Halloween Havoc was the follow up to what may be the worst pay per view, WCW or otherwise, ever: the 1991 Great American Bash. That show, mere days after WCW fired Ric Flair and literally had to reshuffle an entire card that didn’t look very good to start with, was a total dumpster fire on paper and in execution. Flair’s firing and that show were essentially the last straw for me as a fan: Flair’s looming departure to the WWF was the harbinger of doom for the company I grew up preferring so I pretty much threw in the towel as a full time fan. Within a year I’d quit altogether until 1996. So this is a bit of a catch up for me here. I was going to start with Bash 91 since I never watched it but after reading the lineup and hearing Tony Schiavone talk about it on ‘What Happened When’ I figured I’d pass.
The company was not without good workers, and was capable of putting on a good show if they paired the right people and booked them right. Unlike the WWF they were not in a position to just put out anything and hope for Hulk Hogan to paper over their booking choices. When they got it right they could still put on a really good show, even without Flair. So would they do that here, or would they still be flailing about trying to just put something together and come up with another dumpster fire? That was the real question, but one thing working in their favor was that a lot of the pressure was off. Flair was gone, and all the fans who remained with the company were obviously ready to move on without him so they could just focus on who was there and how to handle them. So let’s see how that went.
Chamber of Horrors Match: Sting, El Gigante, & The Steiner Brothers vs Abdullah the Butcher, Cactus Jack, Vader, & The Diamond Studd
The opening match was a variation of the main event of the first Haloween Havoc show in 1989, with an absolutely ridiculous twist thrown in: about halfway though, a small cage with an electric chair was lowered into the larger cage, and to win you had to strap an opponent in the chair and pull a lever that shocked them. Yeah…….. Sting and the Steiners were the three most popular guys in the company and El Gigante was a seven foot stiff who Ted Turner brought to America to play for the Hawks but washed out. He was not very good here. The Diamond Studd was Scott Hall, who would go on to the WWF to become Razor Ramon and then return as Scott Hall of the NWO. Vader was a year and change into his WCW tenure and yet to catch fire with anything. Cactus Jack you know of course. And then there was Abdullah the Butcher. Abdullah is for my money one of the two most racist characters in wrestling history, interchangeable with Kamala the Ugandan Giant. A big black man billed as being from the Sudan who didn’t speak English and had to be led around by a handler or tag team partner, who was known for savagely tearing into his opponents and having some of the bloodiest matches you’d ever see. Yeah……this kind of thing wouldn’t fly in 2017.
The match was your standard War Games style brawl, good for what it was, and went ten minutes but could have gone five minutes longer. The crowd would have dug fifteen minutes of Sting and the Steiners in stead of ten. Cactus Jack always made for a good brawl. El Gigante was ok here; a punch and kick fest where he didn’t have to do any actual moves suited him just fine. Once the cage came down there were a few false finishes where someone got put in the chair but escaped before the lever was pulled. And then came the finish. Oh boy………… The good guys win of course, but to do so they put Abdullah in the chair and pulled the lever. Abdullah had been previously been busted open, so in a country with a sordid history of black men being wrongfully executed in devices like the electric chair you end a match with a big, black guy strapped in a faux electric chair while bleeding from the forehead. Boy if this happened today WCW would get crushed on cable news and social media, and whoever signed off on it would get fired. Say what you want about Vince McMahon and problematic gimmicks/storylines but he has never been this stupid.
And to be fair even without the racial angle it was just dumb anyway. This was scaffold match level absurdity as far as how you win a match. The premise behind pro wrestling is men and women who compete in athletic competition, and the competitive fire burns so hot that they often resort to cheap tactics to win and get mad enough at each other that the athletic competitions are often replaced with fights to settle beefs. Now under those auspices, who would get pissed off enough at someone to agree to a fight where to win you have to strap your antagonistic co worker in a makeshift electric chair and zap them with 1000 volts or whatever. As mad as you may have gotten at a coworker, who the hell gets that angry? Yeah, this is just nuts. A standard issue War Games match would have been sufficient.
PN News & Big Josh vs The Creatures
PN News is one of the worst ideas for a wrestling character ever. A 400 pound rapper/wrestler, whose ‘rapping’ sounds like the kind of stuff an ad company would come up with if no one there never actually listened to much rap music. Seriously, he makes John Cena’s ‘not terrible if you grade him on a curve for non rappers rapping’ work sound like a Rakim record. I mean it’s clear someone working for WCW knew the rap music was all the rage, but instead of listening to some actual songs they watched a few corny commercials that featured really awful rapping. The Creatures were some random masked guys, and Big Josh was Matt Borne, which was ironic because announcer Tony Schiavone was referring to him as a rookie and much improved even though he’d been around for years. Apparently WCW was trying and failing at copying the Vince McMahon Way of erasing the history of anyone he brought in to work there. Quick, standard tag match like you’d see on a Saturday morning show.
Bobby Eaton vs Terrance Taylor w/Alexandra York
Eaton was still in his well earned singles run (if there was ever a guy who should get a ‘you deserve it!’ chant for his in ring work it’s Bobby Eaton), while Taylor was a year into putting together a somewhat normal career after his disastrous run in the WWF as The Red Rooster (the worst killing of a good career I can think of right now). Eaton got a lot of cheers from the crowd here as he’d been getting most of the year; WCW fans genuinely liked him and appreciated all the good work he’d put in over the years. Taylor was part of a stable called The York Foundation, which was basically three guys who used to go by the -y version of their names but were now being respectable and corporate (Tommy Rich became Thomas Rich and Ricky Morton turned into Richard Morton while Terry Taylor was going be Terrance now), and were manged by Alexandra York, who we’d later know as Marlena with Goldust and then by her government name Terri Runnels. Very good match here, a quintessential NWA/WCW style singles match that went for 16 minutes before the finish. This was the kind of match you would never get from guys at this level in the WWF on a pay per view because they’d be relegated to five or six minutes at the most.
Jimmy Garvin vs Johnny B.Badd w/Teddy Long
Johnny B. Badd was made up to look like Little Richard and was very green at the time; we’d later know him under his real name Marc Mero in the WWF. Long was here as his manager, and he was needed badly. Garvin and Michael Hayes were nearing the final leg of a three year run as the Freebirds in WCW, and were way over with the crowd here. Not a very long match, about eight minutes, which is about as long as Badd needed to go at that point. Garvin had to carry the load here for him most of the the way. Long’s interference would lead to a dirty win for Badd. The match wasn’t bad thanks to Garvin and Long.
WCW TV Title Match: Stunning Steve Austin (c) w/Lady Blossom vs Dustin Rhodes
Always strange to see Steve Austin with hair, especially long blonde hair and working his old style versus the brawler he was as Stone Cold. Lady Blossom was his first wife Jeannie; Tony Schiavone slips in a ‘hey there’ when the camera focuses on Lady Blossom that is 100 times creepier and funnier if you listen to him on the ‘What Happened When’ podcast he does. The match had a very strange for pay per view 15 minute time limit; that was obviously for a reason. The match was a good one; both guys got busted open. Dustin was a good worker, but Austin was really great and could have been a main eventer if the WCW brass didn’t have their heads in their asses. As expected due to the shorter time limit, the match ended in a draw. They could have easily gone five to ten more minutes here.
Oz vs Bill Kazmeier
Oz was Kevin Nash in a horrible early career gimmick (which followed his first horrible gimmick as one half of the fourth rate Road Warrior knockoff team The Master Blasters) . Really short match….I’d have skipped it if it was longer than a minute and a half. Why you would have Oz, who was about to be repackaged as the less awful but still bad character Vinnie Vegas, job in three and a half minutes to a guy who would be gone in a few months is pure early 90s WCW logic in a nutshell.
Van Hammer vs Doug Somers
Van Hammer the hair metal band version of PN News; watching both of their matches during this time and figuring out which one was worse would make for a good drinking game. Doug Somers was an old guy. Minute and a half squash that could have been saved for a Saturday morning show.
WCW Light Heavyweight Title Match: Brian Pillman vs Richard Morton
The weight limit here of 235 is really heavy compared to the 205 limit the WWE guys have now; it also allowed for guys who weren’t as big as say, Lex Luger but sure weren’t tiny. As I mentioned earlier, Morton was a member of the York Foundation. Brian Pillman was going through somewhat of a nothing happening year beyond jobbing to bigger name guys on pay per views, but was finally starting to break through again with the tournament to fill this new title. Hearing Jim Ross put over Pillman’s cup of coffee in the NFL as the best one year stint ever is never not fun. Morton as a heel made no sense; he was supposed to be a corporate sellout yet he was still wearing his Rock n Roll Express ring gear and his Rock n Roll Express hair. Man, I guess…. I’m pretty sure a Rock n Roll Express vs Enforcers tag team feud would have been a good draw even if the Express popularity had peaked four years ago. Anyhow, the match was good but not great but a good way to start off the light heavyweight division.
The Halloween Phantom vs Tom Zenk
Tom Zenk must have been the official high level jobber to new WCW people or something. A year ago he was in this position with Vader at the Great American Bash. Now gets to assume the position for the Halloween Phantom, who was none other than Ravishing Rick Rude. Rude doesn’t unmask here, but Schiavone gives it away on commentary by correctly calling his finisher the Rude Awakening. Thanks, Tony.
WCW Tag Team Title Match: The Enforcers (c) vs The Patriots
The Enforcers were Arn Anderson and Larry Zbysko and the Patriots were Todd Champion and Firebreaker Chip,two guys who you probably never heard of or care to hear about again after you read this. Needless to say they weren’t around too much longer after this show. Champion had been a jobber in the old Jim Crockett NWA-affiliated WCW for what that’s worth. Anderson and Zbysko carried the whole thing here as The Patriots were just good enough to get carried to a not terrible 10 minute match by two pros like The Enforcers. Carrying guys like them to passable or even good matches is why Anderson is an all time great.
WCW World Title Match: Lex Luger (c) w/Harley Race vs Ron Simmons w/Dusty Rhodes
When the match starts Ross puts over both men’s former football career as only he can; you would swear WCW was full of the greatest college football players to not stick on NFL rosters. And that these two played for real life college rivals Miami (Luger) and Florida State (Simmons) then were on the same team in the USFL for a spell only added to it. This match was a two out of three falls encounter, which seems strange at first given that these are two power guys with not much stamina but it’s a good way of keeping the loser strong afterwards. Simmons wins the first fall relatively quickly to go up 1-0. The second fall felt like it went a little longer, with Luger playing the desperation role to keep from losing two straight. Rhodes and Race would get into it outside as expected, but Race helps Luger get over to win the second fall. You know this was going all the way; there is no point to having a two out of three falls match that ends in two falls.
As the third fall starts Ross of course works in a ‘this is the fourth quarter’ take. The two guys let it out for the third and built to a good finish. The whole match went 18 minutes and wasn’t bad at all; Tony’s ‘this is one of the best matches ever’ line was a scorching hot take, though. I will give Luger this: he played the cowardly heel bit pretty well here and the two guys worked very hard to put on a good match. On paper, this is the kind of match that makes workrate freaks want to puke but in execution it was done quite well. For all the flack Luger got for his matches that didn’t involve master sellers like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat he did a good job with a guy who at the time was more limited than he was. Had he stuck it out in WCW and not bolted for his lackluster WWF run he might have really had something here.
Surprisingly good show, especially given where the company was at the time. The Bash had been an unmitigated disaster but this was a really good bounce back. Until around 1999 WCW routinely had better opening matches and midcards on their shows than the WWF did, and this was not exception. The potential stinkers were all kept really short and the other matches where one man or team needed to be carried were kept to the right length. The longer matches all were pretty good to very good. Worth checking out if you need something to watch.