The Best And Worst Of WCW Halloween Havoc ’97

Previously on the Best and Worst of WCW Monday Nitro: WCW actually managed to build a little momentum against the New World Order, which is a sign that the next show will be nothing but the nWo murdering and humiliating them. Welcome to the next show!

Click here to watch Halloween Havoc 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. Follow along with the competition here.

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And now, the best and worst of WCW Halloween Havoc, originally aired on October 26, 1997. Hall Hav what she’s having.

Best, Then Oh My God Worst: The Wrestle Kingdom Pre-Show

The pre-show to the third match on the card is roughly 30 minutes of the most New Japan Pro Wrestling WCW ever gets, featuring both Yuji Nagata vs. Ultimo Dragon in a battle of submission and limb work and Chris Jericho vs. Gedo in a battle of trying to figure out why Gedo’s here.

Nagata vs. Dragon is one of those matches that you might not have loved when it first happened in 1997 — mostly because Yuji Nagata’s only character development in WCW ever was “evil scheming Japanese man helping commit evil schemes with a smaller, more evil, more scheming Japanese man” — but can really be appreciated in retrospect. It’s such beautiful, simple storytelling. Nagata wants to lock in the Fujiwara armbar. Dragon tries to avoid it and keep the match high-risk, but Nagata’s able to counter by smashing Dragon’s left arm over the exposed metal between the turnbuckle pad and the post. Dragon fights valiantly, but his finisher is the Dragon Sleeper, a move using that same left arm. He hesitates and locks it in anyway, swinging away, but Nagata can easily break it, transitions into the Fujiwara and taps him out.

After the match, the heels actually attempt to build some sympy for the face by ganging up on him and trying to break his arm. Easily the best match Nagata ever has in World Championship Wrestling, and also one of Dragon’s best. A nice change for throwing him in there with Alex Wright or whomever and having a Japanese dude try to explain to a German guy how to backdrop him without both of them falling over.

In direct contrast, here’s Gedo, looking like a packet of hot mustard, almost killing Chris Jericho.

Holy shit. Look at that. Jericho lands entirely on his face, and Gedo’s like, “would it help if I hammered you into the ground with my armpit?”

As you probably know, Gedo would evolve from being a fairly unwatchable tag team wrestler battling Magic Monkey Wakita in a Rock ‘n Wrestling parody to being the primary booker for New Japan Pro Wrestling, somewhat unarguably the best and one of the most popular promotions in the world right now. I can go into a store at Universal Studios in Hollywood and buy New Japan t-shirts, and a lot of that has to do with Gedo. So thank you for that, and thank you for not actually crippling Chris Jericho 10 minutes before the best light heavyweight match ever wrestled on U.S. soil. That would’ve been a bummer.

And let’s hope Jericho doesn’t go for a Jericho Spike in his match with Kenny Omega next year.

Best: The Greatest

This is the WCW Cruiserweight match.

The greatness of this really can’t be overstated. Everything is there. It’s two of the greatest of all time, Eddie Guerrero in his prime — his athletic prime, at least — versus Rey Mysterio Jr. in his everything prime. It’s title vs. mask, Luchas de Apuestas. Even the gear psychology is on point, as Mysterio wears a “The Phantom” bodysuit because it’s Halloween, but also because Eddie’s been snatching his mask the past couple of weeks and he needs to have it attached to his body to keep it on. Eddie still tries to tear it to pieces, because he’s the ultimate asshole.

From a performance standpoint, Jesus Christ, the biggest compliment I can give the match is that it’s impossible to narrow it down to one GIF to illustrate its brilliance. There’s a somersault into a headscissors takedown from inside the ring to the floor. There’s the backbreaker that nearly snaps Mysterio in half. Eddie’s absolutely sick fold-him-up powerbomb. And, of course, there’s this … maybe the dopest move ever pulled off in a WCW ring, so complex and perfectly timed that even Guerrero and Mysterio couldn’t flawlessly pull it off again. A once in a lifetime move.

It’s a perfect 15 minutes. It’s still super watchable, and if you click “play” on that YouTube video, you’ll be drawn in again like it’s 1997. It holds up because it was so ahead of its time, and is arguably still ahead of its time by combining the insane timing of today’s best spotlight indie wrestling with the pacing, pathos and in-ring lucha libre storytelling that only two legends born into the legacy with a lifetime of seasoning can create. A thrilling, five-or-however-many-stars-there-are-now classic.

If you watch it on the Network, watch Mysterio at the end when he’s talking to the camera. He’s about to cry. Because he’s in pain, and because he knows he just helped paint a masterpiece.

Worst: The Opposite Of The Greatest, Whatever That Is

It seems really impressive that Bill Goldberg could pick up Alex Wright like that, but I mean honestly, he had a handle.

Originally, this was supposed to be Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael vs. Jeff Jarrett in a Loser Leaves Debra match to end their endless southern dandy cuckolding angle. Jarrett left the company out of nowhere and showed up on Raw as a shootin’ Christian who loves to curse, so the match became Mongo vs. an opponent of Debra’s choosing. They went through the trouble of building up a little mystery around it, to the point that in the pre-match interview, Debra mentions that one of the rumored opponents is STEVEN SEAGAL. How goddamn amazing would it have been if WCW had managed to follow up two New Japan-ass matches and five stars of Mysterio vs. Guerrero with Under Siege fighting a fucking Chicago Bear?

It turns out that the opponent is Alex Wright, one of Debra and Jarrett’s in-canon friends. Oh. Mongo can easily beat this guy up, of course, but wait, it’s a swerve. The ACTUAL replacement opponent not actually wrestling in this match is Bill Goldberg, who is helping Debra because he wants Mongo’s Super Bowl ring. Because he used to play football too and never got one. Seriously. Goldberg shows up to beat up Mongo “behind the referee’s back,” which I put in quotes because Charles Robinson has to stand in the corner arguing with nobody while Goldberg spears and Jackhammers Mongo, and visibly keeps looking back over his shoulder to see if dude’s finished. It’s EXTREMELY embarrassing. Maybe the worst ref distraction ever.

Join us at the next pay-per-view, World War 3, where Mongo is supposed to face Goldberg for the ring and technically ends his undefeated streak. WHOOPSIDOODLE.

Worst: Jacqueline Has Pinned The Television Champion!

Whether you believe this happened as punishment for Disco Inferno trying to bail on the company to be the Honky Tonk Man’s protege or assume it’s just a bad, regurgitated Memphis idea Disco ended up in because he’s ostensibly a comedy wrestler, Jacqueline vs. Disco Inferno for not the Television Championship is the drizzling shits.

Disco vs. Jackie makes Mongo vs. Alex Wright look like Guerrero vs. Mysterio. It’s about 9 1/2 minutes long, with a solid 9:15 of stalling. Jackie wins with a roll-up. Disco clearly doesn’t want to be there, Jacqueline isn’t convincing as a good wrestler when she’s wrestling other women, and we don’t even have Kevin Sullivan lingering around for good Dungeon of Doom or “girlfriend from the neighborhood” jokes. The highlight of the entire thing is the pre-match clip of Disco and Mark Madden sitting on the Internet talking about how much they hate women until Jackie shows up and runs them off, and that’s mostly for Dusty laughing about Madden having such a “big butt.”

Incredibly, this wouldn’t be the worst match of the night.

Worst: Eric Bischoff Watched Hulk Hogan’s Sex Tape

Best: Ric Flair’s Cloak Of Nature Gives Him A +5 In Strength

Ric Flair and Curt Hennig will wrestle like 15 more times on Nitro over the next couple of years, but this is their best WCW match in a walk. Instead of being two relatively over-the-hill guys going through the motions it’s a heated brawl, with Flair straight-up lighting Hennig up with great intensity while Perf does backflips to sell the chops. Flair is maybe his best when he goes off-formula and finds a way to make it work.

The match is hurt by two things, though:

  • The announce team, who CAN NOT STOP talking about what will happen when Rowdy Roddy Piper meets Hollywood Hogan inside a steel cage later tonight. They’re so into old man bum fights they’re not talking about this hate feud caused by a War Games betrayal, leading to a guy getting his head crushed in a cage door and the disbanding of the Four Horsemen
  • The finish, which is Flair getting disqualified for stomping the “United States Championship” in Hennig’s face. I put it in quotes because it’s actually the Cruiserweight Championship for some reason, like maybe Hennig grabbed the wrong one in gorilla. Also, Flair stomps it into Hennig’s face with the leather part facing down, which is the belt shot equivalent of when Tommy Dreamer would like, put a steel chair on your crotch and then hit the chair with a kendo stick. You’re doing it wrong.

Worst: WCW Finally Gets Taken Down A Peg

Look at that brutal sleeper! It’s like Luger just found out his cat died and Scott Hall’s trying to comfort him.

So here’s where WCW’s pay-per-view becomes dedicated to making sure we know how weak and helpless WCW is. Larry Zbyszko is the special guest referee for Scott Hall vs. Lex Luger, to ensure that the New World Order doesn’t interfere and WCW gets a fair match. Can you guess what happens? If you guessed, “the New World Order interferes, WCW doesn’t get a fair match and Larry shows up to referee in high school wrestling shoes,” congratulation, a winner is you.

And if that’s not enough, Larry realizes what’s happened and restarts the match, giving Luger the chance to put Hall in the Torture Rack. But the nWo interferes again, causing a disqualification.

And if that’s not enough, Larry’s rewarded for his work as the one referee who won’t take shit and can’t get knocked out by taking shit from/getting knocked out by Eric Bischoff.

With WCW looking stronger than ever, the stage is set for Diamond Dallas Page vs. Macho Man Randy Savage in a “Las Vegas Sudden Death Match.”

Like Flair/Hennig, it’s a perfectly entertaining, watchable match about guys tossing each other into prop tombstones until the finish, which — get this — is a Fake Sting showing up to hit Diamond Dallas in the ribs with a baseball bat. Page is taken off on a stretcher and everything.

I bet you can!

Worst: Age In The Cage

If you’ve forgotten the first half of the show and prefer the bad sleepers and WCW futility of the second half, you’ll love the non-title “main” “event” “cage” “match” between Rowdy Roddy PIper and Hollywood Hogan.

Like most Hogan gimmick matches, nobody has any idea how the match works. Remember the Doomsday Cage? Remember the monster truck battle? Remember WCW vs. nWo vs. Piper’s Family, or that first blood match with Ric Flair where they bleed like 30 seconds in and have a normal cage match instead?

This one takes place in an absolutely enormous, faux Hell in a Cell-esque chicken wire cage. Hogan and Piper spend most of the early part of the match trying to escape it, then casually escape it and fight a bunch outside of it. Then they come back in, and fight back out again. Then they keep trying to climb it, and they’re just dangling from it, aimlessly punching each other in the balls. I know Hogan’s always been dog vomit in the ring, but it’s mind-blowing that two legendary wrestlers like this could have a match this unfathomably bad. If WCW added picture-in-picture of Rottweilers humping and pissing everywhere, this would be worse than Kennel from Hell.

Piper wins with a sleeper, because Starrcade is coming up in two months and the champion doesn’t need to look like he’s worth a shit. ESPECIALLY if he’s gonna cleanly pin Sting in the middle of it.

Point of Interest #1: Macho Man Randy Savage almost killed himself trying to jump off this cage.

Jesus, Mach, who thought this was a good idea? Dude’s falling to Earth from fucking orbit to deliver a light palming to the head. He would’ve needed a parachute to hit Piper. Also, this is a picture of a man blowing out both of his knees for one of the worst looking, most dangerous single-axehandles in wrestling history.

After Piper wins the match, Hogan and Piper make sure to assert nWo dominance and beat him up for like 15 minutes. They even handcuff him to the cage as a bunch of uninterested fake Stings show up, leading to:

Point of Interest #2: WCW doesn’t seem to know if this drunk Sting fan climbing the cage is a shoot or a work, and neither do we (?)

So … okay, I’ll try to explain this.

Sting attacked the nWo in the cage at the end of the Nitro before this, so Hogan spent most of Halloween Havoc saying he’s going to “pull out” of the main event unless they can guarantee him Sting won’t get involved. They even bring out a returning J.J. Dillon to announce that WCW will do anything Hogan wants and keep Sting away. They’re so strong!

So during the post-match attack on Piper, a bunch of fake Stings show up. None of them really do anything. Then, a guy in Sting face paint who is clearly (?) a drunk fan jumps the rail, awkwardly climbs the cage and gets into the ring. One of the fake Stings tackle him. The strange thing is that WCW’s cameras like, jump to where he’s coming out of the crowd and follow him all the way up and down the cage. When the fake Sting tackles him, the camera is there. When Hogan and Savage mosey over to beat him up for a while for getting into the ring, the camera films the entire thing up close and personal while the announce team talks about it. Meanwhile, Piper is chained to a cage, none of the fake Stings are doing anything, and this guy who’s supposed to be a rowdy fan is getting center stage.

This was on purpose, right? It’s either a fan plant to make Hogan and Savage look like jerks for beating up a fan that … encourages fans to jump the rail and get into the ring to get beaten up? Or it’s WCW thinking an actual drunk fan is part of the act, because nobody knows why these fake Stings are out here and what they’re doing, so they filmed it thinking it was their idea.

Either way, maybe the most awkward ending to a pay-per-view ever. And that’s WCW in a nutshell, isn’t it? An unforgettable, trendsetting cruiserweight match between two of the greatest to ever do it, followed by an hour of insistence that WCW is the worst, followed by old dudes shitting the bed and taking a backseat to a pretend drunk fan pretend interfering.

[shrugging intensifies]