War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches – DVD Review
by Julian Radbourne
For over a decade it was an integral part of the Jim Crocket Promotions and World Championship Wrestling universes, a two ring cage match designed to cause carnage and to settle score. Sadly I only ever got to see one of them, mainly because NWA & WCW pay per views weren’t shown here in Britain.
Now all that’s going to change, because now we’re going to look back at the history of these events with War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches.
And as is the custom with these sets, let’s start right at the beginning with…..
July 4th, 1987
Our collection begins with the Great American Bash as Dusty Rhodes, the Road Warriors, Nikita Koloff and Paul Ellering take on the Four Horsemen team of Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and their manager J.J. Dillon.
Beginning with Rhodes and Anderson, it wasn’t long before the blood was flowing after Rhodes rammed Double A into the fence. But with the Horsemen team winning the coin toss and getting the one man advantage Anderson was saved from a further beating when Blanchard entered the match.
As the numbers grew some of the others began to join in on the blood letting stakes, and after all ten men had entered the fray Rhodes’ team began to take advantage of the Horseman’s weak link. As Rhodes, Koloff and Ellering tried to hold off the Horsemen the Warriors took care of Dillon, taking him down with the doomsday device and bloodying his face. It got to the point where the manager could take no more as he said the magic words to give Rhodes’ team the win.
July 31st, 1987
It’s a re-match of sorts with the Bash now on tour, as Rhodes’ team faces the Four Horsemen once more, with the War Machine replacing J.J. Dillon.
With the majority of the same players it was obvious that this match would have some similarities with the previous one. Once again they began with Rhodes against Anderson, but the order was switched around as the match went on.
The action was just as good as the first match, although the masked War Machine did kind of stick out like a sore thumb, mainly because the Horsemen were always a well-oiled unit, and the masked man didn’t really have any real chemistry with them.
In the end it was the Machine who proved to be the weak link. After Ellering had entered with his spiked wrist pad it quickly found it’s way into Animal’s hands, and after everyone had taken the Machine down with powerful clotheslines Animal put the spike in the Machine’s eye. The big man soon gave up, giving Rhodes and his boys another win.
July 10th, 1988
It’s a variation on a theme at the Great American Bash as the Road Warriors, Steve Williams, Ron & Jimmy Garvin take on Kevin Sullivan, Mike Rotunda, Al Perez, the Russian Assassin and Ivan Koloff in a Tower of Doom match.
The rules for this one were different. Although the match started off one against one combatants entered through the top cage. Once there they’d have to fight their way to two other cages, with trap doors opening every two minutes. Then, when they’d got to the ring part of the cage they’d get the keys from Jimmy Garvin’s valet Precious, and when all the members of one team escaped the match would end.
Let’s be completely honest here. This has to be one of the most overbooked concept matches I’ve ever seen. There were just so many stipulations and so much each man had to do it was ridiculous.
When the first two entrants, Ronnie Garvin and Ivan Koloff, got into the top cage that cage was so small it looked like two drunks fighting in a phone box. Also, the entire concept meant that there was actually very little team work, as was evidenced when Ronnie left the bottom cage unchallenged.
In fact the most dramatic part of this match came after it had ended. When Jimmy Garvin escaped the clutches of Kevin Sullivan to win the match for his team the maniacal Sullivan locked himself in the cage with Precious. Jimmy, closely followed by Hawk, had to climb right back up to the top cage to get to Sullivan and save Precious from his advances.
July 16th, 1988
It’s back to the Bash on tour, and the Rhodes/Horsemen battle continues as Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger, Nikita Koloff, Steve Williams and Paul Ellering face Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard and J.J. Dillon.
As I expected this one followed a similar pattern to the previous matches, with Rhodes and Anderson starting out for their teams, with both men bleeding early before the Horsemen won the coin toss to gain the one man advantage.
There were some really good performances here. Williams looked like an unstoppable monster when he came in and took everyone down. It was the same for Luger as well when he went after his form team-mates.
But once again it was the managers who proved to be the weak links of their respective teams. Despite getting in a few good shots early on the Horsemen began to gang up on Ellering, but while they did this they failed to see Rhodes going after Dillon, and when he locked in a figure four and used the ropes for extra leverage Dillon was soon saying those magic words again as Rhodes and his boys took the win.
July 23rd, 1989
It’s a different cast for the pay per view Bash, with the Road Warriors, the Midnight Express and Steve Williams taking on the Fabulous Freebirds and the Samoan Swat Team.
The lack of Dusty Rhodes or a Horseman gave this match a completely different dynamic. Also, the decision to leave the managers out of the teams meant that there would be no weak links, and although Paul Ellering would have been able to hold his own I would have cringed at the prospect of seeing Jim Cornette or Paul E. Heyman Dangerously in there.
The match began with Bobby Eaton against Jimmy Garvin, and with the coin toss made before the match the advantage went to the Samoan Freebirds. This meant that early on we got to see Terry Gordy and Steve Williams going at it, which made for interesting viewing, mainly because this was around the time they started to tag in Japan.
So with the various managers organising strategies at ringside it meant that something different would happen when all ten men were in the cage. This time around there wasn’t any ganging up on any one man, as it was Hawk, the last man in, who targeted Garvin, the first man in. After taking him down with a couple of neck breakers he put him in a hangman’s neckbreaker, and with nowhere else to go it wasn’t long before he submitted to give the Warriors Death Express team the win.
The Samoan Freebirds ended up gaining a measure of revenge though when they stopped Animal from leaving the cage so they could gang up on him. The five-on-one attack only lasted a few minutes though as his allies managed to get back into the cage to save him.
February 24th, 1991
The Horsemen are back as Ric Flair, Sid Vicious, Barry Windham and late replacement Larry Zybszko take on Sting, Brian Pillman and the Steiner Brothers at Wrestle War.
This one began with Windham and Pillman. Pillman came into the match with his left shoulder and arm heavily bandaged, courtesy of a recent Horsemen attack, and he was eager to get a measure of revenge, which meant that the next five minutes saw Pillman taking Windham to the proverbial woodshed, busting him open.
As was the custom with these matches the heels won the coin toss to take the one man advantage. This led to several attacks on Pillman’s injured shoulder, although the smallest man in the match kept coming back, always giving as good as he got.
The Horsemen team left Vicious out till last, and he went on to play a pivotal role in the ending. Having spent quite a bit of time doing further damage to Pillman he went to take him down with a powerbomb, but with the cage being just an inch or two above his head it meant that he couldn’t execute the move properly. This resulted in one of the most awkward looking power bombs I’ve ever seen, with Pillman being folded up like a deck chair.
Vicious then picked him up and went for the move again. It looked a little better this time around, but as soon as he hit the mat he was out of it. His buddy El Gigante then ran down to the cage, and it was then that the referees halted the match, ruling that because Pillman couldn’t continue the Horseman and Zybszko had won.
May 17th, 1992
It’s back to five against five as Sting, Nikita Koloff, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat and Barry Windham go up against Paul E. Heyman Dangerously guys Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Steve Austin, Larry Zybszko and Rick Rude at Wrestle War.
This was the one I was looking forward to seeing the most, mainly because I’ve long been of the opinion that the Dangerous Alliance is one of the most underrated factions in wrestling history. It was also one of the most intense battles I’ve seen in a match of this kind.
The match began with Austin and Windham, which was a pretty even match-up, although Austin soon found himself wearing the crimson mask. With the Alliance winning the coin toss they sent in Rude, their heavy hitter, as their second man.
As the match went on there were a few twists that hadn’t been seen in these matches before. Dangerously associate Madusa climbed to the top of the cage so she could drop in Dangerously’s brick-like mobile phone, which his boys used as a weapon. Then, in between the fighting and the bleeding they began to loosen the top rope, eventually prying it away from the ring post.
The reason for this soon became apparent. As Eaton held Sting Zybszko grabbed the turnbuckle, intent on hitting the World Champion with the metal rod that connected it to the ring post. The only problem was that Sting moved out of the way at the last moment, with Zybszko accidentally clobbering Eaton in the arm. Sting then applied an armbar, and as Eaton cried out in pain he soon submitted to give Sting and his boys the win.
September 19th, 1993
It’s back to four a side action as the match becomes an annual fixture at Fall Brawl, with Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes and the Shockmaster take on Sid Vicious, Vader and Harlem Heat.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past twenty years or so you’ll know all about the Shockmaster’s somewhat notorious debut in WCW. Putting that shamble entrance to one side, this match kind of had a thrown together feeling about it, and it lacked the intensity of previous matches.
Once again it began with an injured wrestler ignoring his team-mates so he could get some revenge. This time around it was Rhodes and injured ribs as he began against Vader. The future Goldust took the fight to the big man, and he spent the majority of the match with just one boot on, having used the other one to clobber Vader.
The action was okay, but the match just seemed to lack that certain spark, that certain something that makes a match special. It probably wasn’t helped by announcer Tony Schivane, whose comments about the Shockmaster remaining on two feet as he entered the cage were definitely made with his tongue firmly planted into his cheek.
It was the Shockmaster though who took his team to victory. Just a few seconds after making his entrance he put Harlem Heat’s Kole into a bear hug. The future Booker T said the magic words, and it was all over as Sting and his buddies took the win.
September 18th, 1994
The creator of the match returns as Dusty Rhodes teams with his son Dustin and the Nasty Boys against Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck and Colonel Robert Parker.
Out of all the matches on this collection this is the one with the weakest line-up. It’s essentially a three on three match with two retired wrestlers tacked on as well. This was also the first War Games match that didn’t feature any blood.
It began with Rhodes beating the snot out of Anderson, and as expected Parker’s team won the coin toss to take the one man advantage. Rhodes managed to keep his footwear on this time around, mainly because it was Funk’s turn to swing the leather.
As the match went on and the various combatants entered the fray Parker stood at ringside, sweating like a pig and looking nervous as hell, and when his time came he tried to get his bodyguard Meng to enter instead of him. The referee was having none of it though, and reluctantly Parker enter the battle ground.
The match took the familiar path when Rhodes Senior entered. With the big hitters taken care of Rhodes’ team focused their attack on Parker, with Dusty locking in a figure four while the Nasties connected with splashes and elbows, and when the Colonel looked out of it the referees called time to give Rhodes’ team the win.
September 17th, 1995
It’s the Hulkamaniacs against the Dungeon of Doom as Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger & Sting face Kamala, the Zodiac, the Shark and Meng.
This was more or less a meeting of the WWF old boys club. Hogan and his troops came into this one all dressed up in camouflage and war paint, with Sting starting off against the Shark.
Once again the bad boys won the coin toss and took the advantage, and at one point it looked like Hogan’s team was going to fall apart when Luger accidentally clobbered Savage and the two of them came to blows.
But once the Hulkster came into the match all was right with his team as they took the upper hand, and when Hogan put Zodiac in a camel clutch the man of a thousand names submitted to give the Hulkamaniacs the win.
September 15th, 1996
It’s one of the most anticipated matches in War Games history as the NWO’s Hollywood Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and their mystery partner face the WCW team of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger and Sting.
The story going into this one made this the most high profile and dramatic War Games match in years, and it all centred around WCW’s franchise player Sting, and about whether or not he’d joined the NWO. It was a storyline that would effect WCW’s storylines for over a year.
This match also had one difference that added to the overall drama. Instead of all the teams coming out at the beginning those not involved stayed backstage until it was their time, giving this part of the match a Royal Rumble feel.
Hall and Anderson began the match for their respective teams, and once again the heels won the coin toss to take the advantage, and as the action went on our esteemed commentators kept speculating about which side Sting would represent.
That question was seemingly answered when Sting came out as the NWO’s last man. The bad guys used his appearance accordingly, taking the upper hand against the somewhat shocked WCW contingent.
Then came the even bigger surprise when WCW’s fourth man, the real Sting, came in. Flair, Anderson and Luger looked on in shock as he cleaned house, taking on all four members of the NWO team. He then showed just how upset he was that his team mates hadn’t trusting him by leaving the cage.
Moments later it was all over. While the fake Sting applied a scorpion death lock on Luger Hogan applied a guillotine choke, and it wasn’t long before the referee stopped the match to give the NWO the dramatic win.
September 14th, 1997
It’s another NWO versus WCW battle as Kevin Nash, Buff Bagwell, Syxx and Konnan face the Horsemen team of Ric Flair, Steve McMichael, Chris Benoit and Curt Hennig.
After the drama of the previous year they went back to the tried and tested method, with all the team members coming down to the cage at the same time. The only problem was that the Horsemen team were a man light, courtesy of an NWO attack on Hennig earlier in the evening.
Bagwell and Benoit began this one, and loathe as I am to praise the performance of a future murderer Benoit looked good as he took the future gigolo apart. In fact he looked quite good throughout the match, although I’m guessing that the long gaps in the commentary were because the powers that be didn’t want the announcers praising his performance.
Once again the heels one the coin toss to get the advantage, and as the various combatants entered the cage it looked like the Horsemen would go into this one at a disadvantage until Hennig came down to the ring with his arm in a sling, and although Flair seemed a little reluctant to let him compete he allowed him to do so.
Hennig was the last man to enter for the Horsemen, and as soon as he entered the cage he took off his sling and took out two pairs of handcuffs. Then the big turn came. Instead of aiding the Horsemen he attacked them, and after cuffing McMichael and Benoit to the cage it became a five-on-one against Flair, and while the NWO took the Nature Boy apart they kept asking his fellow Horsemen to surrender. The answer was no every time, until they threatened to smash his head into the metal door frame.
Reluctantly, Flair’s team-mates surrendered, giving the NWO team the win. They still went ahead and slammed the door into Flair’s head before Hennig celebrated with his new buddies.
September 13th, 1998
It’s the only three team match, and the final Fall Brawl War Games encounter, with WCW’s Dallas Page, Roddy Piper and the Warrior, the NWO Black & White’s Hollywood Hogan, Stevie Ray and Bret Hart, and the Wolfpac’s Kevin Nash, Sting and Lex Luger.
There were quite a few changes for this match. As well as the extra team the win could be obtained before all of the entrants were in the cage, either by pinfall or submission, with the man who took the win getting a shot at Goldberg’s World title. Also, instead of a coin toss, there was a random draw backstage to determine the order of entry.
Beginning with DDP and Hart, unlike other matches this was virtually every man for himself. This was never more evident when Piper came into the match and clobbered everyone in sight, including Page, his own partner. But despite these stipulations this one was really about Hogan and the Warrior.
Hogan, the penultimate man to enter the fray, entered the cage before his time and clobbered everyone else with lead slapjack, getting a helping hand from Ray along the way. But just when it looked like he was going to get the win and take the title shot smoke filled the cage as the Warrior made his entrance.
Or so we thought. Hogan quickly laid him out with his piece of lead. He began to gloat as smoke filled the ring again, and when it cleared he was only holding the Warrior’s jacket, and the next time the face painted one appeared his was rushing down the aisle towards the cage.
The Hulkster suddenly developed a yellow streak as his Disciple helped him out of the cage before locking it. The Warrior then stalked around the cage, but instead of attacking anyone else he kicked his way out, briefly brawling with Hogan in the aisle before security separated them.
Back in the ring, as if anyone else cared, DDP took Ray down with a diamond cutter for the three count and the title shot.
September 4th, 2000
It’s the final match of the collection, and another variation of a theme, a War Games 2000 match with Sting, Booker T, Goldberg, Brian Adams and Bryan Clark of Kronik, Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner and Vince Russo on Monday Nitro.
So what’s different about this one? Well, like the Tower of Doom match it’s a triple cage affair, but with the combatants starting in the bottom cage. The lower cage is like a Hell in a Cell. There’s a new entrant every two minutes.
Oh, and Kevin Nash’s World title is on the line as well at the top of the cage, with the winner the first one to leave the cage with the belt.
Welcome to the crazy world of Vince Russo’s WCW in what is another case of wrestling booking gone mad. It’s an interesting idea but it’s also quite a bizarre one. It began with Jarrett and Sting, with Steiner joining them after a couple of minutes, but from there it became a wild and crazy affair.
You had Russo, who shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near a wrestling ring, the Harris Brothers running interference for him as they took Kronik out of the game, the will he won’t he scenario regarding Nash and his alliance with Russo, with Big Sexy spending most of the match standing by the cage door, Ernest Miller attacking Russo when he got his hands on the belt, Bret Hart slamming the door into Goldberg’s face as he was about to leave with the belt, and Nash and Russo settling their differences, with Russo giving Nash the belt so he could leave the cage as champion.
This may have been called War Games 2000, but it wasn’t anything like the original concept. All it was was one big mess.
In conclusion – when I first put this DVD into my player I had doubts as to whether a six hour compilation of matches that have the same stipulation would hold my interest. I quickly got the answer after seeing that first match from 1987.
As I watched the various matches it became obvious that I was watching more than a compilation of matches, I was being given a history lesson. Just putting the matches on here would have been fine enough, but having segments between the matches with Dusty Rhodes giving his thoughts on how his original concept developed was like a teacher guiding you through a lesson.
As for the matches there’s some great matches here. War Games really was a great concept, a great way for two factions to go at it, and although the Tower of Doom and War Games 2000 matches left a lot to be desired overall this is a tremendous chronicle of one of the best stipulation matches in wrestling history. It’s also a reminder of how such a great concept match has vanished from the wrestling world.
So with all of that being said there’s just one more thing to do, and that’s to give this release the big thumbs up.
With thanks to Fremantle Media and Fetch Publicity for supplying a copy of this release. War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches is available to buy online at www.wwedvd.co.uk.