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Looking Up at The Lights: WCW Halloween Havoc 1991

When Ric Flair left WCW in the summer of 1991, the promotion was in rebuilding mode. Flair went scorched earth on the promotion and the dynamic duo of Jim Herd and Dusty Rhodes needed to book a card that would make the fans forget about Flair. That was an almost impossible task, so a card that would show that WCW is making the effort to pick up the pieces and keep the trust of the fans. Basically, a show that didn’t suck. Instead, we got the 1991 Great American Bash, a show that I will eventually cover.  The company had the chance to redeemed themselves with Halloween Havoc and well…I wouldn’t be covering this card if they had redeemed themselves. Halloween Havoc 1991 has a solid main event of Lex Luger vs Ron Simmons with two great undercard matches: Bobby Eaton vs Terry Taylor and Steve Austin vs Dustin Rhodes. We see Paul E. Dangerously in the process of forming The Dangerous Alliance with the debut of “Ravishing” Rick Rude.

On the downside, we have a rather disappointing Light Heavyweight Championship Match, a Las Vegas-style buffet full of awful gimmicks, and some of worst set design/production values I’ve seen on a wrestling show. I almost forgot the biggest offender: THE CHAMBER OF HORRORS! Let’s get started!

  1. The Light Heavyweight Championship Match

A match between Ricky Morton and Brian Pillman sounds good on paper, doesn’t it? This is in the middle of Morton’s ill-fated heel turn as a member of the York Foundation, a group of Wall Street yuppie’s. One of the best and most sympathetic white meat babyfaces of the eighties is suddenly turned heel and shoehorned into a yuppie gimmick. If you really wanted to get the crowd to hate Morton, book a segment with Morton cutting off his legendary mullet and deriding his southern roots. Morton had already been involved in a brutally boring match with former tag team partner Robert Gibson at the 1991 Great American Bash and this is no different. The match would be cut out of the home release along with four other matches which makes you wonder why they’d even book most of those matches. This is no different as you can see Morton struggling to fit into his new roles as a villain.  The biggest high-flying move on the entire match is a cross body from the top rope. To go from being booked to take the beatings for nearly a decade to dishing them out would throw off any wrestler. The division was going to be built around Brian Pillman and on the bright side, we’re a few months away from the awesome Liger/Pillman match at Superbrawl 1992. We were also “blessed” by the “Refer-Eye Cam”, which was a helmet with a video camera strapped onto it. It’s about as awful as it sounds. More on that later.

  1. Terrible Gimmicks Everywhere.

Jim Herd thought he could compete with Vince McMahon by embracing the cartoon gimmicks that McMahon had perfected. Herd was the first of many promoters who sadly realized this would fail badly as the only to compete with Vince was to put on a product that was the exact opposite of what Vince was presenting. Jim Crockett presented a no frills traditional southern wrestling product and Eric Bischoff presented the innovative nWo angle with a mid-card loaded with top talent from all the world.  El Gigante was looked at by WCW brass as the next Andre The Giant and by all accounts a nice guy, but the former Atlanta Hawk never found his footing in pro wrestling. Herd gave us The Creatures, two masked jobbers created to remind the fans of the Creature from The Black Lagoon. It reminded fans of The Creature Walks Among Us, the dreadful last film of the series. They faced Big Josh, a wrestling lumberjack and PN News, a fat white rapper who could barely rap and wore an eyesore of a singlet that evening. The Johnny B. Badd gimmick was in its infantile stages. The Freebirds in 1991 were well past their expiration date and trying to stay relevant with a glam rock gimmick. Bill Kazmaier won the World’s Strongest Man competition from 1980-1982 and was saddled with carrying a giant globe on his back. Kevin Nash became Oz with a blond flattop in a dreadful attempt at corporate synergy. When Halloween Havoc came around, anything connections to The Wizard of Oz were stripped away and Nash was another generic big guy with a terrible dye job. “Heavy Metal” Van Hammer was a blonde muscle head with a rock-n-roll gimmick who never played the guitar. His nonexistent guitar skills were much better than his wrestling skills. Finally, we have The WCW Patriots. The Patriots consisted of a firefighter and Special Forces officer returning from Desert Storm. They were given the United States Tag Team Champions which shows just how far the tag division had fallen in 1991. Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko were given the herculean task of having a watchable match with the two untalented muscle heads. Sadly, the match was not watchable but we did get an Arn spinebuster.

  1. The Production

I hate to say it, but Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone don’t mesh well as announcers and they desperately need the presence of a heel announcer to liven things off.  Let’s start off with the “refer-eye” camera which looks like a hockey helmet with two mini cameras attached to it. It seems like a neat idea and it should have been tested at a house show before you decide to use for two matches at a PPV. It didn’t help that the camera was fading in and out during the Chamber of Horrors match and most of the time, the camera added nothing to the viewing experience. Maybe nausea. They already had a difficult time filming the Chamber of Horrors match with cameras missing numerous shots or switching to some uninteresting while something interesting is happening. Case in point, Cactus takes a big bump over the top rope, hits the cage face-first and crashes to the concrete. We don’t get to see the whole bump because the camera crew is focusing on something else. Also, the lever on the chair of torture is set to “ON’ and they show it twice. One of the production aspects that WCW trumped WWE on was embracing the seasonal theme for shows like this. This year…it’s just awful. The set for the Halloween themed matches is a cheap haunted house that Ed Wood would balk at using. The set is used three times but to cap it off, the entrance is littered with these cheap looking tombstones with random nonsense written on it. The tombstones look even worse when they take down the haunted house. The icing on the set piece awfulness is a special set piece created for Lex Luger, which is his last name spread out. It looks cheap, it looks like threw a whole bunch of silver glitter on it and they blocked the curtain that wrestlers entered from.

  1. Luger as Flair and Racism

When Lex Luger won the title at The Great American Bash, the company decided to turn him heel, a complete thumb to the eye to the fans who had been behind him since 1988. I know the heel side was rather thin at the time but they were a few months away from getting Rude. Windham was a quality heel and could have done well as a main event heel. Luger was at his best as a face and this feels like trying to fit square peg in a round hole. The two-out-of-three falls match with Ron Simmons is surprisingly good when you remember that neither man was known for having great matches. Luger was repackaged as a Flair clone with the suits, manager and talking himself up like Flair. It just doesn’t work and they tried to replicate the feud Flair had with Magnum with Ron Simmons in the Magnum role. Except for Luger offering to hire Simmons as his chauffer after Luger beats him. I don’t remember Flair offering Magnum that. Yep, to build heat for the match, they had Luger throw out some casual racism. Just an awful and I mean awful way to build up the match. Here’s the kicker, before the signing was shown, they aired a segment of Ron giving a motivational speech to a Boys and Girls Club and taking them to a house show at The Omni. I don’t understand why they couldn’t build the match on these two guys haven’t backgrounds as football players and the pursuit of gold. The racism was not needed but then again, it wasn’t needed for the build-up to Triple H vs Booker T at WrestleMania XIX but we still got it.

  1. The Chamber of Horrors

Oh god, where do I start? The random ghouls dressed as medics? The random masked guy hiding in the casket? I don’t know but would you believe me if I told you the match could have been much and I mean much worse? The face team stayed the same: Sting, Steiners, and El Gigante. The heel team was scrapped at the last minute for a whole new team. The old team was Barry Windham, Oz, One Man Gang, and The Diamond Studd. A team that makes zero sense and would guarantee a much worse match than what we got. Windham got injured sparing him this match, One Man Gang quit and Oz was taken out of the match. Vader, Abdullah The Butcher and Cactus Jack were Studd’s new partners. On paper, that’s a solid line-up for a match barring Gigante. All you need to do is book this as a big brawl with weapons and you got yourself a darn good match. Instead, we got a whole bunch of Halloween props, an electric chair in the middle of the ring that slowed the in-ring action to a snail’s pace and it almost killed Mick Foley. The match is horrendous and the whole electric chair gimmick is just awful. It barely plays into the match and just sits there as the two teams lazily attempt to win the match. A much idea would have been to take a cue from World Class and their version of the “Thunderdome” match. It was a cage match with handcuffs and when somebody gets pinned, they get cuffed to the cage. The first team to cuff the entire opposing team wins and the ref leaves, giving them five minutes alone with the losing team. No Halloween gimmicks, just a straight up fight. It doesn’t help that the only two workers who put any effort in are Sting and Cactus Jack, the latter killing himself to making this match somewhat watchable. Vader is about ready to hit the showers, collect his paycheck and book the next flight back to Japan. Cactus takes numerous weapons shots, a doomsday DDT, bleeds all over the place and is bumping for his life in this match. If anything, this should have been a cage match between Sting and Cactus Jack and let them go to war for twenty minutes.

There you have it, a truly bad show. Ron Simmons vs Lex Luger, Terry Taylor vs Bobby Eaton and Dustin Rhodes vs Steve Austin save this show from being awful. This has the potential to be a great show if they dropped that stupid Chamber of Horrors match. Break the match up. Sting vs Cactus in the big cage is guaranteed to be an excellent match. Book the Steiner Brothers against The Enforcers and let them have a classic 20-25-minute tag team match. Have Vader and Abdullah team up and let them destroy The Patriots in an epic squash match. Powerbombs and forks to the head for those goofs. Brad Armstrong can have a good match with The Diamond Studd, don’t have him work some stupid gimmick. Let him wrestle, he’s one of the best in the business at this point. Dump the meaningless squash matches that won’t even make the video release. I love seasonal shows but this show is just beyond bad when it comes to the seasonal theme. From the awful set to ghouls as medics to the hideous backstage set consisting of dried corn stalks in-front of a droll grey background.

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Robert Goeman

Robert Goeman has been writing for CamelClutchBlog since 2014 and has written for FiveOuncesofPain and What Culture. Follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/RobertGoeman.

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