With NXT’s resurrection of the name just around the corner, Matthew Roberts takes another trip in the TWM Time Machine and sets the course for thirty-one years ago and the first-ever Halloween Havoc pay-per-view.
There’s a lot to be said for 1989 NWA. Just look at the names that made up the card and cast of Halloween Havoc 1989. There’s some serious talent knocking about here, coming together here in the months after the legendary Ric Flair / Ricky Steamboat trilogy that still stands up today as a classic series. And whilst we’re past that peak, perhaps, there is still a lot to enjoy on this show.
Starting off with Mike Rotunda against Tom Zenk doesn’t, however, give us a fast paced exciting opener to get everyone going. To be honest, it’s pretty boring. And at over thirteen minutes it’s a good five minutes longer than it needs to be.. Zenk has just joined the promotion at this point and the storyline here is the “hot new thing” getting tested by the villainous and experienced veteran. Which is wrestling speak for let’s have the heel spend all his time either cheating or locking on interminable rest-holds. It does what it needs to do in terms of the booking, it just didn’t need to take so long to do it. At this stage, however, the Philly crowd are playing ball and seem to appreciate, or at least tolerate, Zenk’s win.
The six-man tag team match between The Midnight Express & Steve Williams and The Samoan Swat Team & The Samoan Savage goes on even longer but because it’s a wild, stiff brawl for the most part it gets away with it. It’s certainly never dull and with six men in the ring there’s not a lot of need for resting. Again, a match that could have done with five minutes shaving off it, but it still just about works.
Which is more than can be said for Tommy Rich against the Cuban Assassin. Rich might forever be the punchline to jokes about his four day NWA World Title reign (and for the record I don’t believe the more indecent rumours for one second) but he shows nothing here and the notorious Philly fans certainly haven’t got time for him. As he’s against the awful Assassin they don’t have time for his opponent either, which at least saves him from added vitriol.
The Dynamic Dudes pairing of Johnny (Laurinitas) Ace and Shane Douglas aren’t so lucky. Their match with The Fabulous Freebirds is lagely nothing very much. The reactions from the crowd, though, make it a must see match. The Philly fans hate the Dudes and are not shy about showing it. The booing for the nominal “babyface” team is off the charts, whereas the heel Freebirds can pull out every nefarious trick in the book and are still cheered to the rafters. Even Jim Ross and Bob Caudle on commentary have to acknowledge it eventually. As I say, with the sound off this is a nothing match; with the sound on it’s perversely entertaining.
Up next it the PPV debut of Doom, Ron Simmons and Butch Reed. They’re accompanied by Woman and it’s worth remembering that her association with Doom came about on-screen because The Steiners “manager” Missy Hyatt got jealous that they hired Woman/Robin Greene as a valet and that when Robin got upset in return she went to her real-life husband and on-screen Steiner antagonist Kevin Sullivan who got her the gift of Doom. You see, whatever you may think, wrestling has always had it’s “daft” storylines. The match itself is a minor disappointment. It works as an introduction to Doom, who straight up show that they can match the Steiners in the power department but it’s clear that they’ve yet to gel into the team they would become.
Someone with no problems in 1989 was Lex Luger. It’s easy for fans who weren’t around in the late 80’s to succumb to the “Lex was lazy and just a chiselled body” narrative. That’s certainly not the case. In 1989 he was on fire. His match here against Brian Pillman is proof positive of that. This isn’t simply a big man vs little man match where the underdog does all the work and all the flashy moves. Luger plays his full part and is so good that the Philly fans are face popping for what he does because he’s so damn impressive at it, not just to skew the heel/face dynamic for the laugh.
More tag team action follows as The Road Warriors clash with the Skyscrapers (The Sid / Dan Spivey combination) in a match that is certainly not subtle. It’s a hard-hitting, little-selling affair that you will either be into or not. In it’s context though it’s entertaining enough, even if the finish is a little anti-climatic.
So that only leaves is with the Thunderdome main event, pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and the Great Muta. In a cage. That is electrified. Where only the seconds Ole Anderson or Gary Hart can throw in the towel to stop the match. Where Bruno Sammartino is the special guest referee. That’s a lot to take in. If you know me you know that twenty five minutes of Terry Funk being a nutter is always going to be must-see and as this is part of the legendary Flair/Funk 1989 feud it certainly has it’s moments. The only real problem is that when there’s absolute classics elsewhere in the year from Flair/Steamboat and Flair/Funk this falls a little flat. And isn’t helped by wrestlers brushing the top of the electrified cage without acknowledging the merest tickle. Still, it’s good fun and watched in the context of the Flair/Funk feud and what was to come in 1990 for Sting it’s worth a viewing.
There’s better cards in 1989 to go back to than this one, but there’s enough good action to make it worthwhile. And it offers a fascinating look at some legends that were, some legends that are and some legends that would come to be.
You can find me on Twitter @IWFICON. Thanks for reading!