One of my favorite parts of my quest to watch all the NWA / WCW PPV’s / Clashes has been discovering (or re-discovering) the seasonally themed PPVs. WWE has their TLC, their Extreme Rules and the like, and they even have Summer Slam, but that’s about it. WCW, however, had Spring Stampede, Bash at the Beach, and most importantly for today’s column, Halloween Havoc. In fact, in my year plus on Twitter, I’ve heard numerous people (Magnum and Moltov chief among them) saying that they wish WWE brought back Halloween Havoc as their October “event”, and I agree wholeheartedly.
Halloween Havoc, for those who missed out on the WCW years, was incredibly corny, but that was what made it fun. The announcers in costumes, gimmick matches, dark lighting and really campy promos, it was a thing of beauty. So today, in a return to the DC Diaries (which, I might add, is what got me started as a wrestling writer), let’s take a look at one Havoc in particular, one that I actually would recommend you watch almost from start to finish, Halloween Havoc 1993. This Havoc features a number of present and, in my opinion, future Hall of Famers, and some great matches.
A group of kids, trick or treating, go to the spooky house at the end of the drive, and the scariest monster in all of creation answers the door. No, its not Frankenstein, nor is it the Wolfman or the Mummy. It’s . . . It’s . . .
TONY SCHIAVONE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!
Truthfully, Mr. Schiavone does a good job of being creepy, and bad 90’s special effects follow.
We then see Eric Bischoff, who is actually dressed like Custer but to me, he looked like an amalgam of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Schiavone is dressed as Jesse Ventura, his play by play man, and Ventura is dressed, his words now, as “Bourbon Street’s favorite gynecologist.
If they just played some of the audio from Ventura’s 90’s WCW announcing today, he’d be in as much trouble as Hogan.
I covered the tragic comedy that is The Shockmaster in my last podcast, and hopefully (though I’m not betting on it), you did your NAIborhood homework and watched his debut. Joining him in “bad gimmicks on parade” is Charlie Norris, the Tatanka ripoff (and possibly the worst wrestler I’ve ever seen), and The Equalizer, a Berzerker rip-off that doesn’t even do that right.
I honestly don’t know what The Equalizer’s gimmick was, and this guy is most famous for being Kevin Sullivan’s “Eugene-esque” brother and huge Hulkamaniac Evad (That’s Dave backwards, friends).
The less said about this match, the better. The only reason to watch is to see the bad gimmicks, and to see a REALLY young Booker T. The match almost went 10 minutes, which should have been illegal.
Anytime two Hall of Famers have a match, you know its going to be somewhat good. Both Orndorff and Steamboat are at the tail end of their careers in this one, yet the match was quite physical and fun to watch. I don’t recall what the bad blood was between this two, but there are probably more near-falls in this match than in any other one I can recall. Definitely worth watching.
This match was supposed to be Steamboat vs. Yoshi Kwan, and if you don’t know the name, I’m not surprised. He was a flash in the pan gimmick in WCW, an “Asian” martial artist sent to take out Cactus Jack during Jack’s feud with Vader (more on that later). I use quotation marks because Yoshi Kwan’s real name was Christopher Ashford-Smith. Now I’m not saying WWE has no racial issues at all, but at least they’re not putting white guys in makeup and calling them Asian. At least, not that I’m aware of. . .
Random Aside: Ricky Steamboat, to the best of my knowledge, never wrestled as a heel in his entire career, despite having a real name of Richard Blood. BLOOD! How did somebody not try to take advantage of that?
The centerpiece of these early 90’s Havoc’s was the gimmick of Spinning the Wheel and Making the Deal. If you remember what RAW Roulette was, then this will be eerily familiar. For the main event matches, there was a giant wheel, onto which were placed the names of gimmick matches. A wrestler spun the wheel, and whatever match was landed on was the match that took place. A great idea in theory, and a complete waste of time in practice.
The first of these happened in the previous year’s Havoc, when Sting was feuding with Jake “The Snake” Roberts. What, you don’t remember Jake having a brief WCW run? These two fought in a Coal Miner’s Glove match, which was almost too bad to even mention, and considering what I usually wind up talking about, that’s saying something.
Vader spins the wheel for the 93 Havoc, and he and Cactus Jack will be battling in a “Texas Death Match” in our main event.
Speaking of people whom most might not remember having a WCW run, here’s Davey Boy Smith, who has spent much of 1993 with the Atlanta based promotion. Since he’s battling Lord Steven, I imagine most of you are expecting me to be completely biased and only talk about how amazing Regal is.
That’s what I expected as well, before the match began.
But, very surprisingly, the Bulldog was INCREDIBLE in this match. If you’re a fan of chain wrestling / grappling / anything like that, make sure you put the Twitter down for this one, because you’re in for a treat. Bulldog and Regal had an excellent 15 minute match, ending in a time limit draw, something else you don’t see a whole lot of (in fact, you NEVER see them) in WWE these days.
Besides his match with Bret Hart at Summer Slam 1992, this is probably my favorite Davey Boy singles match now. If I was doing this in a podcast, it’d be homework, so make sure to check it out.
So What: Both of these talents are, to me, sure thing Hall of Famers. I’m not sure when Bulldog and the rest of the Hart clan gets in, but for Regal, its only a matter of time. That will be a HOF ceremony I make sure to watch.
Continuing our streak of 3 excellent singles matches comes this one, featuring one of the greatest wrestlers of the last 20 years. . . And Steve Austin.
I’m kidding, I’m kidding! They’re both great.
We see a sign that says that Steve Austin is the wrestler of the 90’s, so apparently there was a psychic in the New Orleans arena that night.
This is a match to watch if, for nothing else, just to see these two greats in the early point of their careers. You can tell that both of them have the potential to be Hall of Famers, and while Goldust isn’t in yet. . . He will be.
For those keeping track at home, that makes 3 singles matches featuring 6 of the best wrestlers in history. For that alone, make sure to watch this PPV.
Our run of great matches comes to a screeching halt. It’s not that this match was bad, because it wasn’t. It just wasn’t great. 2 Cold and Bagwell, who had only been champions for a week or so, had Teddy Long in their corner for reasons that still defy my understanding, while Knobbs and Sags were joined by Missy Hyatt, “The First Lady of Nasty”.
I seriously think she’s out there solely because in her nasally voice, the word “Nasty” sounds REALLY annoying, so she just says it over and over and over again.
This is worth watching just to watch 2 Cold do his thing - He seriously is one of the main forerunners to Neville, Kalisto and every other high flyer, truly a man that gravity forgot. Oh, and if you are Shannon Scott, you watch this just to get your Buff fix. He’s so dreamy. . .
Apparently this match was to determine who the true “Franchise” of WCW was, though since Sid has just recently returned from his WWF run, I don’t know why we’re even asking.
It’s Sid in a wrestling ring, so its not like this is must-see. To be honest, I remember very little about this match. You won’t hurt my feeling if you skip ahead, especially when you consider what’s up next.
OK, I had to have Magnum explain this belt to me, and I’m still not even sure I got it right, so I might need some corrections here. Let me see if I can sum up.
History Lesson: Ric Flair left for WWF in 1991, having put down a $25,000 deposit for the “Big Gold Belt”, the NWA title. Jim Herd, who was running WCW at the time, refused to give him the deposit back, so Flair kept the belt and brought it with him to Stamford, showing up on WWF programming with the title. Meanwhile, WCW went ahead and created a new championship - the WCW title belt.
When Flair came back to WCW, he still had the NWA title with him, so for a while, there were 2 world championships being defended. Wanting to focus solely on WCW and not NWA, the Big Gold Belt was renamed the “WCW International Heavyweight Championship”, and was won by Rick Rude back at Fall Brawl 93, if memory serves.
I think that just about covers it.
Rick Rude, another one of those former WWF stars who had a brief run in WCW in the early 90’s, and much like Davey Boy, I think Rude had his best stretch during this period, which is a shame, since he gets injured and forced into retirement soon after this.
Rude owned these WCW crowds. Truthfully, I may have never heard jeers and booing so loud as when Rick Rude took the microphone. Plus, his in-ring work was top notch. He truly deserved to be a “World Champion”, and also deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
This match, while not as good as their first one, still is excellent and worth watching. This is a classic match where limbs are worked over and strategy is used. Remember strategy, friends?
The wheel has been spun, the deal is done, and it’s time for our main event.
OK, the rules of this “Texas Death Match” are some of the most convoluted and silly I’ve ever heard. It’s essentially a Last Man Standing match, but in this instance, you have to pin your opponent first. Why? Who knows?
So you pin your opponent, and THEN there is a 30 second rest period. When that is over, THEN there is a 10 count, like a traditional LMS match, and if your opponent can’t answer the ten count, you win. Like I said, silly silly silly.
Despite this, its Cactus Jack and Vader, who are famously known for legitimately beating the hell out of each other during their matches. This one is no exception, as both men wind up bleeding by the end, and I don’t think it was a blade job. They fight in the ring, on the ramp, on the floor, in the graveyard area (Is this where the buried alive gimmick came from?), basically everywhere in the actual arena. It’s an excellent match, right up until the very end.
I try not to provide too many spoilers during these diaries, hoping to leave some excitement for the viewer, but in this case, I feel I can’t hold my tongue. You have your champion and a guy who has been booked as someone who enjoys pain and can take a lot of punishment, so your ending needs to be unique, while also allowing both talents to save face. Much the same way WWE will need to treat Brock and Taker at Summer Slam.
Near the end, Harley Race (Vader’s manager) pulls a Taser out of his pocket, going to great lengths to make sure we all know its a Taser (though the announcers don’t name it), by showing the audience the blue electricity running through it. He then holds it in his hand for 5-10 minutes, until both wrestlers are struggling to answer the 10 count.
Race then reaches up onto the ramp, places the Taser on Cactus’ leg. . . And nothing happens. I don’t think Jack noticed it was there, so Race had to do it again and growl very loudly before Cactus went down, allowing Vader to pick up the win.
Again, I get they needed to do SOMETHING to keep Cactus as a crazy man while Vader keeps the belt, but this was a pretty lame way to end a brutal brawl of a match, especially one between two Hall of Famers, assuming Vader gets in one of these days.
Obviously, I have some strong opinions on wrestlers missing from the Hall of Fame. Bulldog, Rude, Regal, Dustin Rhodes and Vader all, in my mind, are “locks”, and I can even make a case for 2 Cold Scorpio and maybe even the Nasty Boys, if I sat and thought about it for a while.
Based on the sheer talent on this card, its worth watching, though I’d certainly skip around a bit to avoid the lowpoints. This is one of the better WCW PPV's I've seen since starting this journey. I highly recommend it.
Should these talents I mentioned be Hall of Famers? Should Halloween Havoc rejoin the WWE “Event” rotation? Be Heard.
Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s almost over.
Want proof? Using my free time wisely, I’ve compiled a list of wrestler stats.
Once Big Show, Mark Henry and Kane retire (which, I expect, will be by the end of 2015), can you name the 3 wrestlers who weigh over 300 pounds? WWE and NXT together, there’s only 3…
Rusev, Erick Rowan and Bull Dempsey, who is listed on the NXT website at exactly 300 pounds, but might be exaggerating slightly. These are the “super heavyweights” in WWE once the old guard retires.
Why am I talking about this on Hall of Friday? Two reasons. First, giving you a sneak preview of future columns regarding the re-definition of “big man” in WWE.
Second, to talk about two men, arguably two of the most athletic big men in wrestling history, and to determine whether they are contenders for the Hall of Fame.
We begin with the larger of the two men, yet the only one (to my knowledge) who pulled off a moonsault.
Leon White did not have a hugely successful WWE career, outside of beating the tar out of some foreign reporter, but his wrestling life as a whole is worthy of NAIHOF consideration.
After a knee injury ended his NFL career (White played for the LA Rams in the late 70’s and early 80’s), White began training as a pro wrestler and started his career in the AWA, where he was known as Baby Bull.
Really glad that’s not what WWE went with for Bull Dempsey, by the way.
White’s career first took off when he went to Japan in the late 80’s, which is also where he was given the name Big Van Vader, supposedly a warrior from Japanese folklore. Vader traveled all over the world honing his craft. At one point, he held three heavyweight championships on three separate continents. . .At the same time.
Another fun fact - Vader (a notoriously stiff worker) had a match with Stan Hansen (also famous for his hard hitting), and during the match, Vader’s eye popped out of its socket. He kept wrestling, because of course he would.
Vader made his WCW debut in 1990, though he wouldn’t become a full-time competitor there until 1992. Immediately placed in the world title picture, Vader won his first WHC in July, defeating that ‘face painted goon’ Sting.
Vader’s stiffness caused problems, as he injured multiple wrestlers during his stay in WCW, including Sting (cracked ribs and ruptured spleen), jobber Joe Thurman (broken frickin back) and most famously, Mick Foley (multiple, ear included). Despite being more dangerous than Ryback, Vader won 3 World titles in WCW, along with a US title and being a Battlebowl champion. Remember Battlebowl?
Vader was fired from WCW in 1995 following a legitimate backstage fight with Paul Orndorff. After another brief stay in Japan, Vader made his WWE debut at the Royal Rumble in 1996. The Man They Call Vader never held championship gold in WWE - in fact, his Titan Towers career was pretty unexciting, highlighted by feuds with Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker and by hitting the Vader Bomb on Gorilla Monsoon.
Following another successful run in Japan in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Vader mostly retired, save for select appearances for various companies, including a return to WWE to beat the tar out of Heath Slater.
Vader is best known, oddly enough, for his stiffness AND flexibility in the ring. The list of talents he injured is numerous, but I can’t think of another talent around 400 pounds who could move the way Leon White moved. The man could moonsault, folks. With ease.
When you consider Vader’s international success, his career in WCW and his athletic prowess, I say that Leon White is a Hall of Famer. It’s a shame his booking in WWE didn’t reflect the tremendous talent.
One match that wasn’t mentioned earlier was Vader’s contest at Spring Stampede 1994. The reason is because the feud wasn’t important, but the opponent certainly was, as he is our next candidate for HOF contention.
Ray Traylor wore a lot of different hats in his wrestling career - He was a bodyguard, a police officer, a guardian angel, a grave robber and a puppy killer. No matter what character he played, he is one of the better “big men” of all time.
A legit prison guard before his wrestling career, Traylor got his first big break for Jim Crockett Promotions in the 80’s, where he was Big Bubba Rogers, bodyguard for Jim Cornette. Fellow NAI writers and wrestling historian Magnum MH would be able to tell you far more about Big Bubba than I would, so if you’re curious, hit him up @MagnumNAI.
Lured to WWE/F in 1988, Traylor became the Big Bossman, a heel prison guard character. Bossman feuded with Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage during this time, as well as forming one of the relatively rare “Double Big Man” teams as one half of The Twin Towers with Akeem, the African Dream. Bossman turned face in 1990 and became one of Hogan’s staunchest allies, aiding him in fighting the monster Earthquake and the devious Heenan Family.
Some of Bossman’s most highly profiled feuds were with themed opponents - First, the Mountie (Jacques Rougeau), culminating in a “Jailhouse Match” (where the loser spends the night in jail, of course) and then escaped prisoner Nailz, ending in a Nightstick on a Pole match.
. . .And you thought current gimmick matches were bad. . .
Traylor, along with most of the WWF 80’s roster, moved to WCW in the mid 90’s. He proceeded to have a series of gimmicks, from The Boss (same gimmick, shorter name) to The Guardian Angel, to Big Bubba Rogers once more, to joining the Dungeon of Doom, to being in the nWo, to being Ray Traylor, to being released.
Traylor returned to WWE soon after, becoming The Big Bossman once more, albeit with a more modern look. For the first time in a major promotion, Bossman won gold, sharing the Tag titles with Ken Shamrock (as members of The Corporation) and winning the Hardcore title 4 times.
Sadly, Traylor’s major feuds the second time around in WWE aren’t ones to write home about. He fed Al Snow’s dog to him, leading to one of the worst cage matches of all time with the Kennel from Hell. Following that, he made fun of Big Show’s father at the man’s funeral and then stole the casket, towing it (and Big Show, who had leapt onto it) into the sunset. Painfully, that really was Bossman’s last major moment in professional wrestling.
Ray Traylor was released from WWE in 2003 and passed away at his home the following year, at the far-too-young age of 43 years old.
While Traylor’s career was not littered with gold, he was a major force throughout most of the highest moments in wrestling history. Sadly, that’s not quite good enough, so with a heavy heart, I say that Big Bossman does not make the cut as a Hall of Famer. Like so many other of my favorite talents, he’s a part of that next tier down. . . The Pantheon of Professionals, if you will.
So there you have it. The tale of two athletic big men - one who makes our Hall of Fame, and one who sadly does not.