Mike Reviews – WCW Halloween Havoc 1991 (27th October 1991)

Happy Saturday Everyone!

Last week I reviewed WCW Halloween Havoc 2000, which is a pretty awful show, so I decided to review a Halloween Havoc show that has the capacity to be a bit more fun in the form of the 1991 offering. The Main Event on this one is Lex Luger Vs Ron Simmons, but we’ve also got some interesting matches on the undercard, including Terry Taylor and Bobby Eaton going at it during Bobby’s brief babyface singles run.

The event is emanating from Chattanooga, Tennessee on the 27th of October 1991

Calling the action are Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone

We get a spoooooooooooooooky intro, featuring a haunted house and graveyard

Clips are shown from earlier in the day as people arrive for the show, where Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyzko attack Barry Windham and seemingly break his hand by slamming a car door on it. Dustin Rhodes takes him to the hospital.

Opening Match
The Chamber of Horrors Match
Abdullah The Butcher, Cactus Jack, Big Van Vader and The Diamond Studd Vs El Gigante, Sting, Rick Steiner and Scott Steiner

So the idea here is that all eight guys are fighting in a giant Hell in a Cell styled cage, with the cage filled with weapons for them to use. However, what should be a perfectly fun wild brawl featuring some decent brawlers is hampered somewhat by the silly method of victory, which involves making someone walk the green mile by strapping them into an electric chair and flipping the lever. If they took that stupid element out and just made this pin or submission to win then it probably wouldn’t be too bad.

Cactus and Sting had a really entertaining feud from this period, so whenever they go at it it’s a lot of fun, owing to how willing Cactus is to bump all over the place to make Sting look good. There are some caskets dotted around the cage, and some generic masked dudes climb out at one stage and need to be dispatched, which is something you’d expect to have to do in one of the WWE 2K games. You know “beat your opponent up until their legs are orange and then fight off a bunch of ghouls before the match can continue”

I’d be remiss not to mention “Refer-eye Cam”, which is a camera on a helmet that the ref is wearing, in one of those wacky gimmicks that I don’t think lasted for very long after this. Everyone brawls and eventually the chair lowers, which leads to Rick Steiner getting put in the chair by Abby whilst Cactus goes to flip the switch. However, Rick recovers and does the old switcheroo, unbeknownst to Cactus who still flips the switch and ends up barbecuing his own partner to give the babyfaces the win.

WINNERS: TEAM STING
RATING: N/A

I can’t really rate this as it was so ludicrously silly. I can’t say that elements of it didn’t entertain me though and a lot of the guys were genuinely working very hard in there in an effort to have a good match, so I didn’t outright hate it or anything. Again, give it a pin fall finish and it’s a pretty messy brawl inside a cage that had some good energy to it, and I can dig that

Cactus tries to wake Abby up following that, which leads to Abby going nuts and beating up some ghouls who have tried to bring a stretcher down. Bloody hell, he wouldn’t even sell an electric chair!

Eric Bischoff and Missy Hyatt are both in fancy dress backstage. Missy says she knows who the mysterious WCW Halloween Phantom is. Tracy Smothers and Scott Armstrong come in to cut a Heel promo on Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion.

Match Two
The Creatures (Joey Maggs and Johnny Rich) Vs P.N. News and Big Josh

The Creatures are generic masked enhancement guys, whilst News is a rapper who looks like D’Lo Brown and Chris Pratt had a child together. Josh would likely be better known as the awesome Heel Doink The Clown in 1993 before the character became a crappy babyface and he left. They give The Creatures way too much offence here and pretty much lose the crowd as a result, because News and Josh really shouldn’t need five minutes to polish these goofs off.

One thing I will say about this show thus far is that the production values have been pretty decent and the show itself has had an interesting look and atmosphere. Sadly Bill Watts would utterly slash the production budget when he came into the promotion in 1992, leading to the 92 version of Halloween Havoc having production values barely on par with that of 80’s AWA. Eventually Josh sits on one of The Creatures and News follows with a splash for the win.

WINNERS: THE LUMBERJACK RAP PARTY
RATING: SQUASH

Time for a normal match now I think

And indeed, that’s what we’re getting next

Match Three
Terrence Taylor w/ Miss Alexandra York Vs Beautiful Bobby Eaton

Taylor was doing an evil corporate dude styled gimmick here, with his main move being clobbering people with York’s laptop when it looked like things were about to go awry. Eaton was in the middle of a brief singles run in between Heel tag team runs with Stan Lane and Arn Anderson respectively. Both of these men are experienced pros who are very mechanically sound, so they work a really good match and just keep working and working until it gets over with the crowd. They are also given a decent chunk of time to tell a story too.

Taylor is a great smarmy heel whilst Bobby is a good humble babyface and their ring styles mesh very well. Eaton fires off a number of his famed right hand punches and Taylor sells them with aplomb. Both men just know what to do and when to do it when it comes to putting the match together and by the bouts conclusion the Chattanooga crowd is in to everything and really rooting for Eaton to pull out the victory.

Both men are allowed to cut loose at points in the match, as Eaton hits a knee drop from the top rope onto the ramp before Taylor replies by giving him a gut wrench powerbomb out there as well. Honestly this would have made a much better choice as the opener, as it’s a really fun match where they do some good stuff to fire up the crowd but it wouldn’t overshadow everything else on the show either.

Ross and Schiavone do a solid job on commentary getting everything over as well, which adds to the match. It’s a pretty timeless match too, as I could honestly see you putting this on a pay per view today and people still enjoying it due to the work being so good and the storytelling being on point. If you have a good Heel, a good babyface and both can work, then there’s a good chance you’ll get the crowd into it. Eventually Bobby is able to make a comeback following some heat from Taylor and picks up the clean win with The Alabama Jamma.

WINNER: BOBBY EATON
RATING: ***3/4

Overall the work was crisp, the selling was on point and the match was given enough time to build so that the fans were truly invested in the outcome. This is an exceedingly enjoyable match and I heartily encourage you to give it a look if you haven’t before.

Ross and Schiavone hype up the next match. It’s the battle of the music themed wrestlers!

Match Four
Johnny B. Badd w/ Teddy Long Vs Jimmy “Jam” Garvin w/ Michael “PS” Hayes

The story of this match is Badd’s punch Vs Garvin’s DDT. Garvin is ironically subbing in for an injured Hayes here, which he would do again at SuperBrawl IV when Hayes once again ducked out of a match with Badd on pay per view. The inconsistent “over the top rope” DQ rule presents itself pretty early on, as Garvin outright flings Badd out to the floor in the early going, but the ref can’t DQ him because we have loads more match to do, so Ross and Schiavone have to cover for him.

It’s actually a decent babyface shine from Garvin to be honest, with Garvin bumping Badd around and Badd selling it well. The crowd digs it too, and Hayes even gets to punch Badd at one stage when the ref isn’t looking to garner a pop from the audience. Badd wasn’t quite as good a wrestler here as he would be by the time he left WCW in 1996, so the match isn’t quite as good when he’s on offence, but it’s another bout that tells a decent story and the crowd likes The Freebirds, so they are invested at least.

There’s a noticeable botch at one stage when Badd tries a Sunset Flip off the top rope and it goes awry, but aside from that Badd doesn’t really mess up anything that notable and Garvin has been wrestling long enough that he knows what he can and can’t do and makes sure to stick to the former. It’s not a thrilling contest or anything, but it’s mostly fine. Eventually Garvin manages to catch Badd with a DDT, but Long distracts the ref and that allows Badd to recover with a punch for the three count.

WINNER: JOHNNY B. BADD
RATING: **

This was alright, with Garvin walking his less experienced opponent through it for the most part and the story being there, even if the work always wasn’t

Michael Hayes pops Long following the match so that The Freebirds can get their heat back.

Missy Hyatt is trying to locate The WCW Halloween Phantom. She asks if Bobby Eaton knows who it was, but Bobby has a pumpkin and says he’s off to celebrate. Okay then…

Match Five
WCW World Television Title
Champ: Stunning Steve Austin w/ Lady Blossom Vs Dustin Rhodes

Dustin was still quite early into his career at this stage, a career which is amazingly still going on in All Elite Wrestling. After a brief stint in the WWF at the start of the year, Dustin had joined his father Dusty in leaving for WCW in 1991 and was already receiving a decent push as a young up and comer. There was some resentment to his push, but nowhere near as much as poor Erik Watts would receive a year later, although Rhodes was significantly better in the ring than Watts was, he was just lacking polish and that would come over time.

Both of these men are big lads from Texas who are mechanically sound in the ring, so they know what to do in order to have a solid outing and they would have quite a few together in WCW during their respective stints in the company. We see that Dustin’s gran has travelled all the way to come and watch him here, which would normally be a strong suggestion that Rhodes might go on to win the Title, but that’s not how it ends up turning out.

The match is wrestled at a quick clip in the early going, with both men moving at a decent pace and showing off their athleticism, such as when Rhodes clotheslines Austin over the top rope to the floor at one stage, with Austin taking a fabulous bump to the floor. Blossom gets her fair share of wolf-whistles from horny patrons in the crowd, and to be honest she does look gorgeous in her snazzy red outfit and doesn’t seem to mind the attention sent her way.

The turning point in the bout is when Rhodes takes a spill to the floor and ends up opening a cut above his eye. Austin is of course more than happy to target the cut like the good villainous jerk he is, which leads to most of Rhodes’ face being caked in blood. The blood has the desired effect of getting the crowd behind Rhodes, and he tries to fight his way out of a chin lock as the ring announcer confirms that we have only five minutes remaining in the 15 minute time limit.

The time continues to ebb away, with Austin continuing to work Rhodes over and even Blossom getting the odd cheap shot in when the opportunity allows. Rhodes keeps coming though, sending Austin to the floor and then opening him up by flinging him into the metal ring post, at which point the match becomes a desperate chase, where Rhodes tries to put the Champion away whilst Austin desperately clings on in order to be saved by the bell. Eventually it is Austin who is successful, as Rhodes can’t hold him down for three and the time limit expires.

TIME LIMIT DRAW – AUSTIN RETAINS THE WCW TELEVISION TITLE
RATING: ***1/4

This had good wrestling and some excellent storytelling, with Rhodes mostly winning the contest until his wound slowed him down, only for him to then turn the tables in the closing stages when Austin was also busted open. One good thing about the TV Title was that the time limit draw would give a way for the Champion to retain without making the challenger look weak. Rhodes looked gutsy here but Austin also looked resourceful for running out the clock, so they both gained something from the match overall

Starrcade hype video. They ended up ruining that show with Battlebowl I believe.

Match Six
Oz Vs Bill Kazmaier

Oz would be better known as Kevin Nash, whilst Kazmaier was a legitimate strongman who used to take on Geoff Capes in The World Strongest Man competitions. I think Billy Graham was actually in one of those competitions as well. It’s pretty easy to see why Nash didn’t really get over in this gimmick, as he’s greener than turtle excrement and doesn’t even use his size that much, with Kazmaier bumping him all over the place in the early going.

Obviously taking a bump for a strong man isn’t something that is too shameful, but in just a couple of years after this Nash would have been smart enough to know that you build up to the big bumps when you’re a 7 foot big man rather than shooting your wad in the opening stages. This match isn’t really that good, as neither guy is that much of a worker and they don’t match up stylistically that well at all, so it’s mostly just a slug fest until Kazmaier taps out Oz in a Torture Wrack.

WINNER: BILL KAZMAIER
RATING: *

Both of these guys needed to be carried to have any hope of a good match, so putting them against one another in a singles was an experiment in futility

Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone put Van Hammer over on commentary, possibly through gritted teeth

Match Seven
Doug Somers Vs “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer

Hammer was a tall blond dude who was supposed to be a rock and roll star, but it was patently obvious that he couldn’t play a lick so the gimmick just came across as inauthentic. He also couldn’t wrestle a lick either and was getting pushed solely because he a good muscular physique. This match is positively atrocious, as Hammer can’t really do anything and he nearly kills poor Somers with a rotten slingshot suplex, which gets three.

WINNER: VAN HAMMER
LOSERS: THE REST OF HUMANITY
RATING: DUD

Amazingly Hammer was kept around for nearly another ten years, and he never really got that good in the ring, although he did work well enough as a heavy for Raven in 97/98 I guess

Flyin’ Brian and Richard Morton both cut promos to put over the importance of the WCW Light Heavyweight Title.

Match Eight
WCW Light Heavyweight Title
Title Vacant
Richard Morton w/ Miss Alexandra York Vs Flyin’ Brian

Morton had gone Heel and joined up with York’s faction, although he hadn’t really changed his look or attire to suit the gimmick like Taylor had. We get more “Refer-eye” cam in this one and it’s a gimmick that takes away from the action more than anything else. Plus, it just makes the referee look really goofy and distracting when both guys are trying to wrestle with one another.

This is one of those matches that you’d think would be good due to the competitors involved, but it just never really gets there and they work it at a pretty placid pace for what is supposed to be the high-flying lighter weight class division. There’s nothing actively bad from an in-ring perspective, but it just feels pretty flat overall and the Refer-eye nonsense doesn’t help either.

There’s a lot of stuff on the mat, which is all executed properly, but it doesn’t really help pick things up. It’s a shame as well as you can sense that the fans want to be up on their feet here, but they’re not being delivered a match that can allow them to do it. There was almost more high-flying in the Johnny B. Badd match from earlier than there has been in this one.

It’s so weird because this was a great opportunity for Morton to really reinvent himself and have a hot run as a Heel after years of working in tags as a babyface, but he just never really seemed that motivated to do anything with it and just worked a bunch of long boring matches on the mat mixed in with some basic cheap heat, all whilst still looking like RnR Era Morton. It really was a waste of what should have been a potentially big angle.

It doesn’t help that Morton gives Brian so little to do here, cutting him off whenever it looks like he’ll make a comeback, which only dampens any crowd enthusiasm. Brian doesn’t even get to do a real comeback, instead just catching Morton with a cross body randomly after Morton has cut off his comeback attempt once again.

WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: FLYIN’ BRIAN
RATING: *3/4

A competently worked, yet exceedingly dull, wrestling match that flattened the crowd and was a pretty inauspicious debut for the new division. Morton gave Brian so little here and it pretty much ruined the match for the most part

The Refer-eye did at least get a good angle of the finish.

Match Nine
The WCW Halloween Phantom Vs The Z-Man

The Phantom is a sneaky masked Heel in a full body suit. What’s clever here is that you think The Phantom is just going to be squashed like The Creatures were earlier, but instead they subvert your expectations by having The Phantom actually destroy Z-Man instead, which kind of shocks the crowd as they just thought this would be a chance to see Z-Man clobber a jobber. Z-Men gets a brief flurry, but The Phantom cuts him off with a neck breaker and that’s enough for three.

WINNER: THE WCW HALLOWEEN PHANTOM
RATING: SQUASH

This was a very effective squash and led to a pretty big angle, which we’ll see later on

Starrcade 91 plug

Match Ten
WCW World Tag Team Titles
Champs: The Enforcers (Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyzko) Vs The WCW Patriots (Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion)

The Patriots are actually the US Tag Champs, which makes it unlikely that they will also add the World belts to their collection. Chip and Todd are mostly generic dudes with good physiques, but they can at least do the basics unlike Van Hammer from earlier, so this match isn’t terrible or anything. The problem is that The Patriots look really out of place this high up the card, and you never really buy that they might win, which is an opinion the crowd seems to share.

Viewed through the prism of an experienced Heel team guiding a pretty generic babyface team to a watchable match, this one is pretty much a success, but it would fit much better on a television show rather than a pay per view broadcast. Champion actually does a decent job selling during the heat, but the crowd doesn’t really get behind him. The Enforcers know exactly how to work the formula and do a good job with it, and with a more over set of challengers they probably would have been drawing some good Heel heat here.

Chip actually does a decent little hot tag segment, although the crowd doesn’t really respond that much to it. The finish is pretty clever, as Chip accidentally bonks into Larry when Arn ducks one of his attacks, and that allows Arn to pounce with a Spine Buster OUTTA NOWHERE for the clean pin fall victory whilst Larry holds Champion back.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: THE ENFORCERS
RATING: **

This was okay, and would have been a bit better if the crowd had actually bought The WCW Patriots as a threat to The Champs

Eric Bischoff has promo time with Paul E. Dangerously on the ramp. Paul E cuts a great anti-WCW promo, saying they kicked him off the air as an announcer so now he’s declaring war on them by taking out all of the fans’ heroes, starting with Sting. This leads to The WCW Halloween Phantom being revealed as Paul E’s new client, at which point he unmasks as Rick Rude in one of the bigger talent gets WCW would acquire during this period. Rude instantly comes across as a big star and WCW would quickly put the United States Title on him to establish him as a threat right out of the gate. Imagine if he debuted in modern day WWE? He’d probably already be Karrion Kross’d by now. This was a fantastic angle and possibly the best bit of the entire show. Everyone delivered here.

Main Event
WCW World Title
Two out of Three Falls
Champ: Lex Luger w/ Harley Race and Mr. Hughes Vs Ron Simmons w/ Dusty Rhodes

Luger had gone Heel earlier in 1991 to win the World Title, whilst Simmons had gone babyface following a feud with former tag team partner Butch Reed. There’s actually a great pre-match video package where you see Simmons running stairs and lifting weights, just coming across as an absolute machine. A bonus with having such a big star in his corner is that it gives Simmons some immediate legitimacy with the crowd when it comes to looking like a star, but the downside is that Dusty’s pop is considerably louder than that of Simmons’, although Simmons does get a nice reception at least.

Mr. Hughes is actually sent away from ringside before this one starts, leaving us with the two wrestlers and their managers. Jim Ross is of course like a pig in chardonnay getting to talk about how Luger and Simmons were once in the same American Football team and had some rough practices with one another. This is a good Main Event, with the fans being into Simmons and the two wrestlers actually matching up quite well. Luger takes quite a bit of the first fall, but it’s all building to Simmons getting a quick flurry before putting Luger away with a Spine Buster to pick up the flash pin and the first fall.

Luger 0 – 1 Simmons

Dusty actually does a great job hyping Simmons up in between the first and second fall actually, encouraging him to go on the offensive rather than being too defensive. It actually feels like real advice you might give someone and it was clearly Dusty just riffing off the cuff because he realised a camera was on him. Simmons does indeed take it to Luger in the second fall, with Luger selling it all really well and the crowd being into Simmons’ offence. They’re telling a good story of that Spine Buster just utterly messing up Luger’s plan and him now trying to fix things before it’s too late.

It’s like they say, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Luger does eventually manage a last gasp side-step when Simmons is coming at him though, which allows The Champ to take over for a bit whilst Simmons sells. Simmons does a decent job selling, even though I don’t think it was ever considered the strongest area of his game (that being flinging big dudes around with alarming ease). This sort of serious World Title match was always something WCW did better than trying their hands at the more gimmicky stuff the WWF would do, unfortunately they had an inferiority complex and didn’t feel confident to put their best foot forward more than they did.

A long rest hold slows things down a bit, but these are both big guys and they’ve been working at a reasonably quick clip thus far, so it only makes sense that they would try to grab a bit of respite. Simmons does get a few pinning holds following the chin lock though, which wakes the crowd up and keeps them invested, which is clever match structure. Race and Rhodes have a bit of skirmish outside to really heat things up, but we then get a lame DQ for the second fall, where Race makes it look like Simmons threw Luger over the top when it was really just Luger’s momentum. Again, the inconsistency of the over the top rope rule shows itself again, as there have been much clearer infractions that didn’t draw a DQ so it just makes this DQ seem even cheaper and lamer than it already would.

Luger 1 – 1 Simmons

I get that you want to protect Simmons by not having him get pinned twice in the same match, but could you have done it in a less screwy manner? Both men are utterly drenched in sweat here as this third fall starts, showing just how hard they’ve been working, and the resulting match has been a really solid effort. It’s not been an absolute classic or anything, but it has been a really well worked match that has told a good story and done a good job of elevating Simmons to the upper sections of the card. The crowd has also mostly been into it and have bought Simmons as a potential World Title level guy, which is what the ultimate goal of the contest has been.

Simmons gets some good near falls on Luger, with the crowd biting on a few of them and Luger timing his kick outs well. In a nice bit of booking, Simmons gets a shoulder tackle off the second rope, which would normally be enough for him to win, so Luger quickly rolls out of the ring in order to protect the move by not kicking out of it. Simmons follows Luger out but ends up running into the ring post, which allows Luger to quickly put him back in with a piledriver for a last gasp victory when it looked like he was seconds away from defeat.

Luger 2 – 1 Simmons

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: LEX LUGER
RATING: ***1/4

Good match that told a good story to boot, with Simmons’ inexperience in this sort of situation ultimately costing him. However, Simmons gained something even in defeat here, as he looked like a strong contender who just got caught thanks to Luger having that little bit more nous and Title match experience

Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone close us out.

In Conclusion

This is a bit of an eclectic show, with some of it being pretty good and some of it being really quite rubbish. If you focus on the good stuff and skip through the lesser stuff then it’s an enjoyable show that I find to be quite an easy watch. 1991 is not a golden period for WCW to be honest, with the early months of 1992 being much stronger with The Dangerous Alliance running wild and K. Allen Frye actually encouraging guys to go out there and have good matches (Imagine that eh?).

There is enough good on here that I feel I could give it a mild thumbs up, but your own personal tastes may vary

Mildly Recommended Show