120. Vader (c) vs Cactus Jack (Texas Death Match for the WCW Championship, WCW Halloween Havoc 1993)

Just in time for Halloween, WWE has put The Best of WWE : Halloween Havoc’s Most Hellacious Matches on the WWE Network! One match immediately caught my eye: Vader vs Cactus Jack for the WCW Championship…in a Texas Death Match! I had a vague idea of the definition of a Texas Death match, but I was more interested in Vader vs Cactus Jack! These two put each other through hell in the mid-90s. I assumed it would be an hellacious match…but does that mean it was worth watching?

Now, the Texas Death Match gimmick is as follows: if you pin your opponent, they have a (very quick) thirty second break, and then  your opponent has ten seconds to get up. So, basically, a Last Man Standing match with a pinfall added in before the ten count. Seems pointless, doesn’t it? Either have a straight singles match or a Last Man Standing match… don’t merge the two together. A Last Man Standing match can already be bogged down by the stop/start nature of its gimmick. Why add another thirty-three seconds of non-action to it?

Vader and Jack try their very best to work through this gimmick. Vader was one of Jack’s best opponents, and the two beat the hell out of each other every time they crossed. Yes, you’ve probably heard about the time Jack’s ear was ripped off during a match with Vader. But there’s much more to their rivalry than that.

In April of 1993, Vader legitimately punched Jack’s face so hard (and repeatedly) that Jack suffered a broken nose and needed 27 stitches to close a wound. Obviously, Vader did it with Jack’s permission (and encouragement, if you read Mick Foley’s first autobiography). The week after, Vader powerbombed Jack on a concrete floor, causing Jack to lose feelings in his limbs and suffer a concussion. The WCW worked the concussion into an amnesia angle, showing scenes of Cactus Jack losing his memory.

This match was Jack’s big return, after overcoming amnesia and vowing revenge on Vader. The gimmick was chosen by spinning a wheel…and it’s a shame the wheel couldn’t have chosen a better gimmick. Why were the pinfalls necessary? They have no meaning in this match. It should have been a straightforward No DQ match, or a Last Man Standing Match. Talk about overcomplicated.

Regardless, Jack and Vader try their best to make it work. Well, Jack does…and Vader just tags along for the ride. There is some hard-to-watch brutality here, usually involving Vader pummeling Jack or slammimg him pretty recklessly. Unprotected chair shots to the head are par for the course here. Vader doesn’t shy away from punishment, to be fair: he’s suplexed on the ramp a few times (with believable effort from Jack to lift up the huge Vader), and takes a few chair shots to the head himself.

There are hints of what this bout could have been had it taken place under a more straightforward gimmick. However, what could have been a wild and chaotic brawl stops every few minutes or so for the ridiculous pinfall/30 second break/ten count combination. It sucks all forward motion out of the bout, grinding it to a halt. And the ending makes the whole match seem pointless.

Seek out any other Vader vs Jack match if you want to see them at their best. They were placed under silly contraints by the Texas Death Match gimmick here. It’s still worth watching, as a curiosity, and to see a glimpse of the brutality the two wrestlers put each other through. Hellacious? Yes. But it becomes a slog to watch, and falls apart towards the end.

Hammy’s Rating: *** (out of 5)

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