jericho a major victory and enough momentum to propel himself straight into a long-term, high-dollar contract with the hottest wrestling organization in the country, the WWF.
Lex Luger vs. Ron Simmons
WCW Halloween Havoc 1991: WCW World Title.
There are two distinct schools of thought on this match. The first train of thought is from the obnoxious, jaded smarks of today, who claim the match to be horrible and boring. Most of these fans have either recently seen the match for the first time, or have gone back and rewatched it with their smark goggles on along with their equally negative, terminally obese friends. The second school of thought on this match is that it's not only a pretty good match, but also a culturally significant milestone for American wrestling. Halloween Havoc 1991 marked the first time in American PPV wrestling history that an African American wrestler headlined a PPV in any one-on-one capacity. Even though Ron Simmons lost the match in 3 falls, Ron Simmons blazed a new trail, paving the way for wrestlers like Booker T to step into the spotlight and finally be given a chance to shine. The historic nature of the match, coupled with it's above-average quality, makes this match an easy inclusion in the top matches in Havoc History.
The Steiners vs. The Nasty Boys
WCW Halloween Havoc 1990: WCW U.S. Tag Team Title Match
See Part 3 for a full discussion of this match and it's importance. An amazing, action-packed, hard-hitting tag team match that took two previously unseen independent wrestlers and turned them into the hottest tag team in wrestling. Blood flowed freely, tempers flared, and stars were born in a match who's legend continues to endure 13 years after the match occurred.
Rey Misterio Jr vs. Eddie Guerrero
WCW Halloween Havoc 1997: WCW Cruiserweight Title Match
From Part 1:
"[Rey vs. Eddie] is the match that finally made casual 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, this match would be considered the greatest Cruiserweight match to ever take place on American soil."
A true classic in every sense of the word. If this list was compiled strictly on match quality, this would easily be the best match in Halloween Havoc History.
Vader vs. Cactus Jack.
WCW Halloween Havoc 1993: WCW World Title Match
Texas Death Match (as determined by Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal)
My full thoughts on this feud, the match, and it's importance to the evolution of American wrestling, can be found in Part 1. This match was just an amazingly intense way to end an amazingly intense feud. All things considered, Vader-Cactus could easily be considered one of the greatest feuds in WCW history. While it didn't have the prestige of Flair-Steamboat, the history of Flair-Sting, or the backstory of Flair-Funk, it more than made up for those shortcomings with its numerous unforgettable moments and sheer brutality. Halloween Havoc 1993 was the final blowoff of this feud, with the end result being an amazingly brutal match to put a fitting end to an amazingly brutal, unforgettable feud.
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair
WCW Halloween Havoc 1994: WCW Word Title Match
Title (Hogan) vs. Career (Flair).
If you've read the previous installments of Twelve Years of Terror, then my thoughts on Hulk Hogan and his negative impact on WCW shouldn't exactly be a new concept to you. On October 27th, 1994, WCW took an irrevocable turn, and a turn that I truly believed led them on a one-way path to eventual destruction. Faced with a pivotal, history-altering decision of remaining old-school NWA, or moving away from everything that had been built and becoming a new-school WWF, Eric Bischoff and Ted Turner mutually came to a decision. The two men who stood on opposite sides of the ring at Halloween Havoc 1994 had each become figuratively and permanently etched to one of the two choices. Ric Flair was the contemporary Lou Thesz, a true World Champion. Flair was an athlete. A legendary wrestler. The mere mention of the name Ric Flair conjured up thoughts of 60 minute battles within smoky armories and arenas, legendary bloodbaths with hated opponents, and above all, a man who lived, died, and breathed for one thing and one thing only: winning.
On the opposite end of the ring stood Hulk Hogan. Hogan stood for everything that Ric Flair and the NWA opposed. Hulk Hogan stood for Hollywood. Hogan stood for Sports Entertainment. Hogan stood for horrible matches, horrible wrestling, and a belief that match quality, believability, and intensity took a back seat to hype, merchandising, and MTV.
Never in wrestling history have the battle lines been so clearly defined. The old school and the new school were about to collide, with the very future of WCW on the line.
Ted Turner and Eric Bischoff mutually agreed that the time had come to abandon Ric Flair, abandon NWA Tradition, and abandon the style of wrestling that had earned and KEPT hundreds of thousands of fans over the years. The very backbone of WCW was gutted out, and in it's place was placed bad gimmicks, horrible wrestling, and Hulk Hogan.
Ric Flair's career was temporarily over, Hulk Hogan was the new head man in WCW, and loyal fans began tuning out in droves.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the loyal core audience that WCW drove away by these actions could still be keeping WCW afloat to this day had it not been for the decisions made by Eric Bischoff and Ted Turner in 1994. What they failed to realize at the time was that millions of people supported WCW, went to its house shows, and ordered its PPV's because it was an alternative to Vince McMahon's bullshit Connecticut sideshow. By taking the steps that they did in 1994, WCW basically gave a proverbial "Fuck You" to it's loyal fans in desperate hopes that the waning WWF fanbase would accept WCW as their new product of choice.
Countless wrestling fans turned off their TV's for the final time in 1994, and for many, myself included, something died on October 27th, 1994 when Hulk Hogan defeated Ric Flair in the cage at Halloween Havoc.
Ric Flair and Sting vs. Terry Funk and The Great Muta
WCW Halloween Havoc 1989:
Unless you were there at the time, it's just impossible to understand just how truly special the NWA was in 1989. The booking was amazing, the matches were even better, the crowds were red hot, and everything was just clicking on all cylinders. 1989 was the culmination of years of hard work by Mid-Atlantic, Georgia, and Florida wrestling, bold, brilliant moves by Jim Crockett, and most importantly, good old fashioned ass-busting hard work by the Ric Flairs and the Dusty Rhodes and the Midnight Expresses and the Lex Lugers and the Arn and Ole Andersons and everyone else who helped bring old-school Southern wrestling to such prominence. All of these factors combined led to 1989, the greatest year in professional wrestling history, PERIOD.
Halloween Havoc 1989 was the final true PPV of a year that saw four legendary feuds take place. Ric Flair and Lex Luger continued their epic wars of 1988. Sting and the Great Muta locked horns in battles still talked about to this day. Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat went out with little-to-no preparation and put on a match that Dave Meltzer called the greatest match in North American wrestling history. Not only that, but a few weeks later they proceeded to go out and actually TOP the match... twice. Immediately after the feud was complete, Ric Flair moved into yet another epic feud, this time with the legendary Terry Funk.
All of these feuds, all of these angles, and all of this tension finally came to a head at Halloween Havoc 1989 within the confines of the massive electrified Thundercage. It's only fitting that the best main event in Halloween Havoc History capped off the final true PPV of the 1989, the greatest year in wrestling history.
There you have it.
I hope everyone enjoyed our little stroll down Halloween Havoc memory lane as much as I did. As I'm sure is fairly obvious, I hold the true NWA/WCW very dear to my heart, and it just killed me to see what became of it when Hulk Hogan was given free reign. I've long since accepted the death of WCW, but one can't help but wonder what might have been if Bischoff and Turner would have stuck with Flair instead of Hogan. I can't help but wonder if the NWA/WCW wouldn't still be around in some capacity.
Speaking of which, I've gotten a lot of emails asking how I feel about the current day NWA:TNA, and whether or not I feel it deserves to be called "NWA." Truth be told, I've never even seen a single show, so I honestly can't comment. Our cable provider doesn't offer it and I've never had the urge or excess cash to start shipping away for the videos. If anyone has any footage floating around they wouldn't mind sending my way, I'd love to take a look at it. The same goes for Halloween Havoc 1989-1993. My tapes were the unfortunate victim of a flash-flood about a year and a half ago and I've never recovered them.
Anyway, thanks again for joining me for this special, four-part look at WCW's Halloween Havoc. It brought back a lot of good memories, both good and bad, for me, and I honestly hope it brought a few back for you as well.
I've got another big column in the works, but in the meantime, keep your eyes open in the coming weeks for the long-awaited continuation of the Year in Wrestling series. As much as I've put off continuing the series, I can't ignore the demand anymore. The emails have been coming without fail for over a year asking about the next installment. If you guys care enough to remember my name, track down my email address, and ask about the status of the series, the least I could do is put another one out. In the meantime, be sure to check out the archives and let me know what you think. I'll include a link to the three major WCW editions, because within a week or two, we'll be following up right where we left off. Thanks a million again guys, I appreciate you taking the time to read the special, and as always, please let me know what you thought went right, what went wrong, or just what you thought in general. Take it easy, and hope all is well.