1994 was a tumultuous year for World Championship Wrestling. Hulk Hogan signed with WCW on June 11th. A signing that would attempt to elevate WCW into the mainstream. Ironically Hogan’s grapple on WCW contractually would also help lead to the company’s demise. With Hogan in, fans get the dream match against Ric Flair. Flair had a short stint in the WWF in 1991-1993 but never wrestled Hogan on a marquee pay per view. WCW was quick to showcase the icons. Just one month after signing, Hogan would win the title from Flair at Bash at the Beach 1994. Both faced off again at Clash of the Champions which led to the final stage, a career vs career cage match at Halloween Havoc 1994.
This was my first viewing of Halloween Havoc 1994. I’m more familiar with the Monday Nitro era of WCW. This company is almost unrecognizable at this point. WCW with a hall of fame mid card with Vader, Stunning Steve Austin, and Dustin Rhodes. Commentary is a breath of fresh air with a two-man booth featuring Tony Schiavone and Bobby ‘the Brain’ Heenan. This show has vintage Bobby which is nonexistent in his later WCW days. A WCW pay per view with promo packages and highlights of feuds actually exists? I never knew WCW was capable.
WCW in 1994 still had remnants of its old school southern ‘wrasslin’ reputation. Remember everybody’s favorite DQ rule? Yup, a wrestler would be disqualified for throwing somebody over the top rope. Austin vs Jim Duggan was the first time I saw this rule enforced. Nothing says old school WCW like Gary Cappetta being the ring announcer. No offense to David Penzer but I’ll always be nostalgic for Gary’s voice for the select big WCW matches I’ve seen. Unfortunately, Gary was let go from WCW in May of 1995.
Hulkamania ran wild on WCW in multiple ways. Hogan would recruit personal friends like the Nasty Boys, Ed Leslie, Jimmy Hart, and Jim Duggan. Whether this was direct or not, at the end of 1994 WCW would lose mid carders like Stunning Steve Austin and Jean-Paul Levesque (aka Triple H) who would both reach hall of fame status in the WWF. Mick Foley left earlier in the year as well. Who knows what wrestling would look like if this shift in talent didn’t occur.
At this point, WCW is one year from the “YEE-te” so they haven’t hit rock bottom yet. Besides the Kevin Sullivan match, the overall card for Halloween Havoc 1994 is enjoyable. Pretty Wonderful defeat Stars and Stripes for the tag titles. Dustin Rhodes vs Arn Anderson was an old school physical affair. Vader defeats the Guardian Angel (aka Big Bossman in WWF) in a typical hoss affair. My favorite moment includes the Nasty Boys delivering a piledriver to Terry Funk on a pumpkin. Oh, wrestling.
The main event was the first of many “retirement” matches for Ric Flair. Terry Funk was taking notes. The match was loaded with “ga-ga.” Mr. T was the special guest referee. Sting and Muhammad Ali sat in the front row. Manager in each corner with Sherri and Jimmy Hart. The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd ate this match up. Nothing could stop Hulkamania.
Post-match, Hogan must pose. The masked villain, who had clubbed Sting and Jimmy Hart with a pipe, appeared attempting to destroy Hulkamania. Hogan unmasks the mystery man and it’s Brother Bruti! “That man has butchered a friendship!” Bobby squeals with his horse voice. This was a clip I had seen out of context many times thanks to OSW Review. Brother Bruti had aligned himself with Kevin Sullivan and Avalanche (aka Earthquake in WWF) to form the 3 Faces of Fear. They were determined to put an end to Hulkamania which would culminate in a Hulk Hogan vs Ed Leslie main event title match at Starrcade 1994. It’s good to be Hogan’s shoot friend.
Flair of course would return the following year. Before his return he would wrestle Japanese legend Antonio Inoki in North Korea. One of the more famous matches due to the political climate and size of the venue. Regardless of Flair’s obvious return to wrestling, the main event match with Hogan holds up. The match even scored a decent star rating from Dave Meltzer who typically gives Hogan WCW matches very poor reviews. The match is worth revisiting for Bobby’s partisan commentary alone.
It’s amazing to see how far wrestling has come since 1994. WWF was in federal court for the steroid trial while WCW was trying to capitalize on Hulkamania. Both companies slowly learned they needed to change with the times. A small company called ECW would become Extreme Championship Wrestling and would pioneer a new style of reality based hardcore wrestling. While Halloween Havoc 1994 was behind the times, it is a show worth watching. Compared to the majority of pay per views from the Nitro era, Halloween Havoc 94 was an easy watch. For some reason Halloween Havoc over the years has had some of the best and worst WCW matches. Next year, Halloween Havoc 1995, the “YEE-te” will break out from the ice in the Himalayas and finally destroy Hulkmania!