Halloween Havoc was an iconic event when the NWA and WCW held the show annually from 1989 until 2000. The show always featured a memorable stage and spooky theme, helping pave the way for the thematic-style PPV events that we know today. This was when PPVs started having a unique identity beyond just a name and set of matches. Halloween Havoc had a feel to it.
Several iconic matches took place at the show over the years. From the Thunderdome in 1989 (yes, WWE's Thunderdome isn't the first), to a career-defining match for Rey Mysterio in 1997. Looking back at some of the greatest matches from Halloween Havoc was a fun exercise and hopefully something that you enjoy reading.
So in preparation for NXT bringing back Halloween Havoc this Wednesday night, let's look back at the eight greatest matches from the original events.
Thunderdome: Ric Flair and Sting vs. Terry Funk and The Great Muta (1989)
This match was quite the spectacle. For fans not familiar with the Thunderdome, it was by far the biggest cage in wrestling at the time. It was essentially like the Hell In A Cell in that it surrounded the outside of the ring as well. The top level of the cage was electrified, and on this night it was also filled with Halloween related objects, as well as things like ropes. The biggest role the electrification played in this match was when one of the objects on the cage caught fire when pyro went off as the cage was being lowered, forcing the officials to climb the cage to get the fire out before the match even began. Muta even blows his green mist at it.
Bell to bell, this is a fun one. Funk and Flair were in the midst of a great feud in 1989 and Sting was still an up and coming star. The always fantastic Great Muta holds it all together. Plus, you have Bruno Sammartino, the legend among legends, serving as guest referee. When he gives Gary Hart a right hand at the end of the bout, the Philly crowd loses it. Look for an impressive feat by Sting late in the match as he climbs the cage structure on the outside and jumps off of it, into the ring, and on top of the downed Muta.prevnext
Lex Luger vs. Brian Pillman (1989)
Luger was in the midst of one of the best runs of his career during 1989. He had great matches with Ric Flair in 1988, then moved into 1989 with great bouts with Barry Windham and Ricky Steam. And here with a young up and coming babyface in Brian Pillman. At this point, Pillman wasn’t really established as a great worker, and with Luger someone that WCW wanted to build around, this was a test to see how he could do in a big spot with someone who wasn’t a big name or an established work rate guys.
The two go out here and have a fantastic match, Luger at his heel best and Pillman the great underdog babyface that everyone wanted to see win (and who Luger was supposedly underestimating, especially early in the match with Pillman getting significant offense). Late in the match Luger gets the heat back and Pillman works from underneath as a great babyface, eventually getting the crowd in his favor with some near falls at the end. Earlier, the notoriously tough Philly crowd was cheering the heel Luger. Luger wins after hot-shotting Pillman across the top rope and covers for the pinfall.prevnext
The Nasty Boys vs. The Steiner Brothers (1990)
One of the better matches in the careers of the Nasty Boys, Jerry Saggs and Brian Knobbs. This match is actually credited as having resulted in them getting their gig with WWE. A great brawl that will probably surprise some fans with how good it is if they go back and watch it. It starts out how, slows down a little in the middle, but picks up at the end again with a scary finish. Check out the Frankensteiner that Knobbs takes from Scott.
Also, this show featured a maroon ring canvas which was certainly...a choice.prevnext
Dustin Rhodes vs. "Stunning" Steve Austin (1991)
These two had several good matches in the earl 1990s, but this might be the best of them all. The first thing that jumps off the screen watching this is just how quick Austin was during this period of his career. Everything is so fast and crisp as they exchange offense. Halfway through the match Austin dodges a crossbody and Rhodes flies to the outside and bounces off the floor. Austin gets the heat by pummeling Rhodes on the outside, drawing blood. Late in the bout when Rhodes goes on offense, he tosses Austin into the ringside post on the outside, drawing blood from Steve. Dustin gets near falls in the final two minutes as they call off the final minutes on PA but he can’t win.
"I don’t know if Dustin even cares about the title now, he wants to tear Austin apart," Jim Ross screams as Dustin pummels Steve in the corner. Dustin hits a flying forearm off the top for a near fall at the buzzer.prevnext
Hulk Hogan vs. Ric Flair (1994)
Muhammad Ali and Nick Bockwinkel are in the front row, and Mr. T serves as the special guest referee. Between Ali and Mr. T, it is a WrestleMania I reunion. Sting is also present for the match, wearing a suit and seated in the front row. When you watch this show after the Havoc shows prior to 1994, it almost feels like an entirely different promotion. After Hogan's arrival, everything about WCW just felt bigger.
Fans go nuts for everything. It's quite a spectacle with the pyro as the cage lowers and Michael Bugger announces the competitors. Overall just a big time main event feel. Sherri Martel really shines in this match, especially when she interferes and hits a splash from the top of the cage. She follows that up by taking all kinds of moves from Hogan, clothesline, big boot. That Hulk Hogan, ever the babyface by attacking a woman.
Hogan wins the match despite interference from a masked man who first made his prescence felt a couple of months earlier at a Clash of the Champions event. That masked man is revealed after the match revealed to be Brutus Beefcake (The Butcher), Hogan's former best friend.prevnext
Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mysterio (1996)
The cruiserweight division set WCW apart in the mid 1990s, and this match did a lot to legitimize the division. Dean Malenko was in the midst of winning over the fans during this moment and time, and Rey Mysterio was blowing them away each and every week. This was a great predecessor and preview for what would come one year later, but a great match in its own right.
Watch for Mike Tenay's scream of joy at the finish as Malenko takes home the title.prevnext
Eddie Guerrero vs. Rey Mysterio (1997)
What can be said about this match that hasn't already? It is easily the greatest match in Halloween Havoc history, and it is also perhaps the greatest WCW match of the entire decade of the 90s.
Mysterio's outfit is iconic, and the match itself if mind-blowing. Rey's unbelievable springboard reverse DDT had people talking the next day at school (I can attest to that). If people weren't already taking notice of the cruiserweight division, this changed that. This is also when Guerrero started setting himself apart as a great heel.
A blistering match just under 15 minutes that proves that you don't have to go 20-plus minutes to have a great, historic match.prevnext
DDP vs. Goldberg (1998)
Goldberg was at his absolute peak in late 1998, having won the World Championship from Hulk Hogan at the Georgia Dome just a few months earlier in July. Unbelievably, this was the only time during Goldberg's first reign where he main evented a PPV as champion until the show where he lost it, Starrcade.
The match just has a great big-time feel and DDP is absolutely jacked for the match, an entrance to remember as you can see the excitement practically radiating from him. Although there was no way they could beat Goldberg at this moment in time, they did just about everything they could to make you believe for a split second that he might have a chance.
When you look for one of the greatest PPV main events from this period of time, look no further than this one.prevnext
Other matches that just missed the list:
- Ricky Steamboat vs. Brian Pillman (1992)
- Cactus Jack vs. Vader (1993)
- Ric Flair and Sting vs. Arn Anderson and Brian Pillman (1995)
The Jack/Vader match is going to be the one that surprises people the most as it is an incredibly famous match. However, when I went back and watched it I couldn't believe how poorly it has aged. After watching all of these bouts over the last week, I feel pretty confident in the eight selected here.
If you want to hear me discuss these matches in a lot greater depth, check out this week's edition of my podcast, Top Rope Nation, where we break down Halloween Havoc's greatest matches and moments - in my opinion, one of the best shows we have ever done. You can find the show on Apple and Spotify, or wherever podcasts are found.
As always, leave us any feedback in the comments section or drop me a line on Twitter, @ryandrosteprev