VHS Memoirs Volume 19:Halloween Havoc 1991

It’s not quite October yet, but since the sunny weather fades away in September, which is the most depressing month of the year for some reason, I picked Halloween Havoc 1991 for this edition of the VHS Memoirs on Peacock. Granted, I watched a streaming service for this review, (work with me here) but had actually first watched this broadcast years ago after my older cousins rented it from Blockbuster. Remember video stores? Not surprisingly, the only thing I specifically remember from that original viewing was that Abdullah The Butcher was put in an electric chair, and a few decades later, that’s more of less still the only thing this show is memorable for, something that speaks volumes to how much of a mess WCW was as a promotion at the time. In truth, this show should’ve had the tagline, “diamond in the rough” because there are a few gems on the card if you can suffer through the Jim Herd nonsense.

The opening match was the infamous “Chambers of Horrors” match, a gimmick match that was the rather odd WCW cage with the electric chair that was lowered from the ceiling. There were a few wooden caskets inside the cage, and a random masked guy popped out of when of them with no explanation before he was beaten down by the baby face team. It was Sting, El Gigante and the Steiner Brothers vs. Abdullah the Butcher, The Diamond Stud, Cactus Jack and Vader. I’m not sure why the outlandish gimmick match was put on the card first, particularly because the only way to win the bout was to electrocute the opponents so how exactly is any other match on the card going to follow a form of capital punishment? Aside from the absolute train wreck that the match was as a presentation, the fact that some top-tier talent was booked for this had a pay-per-view that lacked depth on the rest of the card. This whole thing was clunky, clumsy, and ridiculous. It was about 10 minutes of wondering what exactly is the point of any of this, and even the announce team, the duo of Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone sounded puzzled about the entire concept. Eventually, Rick Steiner put Abdullah in the electric chair, and Cactus Jack climbed the cage to flip the switch for an electrical box that wasn’t actually connected to anything. Fire works flew in every direction, setting spots of the ring on fire, which truly shows how much thought was put into this whole debacle. During the chaos, an unexplained group of zombies brought a stretcher to ringside, but thankfully, Cactus was able to revive Abby just 45 seconds after the fireworks show and the madman from the Sudan waddled from the ring to attack the zombies before his exit.

From there, Big Josh and PN News beat The Creatures, a non-descript masked tag team in about five minutes. Big Josh looked rather filthy, and it was easy to see why PN News didn’t skyrocket to fame from rapping or wrestling. Big Josh gets the pin and it’s best for everyone if we discontinue any further discussion about the Big Josh/PN News team.

Thankfully, just when viewers might be questioning their sanity or how much of this silliness they could endure, the Bobby Eaton/Terry Taylor contest gave the broadcast a boost in quality. It might sound repetitive with the other VHS Memoirs reviews of this era, but Bobby Eaton is such a stellar performer and was a major asset to any event, which shows just how consistent he was bell-to-bell. Terry Taylor, still dubbed the “computerized wrestler of the 90s” at this point as a member of the York Foundation, is often mocked because of his run as The Red Rooster in the WWF or suggestions that he made a career of being a backstage stooge after he retired from the ring, but make no mistake about it, Taylor was could go in the ring. This was the technical bout you would expect from these two and everything was very crisp. Eaton got the win after a really solid match.

Johnny B. Badd, still in his rookie year in WCW beat Jimmy Garvin, but the narrative in this contest was rather confusing as it wasn’t clear who was the heel. Micheal Hayes was at ringside, but claimed he couldn’t wrestle because of an injury with his arm in a sling. However, when Badd was on the floor, Hayes took his arm from the sling and landed a punch to Badd. Later in the match Badd, who had Teddy Long at ringside, used a towel from his manager to choke Garvin. The actual in-ring stuff was fine, nothing great, but nothing terrible either. Still, the match was somewhat flat and the crowd response was minimal.

Steve Austin and Dustin Runnels went to a 15-minute time limit draw for the TV title. In many ways, you could see that these two had a lot of potential, even if nobody would’ve guessed that Austin would go on to become the biggest star in the business. It’s ironic to consider that these two had just two years experience at this point, but still looked like solid pros even if their performances weren’t quite as refined yet. This was a work horse match with a lot of back and fourth action that brought some fast-paced wrestling to the card, very similar to the Eaton/Taylor match earlier. Dustin gets busted open, and Austin started to bleed as well before the bell for the time limit draw.

Bill Kazmaier, a former strongman champion and an athlete that had sporadic stints of wrestling throughout his career beat Oz with a version of the torture rack. Kazmaier seems like a very nice guy in real life and has done a lot of motivational speaking throughout his career as a power lifter, but professional wrestling just wasn’t his “strong” suite. Whoever booked this match was either clueless or specifically wanted to see a train wreck. These two cement mixers were fumbling all over the place for about three and a half minutes to absolutely zero reaction from the crowd. Kazmaier had some experience, but not on a regular basis, and Kevin Nash, who was somehow given the gimmick of a fictional place, was still in his rookie year in the sport so who in the office that this was a good booking decision?

Van Hammer defeated Doug Summers in a minute and 14 seconds, but the match was still about a minute too long. Doug Summers appeared to be less than thrilled to be there and kicked out almost before the three count at the finish. Summers, known for his tag run alongside Buddy Rose years earlier in the AWA, looked like a gas station attendant. I’m not sure how Van Hammer had the gimmick of a rock star or brought a guitar to the ring when he couldn’t actually play it. Somehow Van Hammer is a worse person than he is a pro wrestler, which you can Google search if you want the details.

The WCW Phantom defeated Tom Zenk is roughly 60 seconds and appeared later for a promo to reveal that it was Rick Rude. It goes without saying that Rude was a major acquisition for WCW and his work in this era was one of the highlights during a time when former Pizza Hut executive, Jim Herd insisted the company book goofy gimmicks.

Brian Pillman defeated Richard Morton to win the short-lived WCW Light Heavyweight title, and the match was fine, but on paper, you would probably expect more from this match. If I had to pick a specific reason, the ill-fate Morton heel turn to join the York foundation just didn’t get over. Morton was a trademark baby face and it was just odd to see him work as a heel.

The Enforcers, Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko, defended their world tag titles against the US tag champions, Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion. I wasn’t aware that Chip and Champion held titles and it’s unfortunate that this review brought it to light. The bout consisted of sloppy work from the challengers while the Arn and Larry Z literally worked circles around their opponents. If Firebreaker Chip and Todd Champion were the best option for the US tag champions then it’s probably the best example of all time as to why a promotion shouldn’t have two sets of tag titles. Thank god, the Enforcers retained the world titles for the finish of the contest.

The main event was Lex Luger defending the world title against Ron Simmons in a two out of three falls match. Keep in mind, this was the era when Ric Flair to the actual “Big Gold Belt” to WWF television after a dispute with Herd. Lex was over at various points in his career, but almost anyone put in the position to follow Flair as champion, especially after the way he exited the company, would be in a tough spot. The built up to the match was really well-done with a video package of Ron Simmons training and it highlighted his football background. The psychology of the bout also worked well, with Harley Race in as the manager for Luger, and Dusty Rhodes in the challenger’s corner. Between falls, Harley and Dusty gave each competitor advice, similar to boxing, and it really gave the match a main event atmosphere. The actual in-ring stuff was okay, but wasn’t really at the level of a pay-per-view main event. Again, Lex was a draw for different stints, but he didn’t have the versatility to go twenty minutes in the main event of a pay-per-view.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta
E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta