For the first time since the beginning of the millenium, we’re getting Halloween Havoc, this time under the NXT banner. Over the course of twelve shows, several of which emanated from Las Vegas, there have been many moments that could loosely be called iconic, as we are talking about WCW. Instead of a “best of” list, this one is a “best and worst of,” as there’s enough of each to give us a nice balance. As beloved as this event is and will always be, sometimes this show certainly turned out to be a horror show.
Goldberg vs. DDP for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in 1998
Let’s start off on a high note, but with a twist. Widely regarded as one of the greatest matches in Halloween Havoc history, and certainly one of the best in WCW history overall, this match had the unfortunate fate of being cut off during the initial broadcast, due to the show running long. Guess having several Nitro Girls segments and a certain stinker of a semi-main (we’ll get there, don’t worry) will do that to you.
Though the defending champion Goldberg wasn’t known for putting on clinics, this match with Diamond Dallas Page was genuinely his best outing, and the same can be argued for Page as well. Built around the unpredictability and the danger behind the Diamond Cutter, this match is a genuine must-watch, even with the caveat of its behind the scenes snafu.
Big Van Vader vs. Cactus Jack in a Texas Death Match in 1993
While people may remember the infamous hangman spot that cost Mick Foley more than half of his ear in Germany a year later, this match put Cactus Jack on the map as far as brutality and recklessness went. While not for Vader’s WCW World Heavyweight Championship, the match stands as a testament to both men’s main event power, in a time just after the advent of the first run of a little company from Philadelphia.
Essentially, this match is a Last Man Standing match with extra steps, with a rest period taking place between pinfalls and count-outs in what was a return match from April of that year. In just the first couple of minutes, we get chair shots, a camera to the skull, and some stiff shots from The Mastodon in a brutal contest. It’s bloody, it’s hard-hitting, and elevated both men’s stocks in the aftermath.
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio in a Title vs. Mask Match in 1997
The Cruiserweight division of WCW was one of the few things that set the Atlanta-based promotion apart from everyone else in the game, following a wave of signings from ECW in the mid-Nineties. This undisputed classic is just two of the best luchadors in history going at it, putting on a clinic for the Cruiserweight strap. It’s often said that the undercards of WCW shows are better than the main events, and this match proves this concept handily, remaining a compelling and exciting watch over two decades later.
Diamond Dallas Page vs. "Macho Man" Randy Savage in a Las Vegas Sudden Death Match in 1997
After clashing for much of the calendar year, this fiery feud came to a head in another Death Match, a stipulation that neither man is necessarily known for. That said, it made for a true Match of the Night contender, as both men pulled out all of the stops to end this struggle. As nWo-centric as the end of this show got, this match stood head and shoulders above damn near everything else (save for the aforementioned Title vs. Mask match). Shame about that main event, though… which we’ll get to. Don’t worry.
Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mysterio Jr. for the WCW Cruiserweight Championship in 1996
Considering that Mysterio had to try and outdo this match one year later, it’s a wonder how only he became a main-event player in later years. The mat technician Malenko had his greatest success in the Cruiserweight title picture, and this classic from the 1996 installment is a glorious blend of styles. Opening up the card, this match centered around the theft of Mysterio’s mask, avenged during the contest, before a top-rope gutwrench powerbomb sealed the deal for Malenko to retain his title.
Chamber of Horrors in 1991
And on with the shitshow. Bewilderingly, this match opened its card, with a four-on-four clash inside of a cage with dangerous implications. In order to win, one opponent must be put into the electric chair and the “fatal lever” be thrown, incapacitating the victim.
Yup. That’s. That’s murder. That’s heavily implied sanctioned murder. Yes, I hate wrestling too.
The less said about this match (and this whole show, if we’re being honest), the better, but the unintentional comedy of the setpieces make this match a must-watch. With random dudes in coffins looking like the Temple guards from Legends of the Hidden Temple, the “fatal lever” being in the on position for entirely too long to be believable, and the ridiculous finish itself are head-shakingly hilarious. And did I mention that this match opened the show?
Hulk Hogan vs. Ultimate Warrior in 1998
I am very much not a fan of either of these wrestlers, but their WrestleMania VI title for title match was a classic. The phrase “passing of the torch” isn’t usually associated with the Hulkster, but that match might have been it for Hulk, though commiserations about Warrior’s career after his WWF Title run. In another example of “Simpsons did it,” WCW looked to capture the magic of that 1990 classic, now with both men older and somehow even slower in the ring.
To call this a dumpster fire is to discredit the attempted finish, which involved a flub-up with flash paper, but it’s in that spirit that this match lies. At least this match was followed by that Goldberg / DDP match, unless you were watching the Pay-Per-View live, in which case… my condolences.
“Hollywood” Hulk Hogan vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in a Non-Title Steel Cage Match in 1997
In another moment of “hey, it worked for those guys, let’s try it,” this match was… yikes. For one, this match was a non-title match, which makes zero sense given the length and severity of this territory-spanning feud. Is it safe to assume that Hogan didn’t want to lose to Piper, especially for the title? Maybe, but fair play, even that wouldn’t have saved this match. Had this match happened ten years prior in the WWF, we might still be talking about it to this day, and for good reasons. Since it happened late in the initial nWo era… yikes.
NXT Halloween Havoc airs on the USA Network on Wednesday, October 28th at 8pm, and will be available on-demand on the WWE Network the following day.