Let’s face it: most wrestling pay-per-views don’t have an obvious connection to the calendar. I’m always looking up the dates for WWE shows like No Way Out and Unforgiven, and I’ve yet to get a handle on the TNA schedule. That’s why I always appreciated Halloween Havoc back in the days when WCW still walked the Earth.
There was no ambiguity with Havoc. Judgment Day? Armageddon? Depending on what you believe, those could happen any time, but Havoc was taking place the last Sunday in October, or the week before if Halloween actually fell on the final weekend. Men and women dressed in various, sometimes outlandish costumes… you could be describing Halloween or wrestling, so the connection just seemed to fit.
Here in the U.S., the Halloween season is big business. A recent study by the National Retail Foundation projected that Americans would spend an average of $59.06 on the holiday, for a total of $4.96 billion. Halloween Havoc never got in on much of that action — the attendance figures I’ve seen suggest it never drew more than 14,000 live fans — but it did create a legacy of big main events. We’re talking matches like Sting versus Jake “The Snake” Roberts, Vader facing Cactus Jack and Hulk Hogan taking on Ric Flair, Randy Savage and Roddy Piper.
Okay, so none of those bouts are likely to be remembered as the classics they might appear to be. Sting and Roberts fell prey to the hokey “Spin the Wheel, Make a Deal” gimmick and ended up in a Coal Miner’s Glove match. Hogan had better moments with both Flair and Piper, and his much publicized rematch with The “Don’t Call Me Ultimate” Warrior at Halloween Havoc 1998 had fans scrambling to watch WrestleMania VI again to replace their new unpleasant memories with older, happier ones.
The 1998 show was also the setting for one of WCW’s scariest moments, at least from a business perspective. I was working at a Damon’s restaurant in Durham, North Carolina, and we showed all of the WWE and WCW pay-per-views on one of the big screens in the clubhouse since wrestling was so hot at the time. After the Hogan-Warrior mess, the main event saw Goldberg defeat Diamond Dallas Page for the WCW championship.
That match joined my mind’s short list of truly entertaining Goldberg matches — only Nitro showdowns with Hogan and Sting were previously in that category. It wasn’t until the next day that I learned that thousands of fans didn’t get to see the main event, because the show ran long and some of WCW’s satellite distributors cut the feed right at 11 p.m. Eastern. Facing the wrath of wrestling fans who could make the hordes from Night of the Living Dead seem calm by comparison, WCW offered the main event in its entirety for free the next night on Nitro.
Naturally, that decision angered many viewers who shelled out money for Havoc and did get to see the finish. It was the kind of no-win situation that hasn’t surrounded any other pay-per-view in wrestling history. I’m sure the people who were running WCW at the time still shudder when they think about it.
But to borrow a famous quote, I came to praise Halloween Havoc, not bury it. When the WWE brass acquired the WCW trademarks five years ago, they gained the ability to use the old WCW PPV names if they so chose. To date they’ve used just one (Great American Bash), but I always thought two were naturals. One was Starrcade, owing to both the history of the name and the fact that WWE’s December shows have been largely forgettable over the past few years. The other, of course, was Halloween Havoc.
It’s too late for this Halloween, but there’s always next year. I couldn’t find an official announcement anywhere, but the WWE’s October 2007 pay-per-view is rumored to be coming to the GIANT Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania — less than ten minutes from my house. Seems like the perfect time to push the show back a few weekends, resurrect the Halloween Havoc name, and make people think about suplexes and clotheslines as well as ghosts and goblins next October.
In the spirit of the season, here are some of my personal picks for scariest wrestling moments since I joined the SLAM! Wrestling staff eight years ago:
Scariest Bump (televised) – Mankind (vs. Undertaker, Hell in a Cell, King of the Ring 1998)
Not much to add here, as Foley’s trip off the top of the cage is arguably the most famous bump in pro wrestling history. This might have been the only time I expected Mick not to get back up.
Scariest Bump (live) – Shane McMahon (vs. Kurt Angle, Street Fight, King of the Ring 2001)
Certainly Shane-O-Mac has taken some wicked falls, and I’ve seen several of his matches in person. I was way, way up near the top of the Continental Airlines Arena for this one, but I still thought McMahon might have seriously injured his neck on a spot that saw Angle try to suplex him through a glass panel at the top of the ramp. The glass didn’t break, and Shane landed awkwardly on his head and neck. He must have been okay, because Angle picked him back up and shattered the panel on his second attempt.
Scariest Gimmick Match – Kennel From Hell Match – Unforgiven 1999
I’ve been scared of dogs since I was a small child. Thus, I can’t think of many things more frightening than being locked inside a steel cage with dogs outside the ring. I’m pretty sure I’d have enough adrenaline from sheer terror to get past Al Snow or Big Boss Man and get the heck out of there. Or maybe I’d just whimper in the center of the ring.
Scariest Gimmick, Period – The Demon, WCW
I’m not talking about his makeup, though Gene Simmons did freak me out on album covers when I was a kid. No, I’m talking about the sheer horror of the concept itself, a blatant marketing tie-in (and not even a successful one, at that) masquerading as a wrestler’s gimmick. Until the day the WWE debuts a character called Mr. Google, the Demon rules this spot.
Scariest Birth – Mae Young delivers a hand, RAW, February 28, 2000
Everything about Mae Young’s storyline with Mark Henry was pretty frightening. But the culmination of her “pregnancy” angle was both surprising and disturbing. The stuff of nightmares, indeed.
Scariest Use of a Coffin – Big Show “coffin surfing” during his feud with Big Boss Man
This is the second time Boss Man makes the list, which tells me something, though I’m not sure what. This wasn’t scary as much as it was unbelievable and surreal. I’ll never forget it, that’s for sure.
Scariest Title Holder – Vince Russo, WCW Champion, Sep. 25, 2000
Yes, David Arquette gets some consideration too, and was more controversial among fans. But for pure scare factor, nothing quite beat Russo putting the belt on himself for a week during WCW’s dying days. The cliché says you can never say never in wrestling, but we’ll never see this again. Thank goodness.
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