Havoc Headliners, Part 3

“It’s close to midnight

Something evil’s lurking in the dark”

It’s that time of year again, when you walk into your local supermarket or drugstore and you see all of the…Christmas decorations?  Yes, my pet, Halloween must be close at hand.

As All Hallow’s Eve draws near, let’s continue our look back at that one night of the year the wrestling world got a little spooky. I’m talking about the legend that is WCW’s Halloween Havoc pay-per-view.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been going back and looking at every Halloween Havoc main event on the WWE Network.  If you’re behind, please go back and check out Havoc Headliners, Part 1 (1989 – 1992) and Part 2 (1993 – 1996). In fact, I implore you to do so if you haven’t because, trust me, like any good horror franchise – the more sequels you get, the more things starts to stink.

And with that ominous warning, let’s get to it!

WCW HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1997

STEEL CAGE MATCH

WCW/nWo World Heavyweight Champion

Hollywood Hogan

vs.

“Rowdy” Roddy Piper

havoc_97

I don’t know why I haven’t given props yet to the Halloween Havoc Phantom, who first appeared on the Havoc ’96 poster and came back in one way or another every year until 2000.  Halloween Havoc Phantom is easily the best character with the most consistent booking in this PPV’s 12 year history.

Here’s a quick story. When Havoc ’97 first aired, I was a freshman in college. Growing up, we didn’t have access to PPV’s. When I got to the dorm, I picked up a box from the local cable company JUST so I could watch wrestling PPV’s.  Havoc ’97 was going to be my first one.  I called the cable operator to set it up and all that, and even had my brother visiting to watch.  Unfortunately, when it came time for the show – nothing. I called the cable company, but their office wasn’t open – it was Sunday night. I remember walking through the dorm hallway, screaming and kicking boxes. Little did I know, I’d only have to wait 20 years to see how Havoc ’97 all turned out.

When we last left Havoc Headliners, Roddy Piper had just made his grand entrance into WCW and attempted to talk Hollywood Hogan, the nWo and the rest of the audience into submission.  The PPV feed tapped first. Following his wordy debut, Piper would end up defeating Hogan at Starrcarde ’96 in a non-title match.  Unfortunately, when he faced Hollywood for the WCW Title, he came up short.  Hot Rod continued to feud with the rest of the nWo through the summer, while Hogan moved on to a feud with Lex Luger.

Note: All of this was just filling time until Hollywood FINALLY faced Sting at Starrcade ’97.

In September, Piper was named WCW Commissioner.  Like any good authority figure, his first order of business was putting himself in a STEEL CAGE rematch with Hollywood Hogan.  And that brings us to the show.

Just in case you think the Hot Rod is abusing his position, note that this match is not for Hogan’s WCW Title. Or the nWo Title.  At this point, WCW was calling it by both names.  Not that consistency matters, because it’s PIPER who walks out with the belt at the beginning of the match. Apparently he stole it.

The cage itself makes a grand main event entrance, complete with scary lightning sounds. This is advertised as a traditional steel cage match, but the cage is massive, covering the ring and the surrounding area – basically Hell In A Cell without a roof.  It’s tall, too.

Piper and Hogan brawl from the beginning. Shortly into the match, two things become clear – 1) there’s not going to be much offense beyond punching and kicking; and 2) no one is really sure how you “win” this steel cage match.  There’s no ref in the ring, so we can only assume that escape is the way to victory. Sadly, this would become a running theme in late-era Halloween Havocs.

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“And let me tell you another thing!” “Please stop talking.”

Hogan and Hot Rod punch each other in the ring, punch each other outside the ring, then climb the cage and punch each other some more.  Both guys are in their mid-40’s at this point and well past their prime. Hogan’s apathy to having anything like a wrestling match is on full display. Also, this happens:

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“I came to chew ass and kick bubblegum, and I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Yep, Roddy Piper bit Hulk Hogan on his butt. I give this match 5 toilets! 🚽🚽🚽🚽🚽

After brawling around the ring, Hogan heads out the door.  Apparently escape is NOT a way to win this match, because the bell doesn’t ring.  Note that even the announcers weren’t sure what would happen if someone escaped. Roddy gives chase and so they brawl around the cage.  Hollywood decides he’s had enough, so he’s headed to the back. THEN WHAT’S THE POINT OF THE CAGE????

Luckily, Sting makes an appearance to block Hulk’s path.  This was during the whole “is Sting good or bad? Let’s just let him hang out in the rafters for 18 months” part of Sting’s career.  A different fake Sting had just interfered on the nWo’s behalf in the match prior, so the audience is fed up with the “is this really Sting” nonsense. Hogan, however, acts like he’s seen a ghost and bolts back to the waiting arms of the Rowdy One.

Hulk and Roddy go back to the ring and the ref decides it may be a good idea to get in there and chain the door shut. You think? The competitors climb to the top of the cage, then just slowly climb back down. Roddy makes a comeback and Hulk starts flopping around the ring. Dusty Rhodes on commentary notes that Hogan is “disorientated.”  More Stings start coming out through the audience.  Tony Schiavone and Dusty are losing their minds. The crowd, not so much.

Hulk eventually starts choking Piper with his shirt and then takes him out with the WCW/nWo title belt.  Big legdrop and the ref counts, but Piper kicks out at the last millisecond. The crowd is sitting on their hands. NO POP WHATSOEVER for a late-match near-fall in the main event.  This is going great.

Piper makes a comeback and this draws out Randy Savage, a card-carrying member of the nWo since February.  Savage blows past all the Stings – apparently only there for decoration – climbs to the top of the cage and hits a HUGE elbow smash in the ring.  Considering the height of the cage, this was a giant spot. Unfortunately, Piper and Hogan are out of position and the Macho Man just kind of grazes Hogan’s shoulder.

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Nailed it

Piper puts Hollywood in his patented sleeper and Hollywood goes night-night, putting a mercy bullet in the back of this match’s skull.

But wait, we’re not finished! Eric Bischoff – who Roddy outted as the secret mastermind behind the nWo the year before – hits the ring, as does one of the fake Stings.  The fake Sting – clearly struggling with his own allegiance – starts wailing on Macho Man, then begins taking orders from Bischoff. WCW’s late-90’s booking was on a strict need to know basis.

The nWo handcuffs Roddy to the cage and go to work.  Hulk removes the fake Sting’s mask and puts it on.  The crowd starts chanting “We Want Sting”.  Another Sting, much too skinny to be the real Sting, jumps out of the audience and climbs the cage.  It’s a fan! (Not really)  Unmasked fake Sting takes him down and then Hogan and Macho Man beat the everloving hell out of him to close the show.

havoc97_fan

havoc97_stings
No actual Stings were harmed in the making of this match.

Match Rating: -0.0. Yes, that’s a negative zero.

Spookiness Factor: 3.5. Oof, this was a bad one. The set was all Halloweened up, so there’s that. And you did have a bunch of dudes Trick or Treating as Sting.  Beyond that, not so much. WAIT A MINUTE – is this guy wearing a BOOTLEG PAPA SHANGO SWEATSHIRT???

havoc97_shango

That’s good for another 2 points right there. Spookiness factor 5.5!  In fact, Papa Shango Sweatshirt Guy appeared at at least two of the other Vegas Halloween Havocs.  Check him out.

WCW/nWo HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1998

WCW WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH

Goldberg (c)

vs.

Diamond Dallas Page

dadad

Remember a few seconds ago, I was talking about how much the main event of Halloween Havoc 1997 sucked? Hoo buddy.

First off, though, the positive – LOOK AT THAT SET! That is the actual entrance way at Havoc ’97.  I told you the Phantom was the MVP of this entire PPV’s history.  Could he look any cooler?

WCW was branding its PPV’s as “WCW/nWo” during this period, even though the nWo had been run completely into the ground.  I mean, they’d already dedicated TWO AND A HALF YEARS to it at this point, right?

Halloween Havoc 1998 is actually remembered as one of the worst PPV events of all time.  I would argue that Havoc ’99 is WAY worse as a whole, but nothing on that dumpster fire of a show compares to the awfulness of Hogan/Warrior II.

If you’re a fan of wrestling, I’m sure you’ve heard the gory details of the return match – 8 years in the making – between Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior.  The buildup was legendarily laughable, with Warrior brainwashing Hogan’s buddy The Disciple (HELLO BRUTUS BEEFCAKE!) and pulling all sorts of supernatural stunts.  Well, the match was worse.

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“Warrior, Warrior, on the wall.”

Hogan/Warrior II was as bad as Hogan/Piper from Havoc ’97, or Hogan/Savage from Havoc ’96, with just as many botched spots and general stupidity. So why is it remembered as being so much worse?  That would be for the finish, where Hogan tried to throw a “fireball” in Warrior’s face.  Unfortunately, Hollywood’s fireball wouldn’t light. When it finally did, it burned up in his hand.  This led to some awful improvising, a complete dud of a run-in by Hogan’s nephew Horace, and the utter DEADENING of the crowd.

I’d hate to follow that, wouldn’t you?

And here comes your MAIN EVENT!

Wait, wasn’t Hogan/Warrior the main event of Havoc ’98? HAHA! I can see why you would think that, seeing as how the majority of the buildup and actual PPV were dedicated to discussing that match.  Oh, and the fact that the PPV feed cut out after the fiery finish to Hogan/Warrior, just as WCW champ Goldberg and DDP entered the ring for the real main event.

See, WCW decided that Havoc ’98 would go beyond the standard 3-hour PPV block.  They just forgot to share this information with the cable operators.  So the only people who saw the MAIN EVENT TITLE MATCH at Havoc ’98 live were those in Las Vegas that night. That’s just so WCW.

It was so bad that WCW actually ran the match again the next night – FOR FREE – on Monday Nitro.

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Goldberg was seen as the savior of WCW.  Not just from a storyline “take out the nWo” perspective, but from a business perspective as well.  Though he was limited in the ring, Goldberg had an uncanny ability to connect with the crowd.  WCW began running an undefeated streak angle with Goldberg upon his debut, and it led him all the way to a WCW Title win, defeating Hollywood Hogan for the title on Nitro.  In an unadvertised match.  That’s just so WCW.

Meanwhile, Diamond Dallas Page was also catching fire as the one guy who actually got over thanks to the nWo.  Page – calling himself the People’s Champion, since I guess The Rock didn’t trademark it – made a name for himself working Macho Man and a couple of celebrity tag matches against Hollywood Hogan. At FallBrawl ’98, DDP won a WarGames match to earn a title shot.

havoc98
You’ve got to wrestle like no one is watching.

So that brings us to the headliner of Halloween Havoc.  Goldberg enters 154-0, DDP enters with a ton of momentum.  Can Page topple the undefeated streak and ascend to the top of the heap for the first time in his life?

The match was good. Really good when you compare it to Goldberg’s fairly monotonous body of work during his 2016 WWE comeback.  Most of the beginning of the match is spent with Page merely trying to survive Goldberg’s offense.  The crowd is eating it up, too.

Momentum shifts when Page dodges a spear and Goldberg flies into the ringpost, taking out his own shoulder.  DDP goes to work, and Vegas is going nuts.  It’s interesting to note that there’s no heel/face dynamic here – just two people that the crowd are invested in.

havoc98_2
Tree Pose into a Downward-Facing Goldberg

Page goes for the diamond cutter, but eats a MASSIVE spear instead. Goldberg’s bum arm precludes him from pinning Page, so he goes for the jackhammer instead.  That aggravates the arm even more and Page fights out.  DIAMOND CUTTER!!! Vegas goes bananas as the PPV audience stares angrily at a blank screen.

Page goes for the pin, but Goldberg kicks out at 2.  The crowd goes even crazier.  DDP tries for some kind of suplex, but YOU DON’T SUPLEX GOLDBERG! Jackhammer and it’s all over.  Goldberg is 155-0, but DDP has earned his respect.

havoc98_3
We’ll just assume this is consensual.

It’s sad that this match gets lost in the shuffle because, even though it feels a little rushed, it shows there WERE some positives in the dying days of WCW.

Match Rating: 7.5

Spookiness Factor: 6.5.  The Phantom balloon is carrying the spooky factor firmly on his back, but we also had Meng, Wrath and a whole host of spooky characters on the card. Plus, I mean, there was a fireball, even if it didn’t make it into Warrior’s face.

WCW HALLOWEEN HAVOC 1999

UNSANCTIONED OPEN CHALLENGE MATCH

WCW World Heavyweight Champion

Sting

vs.

United States Champion

Goldberg

wwef_31359915_th_48

Remember a few seconds ago, I was talking about how much Halloween Havoc 1998 sucked? Hoo buddy.

Believe it or not, by 1999, WCW was dying, and no fancy new logo was going to change that.  Books have been written to discuss all of the things that led to WCW’s downfall, so I won’t get into that here.  It’s plain to see by just reading these Havoc main event reviews that things were chaotic, to say the least.

Anyway, WCW was self-aware enough to know they needed a change, so they threw a hail mary and did what they always did – steal established talent from the WWF.  And then proceeded to do what they always did – misuse them.

At first, it seemed like quite the coo – hiring away WWF head writers Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara.  The problem is that the WWF NEVER MENTIONED VINCE RUSSO.  No casual fan knows the names of the guys WRITING the wrestling show. So there was no reason to hype the arrival of two new writers – BASICALLY ADMITTING YOUR SHOW IS SCRIPTED – on your TV show.

But hey, that’s so WCW.

Russo arrived to tons of fanfare and Havoc ’99 was his first PPV.  And his greasy fingerprints are ALL OVER IT.

Let’s just look at the double main event that was billed for the evening.

First you had US Champion Sid Vicious taking on Goldberg.  The magic of Goldberg had diminished since his winning streak was questionably ended by Kevin Nash at Starrcade ’98, but the guy was still hot.  Meanwhile, Sid Vicious made his return to WCW in 1999 and quickly won the US Championship.  Sid began referring to himself as undefeated after a string of post-match beatdowns.  Goldberg – who clearly had “undefeated streak” copyrighted – took issue.

If you thought ending the streak was stupid, WCW also decided to turn Sting heel in late ’99.  At FallBrawl, the Stinger took out his teammate Hulk Hogan with a baseball bat to win his 6th WCW Title.  Unfortunately, the fans didn’t take to Sting as a heel too well.  At Havoc ’99, Sting was set to defend the WCW Title against Hogan in a return match.

So first you had Goldberg take on Sid. Well, first you had The Outsiders take out Goldberg on his way to the ring, but that seems to have been forgotten as quickly as it happened.

The match is worth seeing if you’re into brutal punches.  Sid – who was calling himself the Millennium Man – pretty much took every punch thrown and ended up a bloody mess.  So bloody that the ref called for the bell, because stoppage for blood is something that happens in wrestling.  Goldberg celebrates with his second US Title win, and Rick Steiner comes out to help Sid to the back (I don’t feel like Googling why they were friends at the time).

maxresdefault
You okay, man?

The announcers praise Sid’s toughness.  I mean, he got punched in the head a bunch and the ref stopped the match because he was bleeding – pretty sure I could do that.

After this you have your MAIN EVENT, as Hulk Hogan’s music hits.  But Hogan is nowhere to be seen.  The announcers opine that this is typical Hogan, always needing his ego stroked.  Note that Hogan is the face in this match. This was after the nWo, nWo Hollywood, nWo Wolfpac, nWo Black & White and the nWo Elite had broken up.

With Hulk no-showing, WCW Champ Sting makes his way out to a chorus of cheers.  Then Hulk’s music hits again and he finally makes his way to the ring, looking confused and wearing street clothes.  Hogan says something to Sting in the ring and then lies down on his back.  Sting covers him (making sure to hook the leg) and the ref counts 3.  The announcers scratch their heads and we go to a video package – this would not be spoken of again.

halloweenhavoc990002
You okay, man?

OK, so remember how Goldberg/Sid and Hogan/Sting were your double main event? Well, the actual main event is Ric Flair vs. DDP – a match that was made AT THE BEGINNING OF THE PPV, because that’s a good business model.

Sting comes out before the main event and says that he wants a fight.  I’d go into recapping the DDP/Flair main event, but the ACTUAL MAIN EVENT is Sting’s open challenge.  Flair/DDP happens, Flair does a stretcher job, and Sting is back out screaming that IT’S SHOWTIME!

Newly crowned US Champ Goldberg answers the call, and we have our second unscheduled main event of the night! Tony Schiavone screams about the WCW Title being on the line, then says, no, no this is a non-title match.

With only 5 minutes left in the PPV, Sting goes to work on Goldberg.  He goes for a spear, but Goldberg is just like, nah.  Goldberg goes for a spear of his own, but eats the post.  Sting takes the opportunity to hit THREE Stinger Splashes, but Goldberg is just like, nah.  Spear, Jackhammer and…wait a minute, we have a new champion?  Bobby Heenan says, “Don’t look at me.” Tony Schiavone basically gives up on understanding what’s going on.

halloweenhavoc990015
I got you, baby!

Sting is also bewildered, so he takes his frustration out on referee Charles Robinson, who just keeps pantomiming a bodyslam (?) and repeating, “He got you, baby.”  Sting hits the Scorpion Deathdrop on the ref to end the show. Bobby Heenan apathetically says, “Why not?”

havoc99
But he got you, baby!

The next night on Nitro, it was announced that the match was unsanctioned so it wasn’t for the title.  However, Sting was also stripped of the title due to his ref violence.  This would lead to a tournament that Bret Hart would win. Bret Hart would then start up nWo 2000.

Match Rating: WHAT MATCH?!?

Spookiness Factor: 5.5.  First off, you had the spooky set.  Secondly, Sid Vicious bled buckets, so we’ll call this one more of a gorefest than a psychological thriller.  Thirdly, there was a match earlier in the evening where Booker T used a mummy as a weapon. Finally, WCW was basically the walking dead at this point – so points for zombies.

WCW HALLOWEEN HAVOC 2000

HANDICAP ELIMINATION MATCH

Goldberg

vs.

Kronik

havoc00

Can I power through this last show?

Actually, Halloween Havoc 2000 wasn’t quite as bad as its predecessors. I mean, let’s not say it wasn’t bad – it was terrible – but it wasn’t quite AS bad.  I have to admit, I was barely paying attention to WCW in 2000, so I have only a passing understanding of what was going on.  For one, everyone on the undercard was apparently in some sort of military gimmick?

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So the Vince Russo experiment of 1999 failed. After several stupid ideas (WCW Champion David Arquette, WCW Champion Tank Abbot?), WCW asked Russo to step down as head writer.  Russo decided to walk instead.

Of course, three months later, WCW hired him back.  That’s so WCW.

Also returning was Eric Bischoff, who was fired before they hired Russo.  Bischoff ran WCW through much of its heyday, including the hot nWo era.  There were hopes that Bischoff and Russo could rebuild WCW with young stars.  That’s why, looking at the undercard for Havoc ’00, there are a lot of fresh faces.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem like such a stinker.  You expect more from a show with names like Hogan, Flair and Savage on it. Congrats on having lowered our expectations WCW!

The show was built on a trio of big matches, featuring WCW’s top uninjured stars at that point.  First, there was Jeff Jarrett vs. Sting.  Then you had WCW Champ Booker T vs Scott Steiner.  And lastly (as in main event lastly), there was Goldberg vs. Kronik.

You know, Kronik? The team that includes the guy who played Adam Bomb and the other guy who played Kona Crush?  You know, Wrath and the white guy from the Nation of Domination? They were in the main event of the final Halloween Havoc.

So the storyline going in had Goldberg feuding with Vince Russo (did I mention Russo was now the on-screen authority?).  Russo put forth an edict that Goldberg would be fired if he were to lose a match, WCW attempting to re-invent the streak, which had worked so well back in 1998.

To help end the streak, Russo hired Kronik – the team of Brian Adams and Bryan Clark – to take Goldberg out.  On the Thunder before Havoc, Kronik caused Goldberg to take a nasty headfirst bump into the ringpost.  So the entirety of Havoc ’00 was spent wondering if Goldberg would be cleared to wrestle.

When the Steiner/Booker match ended (in a crowd-pleasing DQ), Krokik came out to claim that Goldberg was dead and there would be no match. The camera cut to backstage, where a doctor told the guy who knocks on Goldberg’s door that Bill had the all-clear.  The door guy just started bitching, like finally, and went and did his door knock.  And Goldberg began his long walk to the ring.  With 7 minutes left on the show.

As Goldberg made his entrance (and sadly, there was no special Halloween stage setting at the final Halloween Havoc), announcer Stevie Ray wondered aloud if the athletic commission really should’ve cleared Goldberg.  Stevie Ray sucked, btw.

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I’m sorry, have we met?

The match kicks off and Kronik plays the numbers game to beatdown Goldberg.  That lasted all of about a minute and Goldberg starts Goldberging up.  Schiavone says this is “no semblance of a match”.  Ha!  Goldberg spears Brian Adams through a table and hits the pin.  Schiavone screams that the match is over!  Yes, it was never announced that this was an elimination match. Adams is eliminated and Clark is left to feel the Wrath (HA! Get it?)

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Your butt is about to CRUSH that table. (HA! I KILL ME)

The announcers call Goldberg “the last of the WCW heroes left standing”, which I guess is in reference to Sting and Booker getting beaten down after their matches? Goldberg hits the big spear on Clark. Schiavone starts screaming “SPEAR! SPEAR!” in a weird high-pitched voice.  Clark eats a jackhammer and he’s eliminated.  This match is over at 4 minutes and 26 seconds.  Goldberg poses and we’re out.

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Yee.

For a dumb squash match, the crowd was going insane.

Match Rating: 4.0

Spookiness Factor: 4.0.  No spooky set to hold this thing up, but you did have Vampiro in an undercard match, as well as Ric Flair’s son in a DNA Match, which was basically a First Blood Match.  Costumes galore, though – the Sting/Jarrett match had five guys dressed as Sting from different eras, and everyone else was dressed up like army men. You know I’m all about those Halloween Havoc trick or treaters!

And that brings us to the end of Havoc Headliners.  Sad right?  Well, yes, sad that we had to trudge through such an awful period in WCW history.  But don’t be too sad – I’ve decided to do one more part in this series, to cover a few matches that weren’t Havoc main events, but definitely deserve a mention.

So I’ll see you in a couple weeks!

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