Leave it to wrestling to take one of our best childhood memories and beat it into submission.
As Fall draws in and Halloween approaches, I’m running back through the Havoc catalogue on the Network. While there’s tons of great stuff to be had there—Jake the Snake in WCW battling Sting, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio going nuts to name a couple—there’s some real WCW bollocks too. Rising among all other WCW blunders in the Havoc series is unquestionably the Hollywood Hogan versus the Warrior at Halloween Havoc ’98.
Dave Meltzer found the match so bad, he didn’t award it any stars. In fact, he awarded it negative star status, rating the match a minus five.
While the Ultimate Warrior taking down Hulk Hogan and winning the World Title alongside the Intercontinental Title in Toronto at Wrestlemania VI in 1990 is quantifiably listed as one of the greatest moments in WWF history, their match in WCW is nothing to laud. And it leaves a bitter flavor on the end of the Hogan-Warrior storyline.
There are a number of a terrible things associated with the Warrior’s WCW run: stupid camera tricks, a trap door in the ring that injured Bulldog Davey Boy Smith terribly, an ill-timed Sheik-style flash paper flame, Horace Hogan.
Like all Warrior runs after his first in the WWF, the 1998 WCW run was a difficult culmination of back and forth contract negotiations, promises about the “Warrior brand,” and odd visits between Hogan and the Warrior himself.
In the end, the promise of Turner distribution capabilities for any Warrior branded productions that might arise and one million dollars got the Warrior in the door at WCW. While a million bucks might not seem like a ton of money to sign one of the biggest names in the history of the sport, the Warrior ultimately only wrestled two other matches besides his battle with Hogan at Havoc ’98. That’s 333,000 dollars a match.
Why the brevity? There doesn’t seem to be a lot of clear explanations on that front other than no one managing the creative of the angle, namely Bischoff or Hulk Hogan, had any designs for the Warrior other than Hogan pinning him to strengthen the nWo, and get back that win from ‘Mania VI. Bischoff and Hogan claim that the Warrior presented storylines that were too difficult to work around and wasn’t willing to merge into the WCW scene. Warrior claimed in shoot interviews before his death that he flew to a Nitro after Havoc and was simply given no storyline or assignment and so returned home, concluding he was only brought in to bolster Hogan’s ego.
Besides a million dollars for the Warrior, none of it was worth it. The storyline began much the same as the faux-Warrior Renegade storyline of 1995 (this ripoff of his character was another reason Warrior was reluctant to sign in ’98). That is, lots of smoke and mirror stuff—literally. A trap door installed in the ring, the Warrior would simply appear and disappear from the ring as smoke machines smogged out the view, leaving a baffled Hogan in the ring to ponder what magic the Warrior possessed. Oh, by the way, the smoke machine smog would knock out everyone in the ring, but Hogan. Backstage vignettes were shot with Hogan seeing the Warrior in the mirror when nWo members around him could not (though we could see the Warrior watching, and the announcers could as well, so the nWo members not seeing him were logically the crazy ones). Why all the mystics? I have no explanation other than if you look at the Dungeon of Doom storylines, that’s the way Hogan’s creative imagination goes: pure comic book and fantasy. Thing is, mysticism was never a draw of the Warrior’s character in the WWF, the Warrior we knew and loved. This was more Papa Shango stuff. And got over just as well.
As a nasty side note, Davey Boy Smith took a bump on the trap door in the ring made for these mystical Warrior entrances and had a nasty injury that lead to further drug abuse for the spiraling Bulldog.
In addition to haunting Hogan, the Warrior formed the oWn—the One Warrior Nation—in response to the nWo. He debuted at Fall Brawl ’98 as part of Team WCW, along with Diamond Dallas Paige and Roddy Piper against Team Wolfpac, Kevin Nash, Sting, and Lex Luger, and Team nWo, Hogan, Bret Hart, and Stevie Ray. It was a fairly uneventful WarGames match that ended with the least star power possible in the match: DDP pinning Stevie Ray. Warrior even tagged up with old Blade Runner tag partner Sting to take on Hogan and newly nWo-minted Bret Hart in a pre-Havoc Nitro. It was a DQ win for the Blade Runners.
Havoc ’98 was a disaster for a number of reasons. Believe it or not, the Hogan-Warrior match wasn’t the worst part of the show. The worst part is that WCW decided to extend the show a half hour without alerting cable companies, meaning a lot of live feeds were cut before the second main event, DDP versus Goldberg for the WCW World Title. While most were able to view the terrible Hogan-Warrior match in its awful entirety, what turned out to be a great match between Paige and Goldberg was not seen fully until the next night on Nitro. There was also a Wrath versus Meng match on the card—again, worse things than the Hogan-Warrior match.
The match did suck though. Warrior has claimed since that Hogan simply wasn’t interested in laying out a match. By contrast, the ‘Mania VI match had been carefully constructed by Pat Patterson. While the Warrior had thought the two had grown closer, especially he stayed at Hogan’s house prior to signing with WCW to feel each other out, once he was in the promotion, the Warrior claimed Hogan was distant. This meant he was given little direction and the creative was loose. So loose Hogan accidentally called Warrior the Ultimate Warrior on the mic in a promo and made Bischoff look like he was about to poop his pants at the though of a WWF lawsuit. So loose, a Warrior promo that was suppose to last a couple of minutes went way too long and the rest of Nitro had to be rebooked on the fly. So loose, the match itself was a lot of standing around, simple punches and knock downs, and lot of mistiming.
None was worse than the flash paper botch. A la King of the Ring 1993, Hogan decided the way to work the angle was to throw a flame in the Warrior’s face to overcome his superpowers. While the Sheik managed to pull this off for decades in the ring, and Harvey Wippleman got it somewhat right at King of the Ring ’93, Hogan fumbled and bumbled around, trying to get the paper and a Bic lighter out of a ziplock bag he pulled from his trunks. Then the paper wouldn’t light, so the Warrior just had to stand there looking down at Hogan struggle. When the paper finally ignited it flashed up in Hogan’s face, and was flamed out by the time he threw a handful of black ash at the Warrior. Hogan would later claim he singed off his eyebrows and mustache doing this, but looking at the replay that’s impossible exaggeration.
Though the fact that Hogan, who infamously has done no wrong to hear him tell it, is willing to admit he botched this shows you how bad this match was. Even Hogan couldn’t put a positive spin on it.
When the flame gimmick clearly failed, the ending was improvised, with Hogan’s nephew, kayfabe and shoot, Horace Hogan bashed Warrior with a chair. Hogan pinned Warrior, and WCW gave no other thought to the Warrior going forward with the promotion.
At Halloween Havoc twenty-one years ago Hogan finally got his win back. And all the rest of us lost.