Saturday, 1 November 2014

PPV REVIEW: WCW - Halloween Havoc 1991

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - Event poster
October 27th 1991,
Chattanooga, Tennessee

*This is an old review from my archives, originally written in 2010. Given the time of year, it seemed appropriate to post it now*

World Championship Wrestling's third annual Halloween Havoc stands out as a memorable pay per view event, though probably for all the wrong reasons.  

Despite a memorable debut from none other than the late Ravishing Rick Rude, a great bout between The Artist Yet to be Known as Goldust, and the man who would go on to raise hell as Stone Cold Steve Austin (and Eric Bischoff dressed as a vampire) it was the opening Chamber of Horrors 'match' which leaves the memory of Halloween Havoc '91 to be uttered in the same embarrassed tones as Lost in Cleveland or the legendary Shockmaster Incident.

The Turner Home Entertainment VHS version, which remains the only lasting record of the show (other than the one sitting in WWE's video library*) omits a number of matches from the undercard.

*2019 UPDATE: The WWE Network didn't exist when I first wrote this review.

This is probably a good thing. After all, does anybody really need to see matches like Bill Kazmaier vs. Kevin 'Oz' Nash or Van hammer vs. Doug Sommers (who?) more than once in a life time? That said, there is one match not included on the tape that is certainly worth a look;  Brian Pillman defeating Richard Morton to be named WCW's first Light Heavyweight Champion.

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - Big Van Vader was part of the Chamber of Horrors match
At the time, Flyin' Brian was setting a trend for the kind of fast-paced, high-action cruiserweight styled matches the company would eventually become famed for, and his crowning as the Light Heavyweight champ is one to watch if you can find it (this writer recommends the Brian Pillman DVD put out a few years back).

What there is on the tape ranges from good to awful, though not necessarily in that order. Let's take a look.

Barry Windham  attacked 

The show opens with a shot of Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham pulling up at the arena. As Eric Bischoff tries to get an interview, Arn Anderson and Larry Zybysko show up and slam his arm in the car door. Bet that was painful.

Chamber of Horrors match: El Gigante, The Steiner Brothers and Sting beat Big Van Vader, Cactus Jack, the Diamond Stud and Abdullah the Butcher  

Ah, the infamous Chamber of Horrors match.

This one reads like a who's-who of big-names from the 1990s. You had Sting and the Steiner Brothers, stars synonymous with the WCW brand; Vader,  a phenomenal performer who sat comfortably at the top of the card until Hulk Hogan showed up and ruined everything; the Diamond Stud, later known as Razor Ramon and then by his real name, Scott 'I started the nWo' Hall and, of course, Cactus Jack, the man who would go on to be known as 'The Hardcore Legend', Mick Foley. Throw in wrestling institution The Butcher (and forget about the useless El Gigante, who's only claim to fame is a Wrestlemania 9 match against The Undertaker), and it all made for one star-studded bout.

Unfortunately, that's about all this had going for it.

The basic premise for the contest was that two teams would enter into a no-holds barred cage match which could only end when a wrestler strapped a member of the opposing team into an electric chair, pull a lever and, you know, electrocute him.

And if the concept wasn't ridiculous enough, the execution was equally as stupid.

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - Rick Steiner and Abdulah the Butcher in Chamber of Horrors

All eight men immedietly began beating the hell out of each other with an array of weapons including chains, skulls and coffins. Not that you could see much. Half of the match was shot a long way from the ring, with the cumbersome cage obscuring pretty much all of the action. The other half was shot using the ill-conceived 'Refer-eye' camera; yes, a camera attached to the referee's head which led to such awe-inspiring visuals as a close up Scott Steiner's backside, followed by a minute of staring at his thigh.

At one point, some random guy in black tights and a mask appears. He probably came out of the coffin, though since your writer couldn't see anything and the announcers make absolutely no mention of this, it's impossible to be sure.

The whole debacle comes crashing to a close when Cactus Jack (who, to be fair, worked hard in this one) pulled the lever, 'accidentally' electrocuting his own team mate, Abdullah. Fireworks exploded from the chair as Abbi played his best 'oh no, I'm a bit dead' routine, and absolutely nobody in the arena appeared to care.

Afterwards, Abdullah woke up, knocked over Mick Foley, then charged out of the ring and attacked a small army of 'ghouls' who had been charged with taking the victim away. Hilariously, a bloody Cactus joined in with the beat down.

 Johnny B. Badd (with Theodore Long) beat Jimmy 'Jam' Garvin (with Michael 'PS' Hayes) 

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - Fabulous Freebirds
After the Fabulous Freebirds, Garvin and Hayes, got the crowd nicely fired up, future Smackdown General Manager Teddy Long led the flamboyant Johnny B. Badd to the ring for a match which seemed to serve no other purpose than to rouse the crowd from the confusion-induced silence resulting from the previous Chamber farce.

In that respect, this nifty little contest does it's job well, with the Freebirds inspiring loud, repeated chants from the audience and the action itself being fun to watch.
In the end, Badd punched out Garvin to win the bout.

The Search for the Halloween Phanton 

In a respite from the action, the announcers sent cameras to Missy Hyatt, who was desperate to find the mysterious Halloween Phanton. When Bobby Eaton walked past, Hyatt asked if he'd seen the Phantom. Frustrated, Eaton replied that he didn't care about the Phantom, he'd just won a match.

Now, when you're watching this as a young child and don't realise there's matches missing from the card, you suddenly think 'what? No you didn't! that was Johnny B. Badd who just won a match'. Much like many other things WCW would do during their time on earth, it was all very confusing.

World Television Champion Steven Austin (with Lady Blossom) defended his title in 15-minute time limit draw against Dustin Rhodes 

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - Dustin Rhodes
Rhodes and Austin had a notable string of excellent matches during their time together, and though this one wasn't the peak of such brilliance, it was still a very good match.

The man who would go on to shave his head, call himself 'Stone Cold' held off the challenge of the man who would go on to paint his face and up jobbing out on ECW in an entertaining affair, despite Rhodes numerous, dramatic attempts to capture the television title.

Ultimately, the whole thing ran to a time limit draw.

WCW Halloween Phantom beat Tom Zenk 

The whole point of the Halloween Phantom was that he was supposed to be a big mystery. Nobody knew who he was, where he came from or what he wanted. All they knew that he was big, he was dangerous, and that when he finally was revealed, it was going to be a huge surprise.

Everybody knew that, except for WCW announcer Tony Schiavane, who, after the 'Phantom made short work of Zenk with a Reverse Neckbreaker, ruined the whole thing by declaring "that's a move that a lot of people know as a Rude Awakening". Yeah, thanks, Tony.

WCW World Tag Team Champions The Enforcers (Arn Anderson & Larry Zybysko) retained their titles against WCW United States Tag Team Champions The Patriots (Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion) 

The US titles were not on the line here, not that it would have made this any more interesting if they were; Anderson and Zybysko basically wrestled circles around their rookie opponents in a boring contest so memorable this writer can't remember a single thing that happened in it, even though he only watched the tape an hour before writing this piece.

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - WCW Phantom
Paul Heyman introduced Rick Rude as his new charge. 

Paul E. Dangerously (the man you probably know best as erstwhile Extreme Championship Wrestling boss, Paul Heyman), who had previously been fired 'for being too controversial for television' returned to WCW and cut a fantastic promo in which he ranted and raved with a passion about the state of WCW whilst Medusa stood around doing nothing. Dangerously went on to announce that he had found the man who would defeat Sting. That man was the Halloween Phantom and, yes Tony Schviane, the Halloween Phantom turned out to be none other than former WWF star, 'Ravishing' Rick Rude.

WCW World Champion Lex Luger (with Harley Race) successfully retained his title against Ron Simmons (with Dusty Rhodes) in a two-out-of-three falls main event. 

Until The Great Khali headlined Smackdown for a while, this main event held some sort of record for the most tedious main event on a wrestling show ever in the history of wrestling shows. Ron Simmons, who had spent most of his WCW tenure in tag teams (and who Attitude Era fans may know best as the APA's Farooq) was an average worker at best, whilst Luger made his way to the main event based purely on his chiseled physique and a knack for over-selling everything.

WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 - Ron Simmons vs. Lex Luger
Putting the two together in a 20+ minute two-out-of-three falls match, WCW presented a main event so mind-numbingly dull it's unreal. Nothing interesting happened for a while, Luger won, and then would go on to do nothing interesting for the rest of his career besides bodyslamming Yokozuna and showing up unexpectedly on Nitro that time.

And thus World Championship Wrestling's Halloween Havoc 1991 show came to a dismal finale. The Chamber of Horrors concept would never be used again (for good reason), the two men who had the best match on the card, or at least the tape, went to the World Wrestling Federation and became huge stars, and Tony Schiavane and other WCW announcers would continue to spoil things until the company's dying day. Judging by this show, it's a small miracle that day didn't come a whole lot sooner.


Originally the Chamber of Horrors match was supposed to have been Sting, Gigante, & the Steiners against Oz, Diamond Studd, One Man Gang, & Barry Windham, while Cactus would've faced Kazmier.

However, a lot of substitutions happened, as Cactus replaced Oz (who went on to job to Kazmier), Vader replaced Windham (who suffered a hand injury one week prior to the PPV), and Abdullah replaced OMG (who left WCW).

Ron Simmons should have won the belt here instead of in 1992.

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