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It's rare that you can say definitively that a match was ten months in the making, but in the case of the main event of Halloween Havoc 1996 that was absolutely the case. In January, when in Las Vegas for a Nitro taping and a Clash Of The Champions, WCW agreed to return to the city (specifically the MGM Grand) in October of 1996 and that the main event – Hulk Hogan vs Randy Savage – would also be the first meeting between the pair in the company.
With the show ten months away, it's not like WCW necessarily needed to start planning or building for the match, more just to keep in mind for the summer. Plans called for Hogan to disappear in April, then return sometime in August or September, regaining the belt from the Giant as a babyface before setting up a showdown with Randy Savage, a feud that to one degree or another WCW had been building to ever since Savage arrived at the end of 1994.
As it was, of course, plans for Hogan changed when he joined Kevin Nash and Scott Hall creating the NWO. But, even with such a seismic change of booking, Hogan vs Savage was still locked in for Havoc, never mind that Hogan as a heel in theory made the match easier to put together. In the three months following the formation of the group, Savage had been one of their main targets, with Fall Brawl going off the air with Savage beaten and bruised by the NWO. Savage had to contend with not only the group beating the piss out of him on most occasions, but also the group managing to get inside his head about Miss Elizabeth, who may or may not still had feelings for him.
But if Savage was looking for allies he may have been waiting along time. The Giant, who in theory should've been on the of the big babyfaces to stand up to the NWO, instead joined the group at the beginning of September after attempts to bring in the British Bulldog had failed. Sting had suffered a crisis of identity, after Ted DiBiase managed to convince Lex Luger that Sting had defected. Even Ric Flair, Savage's ultimate foe, had been sidelined by an injury that had seen him become the defacto manager of the newly arrived Jeff Jarrett. The end of 1996 was an odd time!
Dean Malenko vs Rey Mysterio Jr for the WCW Cruiserweight Title
We get a nice early spot where Mysterio hits a senton to Malenko on the floor before grabbing a hold of the mask Malenko had taken from him. This, as we have come to expect, is a pairing that rarely disappoint – other than Mysterio nearly landing on his head whilst trying to have his knee collide with the top rope. Mysterio later hits a lovely corkscrew moonsault from the apron, before going for a springboard-rana which Malenko counters into a sitout powerbomb. The match ends with both men on the second rope, Malenko hits a gut-wrench powerbomb which looked horrid on his knees – pins Mysterio and we have a new Cruiserweight Champion.
Diamond Dallas Page vs Eddie Guerrero
Back to this match again, the third outing probably the worst of the three. Not to say it was bad, just very flat. There's some interaction between Page and referee Nick Patrick, Patrick's involvement becomes an issue in subsequent matches too. The match really fell flat after a while, they went to rest holds with the crowd not all that investment. Still, both of these guys can go – we got a lovely spinning sit out powerbomb from Page, before hitting a Diamond Cutter for the clean win. We later find out that Guerrero got injured in the final third of the match, which probably didn't help.
The Giant vs Jeff Jarrett (w/ Ric Flair)
Odd seeing Jarrett as a babyface, but, this is probably the best Giant match we've seen to date. Jarrett was good enough to get people invested and, with the help of Flair, keep them there. Your classic smaller babyface against a big heel match with Jarrett going for a bodyslam and just getting flattened. Jarrett attempts a figure four, but gets sent to the outside. Giant follows him but ends up on the receiving end of a low blow from Flair to force the DQ. And, as a nice touch, the Horseman storm out to pre-empt any attack that might come from the NWO.
Syxx vs Chris Jericho
This one begins as the previous one did, with an "NWO" interview by Ted DiBiase from up in the crowd, both men actually praise Jericho for his athleticism. We also find out that the Dungeon Of Doom (Konnan, Sullivan and Bubba) are sat at ringside. Not long enough to be great but this was a fine outing for both guys. A very even match that eventually descends into a bit of a farce as Nick Patrick's counts become increasingly slow. Eventually Syxx hits a spin kick and Patrick counts a quick one for the three. The match ends, preposterously, with Patrick aiding Syxx to the back.
Arn Anderson vs Lex Luger
You know... regardless of whatever the plans were, maybe with a declining pool of available talent to face the NWO it might have been an idea not to pit two of the more over guys against each other. Anyway, this was really quite fun, both guys hit hard in a refreshingly no nonsense, hard hitting match. Arn works over Luger's back, including a typically excellent spinebuster, but after a ref bump Luger works Arn's back with a chair before putting him up the torture rack for the three. Five matches on this card so far, all pretty good. The segment concludes with Anderson being stretchered off.
The Faces Of Fear (Meng & The Barbarian w/ Jimmy Hart) vs Steve McMichael and Chris Benoit (w/ Debra McMichael and Woman)
We start with a stand off between Meng and Mongo, they charge at each other and Mongo levels Meng with a big shoulder tackler. Meng later returns the favour with a sumo face-off, he wins that one. Anyway, fortunately Benoit does much of the leg work here, taking much of the double team offense from the Faces of Fear and a massive release Belly to Belly suplex where Meng sent him flying across the ring. There's a massive ref distraction, Mongo smacks Meng with the case and Benoit hits a diving headbutt for the win. After the match, the rest of the Dungeon of Doom come out from the front row and interfere (a nice touch that they were in position long before this match!), and with Flair going with Arn to the hospital there's nobody there to help as Benoit and McMichael end the segment spark out. Six for six so far.
The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) vs Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray w/ Sister Sherri and Col. Parker) for the WCW World Tag Team Titles
It should come as little surprise that the NWO are very popular here. The heel vs heel dynamic actually really works, in that it mattered less that the Heat weren't necessarily massively popular, and meant they could more easily deal out the kind of retribution the Outsiders probably justified. I'm also sure, at points, there were chants for both "Diesel" and "Razor"… funnily enough more chants than either the fake Diesel or Razor characters were receiving on Raw.
The in ring action is strong enough, but between the fans being distracted by something at the outset and the threat of Sherri and Parker it never really got beyond that. Still, we get yet another impressive outing from the Heat, and both guys are made to look competitive before a predictably horrendous finish. The heat hit the Harlem Hangover, Ray goes for the pin but the referee (Randy Anderson) runs right past it to tend to the hurt Booker. Parker gets in the ring, Nash grabs his cane and smashes Ray across the back with it. Still they finished with Hall, still sparked out, being draped over Ray as the Outsiders win the titles. If that counts as "putting over" the Heat...
Hollywood Hogan (w/ The Giant, Ted DiBiase) vs Randy Savage for the WCW World Heavyweight Title
We start in the crowd in the NWO section with DiBiase introducing Hogan, who's wearing sunglasses and a wig (tupee) of spiked up hair... I have no idea... This match takes ages to get going and, given that this match should've been a mega-match up for WCW, felt unbelievably flat. Savage hits Hogan with a chair right in front of the ref, which is completely fine. Liz comes out and Hogan uses her as a human shield.
We get a ref bump, another ref runs out but he mysteriously goes straigh to helping the fallen ref (which, come to think about it, should happen more often) but that leads to Nick Patrick coming out. Savage hits an elbow drop, Patrick counts 1 … 2 … then pulls up clutching his neck. Giant comes out, chokeslam's Savage then drapes the lifeless Hogan on top of him – Patrick slides in and emphatically counts the three.
This match was dreadful, one of the worst "big fight feel" main events you are ever likely to see. Both men set out the tone with comedy and, to be honest, the action was just bad. Savage rushed quite a few of his moves and Hogan's heel act (in ring) is dreadful. You might get the odd kick out of Nick Patrick's act, and probably rightly so, but there's so little here. Anyway... here's Roddy Piper!
Piper basically says Hogan said that wrestling wouldn't be where it is today without him, but Piper says back in the day they were neck and neck. "You remember Wrestlemania?" Is an odd line to hear on another wrestling promotion. This segment is really listless, and goes so long the show actually ends before it finishes... weird.
Score Rating: 6.5/10
Go Back And Watch: The first seven matches are as consistent a WCW PPV as you are likely to see, but most of them meant very little and the main event was awful.