Well Halloween is just around the corner…ok maybe not, but my local grocery store seems to think so with all the pumpkin beer occupying the shelves in late August. So taking their lead I’m going to review a PPV that I have always wanted to revisit for purely masochistic reasons, Halloween Havoc 98’. The “epic” second battle of Warrior and Hogan 5 years after anyone gave a damn.
We open on an extremely blurry video package of the major feuds while ominous music plays. With this Vaseline filter if you swapped out the music for some smooth jazz you’d think you were about to watch soft core pornography.
Good old Tony Schiavone enthusiastically welcomes us from Las Vegas, he has no idea what he’s in for. The set dressing looks pretty cool with the giant blow up demon and pumpkin, I would defiantly be a fan of bringing back this PPV concept. Bobby Heenan and Mike Tenay join Tony, that is a hell of an announce team, unfortunately I now think of JBL, Otunga and Ranallo and just feel bad for Mauro and the fans…downer.
We get the nitro girls for some reason, Tony says that it’s a treat but I had already found out about internet porn by 1998 so I disagree.
Mean Gene interviews Rick Steiner who is interrupted by Buff Bagwell. Having recently left the NWO Buff wants to be in Rick’s corner to watch his back tonight. Rick accepts which will not turn out well for him I’m sure. I will say that it makes me feel bad for complaining about long authority talking segments to open shows these days when WCW was opening PPVs with Rick Steiner interviews at the height of wresting’s popularity. Sorry WWE, I know it could be worse.
Raven v Chris Jericho (Champion)
World Television Championship
Great to see Raven. Chris comes out to Break the Walls Down? Well that’s pretty damn dumb, I knew that the WWE had tweaked some old shows but come on. Raven has the stick and says he wasn’t booked to wrestle so he won’t and walks out (What about him? What about Raven?). Chris responds by calling him a loser and idiot and a moron…some things never change do they? Hard to tell who the heel and baby face are here; they both seem to be heels to me. Jericho took a hard, head first bump into the safety rail but fought through it like a champ. Jericho get catapulted into the turnbuckle that he had just exposed but kicks out of the pin. Fans getting behind Raven here as Chris kicks out of the Even Flow DDT. Kaynon tries to interfere but gets knocked off the apron (who better than Kaynon?)(Editor’s Note: EVERYBODY!). Jericho gets Raven in the Lion Tamer and Raven immediately taps. The whole match the announcers were telling the story of Ravens losing streak, playing up a match recently where he tapped quickly without even trying to fight out of the hold only for it to happen again here. In Raven they really dropped the ball, repeatedly, a win here over Jericho could have gotten him over as a face, the crowd was into his comeback and the match was telling that story well. It was a fine match but ultimately meant nothing.
Hogan and Bischoff interrupt the proceedings. Hogan gives a typical Hogan promo about beating up his nephew Horace Hogan the week before. This seemed like an excuse to kill time. Listening to Hogan on the mic I wish he would have dropped the Hulkster persona when he turned heel and talked in his own voice. He would have made more sense next to Hall and Nash and his character would have had a longer shelf life.
Meng v Wrath
This will be tough to watch. One thing Wrath had was the look, unfortunately it was the only thing he had. Wrath’s entrance music was as typical and boring as most of WCW entrance music was. Tony says that this is a very important match for both competitors and I feel lied to. Meng looks winded about a minute thirty into the match (please don’t tell him I wrote that). Wrath gets Meng up (after some doing) for the Meltdown and gets the win. Tony says that that win was one for the highlight reel of 1998. STOP LYING TO ME SCHIAVONE! The match had no story behind it, was sloppy and pointless. How a match like this winds up a PPV card I have no idea.
Billy Kidman is being interviewed by WCW.com, good luck WCW that whole internet thing doesn’t have legs.
Disco Inferno v Juventud Guerrera
For the chance to face Kidman for the Cruiserweight Title later on
I am sorry but I always did and always will have a soft spot for Disco. So wonderfully stupid. Juventud is sans mask here and Disco is a little heavier than your typical Cruiserweight which was part of the storyline. Mick Tenay calls out Disco for his “pour weight distribution” on one of his covers, we just don’t get this kind of commentary anymore, Monsoon would be proud. MY GOD Disco with the Giant Swing, that’s where Cesaro got it from, this makes me so very happy! A Piledriver gets the victory for Fandang…er I mean Disco Inferno. A clean W is kind of surprise for Disco, apart from a few rough spots this was a pretty good match and Disco v Kidman was the better choice for the title match later on.
The three announcers fawning of the Nitro girls makes me feel very uncomfortable
Big Poppa Pump comes out with a microphone and I grab my calculator. After a typical nonsense promo Scott recommends Rick and Buff team up against himself and The Giant for the WCW Tag Team Titles even though Scott Hall and the Giant were tag champs. JJ Dillon makes it official with the stipulation that if Buff and Rick win the titles we’ll have another match later with Rick v Scott to finally settle things between the brothers. So very little of what I just wrote makes any sense at all so I’ll move on.
Fit Finlay v Alex Wright
Oh Das Wunderkind how I have missed you. Once again I am confused as both these guys feel like heels to me. I think I just heard a boring chant which is a shame for two very good workers. I haven’t yet heard why these two are at odds so it’s no wonder why the crowd is dead. Wright wins with a neck breaker after Finlay hits the post with his shoulder. A perfectly fine match by two excellent competitors, but I must once again ask, why was this match booked on this show?
The Cat is on WCW.com, once again a guy I had a soft spot for…don’t judge me.
Lodi v Saturn
Generic music all around for the WCW boys. Lodi wants revenge against Saturn for winning a match against Raven to disband the Flock. Schiavone says “Lodi is not a man to be underestimated.” How can I trust anything else you say? Lodi is more interested in his signs at ringside then the match in the ring. Saturn appeared to attempt to kill Lodi on several occasions. Saturn with the Death Valley Driver, Lodi we hardly knew ye.
Disco Inferno v Billy Kidman (Champion)
WCW Cruiserweight Championship
Two Disco matches on one PPV, I knew I picked the perfect one! Tenay states “we really forget about the young talents like Kidman here in WCW.” Yeah Mike I think that was the problem. Kidman was pretty good when he wasn’t injuring people with his finisher. Kidman wrestling in jorts and a wife beater, I found Dean Ambrose and John Cena’s inspiration. The crowd is back and behind Billy. Kidman kicks out of the Piledriver. Billy with a shooting star for the win. Disco looked good here having his second solid match of the night. While it did not have the kind of high flying, fast paced action the WCW Cruiserweight division was known for this was a good match with solid psychology. The crowd seemed to dislike Disco more than they liked Kidman, this might have been a good time for a title change.
Rick Steiner and Buff Bagwell v Scott Steiner and The Giant (not champions)
WCW World Tag Team Titles (for some reason)
The crowd gets into the match as Rick gets his hands on Scott early only for Buff to ask for the tag and then turn on Rick. Well that didn’t take long. Buff heads to the back as match continues with a beat down of Rick. He starts to make a comeback and so does the crowd. After a missile drop kick from the Giant misses and hits Scott, Rick hits a top rope bulldog on The Giant for the win. So now Rick Steiner has won the tag titles by himself from a team that was not the title holders and we now get the match that was advertised, Steiner v Steiner.
Scott v Rick
The match starts immediately and the crowd is running wild as Rick dominates. Scott hits yet another low blow on Rick, I counted 4 between both matches, to take control. Someone jumps the rail in a suit and a Bill Clinton mask, gets the Slapjack from Stevie Ray who is now at ring side, hits the ref and Rick, reveals himself to be Buff Bagwell and uses the knocked out ref’s hand to count a pin for some reason. All of that happened and approximately none of it was necessary. After other stuff, Rick wins with the top rope bulldog. The finish represents the WCW model of making the very simple really complicated and always pretty damn stupid. Rick getting the win was a nice moment though.
Scott Hall v Kevin Nash
We get a Hall and Nash video package that highlights and exploits Scott Hall’s real life alcohol problems only for Scott to come out with a drink in hand. This is so awful in every way shape and form. Scott throws his drink in Kevin’s face and starts a beat down. Nash seems to be bleeding from the mouth and the forehead. Nash gets medical attention but heads back to the ring. My god Hall throws one of the best punches in the biz. Hall in total control, Nash with crowd support as he mounts a comeback. Nash dominates for a bit working slow and mocking Hall about drinking again. I’m starting to feel bad for Hall but the crowd doesn’t. Nash hits a Jacknife Powerbomb that looks dangerous as hell, Kev calls for another and once again it almost ends in disaster. Nash just walks out without pinning him and gets counted out. This match was confusingly booked to say the least. I guess they were selling “tough love” but Nash looked like the big bad bully punishing a pour alcoholic for the majority of the match. The crowd seemed to enjoy it though.
Sting v Bret Hart (Champion)
WCW United States Championship
Bret’s WCW music was so very bad and for some reason is playing for a long time before Bret heads out. NWO Sting is the worst Sting (ok maybe Joker Sting), having him in the Black and Red was one of so very many mistakes made by this company. Sting threatens to hit the Hitman several times with his bat before the match gets started, you know, like any good hero would. Back and forth match before Bret fakes a knee injury to pull out some brass knuckles. Haven’t seen that one in a while. Sting with an inadvertent ref bump and Bret drops a leg on the pour ref for good measure. Bret takes several shots at Sting with the baseball bat, brings the ref around and puts Sting in the Sharpshooter for the win on a passed out Sting. This match could have been a classic but was just meh. Neither man looked particularly motivated and the booking was uninspired. Damn shame, Sting and Bret could have given us so much more. After the match we get the paramedics come out and take Sting away on a board and a pretty cold crowd just got colder which should be lovely for what we are about to witness next.
Here we go
Hollywood Hulk Hogan v Warrior
Warriors music is garbage, should I have expected anything else? They are either chanting Hogan sucks or Warrior sucks…I agree. We begin with a lock up into dueling arm ringers, great way to start this intense grudge match. After a few more minutes of walking around they lock up again, a few boots from Hollywood and the always crowd pleasing test of strength. We’re hitting on all cylinders now boy. Hogan with a very awkward ref bump where he was supposed to run into the ref accidentally but since the ref was out of position he had to redirect towards him to get him with a shoulder block, bravo. With the ref out we get The Giant and Stevie Ray and Vincent coming out to be quickly dispatched by the Warrior. You’d think Hogan would have stricter hiring standards for the mighty NWO. Hogan starts beating and chocking Warrior with his weight lifting belt right in front of the ref and is not disqualified immediately because of reasons. At this point Warrior begins rolling around and then jumping around like a mental patient. Hogan spends an inordinate amount of time trying to set up a fire ball only for it to go off in his hand. Warrior briefly sells it before realizing correctly that it would be stupid to do so. One of the most craptastic moments in wrestling history right their ladies and gents. Hogan is now bleeding as the commentary is try to sell how awful it WOULD have been had the thing Hogan planned to do actually happened. Low blow to Warrior and once again no DQ. Horace Hogan comes out and hits Warrior with a chair while Bischoff distracts the ref and Hogan gets the win. Now Horace begins to douse Warrior with lighter fluid, please gentlemen the first human torch match wouldn’t happen for a year or so. Security convinces Hogan’s not to light a man on fire, which was nice of them and Warrior leaves the ring as confused as we all are. Wow, I would have loved to be in the room as they discussed this match beforehand. Were they optimistic or did they know that the term dumpster fire would be the best description of what would transpire in the ring that night? Clumsy men well past their prime in a terribly paced, over booked, anticlimactic match. This absolutely deserves its place in wrestling lore.
Diamond Dallas Paige v Goldberg (champion)
WCW World Heavyweight Championship
DDP’s music is nothing like I remember, I’m starting to think that the WWE network is fucking with me to somehow make my viewing experience of this show worse. (Editor’s Note: WWE changed a lot of the entrance music for royalty reasons.) Goldberg’s entrance was quite a spectacle and lends to a great big fight feel for this match. Goldberg showing his power in throwing Paige around early but Dallas shows some very creative wrestling holds and transitions to take control. There may not be any other wrestler in history to stare down the hard camera harder and more often than Goldberg. The small WCW ring makes so many submission holds ineffective, so many times during the PPV a hold was applied on a guy right next to the ropes. Goldberg takes the old shoulder into the ring post with gusto and begins to really sell his shoulder well. Jackhammer to Diamond Cutter spot totally predictable but still such a great spot. A Jackhammer counter to a vertical suplex wins the match for Goldberg. This match was rather short but very well done and the complete antithesis of the previous match. DDP looked great and it is probably the best Goldberg would ever look. It’s a shame that this was probably the last great PPV main event in WCW history.
Well they certainly saved their best for last with this show. Unfortunately, the show ran long and cut out right before the main event started so they had to show the match the next night on Nitro. Logically you’d think they would’ve cut one of the nothing matches like Finlay v Wright, Meng v Wrath and Saturn v Lodi or even decided not to do whatever the hell they were going for with the Tag Titles and just given us Steiner v Steiner without all the bullshit, but this is WCW. The cruiserweight stuff was good but the only match of the night that was both a quality match and meant anything was the main event and that my friends makes for a really poor show. I did enjoy it however, there was something about the way that it was shot and produced that made it feel more personal and engaging. WWE should try some of that with the current brand split but they won’t. There was also enjoyment in the absolutely bonkers booking of the card and the Hogan/Warrior had MST3K charm in spades. So there you have it, an absolutely terrible and ultimately enjoyable show.
Observation #1 – Tony Schiavone lied to me 9 times during this broadcast…I am awaiting an apology
Observation #2 – There should have been a reminder in every single WCW production meeting to never give Rick Steiner a microphone…There should be a reminder in every current WWE production meeting as well just to make sure.
Observation #3 – Kevin Nash’s Powerbomb was one of ugliest and scariest finishers in wrestling history. Say all you want about Atomic Leg Drops and People’s Elbows but I never saw a single one of those as sloppy and dangerous as Nash’s finishing move consistently was.
Fun Fact #1 – The only thing you remember about Stevie Ray after he split from his brother Booker T is the term Slapjack.
Fun Fact #2 – After winning the tag titles by himself at this PPV Rick Steiner would need a tag partner to defend them. What legendary star would WCW pick…why Kenny Kaos of course.
Fun Fact #3 – Between June 2nd 1998 and December 27th 1999 the WCW Tag Team Championships were vacated 4 times.
A thought – Warrior may very well have been a good father and husband and many people looked up to him as youths but please never forget the awful, hatful, bigoted things he said during his lifetime. WWE should immediately rename the Warrior award for someone more deserving of the honor.