SPOOKTOBER Countdown: WCW Halloween Havoc 89

The Netcop Retro Rant for Halloween Havoc 89 (I’ve been looking forward to this series, because I’m a big fan of the Halloween Havoc series in general, plus it gives me a chance to reformat the original rants into Word as part of my grand plan to get the archives into better condition so I can sell them again.)  – Live from Philadelphia, PA – Your hosts are Jim Ross and Bob Caudle. – Opening match: Tom Zenk v. Mike Rotunda. My tape is having issues so I have to fast-forward. It’s clipped anyway. Zenk rolls through a cross-body for the pin, and it’s **-ish. – Okay, the tape is okay now.  (Hands up anyone who ever had to manually dissemble a VHS tape, repair the reel with mending tape, and then rethread and reassemble it so that a copy of a wrestling PPV that you traded for wouldn’t get lost forever.  THANK GOD FOR YOUTUBE.)  – The Midnight Express & Steve “Bart WHO?” Williams v. The SST & Samoan Savage. The Savage is former Islander Tama. (These days he’s more like an island.)  This was another segment in the never-ending feud between the Midnight Express and every other sucky team tossed at them in 1989. (Man, one thing that the Midnights had over the Rock N Roll Express in Hall of Fame comparisons is longevity – at the first sign of cooling off, the RNR was DONE and never got to that level again, whereas the Midnights weathered the storm and then had a mammoth resurgence.) Thankfully they turned heel and beat the s--- out of the Dynamic Doofuses at the next Clash. Another Turner clip-job special, as we cut to Bobby playing Ricky Morton (oh, the irony). The Samoans (who are the only team WORSE than the Freebirds) (Hey now, let’s not say something we can’t take back.)  use a lot of kicks and headbutts. Fatu’s ass is almost in Yokozuna territory here. (I think this was written pre-Rikishi, too.)  To think that these idiots would become future WWF tag champs is frightening. Tama goes for the pump splash but Eaton gets the knees up and makes the hot tag to Steve Williams. Philly WORSHIPS this guy. (As they should.  He’s awesome.)  Total destruction on everyone, then Lane comes in and botches a neckbreaker on Tama. Enzuigiri and a pier-six erupts. Tama knocks Lane into Cornette (standing on the apron) and pins him to officially place the Midnights at rock bottom. * Better times were ahead. – The Cuban Assassin v. Tommy Rich. The Cuban in question is Fidel Sierra, the guy who would go on to form the Barrio Brothers with Ricky Santana, not the really old one who wrestled in Stampede for years. The crowd goes apathetic here as they trade punches and restholds. Crowd is actively chanting “boring” as Rich armbars the Cuban. I’d make some witty observation to pass the time but this is a horrible match and neither guy is the least bit interesting. At least Sid is fun to mock. Uh, let’s see…Tommy’s a drunk! No, that’s en vogue these days, so no good. Um…he’s fat with a bad dye-job? His mother dresses him funny? Oh, screw it. Assassin blows something and Rich gives him the big elbow and catches him with the Thesz press for the pin to end this crap. DUD  (I’m constantly astonished at the editing choices that Turner’s videotape guys used to make.  I really wish WWE would just reissue these old shows on a DVD-on-demand service so I could have the full shows.)  – NWA World tag title match: The Freebirds v. The Dynamic Dudes. Finally, something to work with. The Dudes have Jim Cornette with them here and nearly get booed out of the building by the Philly crowd, which is hugely ironic today considering that Shane Douglas became the darling of Philly a few years later. (And then everyone turned on him again.)  The much cooler Freebirds get a massive face pop. Welcome to Philly. I hate both teams passionately. For some reason, Garvin is only one to bring his belt. (Hayes probably pawned it for booze.)  Michael’s moonwalk gets a good pop. We cut to Johnny Ace holding Garvin in a side headlock and tormenting Hayes. The Dudes clear the ring with some fancy double-teams and get a huge heel pop. They don’t know how to react. Then, in a glorious moment, the crowd starts chanting “You suck” when Ace gets in the ring.  (And then, 23 years later, it started happening on a more regular basis.)  Hayes pops Ace from outside with a cheap shot and gets a big face pop. This is Bizarro World, folks. This crowd has to be heard to be believed. Ace is outside the ring and Garvin keeps kicking him in the head to keep him out. A huge “Freebirds” chant breaks out. Ace is caught in the corner and MAN this crowd is bloodthirsty. Hayes with a double-whip clothesline to the corner, and goes for the DDT but Ace blocks. Hot tag to Shane Douglas, who clears the ring to another heel pop. Pier-six and the crowd is getting downright hostile. (Philly?  Hostile?)  Dudes go for the double-slingshot suplex on Garvin but Hayes hooks Ace’s leg from the outside and Garvin falls on top for the pin and it’s one of the biggest face pops I’ve ever heard. *1/2 – The Steiner Brothers v. Doom. This would be the debut of Ron Simmons and Butch Reed as Doom, managed by Woman. They were masked at the time, but there were only two black guys in the NWA at the time, so the choices were pretty limited to begin with, so it was no huge secret. (At least in WWE these days there’s a pretty wide selection of black wrestlers and has been for a while, and only four of them are tag teams who are actively feuding with each other.  PROGRESS!)  For those who care, Nancy Sullivan started showing up at ringside during Rick Steiner’s matches as a nerdy fan called “Robin Green”, cheering him on. Rick and Robin went on a date, and she began showing up in the Steiners’ corner, despite the fact that Missy Hyatt was their manager. Finally, Hyatt told Green to take a hike, and she got upset and dumped Rick and changed her name to Woman, then found Doom as her revenge. Women, go fig. (Pretty decent storyline, actually.)  This was well before Doom developed talent as a team. (I’d say it was more like before they developed chemistry as a team.  Butch Reed was always a solid worker, but they kind of took the tact of “Let’s stick these two big black guys together and they’ll be good because they’re both the same skin color” and it just didn’t work out that way.)  Lots of stalling to start as Doom runs after every major power move. Rick gets caught in the corner fairly soon into this and pummelled by Simmons, er, Doom #1. Headlock on Rick, so he pushes Simmons into his corner and Scott comes off the top with a clothesline. Rick gets pummelled again. Scott tagged in and he goes right to ruling the earth with a gourdbuster. He ducks a clothesline and hits a belly-to-back. Awesome. Scott is a shell of his former greatness these days. Scott gets tripped by Reed, leading to more double-teaming. Basic stuff from Doom: Bodyslam, double-elbow, punches, clotheslines, etc. Scott used to try anything, now he tries nothing. It’s like two different people, so maybe it’s a good thing he did such a drastic image change. It’s hard enough reconciling them as it is. The usual cheap heat heel tactics (choke, toss over the top, Woman interferes) from Doom. How did they ever get good? They were the DOA of 1989 and they went on to greatness. Life is weird. (I wouldn’t say “greatness”.  Pretty goodness, maybe.  Simmons clearly had much better chemistry with Bradshaw, for instance, because they were actually good friends and compatible workers together.)  The match continues dragging as Scott is powerslammed (gee, guess which Doom guy that is?) for two. More cheap heat segments with the false tag, leading to a spike-piledriver while the ref’s back is turned. It only gets two. Hot tag to Rick for real, and he cleans house with the usual, which was new back then. Scott in, Frankensteiner on Simmons as Rick powerslams Reed. Ref is distracted outside with Scott and Simmons, leaving Woman to load up Reed’s mask. Reed headbutts Rick with the LOADED MASK OF DOOM! for the upset win. Bad match from a great team. *1/4 (This was better than that, like ***1/4.  1998 Scott was severely short-changing it because Doom wasn’t quite as good as they’d quickly become.)  The Steiners would squash the Freebirds for the tag titles a few weeks later, and would eventually lose them to this very team after they lost their masks and gained credibility. (The cat burglar has been caught by the very person who was trying to catch him!  How ironic!)  – US Title match: Lex Luger v. Brian Pillman. Before the injuries and the drugs and the shoot interviews, Pillman was GOD. And speaking of things that would never happen today, Luger gets a massive face pop here in Philly, even as a heel. (Luger had real, honest smarky smark cred before they flushed it all away in 91.  In the days before the internet this city was the best way to judge that sort of thing.)  The Rock is currently doing Luger’s heel schtick, by the way. Luger ruled it back then. Luger was even more over as a face as a heel than as a face. Try reading that again if it doesn’t make sense. Luger hammers on Pillman to start and trash talks him. Pillman gets tossed, but jumps back in and spears Lex. Chops, a 6-inch whip and a backdrop, and Luger bails. Baseball slide. More chops (whoo!) outside the ring and Luger gets tossed in. Air Pillman attempt but Luger bails. Chase outside and Luger decks him as he comes in. More punishment in the corner. Crowd is divided 50/50. Cross-corner whip on Pillman leads to a flying bodyblock by Pillman for two. Pillman works on the arm to slow things down. Luger with a hiptoss which Pillman reverses out of mid-air and goes back to the arm. To the corner, cross-corner whip and charge but Luger eats boot. Pillman goes for the Money Shot and Lex moves. Luger whips him and does the “upsy-daisy” facefirst plant. Throat-first to the top rope. Running clothesline, which he could actually hit realistically in 89. Pillman with chops to fight back (whoo!). But Pillman puts his head down and gets booted and clotheslined, front and back. Crowd is 70/30 for Luger. Elbows to the head. Hanging suplex for two. Elbowdrop, but Pillman’s fighting back again. Luger tosses him to relieve the pressure. Pillman sunset flips him on the way in for two. Luger goes for a lariat but Pillman ducks and Luger goes flying. Chops in the corner by Pillman and the TEN PUNCHES OF DOOM!, but Luger atomic drops him out and sets up for the superplex. Pillman shoves him off and sunset flips him for two. Chops (whoo!) and a flying elbow. Chops (whoo!) and a backdrop. Pillman nails Air Pillman but Luger’s got a foot on the ropes. Rude Awakening and Pillman to the top, but Luger moves. Clothesline misses, but Luger catches Pillman on a bodypress and stun-guns him for the three count to retain the title. Bitchin’ match. ****  (I redid this one for Vintage Collection recently and yeah, it’s just balls out great.)  – The Skyscrapers v. The Road Warriors. Ah, for the days when all was right with the world. Before Sid convinced himself that he was a draw, before Hawk got old and fat (and died), before Ellering lost his personality. The Skyscrapers literally dwarf the Warriors. This would be what JR would call a Slobberknocker. Nobody’s selling nothin’. Spivey and Hawk trade shoulderblocks before Hawk does a diving one to get him off his feet and out of the ring. Sid blows his first move, a clothesline, which Hawk pretends to have ducked in order to cover. Double-slam by the Warriors but Sid no-sells. Shoulderblock exchange by Animal and Sid. Again, a flying shoulderblock takes him down and out. Okay, we’re going nowhere here. Test of strength gives Hawk and Sid plenty of time to plan spots. Hawk pushes him to the corner and monkey flips him. WHOA, A WRESTLING MOVE! Sid no-sells. Animal dominates Spivey, but Hawk tags in and gets caught in the corner. Sid wipes out Hawk with a clothesline and a helicopter slam. Sidewalk slam by Spivey for two. Spivey no-sells a clothesline and baseball slides Hawk. Double-whip clothesline on Hawk that looks terrible. Sid scowls a lot. Spivey puts his head down but it doesn’t matter because he no-sells the kick to the head. He no-sells a suplex and tags Sid back in. I’m surprised someone didn’t shoot on these punks. Hot tag to Animal, not seen of course. Avalanche by Spivey, but he eats boot on the second one. Real hot tag to Animal, who dropkicks Spivey and shoulderblocks him, then gets into a melee with Sid. Pier-six erupts. Powerslam on Sid but Teddy Long tosses in the GOLD KEY OF DEATH! for the weak DQ. Don’t even ask about the key, I don’t even remember what it was for. 1/2*  (This was a MAIN EVENT tag match at the time.  They could have headlined the PPV with this one, easily.)  – Thundercage match: Terry Funk & Great Muta v. Ric Flair & Sting. Bruno Sammartino is the guest ref. This was a true Thundercage, as the cage is electrified on top and the only way to win is by having your second throw in the towel. Gary Hart represents the heels, Ole Anderson represents the faces. The cage is a Hell in the Cell type deal, covering all of ringside and going about 30 feet in the air. No roof, but the top is slanted inwards and electrified to prevent escape.  (You’d think someone would think of trying that for Hell in a Cell since it’s basically a revolving door for people to run in and out of at this point.)  It starts out as a regular tag match that happens to be inside a cage. Flair and Funk start, and Flair dumps Funk over the top rope, just because he can. Sting gets in and follows suit. Flair nearly takes the skin off Funk’s chest with a chop. OUUUUUUUUCH! Muta gets some too. Sting ranks on Muta. Flair in with the rapid-fire punches to the head and a nasty atomic drop. Then it finally turns into a psychotic brawl. Flair and Funk ram each other into the cage while Sting and Muta try some wrestling. Sting with the flying head-smash on both heels. They try some more wrestling then everyone starts climbing the cage. Funk is hanging off the top and Flair starts chopping away on him. What a dick. They switch off as Sting beats on Funk and Flair figure-fours Muta in the ring. Flair gets distracted by Funk and Muta gives him an enzuigiri while Flair is on the second rope. Vicious kick, too. Funk ties Sting up on the cage as Muta applies the bridged deathlock to Flair. Stuff piledriver on Flair. Sting is still having problems getting free. He gets loose and dives off the cage onto Funk. Whoa. More brawling and Muta goes for the moonsault but gets crotched by Sting. Flair gets the figure-four on Funk and Sting dives off with splashes to add to the move. Brutal. Gary Hart gets into a fight with Ole Anderson as Bruno decks Muta. Ole nails Hart and the towel goes flying, which Bruno sees, and stops the match. Some brutal spots but pretty disappointing overall. **1/2  (SAY WHAT?   DUDE!  This was AWESOME.  Brutal cage match, Funk and Flair beating the s--- out of each other in Philly, **** easy.  Watch it again, 1998 Scott, it’s tremendous.)  The Bottom Line: I liked this show, but not as much as the incredible WrestleWar/Bash double-shot that came before it. (STFU.  This show was greatness.  Watch it again on YouTube.)  Still, some good stuff wraps up a good year for the NWA, if we assume that Starrcade 89 didn’t happen. 😉  (Stuff the smiley up your ass.  THUMBS WAY UP.)  Mildly recommended.