The Magnificent Seven: 7 Wrestling Moments To Revisit On Halloween

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The Magnificent Seven: 7 Wrestling Moments to Revisit on Halloween

Happy Halloween, readers! In the spirit of the holiday, I thought I’d have a little fun with this week’s column and revisit seven moments in wrestling that play well on Halloween. I’ll be the first to concede that this countdown is in no way scientific, combining legitimately great moments with tinges of horror or a Halloween theme, with guilty pleasures, with downright absurdities that nonetheless befit the season of bad horror movies and cheap scares to a tee. The ranking is based pretty much entirely on personal opinion and enjoyment, but I hope readers will find it a fun guide to some moments you might have forgotten, and I encourage you to leave your own moments in the comments.

#7. The Chamber of Horrors, WCW Halloween Havoc 1991

If you’re familiar with this match, it’s likely under the context of it being one of the most embarrassingly bad displays of professional wrestling ever staged on a national platform. The year was 1991, the teams were super-faces The Steiners, Sting, and El Gigante and heels Big Van Vader, Cactus Jack, Abdullah the Butcher, and The Diamond Studd. Ironically, with that roster in place, excluding El Gigante, this might sound like something of a dream match. Put them in a super-sized cage? Even better. Make the match no holds barred? Cool. Make it no pinfalls? OK… War Games is cool and all. Wait, no submissions, too?

Win by murdering someone from other team in an electric chair?

Ah, WCW.

This match’s concept was very silly, made all the worse by faulty prop work like the lever to “turn on” the electric chair flopping down ineffectually as wrestlers battled to get to it.

So, this match makes the cut for two reasons. First of all, for those who enjoy bad horror movies this time of year, this is a pretty fantastic piece of MST3K-worthy wrestling. Secondarily, as a directionless brawl, this one does have its moments—particularly watching the early nineties Steiners manhandle Vader and Abdullah as if they were cruiserweights, and watching Mick Foley take all variety of reckless headshots because, well, he’s Mick Foley.

#6. The Monster Mash, ECW TV 2007

Contrary to the camp quality of WCW’s annual Halloween Havoc PPV, there’s something to be said for acknowledging the holiday and doing something fun in its honor, while not going overboard in terms of shaping a whole card around it or compelling viewers to suspend their disbelief (or at least not anymore than they ordinariliy do to enjoy a pro wrestling show).

The WWE ECW was uneven to say the least, but hit its stride to a reasonable extent in 2007 with guys John Morison and CM Punk at the top of the card. And then there were the monsters, those resident to ECW and those borrowed from Smackdown.

That October 30, ECW offered up a Halloween-themed main attraction—the four-man Monster Mash battle royal in which bohemoths Mark Henry, Big Daddy V, The Great Khali, and Kane wailed on each other for seven minutes of entertaining clubbering. No, this match doesn’t really have any spots to write home about, or particularly brilliant psychology, but it’s a fun, inoffensive spectacle that I’d argue was the perfectly appropriate length for what it was.

#5. Delete or Decay, Impact Wrestling 2016

Make no mistake about it—Delete or Decay, like everything related to the Matt and Jeff Hardy in 2016—is absolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, as long-time readers know, I’m hesitant to put anything particularly recent on a countdown, and generally only do so if I feel it’s an undeniable fit.

So, Delete or Decay makes the cut because its particular brand of horror-inflected violence and absurdity makes it a perfect hit for Halloween viewing. Moreover, if, like me, you’re not a regular TNA viewer, you might have overlooked it, and it is nothing if not a spectacle.

There are the theatrics. Senor Benjamin’s narration, Broken Matt Hardy training Brother Nero to fight by having him spar with a kangaroo, The Decay jacking a car to make their way to the Hardys’ compound. Then there’s the—uh—“match” itself. It opens with the Hardy crew shooting fireworks at their opponents. It goes on to include grown men trying to drown one another, there’s a cameo by Joseph Parks, and the whole thing culminates in the kind of spot that could only be accomplished via this brand of cinematic presentation over live in-ring performance—Matt Hardy catching Rosemary’s mist in his mouth and firing it back at her to vanquish the femme fatale.

Embrace the camp, the insanity, the Hardy brand unleashed and fortified by Billy Corrgan’s empowerment, and you have a modern-day marvel of wrestling perfect for a Halloween viewing.

#4. Kane’s Debut, WWF Badd Blood 1997

For as long as Kane has been active on the WWE landscape, he’s generally done his best work in one of two roles—that of unconventional comedic character a la his work as half of Team Hell No or impersonating other superstars in the late Attitue Era, and that of pure monster ripped from a horror movie. It has become more difficult to buy Kane in the latter role as he’s grown older—we’ve seen too much of the character to buy into the monster mystique, and as an older, slower version of himself, he doesn’t strike awe quite the way that he used to. Hence, the run opposite John Cena and Zack Ryder not quite connecting; hence the monster run opposite Seth Rollins being played for laughs with Kane cast as a face character.

If you want to access the very best of Kane as a legit monster, your best bet is to return to the beginning of the character’s run, and particularly his debut night. The character first appeared on screen at the end of an excellent (and the original) Hell in a Cell bout between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, which in and of itself is a good Halloween watch for severity and violence. Then there’s Kane, a giant of a man bathed in red light, fiery pyrotechnics behind him, ghoulish Paul Bearer at his side, walking with a menacing purpose only to rip the door off the Cell, stare down his brother, and nail him with a Tombstone.

The Big Red Machine had plenty of monstrous moments in the two decades to follow, including that first run and his work after he was first unmasked in 2003, but in my book, this one tops them all.

#3. Jake Roberts Terrorizes Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth, WWF 1991

In 1991, Jake Roberts turned heel for the first time on a national stage in a move that has to prompt questions about why on earth the WWF waited so long to pull the trigger on that turn. For as popular as The Snake had been throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s up to that point, he immediately got over like rover at the highest level scheming and using his king cobra as a weapon of terror against the faces, most notably Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth.

To further contextualize, in 1991 I was an elementary school kid with no knowledge of Roberts’s pre-WWF work, who grew up cheering Hulk Hogan and booing Andre the Giant and Ted Dibiase. When Roberts turned, he marked a whole new kind of heel—the kind I could legitimately be afraid of not out of sheer physical size but because he was evil. Crashing The Macho Man’s wedding reception after SummerSlam 1991 marked a novel, intriguing dynamic with Roberts as a divergent brand of heel and Savage caught in the beartrap of having been forced to retire that spring, but still needing to defend and avenge his bride. This dynamic came to a head on an episode of Superstars that October when Roberts assaulted Savage and tied him to the ring ropes, before unleasing his king cobra to sink its fangs intos Savage’s arm in an unusually graphic and unsettlingly bloody spot for its era.

I put a premium on this moment, in part, because of the way it affected me as a kid—sticking with me as a frightening and heinous visual. Moreover, though, I think the moment holds up surprisingly well, given Roberts’s character work and Savage’s intensity and ability to sell complemented Roberts’s horror tactics perfectly.

#2. The Undertaker and Stephanie McMahon’s Dark Wedding, 1999

Fitting a theme for this countdown, this moment can be polarizing. On one hand, it was The Attitude Era at its most over-the-top, in an angle that saw The Undertaker, at his most demonic, kidnap virginal young Stephanie McMahon and then stage a forced wedding/sacrifice/cult ritual in the ring with Stephanie tied to a crucifix-like structure as her father looked on, only for Steve Austin to blur the lines of his rivalry with the McMahon family to save her. It’s an absurdist moment that may be best remembered as a mere stepping stone to the wild and reeking-of-Vince-Russo-style swerve booking that ultimately revealed Vince and ‘Taker were in cahoots all along and somehow their months of feuding were all a ploy to screw Austin.

All of those fair criticisms aside, I’m a sucker for this moment on account of the horror booking. I won’t argue that the demonic gimmick was The Undertaker’s best work, but I will contend that it was darn effective within its context. The Phenom and his Ministry of Darkness were legitimately frightening for a spell, and the storylines around them constantly evolved, rarely dipping into a lull of placeholders and biding their time, but rather providing episodic advancement of their angles, to culminate in spectacularly dramatic moments like this one. Moreover, the moment was so successful within the time it occurred—long before Stephanie was really a character, but when she could play the damsel in distress as well as anyone this side of Miss Elizabeth; also, while Austin was so explosively over and the crowd completely bit into him playing the hero, the McMahon family as victims, and The Dead Man as the vilest villain imaginable.

#1. Cactus Jack vs. Big Van Vader, WCW Halloween Havoc 1993

Unlike other moments on this countdown, and unlike even the angle to build to this match, my top pick has little to do with camp or horror theatrics. It’s just a well-executed, brutal fight of a match. In the context of mainstream wrestling in 1993, the violence of this encounter might qualify it as horror wrestling. Add on the background of the WCW Halloween Havoc set, and I have no qualms calling it a match for re-watching during Halloween season.

But first, the angle. Vader was a dominant monster heel champ. Cactus Jack emerged as an unlikely challenger who gave Vader all he could handle, which culminated in Vader powerbombing him on the cement floor at ringside to put the threat to his title out of action. Vader would occupy himself with other top faces like Sting and Davey Boy Smith while Jack would suffer from amnesia and participate in a number of truly awful vignettes in which WCW reporters tried to find him on the streets. WCW would kinda-sorta retcon that particularly noxious aspect of the angle with Jack claiming the amnesia was a ruse to play mind games with Vader, but damage had been done to what could have been one of the best blood feuds of that era.

The angle came back around, though, in the build to Halloween Havoc, which saw these two pitted against one another in the PPV’s signature Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal match. The possibilities of the gimmick match to follow captured the imagination (with the specter that we could get another Coal Miner’s Glove Match hanging over our heads). The result with a Texas Death Match delivered in spades. Though Vader and Jack would continue to feud sporadically and indirectly in the months to follow, this was a proper blow-off match for the program, and my only real knock on it is the lukewarm finish of manager Harley Race tazing Jack to keep him down for a ten count, as opposed to Vader properly pummeling him into unconsciousness. Particularly given that Jack’s run as a WCW main eventer was over, I don’t see the need to protect him to this degree in this moment.

Ironically, the Jack-Vader wars tend to be best remembered for the initial powerbomb on the floor and the coda to their televised rivalry that saw the two brawl in Germany and Mick Foley lose his ear. This match sticks out to me as an all-time favorite, though. I was a mere ten years old when it went down, and over twenty years later it has stuck with me as one of those matches that “made me believe.” I was never a mark in the purest sense of the word, but this was the era in which I became fully invested in the wrestling world, and this match afforded me one of my earliest mark out moments. Thus, when I think of wrestling moments to revisit at Halloween, this one arrives squarely at the top of the list.

Which moments would you add to the list? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Read more from Mike Chin at his website and follow him on Twitter @miketchin.

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