What Happened When with Tony Schiavone and Conrad Thompson
Episode 11, April 10, 2017
“WCW Halloween Havoc 1992”
-Jack Roberts lost a ton of money from his jump to WCW, partly due to Bill Watts, and also because of a bad business deal with the WWF.
-WCW was struggling financialy after the departure of Ric Flair. Halloween Havoc that year was a difficult time for the company.
-Bruno Sammartino wanted little to do with the wrestling business at the time, but his friend Bill Watts offered him a bunch of money to appear at the show.
-Shane Douglas, Erik Watts and Dustin Rhodes were set to be the top babyfaces.
-Tony calls the main-event match of Sting vs. Jake Roberts in the present day.
(7:55) The taping before Halloween Havoc 1992.
(9:35) Did Ron Simmons deserve the WCW World Title?
(10:55) Jake Roberts’ WWF merchandising deal failure.
(18:20) Jake being booked a heel but getting babyface reactions.
(22:25) Poor house draws in WCW, was Tony job searching?
(24:20) The “Spin The Wheel” promo for HH 1993.
(32:47) Dustin Rhodes & Windham winning the Tag Team Titles.
(39:10) Turnover / Bruno Sammartino / Steiner Bros contracts.
(45:45) WCW spoils Windham/Rhodes title win / Watts’ attempt to job Greg Valentine / No one caring about New Japan at the time.
(54:10) Timestamp WWE Network at 02:31:48 / Observer’s poll / DDP & Vinnie Vegas dark match / Halloween Havoc & Philly / Opening triple tag match / Steamboat vs. Pillman / Missy Hyatt, Rick Rude and finding a referee / Terry Gordy quits / Vader vs. Nikita Koloff / Tag Title Match / Nikita’s last match.
(1:12:41) Paul E. Dangerously Madusa / Rick Rude vs. Masahiro Chono / real fight in the crowd / Simmons vs. Barbarian / Bruno interview / Erik Watts / Ventura & J.R.’s commentary.
(1:23:00) “Spin The Wheel, Make The Deal.”
(1:25:15) Present day Tony calls the Jake Roberts vs. Sting.
(1:45:15) Jake’s ring work / financial success of HH 92 / Most memorable moments?
(1:54:52) Poll for next week!
THE SHOW DETAILS
Tony kicks off the show by calling everyone “slap d***s” and he recaps his time at WrestleCon. Conrad rags him for cozying up to Debra, Madusa and Terri during his time and he defends it by saying he just gets along with women better than men. Pretty funny way to kick off the show.
They talk about the TV taping prior to Halloween Havoc where Jake Roberts debuts and gives Sting two DDTs and gets carried out on a stretcher. Ron Simmons, Sting’s replacement, wins the title from Vader. Supposedly, Simmons nor Vader knew about the title change
Was this the right call for business and did Simmons deserve the title? Tony didn’t think either. The fact that he gave Simmons the title doesn’t make him a racist and sees it less of a race issue and more a business matter.
Roberts agreed to give up his merchandising rights to WWF royalties, which Tony & Conrad agree was a horrible idea. He had to have lost a lot of money. Allegedly, Roberts had a guaranteed contract deal with Kip Frye. Watts doesn’t agree to it, so Roberts has to accept what he was offering, which was roughly $1,000 a match. Tony remembers Watts started running unexpectedly, and when he took over he ran it like it was a small business. He ran a company like it was his own money.
WCW could have been something different, or they could have tried to do something smaller and not compete. Instead, they went with a sh***er presentation. Conrad says there is so much fuzzy math. The TV & PPV income went on the Turner books, but the cost went on the WCW ledger. Watts comes in to say just cut the losses and figure this out. The stuff he puts in place to cut money is seemingly crazy, but it makes sense from a financial standpoint.
Most of the wrestlers were shocked that Roberts debuted on that night. How’d they keep it a secret? Tony didn’t know he was coming in. He was excited about it and with his reputation was a good worker, great promo – all the other stuff didn’t bother Tony at all.
Jake was getting babyface reactions despite being a heel. Shouldn’t he have booked as a face coming in, then turned heel? Tony agrees, but that’s not how Watts worked. To make Sting a bigger star, you need to put him with top draws and Roberts was that.
After Flair leaves WCW, they lost almost 2,000 fans per event and morale was low because wrestlers and talent knew Watts was going to cut costs. Tony heard from One Man Gang that Mid-South Wrestling had some of the worst times going from city to city because of Watts cutting costs.
WCW only drew 500 people to Clash of the Champions at Center Stage in Atlanta, was Tony job searching? Not really but he was worried he’d lose his job to J.R. Tony loved working for Bill Watts. He says Center Stage sucked as a venue. Was he worried? Yes, but you just have to keep doing what you’re doing.
WCW ran a video promoting Halloween Havoc after Clash of the Champions. Conrad says you have got to see this. In it, Sting finds Jake Roberts and presents him with the wheel – Conrad says it’s the most WCW thing ever. It runs about five minutes, but it’s worth your time. Tony doesn’t remember it. There’s a little person in it, guys do a stare-off and lasers shoot out of their eyes.
Cactus Jack is not wrestling at Halloween Havoc. He’s got a torn groin and injured knee. People start to wonder if this is the last we’ll see of Cactus Jack in WCW. What did Tony think of Cactus’s style? He thought he was tremendous – his interviews were spectacular. As Tony’s leaving a hotel during WrestleMania weekend, he runs into Mick Foley and at first, Mick doesn’t recognize him. They talked for a little bit and he notes Cactus is having trouble walking around now. Tony says Mick did crazy bumps because no one else was doing them and his promos were top notch.
Meltzer criticizes Roberts’ wrestling style around this time and Tony doesn’t understand that. What kind of workrate is he talking about? Japan wrestling style? F*** that.
Conrad mentions that during one WCW event around this time (Tony wasn’t there) that a gun was fired off in an arena (a 70-year-old man). He was taken to a mental hospital.
Dustin Rhodes and Barry Windham beat Terry Gordy & Steve Williams on September 20, who then went away to Japan.
If the World Series goes to seven games, Halloween Havoc will be up against game 7. Tony remembers going head-to-head with the World Series multiple times.
Conrad saw ticket prices for Halloween Havoc in 1992. It was $50 for front row seats. Tony looked for ringside tickets to WrestleMania 33 on StubHub: $5,200.
Watts wants no more squash or throwaway matches on the big shows. He wants clean finishes top to bottom. He kicked around the idea of forcing Windham into retirement to the office. Tony and Conrad found that odd. Watts was big into a youth movement, and maybe he thought Windham was getting older at age 32.
Lots of turnover at WCW. Shane Douglas, Erik Watts and Dustin Rhodes are going to be pushed as the top babyfaces. Wrestlers will have to carpool in groups of four. Dusty Rhodes starts going to house shows after Watts sees that matches weren’t up to par so he started towing a harsh line. All about overhead cut and big production.
Bruno Sammartino is at Halloween Havoc. He does color commentary on the September 26. Tony and Bruno did an empty arena interview on that show and Dave Meltzer thinks it was one of the best babyface promos of recent years. Watts wanted to use Bruno to try to get buildings in the Northeast, but Bruno wasn’t for it.
Scott Steiner is doing a subtle heel turn after winning the TV title. The Steiners eventually agree to a $50K contract, except with the medical bills. WCW want them to drop the belts before they leave and the Steiners refuse – both are at a standstill.
Before Windham & Rhodes won the titles, the Control Center listed them as champs before they actually won the belts an hour before. That might have been Tony’s fault, and he says they should have never pre-taped matches like that.
Slam Jam records were going to make a WCW album, pulling a page out of WWF’s book. If WCW was trying to cut costs, how can they afford that? Tony says there is no answer.
Was it one of Watt’s MO to job someone when they first come in, like he tried to do against Greg Valentine against Sting? Tony thinks he just wanted to put Sting over and it had nothing to do with flexing his power.
Conrad was 11 when this stuff was going on. He remembered the Iron Man match from Beach Blast. Tony says Conrad as an 11-year-old kid did not care “f*** all” about NJPW.
Conrad tells the audience to go to the WWE Network, pull up Halloween Havoc 92, and go to the timestamp 02:31:48.
Conrad discusses the card: Meltzer’s poll from the fans: 7.2% thumps up 87.6% thumbs down 5.2% thumbs in the middle. Tony gives it a thumbs down. He thinks it started great with the tag match, the heat was great, the fans were into it, but it went downhill from here.
Meltzer says things are looking bad. Halloween Havoc wasn’t the worst PPV, but Watts’ reign so far has been a failure.
Conrad puts things into perspective by saying things may be down from a business standpoint, but WCW is drawing about the same houses as WWF at this time. Tony agrees that it was cyclical. Things were down.
In the dark match, Watts & Van Hammer pin DDP & Vinnie Vegas (Kevin Nash) to a negative one-star rating.
It seems that Halloween Havoc was becoming a Phlly thing. Why is that? Not only is it a great wrestling town, but they cultivated good relationships in the city. And it’s all based on local syndicated clearance in that town to promote the PPV.
Why’d Tony leave his lipstick at home for Halloween Havoc? It was the Bill Watts era. Tony said he was pretty good looking back then. Tony was really thrilled to work with Bruno and he was a tremendous guy. It was amazing to hear Bruno call him by Tony – two Italians who love each other.
First match on the card is Shane Douglas Johnny Gunn, & Tom Zenk vs. Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & Michael Hayes. Arn and Eaton are super over with the Philly crowd. Douglas’ team won with a Lou Thesz press by Gunn. Tony was shocked that Douglas didn’t get the pin.
Next was Ricky Steamboat vs. Brian Pillman. Steamboat wins after ten minutes, three and a quarter stars by Meltzer and considers it the match of the night. Tony says to go back and watch the match because Steamboat is the best seller in the wrestling business.
Missy Hyatt tries to find Rick Rude a heel referee for his match against Masahiro Chono. Teddy Long is there too, which Conrad finds funny. Bill Watts comes out to announce that Terry Gordy was suspended for the foreseeable future. In all actuality, Gordy just quit, probably because he could make more money in Japan and was replaced by Steve Austin.
Harley Race is the heel choice for the Rude referee. Rude would have to wrestle twice tonight, but was replaced by Vader in one of the matches against Nikita Koloff and will defend the U.S. Title in representation of Rude. Vader wins with a powerbomb in 12 minutes. Tony and Conrad both enjoyed the match and Conrad thinks Nikita was far underrated. Tony’s favorite match of the whole card. This was Nikita’s last match.
Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes vs. Steve Austin & Steve Williams. Goes to a 30-minute draw. Story is that Windham & Dustin were having problems as a team. Fans just weren’t into the match, and Tony thinks this was the match that dragged the show down and while he agrees it was a really good match, he can’t put his finger on why it was such a drag.
A clothesline blow from Vader had herniated disk in his back because of a Lords of London deal. Did Tony know any particulars? Nope. “What’s next…f***er?”
There was a Klondike Bill sighting!
Paul E. Dangerously /Madusa skit. Madusa comes out and she’s then fired by Paul E. He uses masochistic comments against her. She kicks the crap out of Paul E. and then he fires her. This seems to fire the crowd up. Doesn’t age well but Paul was just tremendous on the mic. When the beatdown happens Tony ran out of the way.
Rick Rude vs. Masahiro Chono. Rude wins by DQ after 22 minutes. Meltzer says this is the worst match on the card. He says that it destroyed both the U.S. Title and NWA Title. Madusa comes out with Rude anyway despite being “fired” (who now is a babyface, which in turn makes Rude a babyface and even Race was acting like a fair referee – doesn’t make any sense).
A real fight breaks out in the crowd during the match. You can even see Harley Race watching the fight. Screwjob finish and gets the distinction of one of the worst world title matches on PPV. Meltzer gave it negative three stars. This killed the show. No one gave a sh** about Chono.
The world title match was up next Ron Simmons vs. Barbarian: training videos with Cactus Jack and the Barbarian. Where was this video recorded? At Dominic DeNucci’s place. Tony says this was a total job match for Ron Simmons, who gets the win after a powerslam. A quarter star.
Interview with Bruno, Erick Watts and Simmons. It fired the backup because Bill is putting his son over rather than any of the veteran talent. Tony says Erik was a great kid, and you could tell that he was uncomfortable with getting a push.
Tony says Jesse Ventura and J.R. did an excellent job at putting the Simmons match over. Conrad asks Tony why Ventura is always rocking back and forth in his chair? That’s always been Ventura’s nervous tick.
Next is “Spin The Wheel, Make The Deal”. Who made the wheel? Some set designer, Tony knew it was going to be a Coalminer’s Glove match, but he had concerns with it landing on the right one (in WCW fashion). What is a Prince of Darkness match? Tony says that was a match put in there for “f*** all”. Tony never heard of a Coalminer’s Glove match.
Conrad tells everyone to pull up the timestamp; Tony is going to call the main event between Sting & Jake Roberts in a Coalminer’s Glove match. (This is just too good to miss if you have the WWE Network).
Meltzer says Jake has a tremendous personality, but he has suffered too many injuries to do a match of that caliber. Tony thought he did a good job besides that fact and some of the things were hokey like the snake segment.
Why was Bruno there considering he was against steroids and the wrestling business at that time? He says it was because him and Bill Watts were friends and that he got a good payday.
Halloween Havoc did a .95 buyrate which was better than Beach Blast.
After the match, Watts banned the snake from ringside for further matches (indicating that the match was a dud).
Huge financial success, but this is the last we’ll see of Roberts in WCW on PPV, the Steiners will be leaving, Gordy has quit and Vader will break the back of Joe Thurman doing a powerbomb spot a week after, and Watts revealed that it was a work, telling the talent to take it easy on the jobbers.
Most memorable parts of the show? For Conrad it was the snake and Madusa beating up Heyman. For Tony it was Madusa & Heyman and then the Vader and Nikita match. Klondike Bill made the coalminer’s glove. Jake and his dad (Grizzly Adams) pretty much ignored each other. It made no sense to have two world titles on the card. It was all in an effort to be legitimate. Nobody bought that sh** in 1992. The wrestling business had changed, and Bill Watts was not ready for it to change in 1992. Conrad finds it odd that Jake never talked on the show. Tony says the Rude/Chono match would have been shortened, and that it should have been more prominent.
The poll for next week is Halloween Havoc 1993, Fall Brawl 1993, Beach Blast 1993, Super Brawl 1993.
Having never seen Halloween Havoc 1992, this was still a great listen just to pass time. I do want to go back and watch the Vader vs. Koloff match and in particular the main event (solely due to Schiavone’s live commentary during the show). Conrad and Tony both have some hilarious asides and one-liners that elevate the entertainment of the episode on a whole new level.
About the Author
Dominic DeAngelo has a weekly column on PWTorch.com, “Rising Star, Fading Star” and runs a sports, entertainment and lifestyle blog in the Pittsburgh area called The Keystone Statement. In addition, he writes book reviews for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. His wrestling top three are Scott Hall, Bret Hart & Bruno Sammartino. Follow him on Twitter @DominicDeAngelo and visit his site www.keystonestatement.com for good articles and the two podcasts he hosts, “The Keystone Cast” & “Here Comes Everybody”