Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: Ric Flair teamed up with John Randle and Kirby Puckett to go full Minnesota on Eric Bischoff’s ass. Also, Sting vs. Bret Hart took place six days before their pay-per-view match to make sure we know how badly this is all going to go for Sting.
Click here to watch this week’s show on WWE Network. You can catch up with all the previous episodes of WCW Monday Nitro on the Best and Worst of Nitro tag page and all the episodes of Thunder on the Best and Worst of Thunder. Follow along with the competition here.
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And now, the Best and Worst of WCW Halloween Havoc ’98.
Best: WCW’s Specialty
… the surprisingly great under-card full of woefully under-appreciated stars busting their asses to get noticed, to set up some of the most embarrassing main event wrestling you’ve ever seen! This (and John Randle, I guess?) is where WCW is a Viking!
We open the show with Raven, who doesn’t want to be here because WCW “scheduled [him] in an unscheduled match,” versus Chris Jericho, who doesn’t want to be here because he’s Chris Jericho. It’s interesting to start the pay-per-view with an unannounced match between two under-card heels, but here’s the rub: Jericho’s out here showing WCW exactly how easy it would be to turn his detestable heel act into babyface comedy gold, even if they aren’t paying attention. He goes from insulting Las Vegas to talking about kicking Raven’s butt and the crowd just goes along with him. WCW isn’t paying attention, because of course they aren’t, but WWE sure as hell was.
If you’d tuned in and weren’t already deeply familiar with WCW programming’s ongoing roller-coaster of high hopes and low disappointments, you’d think this set a great tone for the rest of the night. It’s quick, action-packed, and even stands up to modern sensibilities by having Jericho and Raven kick out of each others’ finishers. Jericho’s super secretly wrestling it like the Lionheart, and Raven does what Raven does and only loses when Kanyon tries to help and accidentally gets in the way. Also, Kanyon is wearing a New York Mets hat, in case you need a reason to boo him. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out whether WCW appreciated the performance or did anything with it.
While it’s not going on late at the Tokyo Dome any time soon or whatever, Meng vs. Wrath is a lot of fun from a “watching big guys punch each other until one of them stops punching” perspective. Crowds are seriously reacting to Wrath at this point, especially with the ferocity with which he puts people’s arms up their own butts and slams them to death. The Meltdown here is ESPECIALLY melty, as Meng is a solid three-hundred and dummy thicc, so he’s got to use some impressive upper body strength to get the man up and around.
If you’re wondering why Wrath never actually caught on like Goldberg and made it to the next level, I’ll casually point out that about a month from this show they feed him to Kevin Nash on a random Nitro, and he spends the rest of the year losing to Lex Luger and Scott Hall at house shows. So, you know. Totally random circumstances that couldn’t have been avoided.
Also shockingly great on this pay-per-view is the whole Cruiserweight Championship situation, wherein Disco Inferno and Juventud Guerrera have a number one contender match and the winner moves on to face Billy Kidman later in the show. I know you aren’t going to believe me, but Disco by God Inferno wrestles two full matches at Halloween Havoc ’98 and they’re both really good.
Disco vs. Juvy is honestly kind of a banger, with Disco breaking out the Macarena and a Cesaro-style GIANT SWING of all things. Dude really does fit into the cruiserweight division somehow. I guess “disco guy” fitting in shouldn’t be too much of a shock considering my two favorites in the division are an ill-fated rap mascot and his blood rival, the chubby skeleton who dances like a chicken and plays guitar with a steel chair. Disco earns bonus points for winning a cruiserweight match with a freaking jumping piledriver. Brother was John Badham’s interpretation of Drew Gulak.
Disco over-delivers again in the match with Kidman, where the highlight is him countering a rope-assisted bulldog with the goddamn DEEP SIX. The Disco Six?
He almost wins it all, too, but makes two crucial, inevitable mistakes: doing too much disco dancing when he should be executing wrestling moves to completion, and trying to powerbomb Kidman. At the same time! BROTHER, WHY.
Now that I’ve talked about what worked at Halloween Havoc, let’s talk about what didn’t: everything else, minus the main event that not everybody got to see.
Worst: Just A Bit Outside
In the first “main event” match of the night, Kevin Nash kicks Scott Hall’s ass, makes fun of his drinking problem, Jackknife powerbombs him multiple times, and even more or less tea-bags him with a crotch chop at the end of the match just to … calmly exit the ring and walk to the back, losing by count-out.
Nash’s refusal to formally defeat Hall after extensively defeating him in every other way possible seems like a weird choice, but it’s the first step in the reformation of their friendship. And hey, Nash is going to need a really good friend in his corner in case he ever runs into an undefeatable World Heavyweight Champion of some point and can only win via shock stick. Not like that would ever happen, though.
Worst: Rick Steiner Is So Stupid He Makes Sting Look Like Stephen Hawking
Early in the show, Buff Bagwell approaches Rick Steiner and offers to be in his corner for tonight’s match against Rick’s brother, Scott, the man with the larsharmsswirl. Bagwell — a man who has been helping Scott repeatedly fool and betray his brother since they broke up in fucking February, but has suspiciously been arguing with him about his own mother’s right to get involved in wrestling shows for the past couple of weeks leading up to tonight — says that you can definitely trust him. Rick, an adult human male so stupid he recently challenged a fictional doll from a movie to come down to the ring and talk to him to his face, decides to trust him.
A little later, Scott Steiner shows up and announces that his one-on-one match against Rick is actually going to be a tag team match now, because one half of the Tag Team Champions, The Giant, has agreed to team with him and defend the tag belts. The other half of the champions, Scott Hall, already has a match. J.J. Dillon says this is fine, because [wild gesturing], but if Rick wins, he still gets his one-on-one match. Rick, an upright-walking bipedal mammal wearing wrestling headgear and an XXXL leather jacket with BEWARE OF DOG airbrushed on the chest, makes also up until last week nWo Hollywood member Buff Bagwell his tag team partner.
I WONDER HOW IT GOES.
Buff shockingly walks out on the match, leaving Rick alone against his brother and literally the largest person available. Despite this essentially 3-on-1 disadvantage, Rick manages to avoid a top rope missile dropkick from a 500-pound man that leaves Scott dangling in the ropes like he just fell out of an airplane and hit a bulldog to WIN THE MATCH. So, in true WCW fashion, they had a team that isn’t the WCW Tag Team Champions lose the Tag Team Championship one guy. Oh, and a guy who hates him, I guess.
Per the pre-match agreement, Rick (finally) gets his one-on-one match with Scott. Instead of, you know, just walking back to the ring and helping Scott again, Buff Bagwell dresses in full Bill Clinton disguise and hops the railing to make himself look like a “fan.” A fan who, before getting into the ring, walks to the ramp and receives a slapjack from nWo Hollywood member Stevie Ray, with which to attack Rick Steiner in front of the referee. And then attack the referee. Buff Willie then uses the unconscious referee’s arm to count the three … only he can’t, because Rick keeps kicking out. Rick then fights them both off and wins the match thanks to Nick Patrick sliding in and counting the three. Was … was Bill Clinton Buff’s role originally supposed to go to Chucky, until they realized he’s not real?
This is so absurdly written I feel like I’m just typing up an SCP Foundation entry about a wrestling promotion that gained sentience but never learned how to read or write, and is about to end the world.
Don’t Worry, Sting Is Still Pretty Stupid
Remember how they announced Sting vs. Bret Hart in a dream match for Halloween Havoc, but then randomly also booked Sting vs. Bret Hart for the main event of a Nitro six days before Halloween Havoc, and had Sting kick handily Hart’s ass? Yeah, that’s not good news for Sting.
In one of the thousands of referee bumps on the night, Sting accidentally checks Billy Silverman with a back elbow, Judas Effect style, and knocks him out. Silverman lies in the middle of the ring motionless for so long you might legitimately think he died. Sting and Hart continue the match, stepping over the cold fish referee the entire time, until the big moment: Sting hitting a Stinger Splash, but for some reason landing it too high up on the body and “smashing his head into the post.” I put all of that in quotes because it’s very much one of those Dolph Ziggler bits where he jumps into the corner and smacks the top of the post with his hand, but his head’s like half a foot from contact.
But yeah, Sting knocks himself out, allowing Hart to capitalize on the two unconscious idiots in the ring and beat the red off Secular Steve with a baseball bat. Hart revives the referee, then applies the Scoripian to the out-cold Sting and wins the match. The wettest fart the hypothetical physical asshole of Sting vs. Bret Hart could produce.
GUESS WHO TOPS IT.
Worst: Sincerely The Worst One-On-One Match In WCW History
Trying to tell you what’s wrong with this match is like trying to catch the wind.
Firstly, as you know if you’ve been reading the Best and Worst of Nitro column, the match had one of the worst builds ever built. It involved DC Comics intellectual property theft, teleportation goofs, life-threatening and shortening trap door injuries, the ruination of War Games, Brutus Beefcake being kidnapped and turned into the Warrior’s pony, Warrior appearing to Hogan (and us) (but not Eric Bischoff) in a magical mirror, and three clotheslines worth of wrestling. Secondly, it was being billed as the “biggest return match in wrestling history” despite the original match not happening in this company. Thirdly, Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were never all-star workers to begin with, but now you’re adding eight years of age and, in Warrior’s case, a shit-ton of ring rust. Fourthly, audiences had already cooled to absolute zero for the Warrior, and Hogan only brought the guy in to get his win back anyway. To get his win back in this sport that is not real.
So, how do you build a Warrior vs. Hogan rematch? By doing the first match again, but with none of the same context or reactions. Don’t worry, though, the homoerotic, extended test of strength from the original is back, only now it’s five minutes long and nobody’s cheering. That leads to some embarrassingly weak brawling, even for Hogan’s standards, and random nWo guys showing up to run interference and kind of awkwardly botch it, one by one. That transitions into some “what’s good for the goose” attacks with Hogan’s dreaded weight belt, culminating in this SPECTACULAR, unforgettable moment where Hogan tries to throw a fireball in Warrior’s face and completely fucks it up.
Having completely blown the match’s big moment, Hogan and Warrior recover by doing some very slow double axe-handles that somehow bust Hogan open, and we go to the big finish: Eric Bischoff straight-up putting the referee in a headlock so Hulk Hogan’s terrible wrestling nephew can “sneak in” and hit Warrior in the back of the head with a steel chair. Hogan gets his win back, Horace Hogan is nWo for life, and the Warrior thoroughly and completely shat his post-apocalyptic grafitti bed. If Dave Meltzer decided good matches could start breaking the five star threshold, this one should’ve gotten negative the sky.
Around here is where the blackouts started.
World Championship Wrestling decided in their great and unmatched wisdom decided Halloween Havoc would be a three and a half hour pay-per-view instead of the standard three, but that they’d just do it instead of, you know, informing the cable companies and service providers. At 11 PM, about a quarter of the people watching at home were treated to a black screen. The show “went off the air” in a lot of markets with the Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page World Heavyweight Championship main event still to come, left with Hogan vs. Warrior as the last thing they saw. You could say this made some people very angry. WCW lost something like a million and a half on pay-per-view revenue due to refund demands and mad fans, and ended up having to show their pay-per-view’s main event in its entirety for free the next night on Nitro. I will leave it up to you to decide whose idea it was to run that extra half hour and not tell anyone, while you try to figure out who could’ve possibly been mad about Hogan vs. Warrior not main-eventing and being the last match people see.
The pay-per-view is designed to go long, too. It’s not like one of the matches is really hot and goes five extra minutes because the crowd’s into it … this is a pay-per-view with jobber squashes, multiple pointless interview segments with the Steiner Brothers and Hulk Hogan (in an nWo Monday Nitro shirt they probably sent boxes of to starving kids overseas) that go nowhere and add to nothing. They even have the Nitro Girls dancing, multiple times, on pay-per-view.
The extra shitty thing? Goldberg vs. DDP ruled.
It’s one of the best Halloween Havoc matches ever, easily the best Halloween Havoc main event, and also easily the best match of Bill Goldberg’s entire career. It’s maybe the only time he wrestled an actual match. He runs into the post at one point and hurts his arm, then proceeds to sell the arm for the remainder of the match. GOLDBERG does this. When he hits Page with a spear it hurts the arm even more, preventing him from getting Page up in the Jackhammer. THAT gives Page enough time to counter the second Jackhammer attempt into the Diamond Cutter and get one of the most believable near-falls in WCW history. The Diamond Cutter was BULLETPROOF. I think most of us (who weren’t staring at a black screen and on the phone with Cablevision) bought it.
It’s truly a shame. Just … all of it.
Also On This Brilliantly Executed Pay-Per-View
Perry Saturn shows up dressed like this to squash Lodi, which is definitely the kind of match you pay $50 to see. The best part is Tony Schiavone trying to describe it. “A new look for Saturn, look at this would you, kind of a combination tough guy, Army ranger look!”
In other news, Alex Wright defeats Fit Finlay to prove he’s the “best European wrestler in WCW,” and shows off by wrestling the entire match with a crookneck pumpkin in his draws.
With the right Lord of the Rings-style forced perspective trick, that thing looks as big as Nick Patrick’s head.
Next On WCW Monday Nitro
Judy Bagwell returns, another random person (who is not Judy Bagwell) (yet) wins the WCW Tag Team Championship, and the Warrior addresses his badly, badly burned face. All this and BARRY HOROWITZ, next week on the Best and Worst of Nitro!