Written By: Matt Peddycord
NWA Halloween Havoc ’89: Settling The Score
October 28, 1989
Your hosts are JR & Bob Caudle!
Tom Zenk vs. Mike Rotunda
You’ve got to love Philly. They boo Zenk, the pretty-boy babyface, out of the freakin’ city and start up a “Captain Mike” chant right at the bell. An interesting contest as Zenk is undefeated since entering the NWA and Rotunda of course the longest reigning TV champ at a time when the title MEANT something. Rotunda shakes off some headlocks to start, but Z-Man keeps on running him down with shoulderblocks. We clip to Rotunda giving Z-Man a suplex back in the ring, but he hesitates to pin for two. Rotunda applies the ab stretch purposely near the ropes so he can use a little leverage. Ref Nick Patrick catches him and they go nose-to-nose! Z-Man elbows out of a chinlock, but then Rotunda catches him with a diving clothesline. Rotunda whiffs on a dropkick and takes a back elbow out of the corner, but then goes to the eyes. Rotunda flies out of the corner onto Z-Man off a whip-reversal, but Zenk rolls through for the 1-2-3! (13:23/4:18 shown) Too much is cut to rate it, but it didn’t look like it would be terrible. Crowd HATES the outcome.
The Midnight Express & “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (w/Jim Cornette) vs. The Samoan Swat Team & Samoan Savage (w/Sir Oliver Humperdink)
Wonder what happened to Paul E managing the Samoans? Oh well. The Samoan Savage is also known as Tama from the WWF, whose little brothers happen to be known best as Rikishi and Umaga! Hey, Rikishi is in this match wrestling as Fatu! They clip to Bobby Eaton getting the crap beat out of him, Samoan-style. By that, I mean they punish Eaton with headbutts and nerve holds until the Samoan Savage hits knees on a pump splash. HOT TAG TO THE DOC! He tosses the strange foreigners around like rag dolls and then covers Tama after a powerslam for 1-2-NO! Stan Lane tags in, but Tama badly screws up a swinging neckbreaker. Way to go. It turns into a pier-six brawl until Tama (Samoan Savage) knocks Lane into Cornette’s tennis racket on the apron for the 1-2-3. (18:16/5:15 shown) That must’ve been a LONG heat segment with Eaton. I never did like the Midnights/Samoans matches, so good riddance on this feud.
“Wildfire” Tommy Rich vs. The Cuban Assassin
Former NWA World champ Tommy Rich is making a comeback to the NWA after having basically disappeared (to Memphis) for the better part of the ’80s while the Cuban Assassin is a medium-sized Cuban who’s wrestled all over the world during the ’80s. Cuban Assassin controls with generic chops and turnbuckle smashes until he misses an elbow drop. Rich grabs an armbar as its now evident that this is Ross & Caudle’s match used to talk about the main event. It’s what wrestling commentators do. Assassin counters into an armbar of his own and then knocks Rich out to the apron with a high knee. Rich blocks a piledriver, but can’t avoid the suplex. The Cuban heads up top, but Rich stops him and knocks him out to the floor. Back in, Rich hits the THESZ PRESS and it’s over. (8:26/5:18 shown) This is what happens when a wrestler wins a match and nobody cares. CRAP
NWA World Tag Team Champions The Freebirds vs. The Dynamic Dudes (w/Jim Cornette)
Ironically enough, Shane Douglas of the Dynamic Dudes is booed out of the building. Just in case you didn’t see why that is ironic, we’re in the homeland of the future ECW. The Freebirds are heels being cheered on like they are the most over babyface tag-team ever. Bizarro world, I tell ya. The Turner Home Entertainment people show us a little strutting from Hayes and then they cut to Johnny Ace grabbing a headlock on Garvin. Ace messes around with Hayes on the apron, which brings him in for a headlock/headscissors takedown combo on the Freebirds. Crowd doesn’t like that one bit. Ace gets a two-count off a rollup, but then runs right into a left jab from Hayes on the apron to turn the tide in the Freebirds favor to a HUGE face pop. Garvin knocks Ace out to the floor with a running knee so Hayes can connect with another left jab. Back in, Ace gets stuck in the Freebirds corner. They deliver the double-whip corner clothesline before setting up for the DDT, but Ace blocks. Both teams wrestle the same formula match, but it’s just not working thanks to the crowd. Shane Douglas gets what would be a hot tag and levels the Freebirds with dropkicks. Ace hops back in the ring and the Dudes put Hayes out on the floor. The Dudes go for the WIPEOUT (double-team slingshot back suplex), but Hayes trips up Ace and Garvin falls on top of Douglas for the 1-2-3 to a HUGE pop. (11:28/5:32 shown) This would be the Freebirds only successful tag title defense on PPV, as they would drop the belts in a matter of days to a tag team who are EXTREMELY over regardless of the city or the opponents: the Steiner Brothers. As for the Dudes, the Midnight Express and Jim Cornette would turn on them. After a few months of feuding, the Dynamic Dudes experiment was finished and the Midnight Express became as popular as ever. I love that story. **
Rick & Scott Steiner vs. Doom (w/Woman)
The story for this one is much like the Trish/Mickie feud in ’06; only not as hot and in this feud, there is no lesbian underlining to it. I guess that makes it nothing like the Trish/Mickie feud. Oh well. Woman, a fan formerly known as Robin Green, was obsessed with the loveable Rick Steiner. She would stalk him from town to town telling him how much she loved him. That is, until Scott Steiner had just about enough of this crazy broad when she cost them the belts at the last Clash and told her to leave her brother alone. Well, she didn’t like that too much and promised that the Steiner brothers would meet their DOOM at Halloween Havoc. Here we are at said event and what turns out to be the Steiners DOOM is two huge masked unnamed black guys. They aren’t even given names as JR calls them Doom #1 and #2, but its Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. Big brawl to start as the Steiners run Doom into each other and follow up with STEREO GERMANS! Doom regroups and its Simmons tying up with Scott. Rick tags in for a Steinerline on both members of Doom to send them out to the floor again. Back in, we get a back and forth match with neither team really gaining any kind of advantage. The Steiners connect on a slingshot clothesline from the apron into Simmons, which is the high spot of the segment. Doom finally takes over when Simmons nails Scott in the back of the head from the apron. Reed tosses Scott out and gets dropped on the guardrail a couple times. Back in, a Doom double back-elbow gets two. We see a bunch more cheating from Doom until Scott comes back with a sunset flip on Reed from the apron for 1-2-NO! Reed gets right back on top of Scott with a swinging neckbreaker for two. Simmons tags in for a powerslam for two, but Rick saves and causes Scott to take a double-team slam for another near-fall. A false-tag spot ensues and Scott receives a spike piledriver! WILL THAT DO IT? NO! Scott kicks out at two! Scott catches Simmons ducking low off a whip and finally makes the HOT TAG TO RICK! He hits a stiff Steinerline on Reed and then delivers one to Simmons! Scott comes back in and gives Simmons a FRANKENSTEINER to put him away. Rick hits the BELLY-TO-BELLY SUPLEX on Reed! Woman gets up on the apron to distract Rick, but then Simmons comes up from behind for the real distraction as Woman slips something in Reed’s mask. As Rick tries for another BELLY-TO-BELLY SUPLEX on Reed, he blocks it with a headbutt and covers for 1-2-3! Doom wins! (15:26) The Steiners stuff was pretty great, but Doom really needed to show some improvement. Luckily for us, they do once they lose the masks in a titles vs. masks match to the Steiners in February. **
NWA U.S. Champion Lex Luger vs. Brian Pillman
This should really speak volumes about Brian Pillman’s talent considering he had only been in the NWA for six months at the time. Granted he had been wrestling up in Stampede since ’86, but very few wrestlers just walked into a promotion and received major title shots like this opportunity Pillman gets here. Luger is in full-blown awesome heel mode, but people seem to LOVE him more in 1989 as a heel than they did as a face. Luger punks Pillman around to start, but Pillman retaliates and dropkicks Luger out to the floor. Back in, Pillman tries for AIR PILLMAN (springboard clothesline), but Luger avoids it. Pillman chases Luger around the ring, but gets nailed because Luger’s the first man back in the ring. Luger stomps away in the corner and then whips Pillman across the corner, but Pillman counters and springs back on top of Luger for two. Pillman grabs an armbar. Luger comes out with a knee to the gut, but then Pillman FLIPS OUT of an hiptoss and levels Luger with a dropkick. Back to the armbar they go. Luger powers Pillman back into the corner, but then runs into a boot! Pillman heads up top for a top-rope splash, but Luger moves out of the way! Crowd loves it. Luger goes to work on the midsection of Pillman. He even takes a few moments to talk trash to the crowd. Pillman tries to fight back with chops, but Luger drills him with a clothesline. Make it two! Luger connects with a stalling suplex and even claps for himself after he does it! He takes forever to cover and only gets two. Pillman tries to fight back again, so Luger just throws him to the floor. Luger hammers Pillman on the apron, but when he takes a moment to jaw at the crowd, Pillman surprises him with a sunset flip for 1-2-NO! Luger guns for the running clothesline, but Pillman ducks and Luger flies out to the floor. Back in, Pillman attempts a 10-count corner punch, but Luger fights out with an inverted atomic drop. Luger sets Pillman up in the corner for a superplex, but Pillman shoves him off! He leaps off the top for a sunset flip for 1-2-NO! Jumping back elbow by Pillman sets up AIR PILLMAN and it connects! HOLY CRAP! NEW CHAMP? NO! Pillman covers Luger while in the ropes. Pillman wants to go for it all now and drops Luger with a reverse neckbreaker to set up a Missile Dropkick, but Luger moves out of the way just at the last second. Luger whiffs on another clothesline, but then catches Pillman off a crossbody and delivers a quick hotshot for the 1-2-3! (16:49/13:08 shown) I didn’t see any editing in that, but whatever. Luger was to 1989 what Barry Windham was to 1988. By that comparison, I mean he was GREAT. Pillman was great too. ***½
The Road Warriors (w/Paul Ellering) vs. The Skyscrapers (w/Teddy Long)
The Road Warriors have been PISSED at former NWA referee Teddy Long for costing them the NWA World tag titles due to a fast count situation back at Chi-Town Rumble in February, so their way of revenge is beating up the tag team he now manages; Dan Spivey and Sid Vicious better known as the Skyscrapers. This is most definitely the slobberknocker of the night. The Warriors control Spivey for a bit until Hawk shoulder tackles him out to the floor and his big buddy Sid wants a tag. Hawk nails Sid with a clothesline and then avoids a corner charge. Double-team back elbow to Sid from the Warriors, but Sid NO-SELLS. WHAT THE F! Sid NO-SELLS a bunch of shoulder blocks from Animal, but finally goes down and rolls out to the floor. Back in, we get a test of strength with Hawk and Sid. Hawk goes down, but comes back up and monkey flips Sid over and then drills him into the corner with a clothesline. Lots of back and forth action ensues. Sid hits a KIP-UP out of a head scissors and clotheslines Hawk down. Oh my GOSH! Sid delivers a Helicopter Slam to Hawk! Spivey tags in and hits a side slam on Hawk for 1-2-NO! Spivey kicks Hawk out to ringside for Sid to drop him on the railing. Back in, Spivey hits a stalling suplex for 1-2-NO! Hawk is stuck in the ‘Scrapers corner until he counters a suplex on Spivey! We get a false tag spot, but then Spivey eats a boot and a clothesline out of the corner. HOT TAG TO ANIMAL! All four men begin brawling in the ring. Even Ellering and Long get into it! Long KO’s Ellering with a HUGE golden key and then tosses it to Spivey to nail Animal with it for the DQ. (11:38) Ahh, the key. **¼
Ric Flair & Sting (w/Ole Anderson) vs. Terry Funk & Great Muta (w/Gary Hart) – Thunderdome Cage Match
Oh man, the THUNDERDOME cage match! It’s just like the hell in the cell but without a top. It’s also supposedly electrified at the top to keep you from escaping. The only way to win this match is for either team’s second (or manager) to throw in the towel signaling that his team has had all they can stand. By the way, Bruno Sammartino is the special guest referee for this one. Funk gets OWNED by the faces to start. Sting takes Funk out to the floor and rams him face-first into the cage. Back in, Flair whips Funk from corner-to-corner and chops him down to set up a rolling knee drop. He rolls right into Muta and slaps him off the apron! Haha. Sting dropkicks Funk into his own corner to tag in Muta. Sting goes crazy on Muta and tags in Flair. He connects with an inverted atomic drop and follows up with another rolling knee. Sting tags and takes Muta to the floor for some cage-bashing. He even tries to RAM Muta through the cage while Flair and Funk brawl around ringside. Back in, order is restored and Sting gets caught in the heel corner. It eventually breaks down as they pair off (Flair/Funk, Sting/Muta) and just pound on one another. In the ring, Muta hits a snap suplex on Sting. Flair makes the save and dumps Muta out to concentrate on Funk. Sting comes back and delivers face slams to both Funk and Muta. Flair and Sting double-team Muta to lead into the SCORPION DEATHLOCK, but Funk makes the save. They pair off again, as Flair and Funk end up climbing the cage and slamming each other’s faces into the cage! Funk falls down while Muta is climbing up on the other side. Sting brings Muta down, but gets nailed as they get back in the ring. Meanwhile, Funk and Flair are back to climbing the cage! Flair BRUTALIZES him by just beating the crap out of him while he’s hung up on the cage wall! Sting has Muta up in a Military Press Slam. He teases to toss Muta out to the floor, but then he just slams him down in the ring. Sting ends up going up after Funk while Flair trades some SERIOUS chops on the floor with Muta. Flair brings Muta into the ring and sets up for the FIGURE-FOUR while Sting swings from a rope into Funk that hangs from the top of the cage wall, trying to bring him down off the cage! Once Flair gets tired of the Figure Four and decides to help Sting, he takes a spin kick to the back of the head from Muta. Mutalock on Flair is applied as Sting and Funk are still fighting on the cage. Funk ends up using the same rope Sting used to swing on and ties Sting’s leg to the cage wall! Ole Anderson helps him break loose because Flair realizes he’s in big trouble. Funk and Muta deliver a Spike Piledriver to Flair! Sting finally gets perched and LEAPS from the cage wall onto Funk! Amazing! Sting chases Muta up the cage wall while Flair sets Funk up for the FIGURE-FOUR. Muta gets off the cage and fights back with a backbreaker on Sting to set up the MOONSAULT, but Sting crotches Muta up top. Flair finally applies the FIGURE-FOUR on Funk! Sting heads up top and SPLASHES Funk! Awesome. Sting returns to the top and does it again! Muta tries to nail Bruno, but Bruno slaps him back and knocks him out to the floor. Gary Hart heads into the ring, so Ole follows him in and pops Hart to cause his towel is to land on Bruno’s back to give Flair and Sting the win. (22:04) Fun match with some really great spots going down, but it still didn’t seem to be on par with some of the other stuff they were doing at the time. That doesn’t mean it was bad, because it wasn’t. In other ways, it felt like it should’ve been more chaotic with all the heat these four generated in other arenas. ***
Final Thoughts: Not a bad show for the NWA, considering they lost Steamboat again. Yes, I have THAT much faith in Steamboat. Nothing amazing though, but a good show to catch if you haven’t seen it before. There’s the real solid Luger/Pillman match and the Thunderdome cage match that is something to behold. I’ll go with thumbs in the middle for Halloween Havoc ’89.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.