It’s a particularly spooky time of year, with Halloween firmly on the horizon, and as the whole world gets ready for the night where all things are possible, professional wrestling is not immune from the festivities. In a number of ways, Halloween and professional wrestling are perfect bedfellows. Both involve elaborate costumes, a sense of the theatrical and a suspension of disbelief in order to truly be effective. Indeed, WWE have embraced the Halloween spirit on many occasions, whether it was themed episodes of Saturday Night’s Main Event, Raw or SmackDown, or angles involving their many supernatural characters like The Undertaker, Kane Bray Wyatt or even The Boogeyman. However, WCW was perhaps the biggest adopter of Halloween traditions in wrestling with their yearly Halloween Havoc pay-per-view, a show so iconic and nostalgic that WWE are reviving the brand for their NXT show next week.
With that in mind, it seemed only right to go back and watch all of the WCW Halloween Havoc events and pick out the best, or indeed worst moments that might be worth revisiting.
Halloween Havoc 1989 – The Beginning
The inaugural event in the Halloween Havoc canon was a pretty mixed bag of an event. It would be difficult to describe it as a stellar show despite the presence of a number of legendary names in wrestling history. The undercard is a pretty so-so affair with Lex Luger vs Brian Pillman and Doom vs The Steiner Brothers as the main highlights, the latter marking the debut of Butch Reed and Ron Simmons as a tag team, albeit under masks. The main event was a clusterfuck, with the sort of gimmicky nonsense that characterised this era of WCW, an electrified cage that was barely used and also weirdly incorporated a “Tarzan rope”, and even strong performances from Sting, The Great Muta, Terry Funk and Ric Flair couldn’t save it. A historic event, but not a memorable one.
Halloween Havoc 1990: Terror Rules the Ring
If the undercard of the 1989 show was a mixed bag, 1990 can accurately be defined as a messy shitshow. At this time WCW was a company lacking direction and true identity, trying to be both the traditional “wrestling” company and also embrace the flashy, colourful ethos that served WWF so well, but arguably failing at both in the process. In all honesty, the top two matches are the only ones that made any kind of impact with Lex Luger and Stan Hansen putting together a hard-hitting battle with a shock result, and Sid looking like a star of the future against Sting in the main event, even with the ridiculous finish.
Halloween Havoc 1991 – The Chamber of Horrors
Of course, cages aren’t cheap, and I’m sure that was the case in the late 80s and early 90s. However, WCW’s recycling of the cage from the 1989 iteration of Halloween Havoc in 1991 was incredibly memorable for all the wrong reasons. It was the Thunderdome cage that had also made an appearance at Capital Carnage that year which went swimmingly, Robocop and all. The Chambers of Horrors is infamous in terms of how silly it is, which of course meant that many traditional WCW fans (or perhaps more so NWA fans) were miffed by the concept as well as the execution. That said, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who couldn’t find at least a little enjoyment from one of the most ludicrous, but also quite fun matches in wrestling history.
Beyond the Chamber of Horrors, there are a few other notable moments on this show that make it worth a revisit. Brian Pillman and (the inexplicably and illogically heel) Ricky Morton put together a blinder to crown the first WCW Light Heavyweight Champion. Rick Rude made his WCW debut as the “Halloween Phantom”, thankfully unmasking only minutes later and sparing us all that potential nightmare. “Stunning” Steve Austin took on “The Natural” Dustin Rhodes in a combination that would become familiar with this event over the following three years and it did not disappoint. Also, if it’s your thing, you can watch a very serious Arn Anderson try to hide his disgust as he has to share the ring with a man not only named “Firebreaker Chip”, but also billed from “the WCW Special Forces”.
Halloween Havoc 1992 – Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal
Among the many different phases early WCW went through, 1992 under the watchful eye of “Cowboy” Bill Watts, was perhaps one of the best to watch, and if you ignore the main event of the show, Halloween Havoc 1992 is no exception. The infamous “Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal” concept was first introduced but in true WCW fashion it appears the wheel wasn’t gimmicked, so the match was legitimately random which is evidenced by the selection of the downright awful “Coal Miner’s Glove” stipulation for the main event between Sting and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Not a good match at all, but it does feature Roberts having to force a snake to bite his face, so there is that.
The undercard is very strong on Halloween Havoc 1992. “Dr Death” Steve Williams and “Stunning” Steve Austin vs Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham is excellent, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat vs Brian Pillman, Ron Simmons vs The Barbarian, and Vader vs Nikita Koloff all shine, even if Masahiro Chono vs Rick Rude is a bit of a disappointment. A solid show.
Halloween Havoc 1993 – Spin the Wheel…again?
WCW in 1993 was in a weird transition from where it was, to the Hulk Hogan-led WCW of the mid-1990s that would become such a success. However, this show featured a lot of top-quality wrestling and some matches and feuds that seemed very unlikely even a year earlier. There was a real sense of matching up some big heavy hitters and making some intriguing pairings with differing styles. Lord Steven Regal vs The British Bulldog is a fascinating clash of styles, but one that makes for a really fun match especially considering the relative star power of Bulldog coming only just over a year after his big win at Wembley in August 1992 (and of course, WCW squandered that star power, because WCW).
Dustin Rhodes and “Stunning” Steve Austin faced off for the third time at a Halloween Havoc in 1993 arguably having the best of their trio. Sid Vicious vs Sting was better than it had any right to be, while “Ravishing” Rick Rude vs Ric Flair was a wonderful contest with a big fight feel and star power spilling out of the ring at every turn. The main event between Cactus Jack and Vader was a fun brawl, although the “Texas Death Match” rules (again chosen by Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal) were poorly explained and made minimal sense. While a Texas Deathmatch was a staple of the territory era, where most of the production staff cut their teeth, it was hard to translate to a national audience. Although Vader was the WCW Heavyweight Champion, Flair vs Rude would have been a better choice to main-event, especially with the sloppy finish to the match between Vader and Jack. Still, a very decent show.
Halloween Havoc 1994 – The Snorefest
Unfortunately, 1994 ended a run of pretty enjoyable events in the Havoc lineage. The arrival of Hulk Hogan brought with it a number of his friends who began diluting the quality of the talent pool in the WCW mid-card, even if it arguably did provide a roster of more recognisable name talent. There’s little to pick out from this show as a “highlight” with a bland main-event and an instantly forgettable undercard. If you absolutely must go back and watch something from this show, Dustin Rhodes vs Arn Anderson is at least passable, but only just. A real dud.
Halloween Havoc 1995 – Hulk Hogan Kills a Man
Monster trucks and murder are the real takeaways from Halloween Havoc 1995. The infamous monster truck sumo match (yes, you read that correctly) between Hulk Hogan and The Giant that led to The Giant falling off the side of the arena only to return unscathed less than an hour later is one of those moments that will go down in history as the silliest in a company renowned for unintentionally hilarious, nonsensical stories and matches. Let’s not even get started on The Yeti’s involvement, looking like some sort of Egyptian mummy. So, this show is worth it for that, even if the main event ends with a silly series of heel turns and a weird title change (that doesn’t seem like a title change).
Outside of that, there are signs of life in the undercard and signals that the product is improving. Sabu vs Mr JL is a nice easter egg even if Sabu is having a bit of an off night. Sting and Ric Flair vs Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman is silly and makes Sting look like an idiot, but it’s also weirdly enjoyable at the same time. Kurasawa (Manabu Nakanishi of NJPW fame) vs Road Warrior Hawk is two big lads slapping each other about, so that’s something different.
Halloween Havoc 1996 – A Haunted Hairpiece
1996 marks the first of the four Halloween Havoc shows to take up residence at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, although it did not feature the iconic giant pumpkin that is so associated with the set for Halloween Havoc at WCW’s peak. This is also the first Havoc in the NWO era, with Hulk Hogan as the dastardly heel. The main event with Hogan taking on Randy Savage is played for laughs involving a hairpiece and sunglasses, but as would become a feature of WCW from this point until the dark final days under Vince Russo, the main event would not be where fans looked for match quality. Diamond Dallas Page vs Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko vs Rey Mysterio Jr, Syxx vs Chris Jericho and The Outsiders vs Harlem Heat are all very strong matches and well worth going back to check out.
Halloween Havoc 1997 – Age in the Cage
The main event of Halloween Havoc 1997 is borderline embarrassing. Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in a steel cage over a decade after their respective peaks was not a match that should have been headlining here and it just didn’t work on any level. It also appeared to seriously injure Macho Man Randy Savage in one of the stupidest spots I can recall.
Luckily, underneath such a horrendously bad main event are a few decent outings and one spectacular match. Diamond Dallas Page vs Macho Man Randy Savage is very good, although not a patch on their bout at Spring Stampede earlier that year, while Chris Jericho vs Gedo and Scott Hall vs Lex Luger are both more than serviceable. The stand out contest on this show is, of course, Eddie Guerrero vs Rey MYsterio Jr in one of the best cruiserweight matches in history. Both are on top form with Guerrero excelling as the heel base for the underdog flyer in Rey. Easily the best match of any Halloween Havoc event, and arguably one of the best of all time.
Halloween Havoc 1998 – The Ultimate Damp Squib
Another year, another disaster for Hulk Hogan. His match with The Ultimate Warrior in 1998 was one of the most abysmal efforts in wrestling history, but a must-watch if you enjoy that sort of thing. It’s the most watchable bad match I can think of, simply because it is such an absolute car crash. It seems everything that could go wrong, in fact, did.
The remainder of Havoc ‘98 is actually pretty good, even if it is overshadowed by the farce between Hogan and Warrior. Chris Jericho vs Raven is a very enjoyable opener, Scott Hall vs Kevin Nash is as much an angle as a match, but it is very effective. Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs Sting is very worthwhile in places, and the main event between Goldberg and DDP is excellent. Weirdly, despite how horrible the most memorable match on this show may be, 1998’s edition of Halloween Havoc is a firm favourite.
Halloween Havoc 1999 – The Beginning of the End
Sometimes with a wrestling company, you can see the wheels coming off quite a long way in advance and historically Halloween Havoc 1999 should definitely be considered the beginning of the end for the once-great company. The “shoot” angles that would mark the final few years of WCW’s existence started here with Hulk Hogan “lying down” for Sting and then a controversial impromptu main event that had a confusing finish that made no sense to anyone.
Everything else on the show stank of quick fixes and short term booking and just throwing things against the wall. Vince Russo’s handprints, as we would come to know them were all over this event in hindsight. The lone highlight from 1999’s event is a surprisingly fantastic, bloody brawl between Sid Vicious and Bill Goldberg that defied all expectations. It still holds up over two decades later, which is great to see, especially as it’s about the only thing on that show that does.
Halloween Havoc 2000 – Stop it, it’s Already Dead!
Only half a year away from the company’s closure, WCW presented the final Halloween Havoc and it is clear to see looking back that the rot had well and truly set in by this stage. The whole show is overbooked, gimmick-laden and tiresome to get through. There were a few bright spots, with Booker T and Scott Steiner putting together a creditable title match that was very physical, while the opener between The Filthy Animals and The Natural Born Thrillers provided some fun high spots even if Sean O’Haire and Mark Jindrak were still obviously very green. Everything else was just “there”. The three-minute main event was a pretty accurate representation of how far WCW had fallen, and why there was no saving it at this stage. A rather auspicious end to a much-loved franchise.
Halloween Havoc was a fun event every year, even if the in-ring product varied wildly, and it is rightly an event that brings back a lot of nostalgic memories for many fans. With WWE reviving the brand, hopefully, they play into the sense of fun and silliness that characterised the Havoc shows. Perhaps that big pumpkin is in the WWE warehouse somewhere.
All images courtesy of WWE.com