Trick or Treat: The Best and Worst of WCW Halloween Havoc
As winter brings upon colder weather and leaves continue to fall from the trees, everyone is gearing up for the spookiest day of the year, Halloween. While October brings ghoulish costumes and sugar rushes, from 1989 to 2000, the 10th month of the calendar year was also home to one of WCW’s most popular pay-per-view events, Halloween Havoc.
Often called the WCW equivalent of SummerSlam, Halloween Havoc's 11-year history was filled with great matches and bizarre moments. WWE Classics examines the best and worst of the Atlanta-based organization’s October extravaganza.
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The inaugural WCW Halloween Havoc in 1989 featured legendary battles such as Doom versus The Steiner Brothers and Lex Luger against Brian Pillman, but the main event of the evening was undoubtedly the most memorable. Sworn enemies Sting and Ric Flair joined forces to battle their respective rivals The Great Muta and Terry Funk, inside a specially designed steel cage known as the Thunderdome. The cage walls were higher than normal and the top of the structure curved upward, preventing any competitor from escaping.
The match inside the steel structure was held like a standard tag team battle and featured Bruno Sammartino as the special guest referee. The object of the match was to brutalize the opposing team until a representative threw in a towel. In Muta & Funk’s corner was Gary Hart while Ole Anderson represented Sting & Flair. The battle raged for more than 20 minutes before Flair locked Funk in the Figure-Four, followed by a splash from Sting that forced Hart to throw in the towel.
The Thunderdome could be considered a precursor to Hell in a Cell because of its higher walls and the fact that there was a gap between the ring and cage walls, allowing the battle to spill outside of the squared circle. While Hell in a Cell is a far more advanced evolution of the Thunderdome, the rivalries contained inside the steel walls at Halloween Havoc 1989 made it one of our favorite things about the October extravaganza.
Rey Mysterio vs. Eddie Guerrero
In 1997, WCW’s Cruiserweight division was one of the Atlanta-based organization’s premier attractions. At Halloween Havoc that same year, two of the brightest competitors in WCW battled for the coveted Cruiserweight Championship. Both Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero were in the process of building their legendary careers, and their match at the October extravaganza stole the show.
Guerrero’s Cruiserweight Title was at stake and, to up the ante, The Ultimate Underdog put his mask on the line. Rey was appropriately dressed for the battle in ring gear that resembled Lee Falk’s comic book character The Phantom. Channeling “The Ghost Who Walks,” Mysterio displayed his incredible abilities rivaled only by Guerrero’s own agility in a fast-paced Cruiserweight contest that left fans gasping for air. Following an incredible hurricanrana from the top rope, Mysterio secured the victory in a battle that would help define his early career.
Sumo Monster Truck Match
Before The Giant (Big Show) made his in-ring debut challenging Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Title, he battled The Hulkster in a Sumo Monster Truck Match. The contest, which pitted Hogan’s “Hulkster” truck against The Giant’s “Dungeon of Doom” truck, took place on the roof of Detroit’s Cobo Hall. The object of the unique competition was to push the opponent’s truck out of a designated circle.
WCW always had a close relationship with monster trucks, but the battle on the roof of Cobo Hall took that relationship to new heights. It may have seemed silly on the surface, but the bout was the perfect crossover of sports-entertainment and monster trucks, two wildly popular entertainment genres. After Hogan won the competition by pushing The Giant’s truck from the circle, physicality between the two gladiators ensued. As the competitors battled toward the edge of the roof, Hogan managed to break a chokehold, which in turn caused The World’s Largest Athlete to lose his balance and fall off the roof. Talk about high drama!
Moments after The World’s Largest Athlete fell from the roof of Detroit’s Cobo Hall, The Giant appeared unscathed to challenge The Hulkster for the WCW World Title. After a shocking betrayal at the hands of Jimmy Hart resulted in Hogan’s demise, The Giant’s claimed the championship in his very first match.
Following the contest, the Dungeon of Doom pounced on The Hulkster and their “insurance policy” also attacked. The Yeti — who one week earlier broke free from a block of ice as Nitro ended — made his way to the ring. No one was calling in Bigfoot sightings in Detroit that evening as The Yeti actually looked more like a giant mummy as he lumbered to the ring to lock Hogan in an awkward bear hug.
In the end, The Yeti was just an October surprise — following Halloween Havoc, the creature became The Super Giant Ninja before fading into sports-entertainment legend.
Former WCW Champions Diamond Dallas Page, Booker T and Big Show have all referred to Halloween Havoc as the Atlanta-based organization’s equivalent to SummerSlam. Like WWE’s Biggest Party of the Summer, Halloween Havoc was a favorite among WCW fans and was a precursor to their biggest event, Starrcade. Though the pay-per-view spectacle featured WCW tops stars in action, the most memorable element of the October event undoubtedly was the entrance stage — particularly in the late 1990s.
Early on, the stage featured a smoke-filled cemetery and an archway resembling the entrance to a mausoleum. In 1998 and 1999, the archways flanked the main entrance which was now a giant pumpkin with the event’s logo carved into the center. Adding to the spectacle, a giant winged demon hovered above the pumpkin, truly highlighting the extravaganza that was Halloween Havoc.
The WCW Halloween Phantom
In 1991, a mysterious individual known as The WCW Halloween Phantom competed in a match against Tom Zenk. Though it seemed ridiculous, the mystery man actually embodied the idea of Halloween perfectly. Wearing a black-and-white mask and a black bodysuit, the competitor was nearly impossible to identify. He had no traceable tactics in his victory over Zenk, furthering the mystery that surrounded his presence.
Following the bout, Paul E. Dangerously was present to lead the revelation of The WCW Halloween Phantom’s identity. When the mask was pulled off, the familiar mustachioed visage of “Ravishing” Rick Rude appeared for the first time in front of WCW cameras. The revelation was a major surprise for sports-entertainment fans as the former WWE Intercontinental Champion was now part of WCW.
Sting vs. Bret "Hit Man" Hart
There’s no denying that Sting and WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hit Man” Hart are among the biggest icons of sports-entertainment, particularly the 1990s. Both competitors were masters of the Sasori-gatame — known as the Sharpshooter to Hart and the Scorpion Deathlock to Sting. When “Hit Man” left WWE for WCW following The Montreal Incident in 1997, he initially allied with Sting to ensure fair play in The Stinger’s Starrcade battle with Hollywood Hogan. The alliance was broken in 1998 when Hart — an associate of The nWo — attacked Sting, setting off their bitter rivalry.
The dream match for sports-entertainment faithful would occur at Halloween Havoc 1998 with Hart’s U.S. Title on the line. The contest did not disappoint as the two legendary competitors were even-matched and battled in and out of the ring. A miscalculation by Sting, however, caused him to hit the steel ring post during a Stinger Splash. With his opponent unconscious, Hart took advantage and locked Sting in the Sharpshooter for the victory.
The two competitors would square off a handful of times after this initial contest, but their first meeting at Halloween Havoc remains on top.
Spin the Wheel, Make a Deal
Before there was Raw Roulette, there was “Spin the Wheel, Make a Deal.” Though the name was hardly frightening, the very concept left fans on the edge of their seats waiting to see the match type chosen by the spinning wheel. Introduced in 1992, the first match determined by the wheel was a Coal Miner’s Glove Match between Sting and Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Spin the Wheel, Make a Deal was used again the next year to determine that the battle between bitter rivals Vader and Cactus Jack would be a Texas Death Match.
Spin the Wheel, Make a Deal only made two appearances at Halloween Havoc. Much like Raw Roulette, however, the concept was intriguing and added an extra element of surprise to the events where it was featured.
Hulk Hogan vs. The Warrior II
We’ll be the first to admit, this was hardly the rematch we imagined it would be, but the very idea of one of WrestleMania’s greatest battles being revisited is enough. The buildup to the confrontation was equal parts awesome and bizarre. The Warrior targeted Hollywood Hogan from the moment he debuted in WCW and began playing mind games with The nWo’s leader. Aside from converting Hogan’s lackey The Disciple to his cause, The Warrior used smoke not only to make his escape from the ring, but also to knockout every nWo member except for Hogan.
The most memorably bad moment came during a conversation with Eric Bischoff and Hogan in the locker room area. The Warrior appeared “inside” a mirror — Hogan, the announcers, the arena audience and TV viewers all saw him — Bischoff, standing next to The Immortal One, did not. Thus, in turn the entire incident made Bischoff look insane, rather than Hogan.
The match itself was neither competitor’s best. Hogan defeated The Warrior, but their bout went on for so long that many pay-per-view carriers ended the event’s broadcast at 11 p.m., causing fans to miss the WCW Title match between Goldberg and Diamond Dallas Page. The showdown may be hard to watch, but the novelty of laughing through the old clips is still fun.
Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page
Arguably the best match in Halloween Havoc’s 11-year span, Goldberg versus Diamond Dallas Page in 1998 was not about WCW against The nWo, it was simply about the WCW World Title. Neither competitor was affiliated with nWo Hollywood or nWo Wolfpac. The two gladiators shared a mutual respect for one another and DDP had his sights set on Goldberg’s WCW Championship and undefeated streak. Pitting Goldberg’s raw strength against Page’s resiliency, WCW treated its fans to an ultra-competitive battle that highlighted the importance of the WCW Championship.
Unfortunately, millions of viewers were unable to watch the match live. The preceding contest between Hollywood Hogan and The Warrior dragged on, causing pay-per-view providers to end the broadcast at 11 p.m. — just as the World Title match got underway. The next evening on Monday Nitro, WCW apologized for the broadcast mishap and aired the entire WCW Championship Match for free.