With it being Halloween weekend [at the time of this writing], what better time is there to take a look back on WCW’s Halloween-themed show, Halloween Havoc? Halloween Havoc ran from 1989 to 2000 and was known for its extravagant set designs and for some it’s high’s and many of it’s low’s. Let’s look back on the best and worst moments of this pay-per-view.
THE BEST Halloween Havoc 1989’s Inaugural Pay-per-View- The Great Muta saves the day
Halloween Havoc 1989 took place on October 28, 1989, at the Philadelphia Civic Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This event was held in association with the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and touted the main event of Ric Flair and Sting against The Great Muta and Terry Funk in a Thunderdome Cage match with Bruno Sammartino serving as special guest referee. The match can only end when either Gary Hart (representing Muta & Funk) or Ole Anderson (representing Sting & Flair) threw in the towel for one of their guys. The high from this event occurs before the main event even began…
“I put Terry Funk and The Great Muta together as a tag team, which apparently was something of a big deal – given Terry’s allegiance to All Japan and The Great Muta’s ties to New Japan. Anyhow, they teamed up for a Halloween Havoc pay-per-view where they wrestled the team of Ric Flair and Sting in an electrified steel cage match. This was based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so Bruno Sammartino was brought in to be the guest referee that night. Bruno was very friendly and cordial to me and wasn’t as cold as he had been in the past. As I had mentioned, the cage was electrified, and it had all of these Halloween decorations on it. Right before the match started, someone turned on the electricity, and way up on top of the cage, one of the decorations caught on fire. The Great Muta saw that and immediately scampered up the top rope and blew it out with his green mist. I was so proud of him.”
Gary Michael Cappetta:
“We [used to joke] about the Halloween Havoc pay-per-view, when the intense heat of the overhead TV lights set the cage decorations on fire during the live broadcast. And how Muta scaled the structure and spit out a mouthful of green mist to save the day.”
THE WORST Halloween Havoc: 1998 – Well, that didn’t work…
Where to begin on this show? Let’s just file this one under the, “Well, that didn’t work!” category. What could and should have been one of the greatest pay-per-views of all time, went downhill quickly. Our sharing of the worst of Halloween Havoc is a two-parter.
Let us start with the rematch of Hulk Hogan and Warrior (his legal name by this point), a battle between two stubborn veterans in a rematch which many refer to as the worst match of all time. Let’s dig in…
Hogan vs Warrior III:
“The 1998 card is infamous for featuring a widely pilloried rematch of the main event of WrestleMania IV, a 1990 pay-per-view event produced by WCW’s rival the World Wrestling Federation in which The Ultimate Warrior had defeated Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship. Their 1998 return bout is regarded by critics as one of the worst matches of all time. Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter awarded it a minimum score of minus five stars out of five (the lowest ever for a WCW contest), and readers of the publication voted it the worst match of the year. Readers of professional wrestling magazine Power Slam cast the same vote; editor Fin Martin called it “one of the worst matches ever held.” Then-WCW announcer Gene Okerlund described the contest as a “disaster”. Comparing the WrestleMania VI and Halloween Havoc 1998 bouts, Warrior stated: “It’s weird that my best match ever was with Hogan, and at the same time my worst match ever was with Hogan”. Hogan felt the contest was “ruined” by his botching a spot he himself devised, in which he was supposed to “burn” the Warrior with flash paper: Hogan instead lit the paper in his own face and legit burnt his mustache and eyebrows. This led to an improvised ending in which Hogan’s nephew, Horace, hit Warrior with what Sports Illustrated writer Luke Winkie called “the most unsatisfying chair shot in history”. Winkie also observed a lack of co-operation between the two combatants, who did not get along personally, and slammed the contest as a “passive-aggressive wankfest”. Hogan unequivocally said of the failed bout, “It was my fault.”
Former WCW president Eric Bischoff conceded critical opinion that Hogan vs. Warrior II was one of the worst matches in history, and admitted that it “pretty much stunk up the joint.” He, however, dismissed the notion that he had hired Warrior solely to lose to Hogan in return for Hogan’s Wrestlemania VI loss, claiming that this is “not true” and that those who hold this belief are “drinking their own Kool-Aid”. Warrior, on the other hand, said: “They used [Ted] Turner’s checkbook to buy me to come back to lose a match to Hulk [Hogan]…it was repulsive, to me, when I finally realized it. And if I would have known I would never have gone back for all the money that they gave me.” WrestleCrap journalist Art O’Donnell and Fin Martin of Power Slam have also disputed Bischoff’s claims, the latter writing that WCW “hired Warrior at great expense in May 1998 specifically to massage the Hogan ego.”
Going overtime, leading to the feed terminating during the main event:
WCW ran Halloween Havoc 1998 to three-and-a-half hours, rather than the standard three; due to this, many PPV feeds ended while the main event, Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page, was still underway. WCW aired the match the following night for free on Nitro. WWE journalist Kevin Powers hailed the bout as the best ever held at the Halloween Havoc event while criticizing Hogan vs. Warrior. He wrote: “It’s hard to believe that thousands of pay-per-view customers missed the main event of Halloween Havoc 1998 because WCW ran out of broadcast time. By some cruel twist of fate, fans did get to watch the disastrous WrestleMania VI rematch between The Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan, only to see their screens go black just as Diamond Dallas Page prepared to lock up with undefeated WCW Champion Goldberg in what was the best match in the October event’s 11-year span.” Luke Winkie of Sports Illustrated said of Goldberg vs. Page: “It’s a great match…if more TVs carried this match maybe the Warrior/Hogan disaster would be less remembered.”
Eric Bischoff recounts his version of Halloween Havoc 1998
“Talk about your shit storms.
Our 1998 Halloween Havoc Pay-Per-View ran about fifteen minutes over the time allotted. A large portion of the paying audience went dark and missed the end of the match. As bad as that was, the fallout from trying to fix it was even worse.
Matches go longer than they should for any number of reasons. Wrestling isn’t a science. When you send a wrestler out and say, “Okay, you have ten minutes to get your match in,” sometimes they get it to within thirty seconds. Sometimes they go five minutes over. At a Pay-Per-View where there are eight or nine matches, if four or five go significantly over, you end up going into your main event short of time.
The main event is the reason that most people buy the Pay-Per-View, and it’s usually supposed to go twenty or twenty-five minutes. So you’re faced with a tough situation. If the match ends when it’s supposed to end—say after only seven minutes—it leaves a very bad taste in the mouths of the consumers. On the other hand, if you go over, you run the very real risk of losing your satellite time. Unless you’ve made prior arrangements, you go off the bird when your time is up.
I don’t remember exactly what happened at Halloween Havoc, but I assume that the earlier matches ran over significantly. At some point, we realized we had a problem, and we scrambled. We got hold of the Pay-Per-View companies and explained what was going on, asking for more satellite time. For the most part, we were given reason to believe that we had the additional time.
The Pay-Per-View industry wasn’t as sophisticated back then as it is now. For whatever reason, while some of our customers ended up getting the signal, the majority did not. Most of the people who had bought the Pay-Per-View never saw the finish.”
SOURCE: ‘Playboy’ Gary Hart’s autobiography, ‘My Life In Wrestling…With A Little Help From My Friends‘, ‘Bodyslams: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman‘ by Gary Michael Cappetta, ‘Controversy Creates Cash‘ by Eric Bischoff, Wikipedia
For an extra trick-or-treat, here is Vince McMahon at his best, wishing Rowdy Roddy Piper a Happy Halloween from Saturday Night’s Main Event ’85 Halloween special: