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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Ramblemania Presents: Halloween Havoc 1999: The Beginning Of The Russo Era


Late era WCW was a wonderful thing. The company that had ruled not only wrestling, but all of cable only two years earlier, had fallen to embarrassing depths. The problems were obvious. The company failed to elevate new stars, due to creative control being written into several of the oldtimers contracts and general backstage politicking, and rather than taking the time to develop lengthy storylines and build fan interest gradually over time, the company opted to throw money at “quick fixes” in an attempt to get people to watch out of sheer shock value. The result, in short, was some of the most nonsensical programming in television history. Seriously. If you think Pretty Little Liars is bad, then you are in for a treat.

And in late 1999, boy howdy, it was only about to get worse.


In October of '99, Vince Russo was hired as head writer for WCW's programming, bringing his fellow writer and friend Ed Ferrara with him. This is a point where I think history fails us. Everyone seems to remember the beginning of WCW's fall from grace in extreme detail, but always seem to gloss over the actual end of the company. WCW was on top of the world with the nWo, but they never pushed anybody new, and they ruined Goldberg's streak at Starccade 98, and the whole situation with the January 4thNitro of '99 (Fingerpoke of Doom/Mick Foley's title win), and then blah blah, Russo showed up and everything got stupid. David Arquette won the title and the company was dead in no time.


But the thing is, the company was around for another year and a half after Russo and Ferrara arrived*. And that year and a half time-frame created hours upon hours of television that truly need to be seen to be believed. David Arquette winning the title is one example out of thousands that just go to show how unlimited budget and unlimited creative freedom can destroy a company if the people in charge don't have a clue what the fan base wants.

*I'm aware that Vince Russo did not book for the entire year and a half, but the show didn't exactly make sense during his various hiatuses either.

Halloween Havoc 1999 was the first pay-per-view of the Vince Russo era. It's convoluted, frustrating, painfully nonsensical, and a great indicator of the pure WTF that WCW was going to become. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what this company turned into, just hold on tight. I'm going to be steadily bringing to you the ups and (mostly) downs of a year and a half's worth of some of the most bizarre television ever produced.

But Before We Get Into All That...

I'm gonna need you guys to check out how seriously awesome this set is.


Spoiler warning: there are so many things that I love about WCW, that even in the shittiest of the shit years, I'm going to be marking out a lot. If you ain't down with that, now's a good time to turn back.

Case And Point.

Disco Fever! YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH!

I'll try to get that out of my system. The opening match on the card is the Disco Inferno defending his Cruiserweight Title against Lash Leroux and oh my god Lash Leroux is so awesome too.


Part of my love for these two men comes from simple nostalgia, but I believe it's mostly because this match still represents something that you don't get to see in the WWE. It was true at the time, too. One of the main appeals of watching WCW over WWE, was the solid cruiserweight wrestling that WCW had to offer. Sure, seeing these two goobers go at it isn't quite as cool as seeing Mysterio and Psychosis headscissors each other into oblivion, but it's still not the sort of thing you see very often in mainstream, American wrestling.

And despite the fact that this match features a literal disco-dancing fool, it still tries to present a serious story. Disco is the champion. Leroux wants to be champion. He's young, but he has a lot of momentum, so he's been given an opportunity to try to prove himself against the veteran champ. He fairs well, but his inexperience still shows.

Ouch.

Disco capitalizes on this by focusing his offense on Leroux's neck, hitting a piledriver in the middle of a match nobody cares about, because that sort of thing just happened in the nineties.


Then one Chartbuster later, and Lash Leroux is done for.


However (surprisingly), Schiavone and Heenan put Leroux over after the match, saying that he gave Disco a good fight, and will likely be a top contender in the division. As they are doing this, Leroux sneak attacks Disco.


And the crowd . . . wait a minute. The crowd actually boos him for it? Well alright. Good on you, Las Vegas. Good job booing the sore loser for once instead of cheering him. A 2013 crowd would've just cheered the sneak attack because Disco Inferno wears weird clothes and dances like some kind of gay. Fuck him, right?

After The Match, We Cut To Perry Saturn Dressed Like A Totally Normal Person.


It appears there's some dissension among the ranks in the group the Revolution, aka, the ECW guys. Saturn complains that he and Shane Douglas have been trying to contact Malenko and Benoit, but they have been flaky and dodging their calls. Malenko simply informs him that he can shove the Revolution up his ass. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Then A Bunch Of People I Hate Got Together And Put On An Awesome Match.


This is a triple threat tag team match that features Harlem Heat (awesome), the team of Hugh Morrus and Brian Knobbs (UGH), and the Filthy Animals, who are pretty much the worst things ever. In case you've forgotten, the Filthy Animals consisted of Konnan, aka WCW's somehow even crappier version of Road Dogg; Billy Kidman, the innovator of the worst Shooting Star Press ever, Rey Mysterio Jr., during his hippin' and a hoppin' and a bippin' and a boppin' phase, and Eddie “Deserves Better” Guerrero.

However, this match is just ten minutes of people hitting each other with whatever they can find, and it fucking rules.


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I know the attitude era kinda burned everyone out on hardcore matches for a while, but again, these don't really happen on my TV anymore, so it's goofy and harmless and fun, three of my favorite things in wrestling. Not to mention that it's Halloween Havoc so somebody went to the costume store and bought a Styrofoam mummy specifically to hit people with.

The only problem I have with this match is, seriously guys, you couldn't have brought out Dusty Rhodes to do the commentary on this one? THINK OF THE CLUBBERIN'.


Then Ric And David Flair Arrived Together.


You know, because they've always been best friends.


In their defense, that gif is from Superbrawl, eight months prior. If I'm going to complain about eight month continuity issues, then this is going to be a long ass article.

Then Things Get Kinda, Well, Gay.


Soooo, yeah. This feud is based around Ric Flair apparently attacking Kimberly Page in a hotel room and spanking her fourteen times, because he's Ric Flair and he just sort of does things like that. But since this is wrestling, that somehow makes DDP and Kimberly the bad guys. So DDP gets the microphone, and, man, he tries. He really tries. His thesis here is “You sexually assaulted my wife, let's have a strap match,” and it really could have worked (although he makes the “spankin' it” joke about twelve times too many). Somewhere along the way, though, he takes a hard right turn in the homoeroticville. It's, uh, it's something.

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And Apparently This Isn't Flair's Only Feud Going On Right Now.


He's also intertwined in a feud with Eddie Guerrero and the rest of the Filthy Animals, because SURPRISE, Eddie Guerrero stole something. If only there was a way to warn people about that.

So Eddie has possession of Flair's Rolex, but he doesn't have time to worry about Flair right now, because he has to go have an awesome match with Perry Saturn instead. He leaves the watch with Heenan and Schiavone.


Guerrero and Saturn have wrestled each other many times over the years, so it's not surprising to see that they have good chemistry together. What is surprising is to see how in depth these intertwining storylines are. That's really not something you see in wrestling very often. The only person I can think of who's involved in multiple storylines these days is Paul Heyman, simultaneously managing CM Punk and Brock Lesnar. I don't know if it's a Russo thing or not, but I dig it. Eddie and the Filthy Animals have their own faction warfare thing going on with the Revolution, who are also busy with their own “dissension among the ranks” thing. In the meantime, Flair's just kind of been dragged into it, when he'd really rather be focusing Page and Kimberly. It's complex, but it works, and it actually has a pretty solid payoff at the end of the show.

Anyway, in the time I've spent rambling about this crap, Saturn and Guerrero had a pretty badass match.


But all of that is forgotten, because Flair's here and he's pissed.


He lays into Eddie with the crowbar, and then gets Kidman too for good measure. His crowbar, by the way, gets totally bent in the process, because THAT'S SOMETHING THAT CROWBARS CAN DO. He also forces himself on Torrie Wilson while he's out there, and she totally enjoys it, because it was the nineties and women were objects.


Or, kayfabe, Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it still has the longest line, WOO!

Then Sid Started Yelling, And Nothing Else Mattered Anymore.

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I would just like to point out that Sid is probably my favorite actor in wrestling history. Say what you want, but that man never half-asses anything.

Sigh, And Then It Began...


Okay. On paper, there is nothing wrong with this segment. Buff Bagwell walks out to the ring with a microphone, calls out Jeff Jarrett, and they brawl for a while. Then Lex Luger shows up and decks Bagwell with Jarrett's guitar.



But the problem here is, well, Russo.

Wrestling is fake. We know. We don't care. We watch it just like we watch any other TV show or movie or whatever. There's a reason we don't watch Rocky and give dismissive, wanking statements about how Dolph Lundgren isn't actually hitting Sly Stallone. No shit. We've accepted what we're watching as scripted entertainment, because we're adults with fully functioning brains.

Unfortunately, Vince Russo doesn't want us to do that. One of Russo's favorite things in wrestling is blurring the line between what's “fake” and what's “real” (which is also still fake). And this segment isn't the worst offender, by any means, but it's a horrible indicator of what's to come. When Buff Bagwell enters, the announcers immediately act like he's not scheduled to be out there. Then, when he gets the microphone, he begins talking about how he “has a little problem with the two new writers from up north.”


This is referencing the previous episode of Nitro, on which Buff Bagwell walked out to the ring for his match, laid down, and got himself pinned. Then he got on the microphone, called out Vince Russo, and asked him “Did I do a good job for ya?” “Doing a job” means “losing” in fancy, insider wrestling speak. The idea being that Buff Bagwell was upset with how his “character” was being “written,” so he went out there and “did a job” like he was told to, but did it in a really dickhead way to prove a point about not wanting to “do any more jobs.”

By writing a storyline like this, Russo is blatantly shoving the fact that wrestling is fake into the faces of the fans, and that's really something we just don't want to have to fucking sit through. It's stopping the show and saying “Hey, nevermind all that crap you were watching earlier about Eddie Guerrero stealing Ric Flair's watch. That was all phony. Here, people are about to get REAL LIFE mad!” It completely buries everything else you have on the show. And I guess I better get damn used to it, because it's not going anywhere for the rest of these shows.

The one, ONE, enjoyable thing about this segment is the fact that Buff Bagwell is wearing a shirt with his own face airbrushed on the back.


God, I Wish There Was Something To Cheer Me Up.

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Never change, Sid. Never change.

So Here's, Um, Brad Armstrong?


Uhh, alright then. I don't know how exactly Brad Armstrong got a pay-per-view match, but whatever. He's going against Alex Wright. I mean Berlyn, because HEY, we've got a German guy! Better make him a Nazi!



Anyway, I've watched this match like three times now, and still couldn't tell you what happened. I guess in the myriad of Russo insanity on this show, I'm just totally blank on what to say about this normal ass match between an American and an evil foreigner. I do distinctly remember this sign though.


You win, random fan. High five!

Now Who Is This Guy Again?

Hmm, never heard of him.

Benoit is defending his Television Title here against the worst Rick Steiner ever.


Rick Steiner had one of the simplest characters in wrestling. He was a badass amateur wrestler, who was just a little bit on the dumb side. I mean, he couldn't even match his shoes. He and his brother, Scott, ruled the tag team division throughout the early nineties. But by the time the late nineties rolled around, everything had to become badass. Scott ballooned up something fierce, called himself the Big Bad Booty Daddy, and began dressing like Sir Lancelot. I like to think that Rick, being the simple-minded person that he is, just wanted to be cool like his brother, and tried to follow in his footsteps. So he dyed his goatee to look like the opposite of Scott's goatee, and began wearing a choker, because he still believed himself to be part-dog.

Fortunately, deep underneath all of that, he's still a pretty badass amateur wrestler. Combine that with Benoit, and we're all in for a super-awesome suplexfest.


Really, the only problem I have with this match is that I really hate how cool this spot is.


I mean, it's awesome. Thrown chairs are pretty much my favorite thing in wrestling ever, which is why I'm secretly hoping Sabu had some WCW pay-per-view match along the way (he didn't). But the combination of Benoit and chairs and headbutts equals dead people, and that's no fun for anyone.

Anyway, shortly after this, Dean Malenko rushes out to help Benoit get the win.


Lol, just kidding.


I'm going to keep a running counter of how many SURPRISE! I'M GOING TO TURN ON MY BEST FRIEND! occurrences actually happen on these shows. That's number one.

Then Bret Hart And Lex Luger Had A Match.

And it was, uh, it was really quite boring :/

See, this happened on Nitro.


And pretty much the whole match was just this.


And then Bret tapped out.


And I don't know what it was, but it felt like it took thirty minutes longer than it needed to. It could have something to do with Lex Luger kinda universally sucking at everything, and um, I'm not exactly the biggest Bret Hart fan either (don't kill me), but this match really was a chore to get through. The less said about it the better.

Look Out! Here Comes Boobs!


This is some more Buff Bagwell bullshit. Medusa is here to shill the new Nitro cologne, which apparently is being marketed solely around the fact that it smells horrible? Um, okay then. Good marketing, guys. She starts out by making boob jokes that a fifth grader could have written, then she switches into REAL LIFE MODE and screams that it's bullshit that the new writers have asked her to do this. So she dumps it all over Heenan, for whatever reason, and then Schiavone laughs in his face like the smarmy little butthole that he is.


And Then, Oh Wow, Hulk Hogan's Going On In The Middle Of The Show?

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Boy, that sure is cool of him. Maybe he really is realizing that he probably shouldn't still be main eventing every single pay-per-view in 19 fucking 99. Good to see him stepping down and giving some young guys a shot, and—wait a minute what the hell is this horse shit?


Hogan's music plays for a few minutes, and Hogan refuses to come out. So Sting comes out instead, and then they play Hogan's music again, and he eventually walks out looking like he just stepped off the set of Thunder in Paradise. The bell rings, and well, just watch this assyness.


Yup.

The end of that gif, by the way, is WCW immediately starting their Goldberg/Sid vignette to hype up the next match. They never acknowledge Hulk Hogan in any way for the rest of the show, or give any explanation or even speculation as to what the hell just happened to their World Heavyweight Title match. BECAUSE that is presumably what they would do if something like this legitimately happened. If a wrestler really did alter the planned ending of a title match, they would probably cover it up as quickly as possible and then quietly fire whoever tried to pull something like that.

The problem is of course this isn't a “real” thing that just happened, it's all part of a stupid storyline that is given zero explanation or even acknowledgment. So even if it's supposed to be the culmination of some grand, fourth wall-breaking storyline where Hogan didn't want to lose and Russo made him or whatever the fuck, none of the fans know any of that, because they don't live inside Vince Russo's head. All Johnny Average Wrestling Fan knows is that Hulk Hogan walked out to the ring, took a dump, and left. It's completely asinine and we are sooooo not even done yet.

But the real worst part of this match is this asshole.


You misspelled “Ric Flair,” idiot.

Sigh. Things Aren't About To Get Better, Either.


So this match begins, and right off the bat, Sid is busted open. You know, because the good guy Bill Goldberg assaulted him before the match and made him bleed all over the backstage area.


The announcers spend the whole time talking about how much of a badass Sid is by continuing to fight, despite the fact that he was sneak attacked earlier and is at a clear disadvantage. They admire his attempt to overcome the odds. They John Cena him, basically.


And while that isn't really a bad thing, it's just kind of jarring, since I'm pretty sure Sid is still the bad guy here. I think what they were going for here, was this.


Which is why this match ends fairly quickly due to “blood stoppage.” To the best of my knowledge, the WCW rulebook has specific rules for ending a match due to:

  1. throwing someone over the top rope
  2. ramming someone into the steel post
  3. hitting someone with the toe of your boot, rather than the heel
  4. jumping off the top rope

...but I've never heard them mention anything about blood stoppage before. Makes you wonder what Flair and Dusty would've thought of that in the eighties.

Regardless, Sid is found unable to continue, much to his chagrin.


But thankfully is still able to walk out of the arena on his own accord.


I can only imagine the promo he cut the next night—

OH GOD, HERE WE GO AGAIN.


Sting comes back to the ring. Don't worry though, we're not going to be getting any answers out of him. He appears to be just as clueless as everyone else. He does helpfully explain that he did not come to Las Vegas for a night off. So he offers an open challenge to anyone on the roster, because he's looking for a FIGHT!

(The word “fight” is very important here.)

And Then We Finally Got The Epic Conclusion To Spankgate.


This feud is stupid, but you know what? It still gets some points because I can fucking understand it. DDP doesn't like Flair because Flair's a horndog. Great. I got it. Congratulations on telling a basic ass story, guys. And it's Ric Flair and Diamond Dallas Page, two of the best wrestlers in the company. If you're looking for a main event for a pay-per-view in '99, it's hard to find two men better for the job. If this was a straight wrestling match, it would be great.

Unfortunately, DDP was telling the truth earlier when he said he and Flair were going to whack and jack all over each other.


Frankly, I think I've seen enough whackin' for one show. And this match isn't helped by the fact that FLAIR BLEEDS LIKE A STUCK PIG AND THE MATCH JUST KEEPS ON GOING BECAUSE OF COURSE IT DOES.


This is IMMEDIATELY following a match that ended on blood stoppage. God, does anybody in charge of this show actually watch the show? Whatever. Here's a Diamond Cutter.


But guess what, this match has a stupid ass finish too.


If you can't tell, Referee Charles Robinson stops before counting three, then calls for the bell. I don't know what the deal is. I'm assuming it's just Robinson showing sympathy towards Flair because Flair's like his idol or whatever. But he still awards the match to DDP anyway. What the hell difference does it make that he didn't count three? Really all he did was piss off Page, which, hey doofus, that just caused more destruction.


And Here's That Continuity I Alluded To Earlier, But Now I'm Too Pissed To Enjoy It.

Quick, turn on the sirens so they can't find us!

...Ugh. I Just...I Need A Minute.


So the man that answers Sting's open challenge to a FIGHT is Bill Goldberg. Okay. First of all, let's just pretend that that Hulk Hogan bullshit didn't happen. Let's just pretend. What we're doing here is Sting vs. Goldberg, a match that had admittedly happened a handful of times already, but still certainly a big match in the company. Two of the biggest names, both with seemingly a lot of momentum, coming together in a match for the “let's just pretend for a second that it's totally important” World Title. I get why they did this. After three bullshitty finishes to the three main events of the evening, you kind of want to give the fans something exciting to go home with, so you can at least run a show in this city again sometime. I would say that the problem with doing this is that you're totally giving away Sting and Goldberg unannounced, which means it results in exactly zero dollars for the company. In addition to that, the match is going on with five minutes left on your show, and giving this big match absolutely no time to do anything completely cheapens the whole affair.

The biggest problem with this match is THE FACT THAT WHAT I JUST SAID ISN'T THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THIS MATCH!


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Nobody knows if this is a title match or not. Schiavone immediately says “Sting and Goldberg, World Heavyweight Title,” then quickly trails off, before following it up with “It's for no title? Thanks for telling me.”

But Goldberg wins, and is just handed the title anyway because who the fuck knows anymore? My head hurts.


But, whatever. The show's over. Hogan's gone. Goldberg's the champion. And that's it.

Except it's not. Because the next night on Nitro, Goldberg was stripped of the World Title, because let's face it, he never won it in the first place, and a thirty-two man tournament was announced to crown a new World Champion. Jesus Christ. How much longer til this company goes under? Seventeen months? Wonderful.





So yeah, starting a new thing here at Ramblemania. Thought it would be a good way to mix it up, so I'm not just doing Wrestlemania after Wrestlemania. Let me know how you guys like it by leaving a comment below. And if you want me to keep cranking these things out, tell your friends about me. Word of mouth is like...good, or whatever. Anyway, thanks for reading again. Sorry for taking so damn long this time.

7 comments:

  1. This was fantastic thank you so much for doing it!

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  2. I liked your review of Halloween Havoc, especially because i didn't watch ANY WCW. I rather you'd finish with the Wrestlemania's first, so i can have closure and your review of Wrestlemania 17, but hey, do what you want to do, it will be better if you do what you want to do.

    Awesome stuff man, keep it coming.

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    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. And don't worry. I'm going to finish the Wrestlemanias. This just seemed like a good way to mix it up.

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  3. I read the other WCW review you had on here, and then read this one. These are fantastic! Please keep them coming.

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  4. Having Bret Hart lose to Luger was bad booking in itself. Forget Hogan, he was a has been at that time. Goldberg vs. Sting would have been a better Main Event if it was promoted from the beginning or just have Hart vs. Sting for the title.

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  5. Great review. I love finding these examples of when WCW books an absolute shambles of a storyline just because they can, and there are even more of them than I ever thought!

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    Replies
    1. Hold on tight because the next pay-per-view is main-evented by David Arquette.

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