For 12 years, from 1989 to the year 2000, the month of October was all about Halloween Havoc! This week Throwback Thursday revisits Halloween Havoc from 20 years ago which many believe to be the greatest one of all-time; Halloween Havoc ’97, as seen on the WWE Network.
The fall of 1997 marked the height of World Championship Wrestling’s dominance in the world of professional wrestling. Mainstream acceptance had been attained and WCW was viewed as an equal to the World Wrestling Federation. NITRO had defeated Monday Night RAW 66 consecutive weeks, head-to-head, leading into this event and just posted their highest rating yet, a 4.6 (to RAW‘s 2.9), for the go-home NITRO on October 20, 1997.
Though fans of WCW pined for the Hogan/Piper “cage” match, cynical fans knew the match was simply WCW trying to outdo the Undertaker/HBK war from earlier in the month at Badd Blood: In Your House 18 (Throwback here). “Age in the Cage”, as it came to be known, was in hindsight the first real crack in WCW’s armor. Jim Cornette’s epic rant the following night on RAW echoed the sentiment of many fans who were beginning to tire of WCW’s predictable and reactionary booking.
But Halloween Havoc ’97 was far from a one match card. Featuring two instant classics in Rey/Eddie and DDP/Savage III, and a handful of solid matches, Halloween Havoc ’97 continued the trend of great WCW PPVs in 1997!
Context on the Network is nearly complete with all prior PPV events and editions of Monday NITRO available for you to enjoy right now.
WCW Halloween Havoc ’97 (WATCH)
Date: October 26, 1997 – Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena
Attendance: 12,457 – PPV Buys: 1.10 (>405,000 buys)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Dusty Rhodes, & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: “Mean””Gene Okerlund & Mark Madden
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Hollywood Hogan
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Curt Hennig
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott)
WCW World Television Champion: Disco Inferno
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Eddie Guerrero
The show opens with a pretty good vignette (by WCW standards, that is) highlighting the Hogan/Piper feud and their upcoming “cage” match showdown.
In the arena Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show and sells the “biggest single one-on-one ‘cage’ match in professional wrestling history” as the pyro goes off. At the announcers position Tony, Dusty Rhodes, and Bobby Heenan hype the main event and the ramifications of a Hollywood Hogan victory.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:53)
Special Guest Commentator: Mike Tenay
Yuji Nagata w/Sonny Onoo vs. Ultimo Dragon
Though the Onoo/Dragon feud seemed at times like it would never (ever) end it did produce a number of great matches, this one included. This marked only the 3rd match of any kind between Yuji and Dragon. The two had met as tag team opponents on September 3, 1993 at a WAR event and then one-on-one four days later on September 7, 1993, again in WAR, that was won by Dragon. The crowd is hot for this one from the opening bell. This is a physical, psychological match more closely resembling a NJPW match than WCW. Raven and The Flock arrive partway through which distracts the fans but doesn’t totally take them out of the match. In the end dragon’s injured arm is too much to overcome and Dragon is unable to cinch in the Dragon Sleeper, which allows Yuji to slip out and cinch in his own Fujiwara armbar to score the submission win at 9:53. After the match Yuji holds Dragon’s arm for Oono for kick. The assault over, Oono presents Nagata an envelope presumably containing money or tickets to Siegfried and Roy. Hey, it’s Vegas, baby!
WINNER is Yuji Nagata w/Sonny Onoo (Submission, 9:53)
Next we go backstage to the WCWWrestling.com area where Mark Madden interviews TV Champion Disco Inferno about “wrestling a woman in Las Vegas”. Disco runs his mouth about what a woman’s place should be when Jacquelyn, upset she wasn’t the one being interviewed, crashes the set and chases Disco off and nearly knocks Madden on his keister.
— Singles Match (WATCH – 16:50)
Special Guest Commentator: Mike Tenay
Gedo vs. Chris Jericho
Gedo makes his WCW debut her, one of only three matches Gedo would ever work for WCW. It also marked the final one-on-one match between Gedo and Jericho, the first since March 26, 1995 when Gedo beat Jericho at WAR’s Better Angel event for the WAR International Junior Heavyweight title. Tenay does an excellent job detailing Gedo’s career for the home viewers but the live crowd is left in the dark and seem to not know what to make of the match. It’s far from great, but it’s a fun match to watch. Jericho narrowly escapes serious injury late in the match when a super hurricanrana goes bad and sends Jericho (a la Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania XIX) crashing hard to the mat. For the finish Jericho dodges a Gedo missile dropkick and cinches in the Liontamer for the submission win at 7:19.
WINNER is Chris Jericho (Submission, 7:19)
In the back “Mean” Gene interviews Queen Debra about her surprise pick facing her ex Steve “Mongo” McMichael later in the show. Debra says it’s not Jarrett, who had left for the WWF by this time, and it’s not Steven Segal. “Mongo” crashes the interview and points a finger at Debra and asks for the diamond ring and credit cards back which Debra refuses, saying she’s earned those things for putting up “Mongo” and his family.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship – “Mask vs. Title Grudge Match” (WATCH – 28:30)
Special Guest Commentator: Mike Tenay
Rey Mysterio, Jr. vs. Eddie Guerrero(c)
There isn’t much that needs to be said about this one. One of the greatest title matches of the Pay-Per-View era, this is a match that if you haven’t seen it already you need to go out of your way to see ASAP. Everything in this match clicks and works; even the flubs look good! Employing uncharacteristically top level psychology (for the division, that is) and spot-on timing, this match exceeds any and all expectations and easily steals the show. Though these two would end up wrestling dozens of matches against one another in both WCW and WWE none of those matches come close to this masterpiece. In the end Rey reverses Eddie’s Splash Mountain attempt into an amazing super hurricanrana for the pin, and the Cruiserweight title at 13:50. After the match Eddie attacks a celebrating Rey and basks in his heel heat. This ended Eddie’s first WCW Cruiserweight title reign at 42-days and marked the 2nd Cruiserweight title win for Rey Mysterio, Jr., the first since July 1996.
WINNER and NEW WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Rey Mysterio, Jr. (Pin, 13:50)
On the stage in front of the Halloween Havoc logo “Mean” Gene plugs some kind of “sizzling” “clique” news on the WCW Hotline.
Next we go to the back where Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff cut a promo about Hollywood pulling out of the main event because the work environment isn’t “safe” enough. But it’s not Hogan’s safety they’re worried about, they say, but the fans. So unless WCW can provide legal paperwork barring Sting from the building Hollywood, the “god of wrestling”, won’t wrestle. Hogan says Piper is praying the paperwork won’t be signed.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 51:12)
Steve “Mongo” McMichael vs. Alex Wright w/Queen Debra
This was supposed to be the blow-off between “Mongo” and Jeff Jarrett but Jarrett had walked out of WCW following the October 6, 1997 edition of NITRO for the WWF. The solution was for Debra to promise a surprise opponent for the PPV. Fans, thinking the surprise would be someone new, are clearly not pleased while the announcers spend much of the match complaining about Hogan supposedly pulling out of the main event. This one is the first dud of the evening, having all the feel of a NITRO match instead. “Mongo” looks like he’s on the verge of winning this one when Goldberg runs in and spears him to the mat before hitting the Jackhammer and tossing Alex Wright on top of McMichael. The referee struggles to keep his back turned but it is what it is, I guess. Alex Wright scores the pin at 6:33. After the match Debra hands Goldberg McMichael’s Super Bowl XX championship ring before Goldberg takes out Wright with the spear and Jackhammer.
WINNER is Alex Wright (Pin, 6:33)
Next we go to the back for a Randy Savage/Elizabeth promo, who says that DDP is a marked man. Savage says DDP is nothing compared to Savage.
— “Non-Title Inter-gender Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:05:04)
Jacquelyn vs. WCW World Television Champion Disco Inferno
The first three-plus minutes of this one are just Disco acting like a coward heel to draw the heat, which he does quite well. The star of the match is Jacquelyn’s wardrobe malfunction which Dusty was all over. There’s not much action in this one but when there is it’s mostly Jacquelyn beating on Disco including chasing him down in the aisle and dragging him to the ring. Eventually Jacquelyn hits a flying crossbody which Disco rolls through to score a near fall. As Disco argues with the referee Jacquelyn school boys Disco for the 1-2-3 at 9:41.
WINNER is Jacquelyn (Pin, 9:41)
After replays Tony announces that “a member of the WCW Executive Committee” will come out later to address the demands of Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff.
— WCW United Stated Heavyweight Championship – “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:18:18)
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. Curt Hennig(c)
This marked Ric Flair’s first match since “WarGames” in September where Flair was (kayfabe) injured when Hennig slammed the door on his head. In reality Flair was having cosmetic surgery done the next morning which was the surgical footage seen on NITRO. The story in this brawl is Hennig going after Flair’s head, attempting to aggravate the injury from Fall Brawl, and Flair looking to just fight. The match is far from a wrestling clinic but it is a clinic in respect to pacing and psychology. Late in the match Hennig grabs the belt and tries to leave when Flair drags Hennig back. With the U.S. title belt in the ring the two men try to dropping one another on the strap to no avail. Flair then ties Hennig in the Tree of Woe, wraps the U.S. title belt around Hennig’s face, and stomps on it. The referee calls for the bell at 13:56 before Flair wallops the referee. Flair continues to beat on Hennig as referees, Konnan, and Vincent try and save Hennig.
WINNER and STILL WCW United States Heavyweight Champion, Curt Hennig (Disqualification, 13:56)
Back at the WCWWrestling.com “internet location” Mark Madden talks with Savage about the upcoming “Death Match” with DDP. Savage says he’ll prove he’s the best in the world.
Next Gene is standing with J.J. Dillon at the top of the aisle to discuss the Hogan/Bischoff fiasco. This marked Dillon’s return to WCW TV after having the bejabbers beaten out of him on the September 1, 1997 edition of NITRO. Dillon says the match will take place when Bischoff comes out and confronts Dillon, telling J.J. that Hollywood won’t wrestle. Dillon then produces a signed and notarized paper that meets Hogan and Bischoff’s demands. Bischoff flips out and says that if Sting shows up the nWo gets NITRO.
— “WCW vs. nWo Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:38:37)
Special Guest Referee: Larry Zbyszko
“Total Package” Lex Luger vs. Scott Hall w/Syxx
This one is s-l-o-w… The most amazing thing, looking back, is that Luger’s hairspray keeps the hair out Luger’s face for the entire match! The story here isn’t so much the match between Hall and Luger but the angle between Zbyszko and Hall. After as little action as these two could possibly muster Hall and Zbyszko starting pushing each other until Zbyszko back drops Hall over the top rope which brings out Bischoff. Luger looks about to win when Syxx interferes and Hall hits the Outsider’s Edge for the three count at 12:38. Hall and company celebrate when Zbyszko sees the replay and restarts the match. Hall pushes Larry until Larry pushes Hall into Luger who puts Hall in Torture Rack. As Larry calls for the bell at 14:34 Syxx wallops Larry in back of the head with a stiff double axe handle before saving Hall. Zbyszko chokes out Syxx before Bischoff and Hall lower the boom on the “Living Legend”. Bischoff kicks Larry in the head before Hall counts a three count for Bischoff.
WINNER is “Total Package” Lex Luger (Disqualification, 14:34)
Next we see an interesting promo for World War 3 ’97.
— “Las Vegas Sudden Death Match” (WATCH – 2:00:39)
Diamond Dallas Page vs. “Macho Man” Randy Savage w/Elizabeth
The final match in the Savage/DDP trilogy is arguably the best of the three. While the lack of “color” hurt this match in particular they make up for it by delivering a rapid fire, stiff war from start to finish. This one has a bit of everything in it: a fight in a (Styrofoam) graveyard, ref bumps, an Elizabeth/Kimberly cat fight, and a fake Sting. In the end Savage goes low on DDP and sends Page to the floor where the aforementioned fake Sting (Hogan), comes to ringside and wallops DDP in the ribs with a bat. DDP struggles to get up but can’t do it in time and Savage picks up the win at 18:08. After the match Savage decks the referee and pops DDP once more for good measure. Paramedics work on DDP and attempt to wheel Page out when Savage attacks DDP on the stretcher.
WINNER is “Macho Man” Randy Savage w/Elizabeth (18:08)
— “Non-Title Steel Cage Grudge Match” (WATCH – 2:25:15)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Michael Buffer
“Rowdy” Roddy Piper vs. WCW World Heavyweight Champion Hollywood Hogan
The cage is the old “Thunderdome” cage from the early ’90s and looks like hell. The match isn’t much better. There’s no bell, no referee, no one knows how to win the thing, and there’s no rhyme or reason to the action. We’re told escaping the cage leads to victory but when the guys leave the cage the match just goes on. A series of fake Sting’s come to the ring as Hogan and Piper continue to try and scale the cage while the fans sound like they’ve all but fallen asleep. Out of nowhere Hogan hits the leg drop and a referee comes in to make the count! Savage runs down and delivers an axe handle from the top of the cage to Hogan by mistake. Hogan stands up and wanders into Piper’s sleeper hold which ends the match at 13:47.
WINNER is “Rowdy” Roddy Piper (Submission, 13:47)
After the match Hogan and Savage beat on Piper as fans chant for the real Sting. They handcuff Piper to the cage and Hogan, Piper, and Bischoff beat on him when a “fan” climbs up and over. No one knows whats going on. Hogan and Savage beat the hell out of the “fan” on camera as security tries to break it up. All of this is going on as Piper is still handcuffed to the cage selling the beating. And that’s how the show goes off the air!
Warts and all this event still stands as one of if not the best edition of Halloween Havoc ever.
Aside from the “Mongo”/Wright and inter-gender fiasco the rest of the card delivers in its own way. The main event going off the rails is unfortunate because had it lived up to the hype the show just may be regarded today as one of WCW’s all-time finest PPVs.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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