Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Revisiting WCW Halloween Havoc 1998!

Behold ... the night Disco Inferno outwrestled Bret fuckin' Hart.


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

One of the great, bygone seasonal rites I really miss nowadays is WCW's annual Halloween Havoc PPV spectacular. Even when the show wasn't necessarily playing the gimmick to its hilt and running fucking electric chair matches and shit, the overall ambiance of the pay-per-views were still usually worth the price of admission alone. I guess it doesn't hurt that, by and large, the Halloween Havoc cards were usually among the best top-to-bottom WCW PPVs each and every year, with some of the best WCW matches ever - Guerrero/Mysterio at HH '97 and Vader vs. Cactus Jack at HH '93 immediately spring to mind - taking place during the All Hallows Eve-themed cards.

Really, you can't go wrong picking any random-assed Halloween Havoc PPV and having yourself a gay old, seasonally-appropriate time. Indeed, I plan on eventually getting around to recapping all of the old Halloween Havoc shows, but if you had to start with just one to get the nostalgia ball rolling, I reckon you can't outdo the 1998 installment. 

This was a very interesting time in the history of WCW. The Monday Night Wars were still a 'ragin, and we were still a good six months away from the WWF completely pulling ahead in the race and making it a pure-D laugher. In some ways, you could call this WCW at its absolute peak - that point in time where it was still not only a viable challenger to Vince McMahon, but in many ways the superior brand, both economically and in terms of in-ring quality. And without giving it away too soon, Halloween Havoc '98 is undoubtedly one of the more historic wrestling PPVs of the late 1990s - for reasons both laudable and dubious. Alas, there's no reason to spoil the tricks and treats here; how about we fire up this old VHS copy and relive the wonder and whimsy all over again? 

We begin with a weird preview video recapping the Hogan/Warrior and Goldberg/DDP rivalries through this purple, obfuscating fog while really ominous, operatic music plays over it. And yes, there is an allusion to the infamous Nitro "mirror" segment, in case you were wondering. 

We are coming to you LIVE from Las Vegas, where the crowd is so loud you can't hear Tony Schiavone say shit. Fuck, I am already dying from nostalgia just looking at the set, which features the iconic Halloween Havoc pumpkin prop getting EATEN by a giant, mechanical Nosferatu-like head that snorts dry ice like an unholy Brahma bull. Bonus points for the spooky music, the smoke billowing off the stage and the fucking explosions everywhere.

Our announcers (whose names are Kryon captioned onscreen in a really groovy gothic font) are the aforementioned Tony S, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Mike Tenay. Heenan keeps droning on and on about Hulk hitting his nephew over the head with a a chair and how that makes him one of the lowest forms of life on the planet. Then he puts on a masquerade mask (is that technically redundant?) and everybody starts chanting "weasel." I'm going to be saying this a lot, but I am gobsmacked by just how hot the crowd is for this show - and here I was, thinking it was a creative and financial dead zone for WCW. 

Allow me to sound like a 14-year-old black girl for a moment: can you name a more iconic trio than this?

The Nitro Girls (remember them?) dance a jig in the ring and this one guy in the crowd has a gigantic poster that says something about Twin Falls, Idaho (the same place where several Syrian refugees sexually assaulted a five-year-old in 2016 - predictive programming, perhaps?) and the sound of the audience totally drowns out the commentators. Maybe it was just WCW's mixing, but fuck, does that crowd sound nuclear. We throw it to Mean Gene Okerlund, who interviews Rick Steiner until Buff Bagwell comes out wearing a FUBU shirt and says everybody is sick of Scott Steiner and he wants to form an alliance. While Rick struggles to enunciate and Buff barks like a retard, Mean Gene runs down the entire kayfabe executive committee process to change a PPV match, and it's awesome.

Time for our in-ring curtain jerker. Raven comes out to his awesome ass music and the announcers are totally inaudible. His opponent is Chris Jericho (billed from Calgary, oddly enough) thus officially making this a battle of Jimmy Hart-produced grunge standard rip-off entrance themes (Raven's "Come As You Are" knockoff versus Jericho's "Evenflow" imitation ... pretty ironic considering Raven's finisher is called the "Evenflow," but that WCW logic for 'ya.) 

Raven sits in the corner with a mic and utters his ultra-shitty "What about me, what about Raven?" catchphrase and complains about having an unscheduled match tonight so he ain't gonna' do it. He leaves the ring, Jericho grabs the mic and says he equals buyrates and he's sorely disappointed because he really wanted to wrestle Raven, but he does so in a really mocking fashion and then he calls Raven's Flock a bunch of idiots so his foe runs back into the ring and starts stomping him. Well, looks like we're gonna' have that match after all, ain't we? 

Jericho whips Raven with his own leather jacket, then Raven kicks out of his cocky "foot on the chest" pin attempt and Jericho clotheslines Raven over the top rope. Hot balls on summer pavement, I can't believe how fired up this crowd is for just the opening match. Raven grabs the steel ring steps and suplexes Jericho stomach-first onto the international object. He follows suit with a running dropkick off said metal steps. Hey, I just noticed Raven's wearing a Suicidal Tendencies tee-shirt - now, that would be considered "retro," but back in '98 it made him look like a poor-ass meth dealer. Jericho stun guns Raven on the ropes (which Tony mysteriously calls a "defensive move") and then he sends Raven reeling with a springboard dropkick. Jericho goes for a plancha but eats guardrail instead. Raven keeps slamming Jericho's head on the steps, so I take it this is a 'no DQ' match now? Jericho swings Raven's ass into the guardrail and when we get back inside the ring, Raven tries to choke Jericho with his jacket and starts biting his forehead. Raven applies a sleeperhold and Jericho counters with a belly to back suplex and a running senton. Jericho surreptitiously unties the top turnbuckle pad. Raven hits a powerbomb and he slingshots Jericho into the exposed metal pad. Raven with a bulldog on the follow-through, but it only nets a two. Jericho whiffs on a spinning kick and Raven hits him with a belly to back suplex. Jericho goes for a rolling pin attempt, but at the last second he turns it into the Lion Tamer, but Raven is able to reach the ropes. Jericho goes for an Irish whip, but Raven counters with the Evenflow DDT - and Jericho kicks out at two. Jericho goes for a cheap schoolboy roll-up, but that's only good for a two. He hits Raven with a flagrant nutshot and a German suplex, but yep, that's only good for a two count as well. Jericho bumps into Kanyon (who I think was trying to interfere in the match?), Raven goes for the DDT, Jericho counters with the Lion Tamer in the middle of the ring and his opponent immediately taps. All in all, not a bad little opening contest, if I may say so myself. [** 3/4]

Only '90s kids will remember this is the right way to do the Walls of Jericho.

"Voodoo Child" start playing and this one guy in the audience is showing off his One Warrior Nation shirt because he genuinely thought that was something to be proud of. Again, the announcers are all but inaudible. Here comes Eric Bischoff (with a goatee) and the Hulkster. "I love this man so much," Hulk says before kissing Eric's brow. Bischoff says Hulk represents this millennium's family values and Hulk says he's not here to give the Gettysburg Address (fuck, now that I have that mental picture in my head, it actually sounds kinda' awesome) and he recounts "crucifying" Horus Hogan on Nitro. Look at that South Park stylized Wolfpac Sting cartoon in the crowd - now THAT is 1998 personified. Hogan calls the Warrior "a Bozo with paint on his face" and lets him know that if you question his power, "you're going to get beat up real, real bad, for life, brother." Yeah, I'm pretty sure Eric B. was visibly high throughout the entire segment.

Coming to the ring next, it's Disco Inferno, and the audience actually disco dances to his theme music. Fuck, we were all such self-unconscious fools back then. His opponent is Juventud Guerrera - while walking to the ring, he says something about "Juvy Juice" but it sounds more like he's saying "I hate Jews" and we all share a hearty chuckle. 

Yeah, just fuck trying to understand what the announcers are saying from hereon out. Disco with some elbow shots early. He kicks Juvy in the corner and follows it up with a side slam. Juvy retaliates with some LOUD ass chops, a tilt-a-whirl and a clothesline. Then he hits Disco with that elevated leg drop thingy where he puts his thigh on his opponent's head then jumps about five feet in the air for no apparent reason. Juvy continues the offensive onslaught with more chops in the corner. Disco fires back with an elbow, then Juvy monkey flips him out of the ring. Juvy flies under the bottom rope to the outside and lands a head scissors takedown, but he fucks it up and lands face first on the outside mat. Disco hits an inverted atomic drop, followed by a clothesline. He continues to punish Juvy with an elbow drop off the top rope, but it only nets a two-count, so he slaps on a sleeper hold instead. Mike Tenay chides Disco for "his poor weight distribution" while Heenan simultaneously puts Disco over and buries him by saying "he could be great, but he needs guidance." Juvy hits a spinning kick and a jaw jacker on the top rope. He follows suit with a plancha to the outside while Disco unwisely showboats. Back in the ring, Juvy hits a hurrancanrana (for fuck's sake, somebody please explain the etymology on this one - I mean, in Spanish, it literally translates into "hurricane frog") and Disco ripostes with a stun gun onto to the top rope and a swinging neckbreaker. I've got to say, these two dudes are really surprising me by how fluid their counters and reversals are. Juvy goes for a sunset flip, but Disco punches him and starts doing the La Macarena dance before hitting THE GIANT SWING and falling face first onto Juvy's balls. "It was inadvertent," Tony S. deadpans, "buy my God, it worked." Disco lands a textbook suplex. He goes up top and Juvy crotches him. Juvy lands a top rope hurrancanrana and a corkscrew press off the top, but it only nets him a two. Juvy counters an Irish whip reversal into a bulldog, but that only gets a two-count as well. Juvy goes for a reverse hurrancanrana and Disco counters it with a fucking THICK looking piledriver and that gets us our three-count, folks. A surprisingly enjoyable little romp right there. [** 3/4]

Your call: is it a screenshot from the actual PPV, or an image from a Nintendo 64 game?

The Nitro Girls are back out dressed like knockoff Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders shaking their tits and spreading their legs over steel chairs and shit and you've GOT to hear Tony S. say "yeah" like he's having to pretend to be heterosexual during the whole routine. Here comes Scott Steiner, who immediately calls Las Vegas "the town that never sleeps" because hes a fucking idiot, that's why. He calls Buff Bagwell a mama's boy and says Rick Steiner his been his brother "his whole life" and proposes they turn the match tonight into a Giant/Scott vs. Rick/Buff tag team bout. Here comes kayfabe WCW commissioner JJ Dillon. He says as long as they put the tag title bouts on the line, and he fights Rick for 15 minutes if he loses, he'll make the tag bout official. Fuck, none of these guys could emote worth a damn - say what you will about modern wrestling, but at least today's stars sound halfway human when they cut promos.

And following yet ANOTHER Nitro Girls routine, Disco Inferno is back out. You see, his match against Juvy was to determine the No. 1 contender for Billy Kidman's Cruiserweight title. Which we're getting. Right now.

Kidman's music is such a ripoff of Death in Vegas' "Dirt." Or maybe "Dirt" is just a ripoff of the stock music WCW used, there's no real way to tell. Tony S. says he can't imagine Disco winning the match, to which Bobby responds "we didn't think he could beat Juventud, so stranger things have happened." Disco with a scoop slam. Kidman fires back with a drop toe hold with a floatover armbar Tony S. describes as "very basic." Kidman throws Disco's head back when he does that old "Imma gonna' throw you into the ropes and duck when you come back at me so I can flip your ass over" spot and hits a hurrancanrana (or, as Tony calls it, "a nifty move") before hitting a top rope springboard. Disco with a drop toe hold of his own sends Kidman nose first into the ring ropes (which Mike Tenay awesome refers to as "steel cables" to really amp up the drama.) I legit laugh out loud when Disco mocks his opponent by yelling "Kidman, turn the music down!" and answering back "yes, mom!" Kidman with a boot to the face, but Disco holds the top rope down so he goes a sailin'. Kidman hits a running bulldog off the metal steps onto the concrete floor, and when Disco rolls back into the ring, he whiffs on the top rope frog splash attempt. Disco works a chinlock. Kidman escapes and hits his foe with a clothesline. Kidman gets flapjacked while rebounding off the ropes and Disco decides right then and there is the best possible time to stop trying to win the match and start doing La Macarena instead. I mean, shit, that thing was a meme in 1996, so why the fuck WCW is still using it as a pop cultural reference point in October 1998 is simply beyond me.

Alright, Disco with more stomps in the corner ... and more pelvis gyrations. Disco lands a "belly to back style" suplex, per Tony S. Inferno's insults continue to rule the world. "Show me something you punk, you pipsqueak!" he yells. Disco with a jaw jacker on the top rope, followed by a scoop slam. He goes up top and misses an elbow drop. Kidman hits his shitty lifting powerbomb thing and a powerslam that doesn't look all that powerful. Disco responds with the same text book piledriver that put away Juvy, but uh-oh, he's too winded to make the cover right away and can only chalk up a two count. Kidman goes for another springboard bulldog, but Disco counters it with a front facelock slam - actually, that looked kinda' cool. Disco goes for another La Macarena Driver, and Kidman reverses it into his shitty facebuster sub-finisher, and that gives him ample time to go up top and hit the Shooting Star Press for the three count. Well, I'll be damned - that makes it two back-to-back above-average showings from Disco Inferno on one PPV ... which is about two more than anybody back in '98 would've thought possible. I'll give it [** 3/4] as we segue to our next championship tilt.

Oh, the late 1990s - back when not only was it OK to cheer when an Italian choked a Mexican, it was wholeheartedly encouraged.

There's the NWO music again. Scott Steiner and The Giant come out first. When the future Big Show does his retarded "giant growl" arm raise thingy, a buncha' green pyro goes off and it does look somewhat cool. Scott tells the cameraman "I'm chiseled," because nobody expects coherent statements from Big Poppa Pump at any point in human history. Also - fuck, is the height discrepancy between these two a sight to behold. Scott grabs a fan sign that says he rules the world of wrestling, and that's our cue for Rick and Buff to stroll to the ring, barking like dogs and homoerotically riding each other like ponies once they get into the ring. 

Oh shit, you can see the Giant's butt cheeks hanging out of his underwear. And of course, Tony S. just HAS to bring up Rick Steiner's infamous promo with Chucky. The Giant and Rick are in the ring to begin. The Giant dominates with slaps early and an inverted atomic drop. Scott gets the tag and he pummels his brother with stomps and mounted punches. Rick gets thrown to the outside and the Giant headbutts him. Back in the ring, Scott continues to punch Rick up against the ropes. Rick hits an atomic drop and then he starts beating the fuck out of Scott and the crowd goes wild. Then Scott hits an atomic drop (but not as good as the one the U.S. army did on Hiroshima that one time), and Rick counters with a clothesline. Buff demands Rick tag him in, and as soon as he does, OF COURSE he turns on Rick, hits him a couple of times and runs out of the building, leaving Rick to battle the two men alone. Scott with a blatant nut kick the ref doesn't call. The fans chant "Goldberg" while Scott just keeps stomping the shit out of his brother. Scott with a scoop slam and more mudhole stompin' in the corner.The Giant is tagged in and he stomps on Rick's chest and slaps the fuck out of him. LOL, some dude in the crowd says something about steroids while Scott is outside. The Giant keeps doing this shtick where he starts to pin Rick, but lets him up after the one count to beat the hell out of him some more. Scott gets tagged back in and Rick finally starts fighting back. "Do you think Judy Bagwell had anything to do with this?" Tony S. asks. "No," Tenay responds, "she's a fine woman." Rick's comeback attempt is squelched by his brother kicking him in the balls. Then Scott holds up Rick, the Giant goes up top and - you guessed it - he accidentally missile drop kicks his own partner when Rick rolls out of harm's way at the last second. Man, Scott does such a great job selling it, too - he's acting like that last move killed his ass dead. Rick hits the Giant with a series of clothesline and finally, a bulldog off the top rope and that secures him the three count AND the WCW Tag Team Championship. 

Oh, but we ain't finished yet. Now, as per JJ Dillon's agreement, now Scott has to go toe-to-toe with his brother Rick in a singles contest. Rick chases Scott outside and bangs his head against the guardrail. He fights off the Giant and slams his brother's head into the metal steps. Scott begs for mercy but Rick just keeps a-punchin' him and clotheslinin' his ragged ass. I know I've already mentioned it, but it bears repeating: fuck, this crowd is just insanely pumped for all this shit. Rick lands an inverted Alabama Slam into the corner, but Scott rebounds and lands a tide-turning belly to back suplex. Say what you will about Scotty S., but that dude could throw some solid looking punches. Scott does that thing where you put your opponent chin down on the second rope and then you run into them with your balls against the back of their head. Rick hits a power slam and then a BAD-ASS belly to back 'plex. Then, on the outside, some dude wearing a Bill Clinton mask(!?!) hops over the guardrail. Stevie Ray hands him an international object of some kind before he gets in the ring. He enters the fray and coldcocks Rick and the ref and the bell sounds. But I think it's a no-DQ match, so it doesn't really matter. Slick Willy removes the mask and, yep, it's Buff Bagwell again. "I'm tired of getting gypped," Heenan comments, in what I think constitutes a shoot comment on the quality of WCW's story line swerves. In a great spot, Buff grabs the knocked out ref's hand and beats it against the mat with his own hand to make the pin count, but surprisingly Rick kicks out at two. Then Scott hits him with a TOP ROPE FRANKENSTEINER but I'll be goddamned, Rick kicks out of that, too. Rick hits Scott with a clothesline and drops Buff throat-first on the top rope. Rick goes up top, lands another bulldog on Scott and a new ref runs out to make the three count. Well, that was a totally overbooked clusterfuck, but I'll be a monkey's uncle if I didn't just plain like it. If you count both matches as a single entity (which, for storyline's sake, you pretty much have to) I'd feel comfortable giving it a solid [***] rating. And just when you think this overachieving match had peaked, there's a great up-close shot of Buff rolling around all groggy on the mat, only to look the cameraman dead in the eye and ask "anybody seen Monica?"

Huh - I wonder how many international objects this guy managed to fit inside Monica's Dungeon of Doom, if you get my drift? (And by Dungeon of Doom, I mean "her vagina.")

We've got a video package highlighting the rift between Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. "What could've possessed Hall to turn on his best friend?" the narrator asks. We recount Scott Hall's infamous "alcoholic" angle, complete with that time he worked puked on Nitro, and here comes comes the former Razor Ramon now, stumbling down the ramp carrying a plastic cup with some kind of dark liquid inside it. You have to dig that "bloody" black and white vest that says "Lone Wolf" on the back. But wait a minute ... if the blood is white, doesn't that technically make it cum

Nash comes out to that awesome Wolfpac rap song that's actually a rip-off of Militia's "Burn." "I don't think there's any question he's Mr. Cool," Tony S. remarks. So, the storyline here is that Nash is trying to help Hall kick his drinking problem by beating some sense into him, which is definitely something I never knew was one of the duties of an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor. Shit, had I known that was one of the job requirements, I would've signed up years ago.

So Hall immediately throws his adult beverage in Nash's face and starts stomping that ass. Some outside brawling ensues and Nash eats ringpost multiple times. Hall bops him with David Penzar's microphone and starts choking Nash with a video camera cable. Then he grabs the mic while refs and trainers tend to Nash's injuries. "How's the world look through foggy eyes?" he asks Nash, presumably referring to all the dry ice billowing down the rampway. Eventually, Nash climbs his way back into the ring and Hall bitch slaps yesterday's taste out of his mouth. Hall with another flurry of awesome-looking slap-punches. It's clear Nash doesn't want to hurt his best pal - not a bad little story line you're working here, WCW. Deafening "Wolfpac" chants pipe up as Hall hits Nash with a scoop slam. Nash shirks off the Razor's Edge attempt and eats more punches in the corner from Hall. Still, Nash just plain refuses to fight back. Nash then starts pinballing Hall into the turnbuckles and then he hits a sidewalk slam, his first real offensive move of the night. They're on their knees, trading slaps. Nash hits a knee to the stomach and a series of knuckles to Hall's noggin. Hall momentarily rolls to the outside. He goes back in the ring and we've got a classical collar and elbow tie-up. Nash shoves him down and Hall fires back with some shoulder shunts and an arm drag. Nash ripostes with a short-arm clothesline, just like Gary Coleman would've. You know, because he was a midget and shit? Nash slams Hall face first into the mat and there's the old "running balls to the back of your head" chestnut again. Actually, he sticks it twice for good measure. Nash with some knees to the solar plexus in the corner. "This has been one for the ages just in terms of sheer brutality," Tenay remarks. Nash knees the fuck out of Hall, stopping briefly only to say "have another drink, baby!" That makes me wonder - are all the wrestlers micced for the evening? Because being able to hear them talk mad shit during the match just adds so much more to the experience, and today's promotions would be wise to copy it. Nash with some elbows to the back of the head. Then he starts pantomiming drinking a beer and I laugh my ass off. Nash lands the Jackknife Powerbomb and yells "I think I'll have a double" and hits him with another one, complete with a patented DX crotch-chop over his fallen foe for one last fuck you. Except instead of pinning him, Nash figures he's already proven his point and climbs out of the ring and starts walking back to the dressing room, and Scott Hall - despite being flat on his back for the last two minutes - winds up winning the whole enchilada via count-out. Well, I'll give 'em some credit, that was some really good storytelling right there, even if the match itself was kinda' ho-hum. I'll give it [** 1/2] for effort and it's time to keep chugging along.

Come to think of it, wrestling does need more hoes in bondage leather and rainbow wigs. A LOT more, actually.

The Nitro Girls are back out again, wearing neon rainbow wigs and leather dresses. This leads to Heenan dropping the line of the night: "they're dressed like Lodi."

The U.S. Championship is on the line next. Bret Hart is out first, complete with entrance music that sucks all the known dicks in the universe. Tony S. says it's the battle of "The Sharpshooter vs. The Scorpion," but I'm not entirely sure this is their first one-on-one encounter. Sting - complete with his short-lived goatee - is out second. This was during his Wolfpac phase, so his face paint is all red and shit. Tony S. talks about the value of the titles, and how they kayfabe drive up a wrestler's pay and prestige, but god damn it, tonight's bouts are about settling personal issues, not making money. For whatever reason, Bret Hart has been acting like a dick lately, and Sting ain't none too happy about his pissy disposition. Thus, they handle the interpersonal drama the only way real man can, dabnabbit - with commercialized violence.

Both dudes are stalling like motherfuckers, with Bret slinking around on the outside and Sting waving his bat back and forth in the ring. Bret gets in the ring for a second but bails again so he can jaw with a fat redheaded woman in a Goldberg shirt. Sting finally Pearl Harbors him and throws him into the ring. Sting with stomps and the old ten count punch in the corner. He hits a clothesline and a mean right cross, but the follow-up atomic drop only nets a two. When asked why these two are on bad terms, Heenan give it his best shot - "I think they're jealous of each other's finishing move." Bret rakes Sting's eyes and DDTs his foe out of his shoes. But it's only worth a two-count. Bret follows suit with an atomic drop and a clothesline. He hits Sting with a headbutt to the solar plexus, even though Sting holds his balls in agony instead. Bret hits a leg drop, but it's only good enough for a two-count. Then Bret heabutts Sting's ASS multiple times and gives him a blatant choke in the corner. Bret drops him with a right and a follow-up elbow. Hitman locks in a sleeperhold, but Sting fights out. Bret ends his comeback putsch with a sudden knee to the gut. He chokes Sting with the middle rope and lands a bulldog. Bret with a Russian leg sweep, then he goes up top for a leg drop. Sting counters with the Scorpion Death Lock, but Bret quickly makes it to the ropes. Now Sting's on the offensive. Bret pretends he tore a hamstring on a leapfrog and Sting just stomps the shit out of him. Then Bret reaches into his trunks and pulls out some knucks. But Sting grabs a hold of them and hits Bret with a clothesline, but the ref halts him before he clocks Bret with the international object, and Bret uses the pause in the action to furtively hit Sting in the balls. Bret with some more breadbasket stomping and a backbreaker, but the diving fist drop only gets a two. Bret dumps Sting to the outside and tosses him into the guardrail, continually feeding him Canadian knuckle sandwiches. "Oh my God, you're so sexy!" some ring rat yells at Sting. Goddamn, 1998 women were the easiest. Back in the ring and Sting accidentally elbows the ref and Bret leg drops the fallen official for good measure. Now Sting is punching the shit out of Bret. He hits a clothesline but Bret kicks him on the Stinger Splash attempt. Bret gets crotched and Sting superplexes him RIGHT ON TOP OF THE REF'S LEG. Fuck, that looked painful. Sting goes for the Splash again, but he overshoots his target and KOs himself on the metal pole (yes, just like at Great American Bash '92.) Bret rolls outside, grabs the bat and hits Sting a million billion times. He then revives the ref, who does a particularly terrible job pretending to come back to his senses. Bret locks in the Sharpshooter. The ref does the old arm drop thing, and sure as sugar, Sting's arm goes down three times, giving Hitman the official submission victory. Kind of a letdown considering the pedigree of the two wrestler involved, but it was still fairly watchable - good enough for a [** 1/2] rating, at least. 

For some reason, Bret has totally different outro music than he did entering the match-up. Sting is still out, so the ref calls for somebody in the back to give him a look-over. Here comes the paramedics with a stretcher. Oddly enough, none of the announcers act all that concerned that the face of the organization is laying lifeless in the middle of the ring and obviously seriously injured. Instead, while Sting is getting rolled out of the arena, Tony S keeps pimping the upcoming Hogan/Warrior match. Shit, that's like Joe Buck doing a hard sell for The Simpsons while Tom Brady lies motionless and unresponsive for five minutes after a helmet to helmet hit, ain't it?

I'm not entirely sure, but I think "The Scoripian" is a reference to an obscure sex act involving a chinchilla and four feet of garden hose.

"Time for the most anticipated rematch, eight years in the making," declares ring announcer Dave Penzer. Hogan (with his white boa) is out first. "I'm going to take the Warrior and break him in half, brother," he remarks. We get yet another recap of the NWO beating da fuq outta Horace Hogan on Nitro. Warrior's residence is listed as "One Warrior Nation" and his entrance music is utter shit. But man - do I wish that airbrushed leather trenchcoat look came back en vogue. Tony S. keeps calling it "the match of the decade" while they do nothing but circle each other like Shamrock and Severn at UFC 9. After some stalling, Warrior drops Hulk with a right and starts beating his own chest like a gorilla. Hogan works the arm early. Warrior reverses it and hits Hulk with a running shoulder block and Hogan bails to the outside. "You may not like it," Tony S. comments, "but it's smart wrestling by Hogan." The fans chant "you suck" at Hogan while Tony S. talks about Hogan's metaphorical "demons" since it's Halloween and shit. Then Warrior demands a test of strength. Hogan decks him instead and knees him in the corner. Hogan breaks out the rarely seen beyond 1985 "knuckle lock" spot. You know, the one where it looks like the other dude is on his knees sucking his dick while he tries to break his hands. And God, do I love Hogan's Vaudevillian laugh as he calls the fans "pieces of crap." Again - I can't tell you how much it adds to a match when you can hear the wrestlers talking mad shit to each other. Well, this thing is starting to drag already. Is the crowd chanting "Warrior" or "boring?" Hogan finally works in an arm wrench transition. Warrior reverses it and we have that old criss-cross running spot, which concludes with Hogan power slamming his foe, which - naturally - the Warrior refuses to sell as he bops right back up and hits Hogan with a power slam of his own. Then he gyrates like a retard against the ropes and clotheslines Hulk over the top rope. More "Hogan sucks" chants as they scuffle outside. Hulk with an eye rake, and then Warrior slams Hulk head first on the guard rail. And that's our cue for a ref bump, with Hogan dropping a knee on Nick Patrick's head for good measure. Hogan puts the Warrior in a headlock and calls for backup. Here comes The Giant. Hulk holds up the Warrior, and of course, the Giant accidentally kicks Hogan when the Warrior ducks. Virgil and Stevie Ray get clotheslined before they can even get in the ring by the Warrior. He goes for a pin but the ref is still out. Hogan hits a back body suplex, but it's only worth a two count. Hogan with more knees to the back. He grabs his infamous workout belt and starts strangling his adversary with it. Hulk hits a body slam but the Warrior keeps rolling away when Hogan goes for the elbow drop. The Warrior misses on the body splash, but he yanks off Hulk's belt and starts whipping him with it. Then Hulk digs into his tights and pulls out a baggie of ... something. He's got a lighter, but LOL, the fucking fireball doesn't ignite when he throws it in the Warrior's face. I SWEAR I hear a "you fucked up" chant. Anyhoo, Warrior keeps hammering Hulk and goes up top, and yep, he lands the axehandle smash. He goes up again and hits another axehandle. Hogan's bleeding. He hits Warrior in the balls and clotheslines him. Hulk with the atomic leg drop and here comes Horace Hogan with a chair. The Warrior starts Warrioring Up and hits Hulk with a barrage of clotheslines. Eric Bischoff distracts the ref and Horace bonks The Warrior over the head, allowing Hulk to make the cover for the 1, 2, 3. Post-match, Hulk tells Horace "he's passed the test" and Hogan's nephew STARTS DOUSING THE WARRIOR IN LIGHTER FLUID. Of course, the WCW suits run in before the Warrior can be set ablaze, as Heenan nonchalantly quips "do you realize the tragedy that was averted here?" at the thought of the company's top draw immolating another employee like a captive in an ISIS snuff film. Well, that ending was weird as all hell, and overall, it was unquestionably a subpar match. But it's nowhere near as bad as the IWC hivemind would have you believe, either. I'll give it a mediocre [**] for some entertaining moments, as we rush into our main event for the evening.

Yeah - a fizzled out piece of flash paper is quite the apt metaphor for this match as a whole.

Bruce Buffer is in the ring for the introductions. The world's most brazen "Smells Like Teen Spirit" ripoff heralds the arrival of Diamond Dallas Page, who jumps all over the commentary desk and runs through the crowd before getting into the ring. Fuck, Buffer's intro is like 18 pages long. And of course, we get the old school Goldberg intro with the cops escorting him ringside. The "GOLDBERG" chants are deafening - I haven't seen a Jew this over since Jesus.

This thing just has the air of a heavyweight boxing fight. The two competitors jaw at each other in the middle of the ring and Goldberg keeps shoving him into the turnbuckle. There's another lockup and DDP hits an armdrag. Goldberg tackles DDP through the middle rope and the ref breaks up the outside scuffling. There's another lockup, but this time, DDP counters the armdrag with a backflip (for real) and kicks da fuq outta' Page. Goldberg does an awesome float-over suplex into a cross armbreaker combo. DDP gets the rope break, then he lands a jawbreaker and fires off a few elbow shots. He goes for the Diamond Cutter, but Goldberg pushes him out of the ring again.

Back inside and we have ourselves another lockup. Goldberg works an armwrench and DDP counters it into an armbar. Goldberg then shoulder blocks him out of the ring again. DDP with another jawbreaker, followed by a neckbreaker and a Russian leg sweep. The pin attempt can only net a two. DDP works a front facelock. Goldberg with knee strikes and a swinging neckbreaker counter. Tenay notes the Goldberg is working DDP's arm to make the Diamond Cutter less effective. Goldberg with another one-armed suplex and a sidewalk slam. Just a two. Goldberg goes back to working the armbar. The transition here is just superb - it almost feels BATTLARTS-esque. DDP with a tilt-a-whirl head scissors takedown, but Goldberg immediately responds with a side kick. Goldberg goes for the spear but DDP moves out of the way at the last second and he bonks his head on the ringpost (yep, there's that Sting/Vader Great American Bash '92 spot again.) Both men grimace in pain as they try to climb back into the ring.

DDP hits a flying top rope clothesline. He stomps on the World Champ and counters a Goldberg slam into a DDT while Tony S. makes a REALLY clumsy allusion to the ending of King Kong. DDP motions for the Diamond Cutter and GOLDBERG SPEARS HIS ASS. But he can't make the cover because he hurt his shoulder on the ring post earlier, remember?

Goldberg sets up the Jackhammer, but DDP holds onto Goldberg's neck. Bill goes for another one and DDP HITS THE CUTTER. The fans go apeshit, but DDP is too winded to make the pin. DDP finally manages to make the cover, but Goldberg KICKS OUT. This was back when finishers were still protected, and fucking nobody kicked out of the Diamond Cutter. DDP looks for a suplex. Goldberg counters with the Jackhammer, he lands it, and that is goddamn it. "That's why he's 155-0," Tenay says. Fuck, for a barely ten-minute-long match, that shit was BUMPING. In the post-fight segment, Goldberg lifts DDP's arm as he slowly sulks back to the ring. Goldberg holds the title up as we quickly cut to an ad for World War 3, and this thing is el over-o.

Yep ... even in 1998, Goldberg was already the king of awesome, ten-minute, five-move matches.

The ending to the [****] main event is infamous for cutting out during the PPV feed across several large TV markets. Even now nobody's sure if that's a legitimate technical snafu or it was WCW pulling a fast one, but it did give them a convenient excuse to replay the match in its entirety on the very next episode of Nitro (which was one of the last times WCW beat the WWF in the Monday Night War ratings, if I remember correctly.)

Regardless, HH '98 serves as something of a corporate apex for WCW. With Kevin Nash ending Goldberg's undefeated streak just two months later ... itself, followed up by the infamous "finger poke of doom" title change ... one could easily argue it was all downhill for WCW from here. If you go back and watch any WCW PPV from 1999 or 2000, it feels like a show from a company in total freefall mode, but this particular event feels the exact opposite. There was a LOT of potential on the WCW roster at the time, and it's a crying shame the company wound up eating its own ass just a couple of months after this show. I guess you could say this show was one final outstanding performance before the product as a whole took a swan dive into the Dempster-Dumpster, and for that, it should be relished.

Interestingly, a quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for the show reveals a couple of matches were excised from my copy of the PPV, including a Wrath/Meng bout, a Perry Saturn/Lodi shindig and even a match where Alex Wright allegedly beat Fit Finlay. I've found photos online suggesting these matches did in fact take place, but I can't drum up any readily available video footage, but I highly doubt we're missing any five star hidden masterpieces here. Still, it would be neat to see that Wright/Finlay bout surface on the YouTubes or the DailyMotions - I can't imagine what kinda' fantastical bullshit they had to cook up to allow fucking Berlyn to beat Finlay, even in make-believe fighting.  

Even in truncated form, however, off the top of my head, I don't recall any WWF PPV from 1998 being as holistically sound from top-to-bottom. The main event was outstanding, you had a decent-to-legitimately good undercard and even the notorious Hulk/Warrior rematch wasn't THAT bad (although I'd strongly recommend watching it with Tony Schiavone's 20-years-after-the-fact commentary for extra LULZ.) There's just so much nostalgic charm to the PPV, and it really makes me yearn for the good old days, back when TNT showed live pro rasslin' and movies hosted by Joe Bob Briggs instead of old episodes of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit 22 times a day, Monday-through-Friday. 

Or, in other words, it may not be the pinnacle of pro wrestling as an art form in the 1990s (because if it did, it would have a whole bunch of Japanese people involved), but it was still an extremely satisfying card from top-to-bottom, with in-ring action that holds up far better today than you'd probably assume.

There's a lot of WCW nostalgia going around these days - what, with the return of Starrcade and War Games and wrestlers getting paid way more money than they're worth and what not - and that's for a reason. Post NWO, pre-Russo WCW really was one of the best stretches any major pro wrestling promotion has ever had, and as good as HH '98 may be, it's probably not even a legit top ten contender for best WCW PPV of the mid-to-late 1990s. And if there was EVER an ancient World Championship Wrestling shtick to revive in this, the post-post-post-postmodern era of fake fisticuffs, Halloween Havoc ought to be at the top of the list. Well, that, and the triple-tiered cage, but really, that's a story for an altogether different day ...

0 comments:

Post a Comment