Halloween Havoc was a new event in 1989 as the NWA was continuing to expand it’s pay per view schedule to compete with the WWE’s offerings. It was the fourth event of 1989 and was three months after the Great American Bash, which had been an absolute home run for the company. The main event was a continuation of the feud between Ric Flair and Terry Funk, which had come to include Sting and the Great Muta who were undergoing their own rivalry. With both duos locked in a series of singles matches on the house show circuit, something different was needed to shake things up a bit. And to do that, we got: the electrified steel cage. Yeah, that sounds pretty ridiculous. And of course there were some other matches, too. How was the follow up to the best pay per view show of any company in 1989?
Tom Zenk vs Mike Rotundo
Zenk had just come over from the faltering AWA and Rotundo was in put-guys-over mode, so you know how this was going to end. It was a good back and forth match and Zenk got the clean pinfall victory. Good opener.
The Midnight Express and Steve ‘Dr. Death” Williams vs The Samoan Swat Team and the Samoan Savage
This was the first of two matches featuring teams managed by Jim Cornette. There was an angle going on where Cornette’s original team, the Express, were getting jealous over his new role managing/advising the Dynamic Dudes, and there was extra tension over The Express getting relegated to this match while the Dudes got a Tag Team Title shot. This was a really fun, well done match where everyone got in their licks and the crowd was really into. It ended when Stan Lane of the Express got pushed into Cornette and rolled up for the win.
Tommy Rich vs The Cuban Assassin
Ugh…..was this really necessary? They needed to kill some time and Rich had been challenging Lex Luger for the U.S. Title in place of the abruptly departed Ricky Steamboat. The program with Luger was over and now Rich was in full jobber to the stars mode. Assassin was a full on jobber. The match went about eight minutes, or about three minutes too long. Rich won with a Thez press. Yawn…
NWA Tag Team Title Match: The Fabulous Freebirds (champs) vs The Dynamic Dudes
The second of the Jim Cornette double feature. What was most notable about this match was that the Philly crowd, in a foreshadowing of a certain “extreme” company that would set up shop there in a few years, flipped on the Dudes from the start and was just booing them out of the building while cheering on the heel Freebirds. The sentiment wasn’t just limited to Philly; most of us were siding with the Express in the whole drama and wanted this Cornette-Dudes business to end. The match was ok, and the Freebirds won it clean to the delight of the crowd.
Doom vs. Rick and Scott Steiner
This was the debut for the masked team, employed to take out the Steiners by Rick’s former girlfriend. Doom’s identity was supposed to be a secret, but anyone who’d been watching NWA wrestling for a while could figure out pretty easy that it was Ron Simmons and Butch Reed under the masks. When you only have two black guys on your roster, putting them under masks isn’t going to fool anyone. And in this match it looked like they were trying their best to not give it away by using their usual moves,but yeah we still knew. Not that they turned into aerial technicians but they stuck to basic brawling and not so much of their power stuff. Pretty good back and forth match. After just a few months together the Steiners had reached a point where they could carry anyone to a decent match. Doom got a tainted win when their manager Woman (Steiner’s former girlfriend) loaded a foreign object into one of their masks and they used it in a headbutt. Doom would go on become a joke in the short run before taking off their masks four months later and really turning things around. The Steiners would go on to become one of the best teams of the nineties.
US Title Match: Lex Luger (champ) vs Brian Pillman
The best in-ring run of Luger’s career (1988 – 1990) continued here. Pillman was a step down from Flair and Steamboat, and didn’t look like someone who could legitimately challenge Luger, but he was still a pretty good opponent. He hit all the important marks, namely selling Luger’s power offense and hitting Luger with well timed aerial moves and mat wrestling. One of the highlights of Pillman’s NWA matches from 89 through 1992 or so was Jim Ross putting over his previous athletic career. Ross was great at digging up information on every wrestler’s failed professional sports careers and making them sound like Hall of Famers who simply chose to move onto wrestling. There was a time where I could have told you Pillman’s entire Cincinnati Bengals background just off of Ross’ commentary. Good back and forth match here, and it was nice to see Luger have a good match with someone other than Flair or Steamboat. Luger won clean with a slingshot onto the top rope.
The Road Warriors vs The Skyscrapers (Sid Vicious and Dan Spivey)
This was billed as a clash of the titans between the legendary Road Warriors and the towering Vicious and Spivey. It would also be one of the last big matches Vicious and Spivey worked together. Vicious would suffer a punctured lung a month later, effectively ending their run together (the team name was kept by Spivey and a substitute partner names Mark Callaway, who would go on to become the Undertaker in the WWE). I have to say that Vicious showed a heck of a lot more here than he did in the team’s debut match at the Great American Bash. Vicious actually put in some decent ring time as opposed to the thirty second cameos he had at the Bash. This was a good power match/brawl between four guys who could play that style. It ended on a DQ when Vicious and Spivey’s manager Teddy Long interfered. This was supposed to be a big program going forward from this match but Vicious’ injury put a damper on it. Vicious, despite his limitations in the ring, was way over and had an intensity about him that got fans interested. Hawk Animal would be gone from the company in a year, finally moving over to the WWE. Truly a what could have been situation here.
Main Event: Sting and Ric Flair vs Terry Funk and the Great Muta
This was a cage match with a whole lot of extra stipulations. Each team had a guy to throw in the towel for them; Sting and Flair had Ole Anderson while Funk and Muta had manager Gary Hart. Bruno Sammartino was the special referee. This was the first appearance of the supersized cage similar to the Hell in the Cell-style cage, minus the roof. And there was an electrical wire around the upper rim of the cage, supposedly to keep anyone from climbing out to escape. Yeah, that’s as bad an idea as you’re thinking it was (I doubt it was live. I hope it wasn’t live). Anyhow, we start off with the top of the cage….catching on fire. Yes, it caught on fire. After some officials put it out, the match was able to start. It started as a straight up tag team match but ultimately gave way to all four men fighting at once. These guys had been putting in good work so it was no surprise that things went pretty well here. A few memorable spots were Sting climbing halfway up a cage wall and diving into the ring, and Sting landing several top rope splashes onto Funk while Flair had him locked in the Figure Four. The ending was a little convoluted when Anderson punched Hart and sent his towel flying into the ring, which got ruled a submission.
Overall Grade: B
Lots of good matches, but very little that stands out in perpetuity. It was a step down from the Bash, but better top to bottom than anything else they offered up that year. The only pure stinker was the Rich-Assassin match. If you’re flipping through old pay per views on the WWE Network this is definitely one worth checking out.