Death-Defying Shotzi Blackheart Is a Perfect Choice to Revive the Beloved ‘Halloween Havoc’

The Week in Wrestling: Shotzi Blackheart on hosting NXT’s “Halloween Havoc” special, a photographer’s quest to capture the soul of the deathmatch scene and more.
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Shotzi Blackheart: ‘I’m going to keep living in the moment and living fast. I will keep going as hard as I can, and you’ll see that at Halloween Havoc.’

Sitting in her tattoo artist’s chair, two hours into a three-hour session for a new horror tattoo, Shotzi Blackheart’s mind was consumed by one thought.

“I’m the biggest baby when I get tattoos, it’s so painful that I take every break I can,” Blackheart says. “I was down for a break, and that’s when I got a text from work asking me to call.”

The office of Paul “Triple H” Levesque was sharing pleasant news with Blackheart, informing her that she would be hosting the Halloween Havoc-themed edition of NXT, which airs live Wednesday night.

The return of Halloween Havoc will be a familiar sight for longtime wrestling fans. The pay-per-view event was once a staple for WCW, serving as the launchpad for some unique concepts and matches. Halloween Havoc was home to the Chamber of Horrors match, a Coal Miner’s Glove match, a Monster Truck match, and perhaps the most frightening match of all time: the disastrous 1998 main event pitting Hulk Hogan against the Ultimate Warrior.

There were also all-time classic matches, with Eddie Guerrero–Rey Mysterio from Halloween Havoc in ’97 remaining a bout with few peers. Randy Savage–Dallas Page from ’97 was also a fantastic match and immensely important to the long-term success of Page. Other matches that still resonate decades later are the ’93 Texas Death Match pitting Vader against Cactus Jack and a masterpiece between Steve Austin and Dustin Rhodes from ’91.

“I didn’t even know Halloween Havoc was coming back, but when I found out I was hosting, I was so happy I almost fainted,” Blackheart says. “It was the greatest news ever.

“My favorite match of all-time is from ’97, Guerrero–Mysterio. And before wrestling, I wanted to be a horror host, just like Elvira and Vampira, watching horror movies and making cheesy comments about them. It’s going to be reason enough to tune in just to see the Halloween outfits I’ll be wearing.”

Ashley Urbanski is the 28-year-old ball of fire known in the wrestling circle as Shotzi, and she is destined to inject excitement and violence into the WWE product for the next decade. The lone concern surrounding her longevity is her style, which includes a reckless disregard for her well-being in pursuit of the most thrilling performance possible.

“That’s exactly how I want people watching at home to feel,” Blackheart says. “I want them asking, ‘Is Shotzi Blackheart going to die tonight?’”

Authenticity pours out of Blackheart’s words and corresponding actions. She takes pride in saying “No one can out-crazy Shotzi Blackheart,” and that is more promise than threat. Blackheart recently cut a promo where she proudly used a staple gun on herself to inflict bodily harm.

“The moment I start questioning or thinking too much, that’s when I’ll get hurt,” Blackheart says. “I just go for it. For me, that’s the best way to do it. This is the life I live.”

The rebellious Blackheart has openly invited pain into her life since she was 15, which is when she received her first tattoo—fittingly, the comedy and tragedy masks on her shoulder.

“I begged my dad to take me, and I even made a whole PowerPoint presentation on why I should be able to get a tattoo even though I was only 15,” Blackheart says.

Before embarking on a career in pro wrestling, Blackheart shined in theater. She starred as Roxie Hart in her high school’s production of Chicago during her senior year, then attended college for musical theater.

“Theater is the vehicle that led me to pro wrestling,” Blackheart says. “I was watching Raw, this blend of theater, violence and rock, and I asked myself, ‘Why have I not been a wrestler the entire time?’ I signed up the next day at a wrestling school.”

Blackheart has stood out in NXT, most recently elevating her stock even higher last month in a performance with NXT champion Io Shirai.

“That was my opportunity to prove myself as an in-ring player,” Blackheart. “Io is the best in the world. My goal was to get to her level. I was so focused on that, so I was comfortable and confident.”

The post-match interview following that loss to Shirai particularly resonated. Blackheart held back tears as she very genuinely shared what the moment meant to her, not the type of content witnessed in the scripted world of Raw.

“I can’t hide my emotions,” Blackheart says. “In that moment, I legit wanted to cry. When you’re watching, you’re going to see my raw, real emotions.

“I am ready to give it my all. I’m in it, I’m so in it, and I am going to do everything I can to elevate the women’s division in this company.”

Fans of Blackheart hope the added spotlight of hosting Halloween Havoc elevates her into a long-term program with Shirai for the title. She plans on capitalizing upon her role as host, paying tribute to the legends of WCW while also highlighting the women and men who define NXT.

“I always loved Halloween Havoc, so to be resurrecting it after 20 years, it’s insane,” Blackheart says. “I’m going to keep living in the moment and living fast, going as hard as I can, and you’ll see that at Halloween Havoc.”

The (online) week in wrestling

  • Three years ago, Randy Orton and Bray Wyatt combined for one of the most disappointing matches in recent WrestleMania history—but it looks as though they will have a chance to redeem themselves. Orton has plenty of compelling matches ahead, with opponents in Wyatt, Drew McIntyre and an upcoming Survivor Series match against the top star in the business, Roman Reigns. 
  • No, they aren’t Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., and the scene did not fit perfectly into a sports-centric show, but the MJF–Chris Jericho duet last week added a fun part to Dynamite, setting the table for MJF’s turn on Jericho. 
  • Alex Reynolds tweeted that the situation was handled well, but AEW needs to continue to reassess its policy on in-ring injuries after Reynolds was left unattended for too long last Wednesday. 
  • In another reminder that wrestling is not exempt from the pandemic, the WWE Performance Center has reportedly seen more positive tests that could impact Wednesday night’s NXT card. 
  • Two must-see matches taking place on Wednesday night are Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon (replacing Fenix, who was injured last week) on Dynamite and Cameron Grimes against Dexter Lumis on NXT in a Haunted House of Terror match. The Omega–Pentagon match is a rematch of their fantastic bout from All In, and Grimes is quietly turning into one of NXT’s best acts.
  • Sad news to report as Tracy Smothers, one of the most respected men in the business, has died of cancer at age 58.
  • The large number of tributes pouring in for Smothers is a testament to how much he meant to multiple generations of wrestlers.
  • This was an incredibly detailed look at Omega’s character work in AEW. 
  • Daniel Bryan, who tweeted and quickly deleted criticism of President Trump last Thursday during the presidential debate, also made news on Friday when he announced we are witnessing his last run as a full-time wrestler. 
  • Bryan was also mentioned by Big E as an integral part of the creative team on SmackDown, working closely with Big E’s singles run.
  • Unfortunately, Impact Wrestling’s Bound for Glory pay-per-view did not meet the standard set this past summer by Slammiversary, especially for those of us looking forward to seeing Deonna Purrazzo–Kylie Rae, which did not take place but was advertised throughout the show. There were highlights, primarily in a fantastic main event, which saw Rich Swann defeat Eric Young to win the Impact title. 
  • Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Snowden wrote a tremendous profile of Swann in the days leading up to Bound for Glory, which means even more following the title win. 
  • With an assist from the returning Pat McAfee, new tag team champions were crowned to close out last week’s edition of NXT, with Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch ready for a breakout moment as champs. 
  • Thunder Rosa dropped the NWA women’s world championship to Serena Deeb (who will defend the title on Dynamite against Leyla Hirsch), opening up possibilities for Rosa’s future. 
  • AEW’s Jake Hager returns to the Bellator cage on Thursday in a heavyweight fight against Brandon Calton. The main card starts at 8 p.m. ET, but Hager (2–0, 1 NC) will appear earlier since he is fighting on the prelims. Though the 6' 5", 265-pound Calton (2–0) won his first two fights by TKO, with both bouts ending in under 90 seconds, this is intended to be a showcase fight for Hager. 
  • Jonathan Gresham meets Tracy Williams this weekend in the finals of Ring of Honor’s Pure Tournament, which is a fantastic matchup that includes history from their time together in the indies. 

The art of wrestling photography

Glass shatters during a wrestling "deathmatch"

The newly released Death In Covid publication is a rare look into the genre of deathmatch wrestling.

Nick Karp led the photo exploration, which features images from deathmatch shows that all took place during the pandemic. Including shots from GameChanger Wrestling, Violence X Suffering, and IWA-Mid South’s King of the Deathmatch, the project spotlights a dangerous, blood-soaked sector of pro wrestling that is still finding ways to succeed amid the pandemic.

“This runs deeper than wrestling,” Karp says. “It’s documenting a subculture of American life during the pandemic. It’s a subsection of this sport that is still running and still thriving.”

The son of a photographer, Karp traveled from his home in Queens, N.Y., to cover as many shows as possible for this project.

“During the early stages of COVID, I saw that some promotions were still running and, as a documentary photographer, that’s the s--- I love, documenting outlaw culture,” Karp says. “There were so many unknowns about running shows in the pandemic, but I thought it would be a cool project if I hyper focused on this. I reached out to Adam from Orange Crush, and I am very lucky that I got his blessing.”

Glass shatters during a wrestling "deathmatch"

The finished product is a 100-page zine, and it includes some commentary from the wrestlers putting their bodies on the line in the death matches.

“There is one quote that really stands out, and it’s by Orin Vedit, who thought he needed a blood transfusion,” Karp says. “He gives a different perspective of what it’s like after wrestling a death match in the pandemic, in a hospital where visitors aren’t allowed, thinking he might bleed out and die alone.”

Karp captures images that seize people’s attention, and he was willing to push boundaries to highlight the risks and sacrifices made by the performers.

“It’s incredible to see this type of performance art,” Karp says. “This is documentation of how these wrestlers were working when so much else was shut down by the virus. I was in awe of their heart. These wrestlers are doing what they love, even under the circumstances.”

Tweet of the Week

As if 2020 weren’t wild enough, here is The Rock helping induct Ken Shamrock into the Impact Hall of Fame.

Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.