Historically Speaking: The Match Beyond


”[History is] little else than a long succession of useless cruelties.” – Voltaire

The Opening Chapter
Another TNA LockDown is in the books. Another giant clusterf*ck of a match with typical Russo booking. It is hard to believe that the all-cage PPV concept has been going for three years now and is now considered one of TNA’s marquee events. But before there was LockDown or the Lethal Lockdown concept match, before the Elimination Chamber, before Hell in a Cell, there was one. There was one concept that redefined the cage match. Take 8-10 men, 2 rings and one giant ring encasing cage and you get WarGames. It was NWA/WCW’s most successful gimmick match. A brainchild of Dusty Rhodes back in the good old NWA, it became a yearly highlight for fans and a big PPV draw in the ‘90s.

So let’s the open the cage door one more time and look back at all the violent and bloody brawls that become such a part of the allure of WarGames: The Match Beyond.

The Bash Years
The Great American Bash tours in the late ‘80s were always guaranteed to deliver entertaining and unique matches. And 1987’s Bash tour provided a truly unique view for fans: the first ever WarGames match. Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, The Road Warriors and Paul Ellering paired off against The Four Horsemen contingent of Ric Flair, Arn & Ole Anderson, Tully Blanchard & JJ Dillon. Dusty himself and Arn Anderson were the first two to enter the ominous double cage for that first five minute period. And in a total shock the heels won the coin toss to allow the 2-on-1 advantage. Dillon, being the weasely heel manager, was easy prey for the faces and submitted to give the win to Team Dusty. A few weeks later on the same tour a WarGames rematch was held only this time the “injured” Dillon was replaced by the massive War Machine (Ray Traylor under a hood). The result was again the same, as The Road Warriors made War Machine submit.

1988 saw the lost WarGames match, recently uncovered on the Ric Flair & The Four Horsemen DVD. This time the Horsemen were comprised of Flair, Arn, Blanchard, Dillon and Barry Windham. Their opposition was again Rhodes, Koloff, Ellering plus Steve Williams and Lex Luger. This time was once the result was again the same, as Dusty got the submission win over Dillon.

1989’s version would be the first without the Dusty-Horsemen feud as its backdrop. It featured the teams of The Road Warriors, the Eaton & Lane version of the Midnight Express and Steve Williams paired off against The Freebird contingent of Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin & Terry Gordy and The Samoan Swat Team-Samu and Fatu. It was ultimately another face victory and another victory for the Road Warriors as Hawk made Garvin submit.

In 1990 there was WarGames held because 1990 was the full year that Dusty spent over in the WWF, polka dots and all. Looking back now it becomes obvious to see that Rhodes really was the engineer of these matches and without his presence it didn’t come off.

By early 1991 Rhodes was back in WCW and so were the WarGames, this time held at WrestleWar in May. With Rhodes out of the ring Sting became the new number one hero and he was the one to challenge the Horsemen. Sting’s four man team of Brian Pillman and The Steiner Brothers tangled with Flair, Windham, Sid Vicious and Larry Zbyzsko, who was replacing an injured Arn Anderson. The story of the match was Pillman’s injured shoulder. He started the match and played sympathetic rag doll face throughout. The ending saw Sid botch a powerbomb on Pillman, forgetting the roof on the cage. Sid, ever the ring technician, repeats the spot and powerbombs Pillman again, legit injuring him further. El Gigante ran in the ring and stopped the match, giving the Horsemen their first WarGames win.

The nest year WarGames was back at the May WrestleWar PPV, this time with Sting captaining a team of Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham and Nikita Koloff against the new heels in town-The Dangerous Allianance, Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyzsko and Arn Anderson. With a mix of WarGames veterans and new players it was sure to be a solid match and it was. Easily the best WarGames match yet, and probably ever, the ending saw Zbyzsko unscrew the turnbuckle to use as a hook on Sting. Stinger ultimately moved and Eaton took the shot and the submission. It led to the implosion of the Alliance and a big victory for Sting and his wholesome faces, including of course the second generation Rhodes.

Fall Brawl
From 1993 until its farewell in 1998, WarGames found a home on the September PPV Fall Brawl. Sting once again led a team into 1993. He joined up with Dustin Rhodes again, Davey Boy Smith and the awesome Shockmaster. This was Shockmaster’s first match after his auspicious debut and he needed to make an impact to maintain any sliver of credibility. They paired off against Sid Vicious, Vader and Harlem Heat. This was a fairly weak and nonviolent event and Shockmaster ended up getting the win by making “Kole” of Harlem Heat (I can’t remember if that was Booker or Stevie) submit to a bear hug of all things. Shockmaster is the brother-in-law of Dusty Rhodes, by the way.

The Rhodes returned in full force in ’94 as Dusty and Dustin teamed with The Nasty Boys to take on Col. Robert Parker’s Stud Stable, including Parker himself, Bunkhouse Buck, Terry Funk and Arn Anderson. Anyone reading this far should know who got the win here as semi-retired Dusty made Parker submit. It could’ve been worse; it could’ve been Funk or Anderson who jobbed to him.

By 1995 Hulk Hogan was running full force through WCW. He assembled the very star-studded team of Sting, Lex Luger and Randy Savage to take on the jobber-riffic Dungeon of Doom team of Kamala, Shark, Zodiac and Meng. The real story of this match was Luger being brought in as Vader’s replacement and Savage having trust issues with him. The story didn’t help the match any and it led to a dull, bloodless affair. In the end, Hulk easily made his buddy Zodiac tap to the camel clutch.

The nWo had become a force by Fall Brawl ’96 and this year’s WarGames was a much anticipated affair. Hollywood Hogan, Hall & Nash and “Sting” comprised the nWo while Horsemen Flair and Anderson teamed with Luger and Sting to fight for WCW. The real story of course was the claim that the nWo side had recruited Sting to be on their team and join them. When WCW questioned Sting’s loyalty he was none too happy. Ultimately the nWo produced an imposter Sting while the real Sting entered for WCW, laid out the heels and then promptly left. Luger ended up losing the match for WCW by submitting to the faux Sting’s Scorpion Deathlock. This kicked off WCW in-fighting between Luger and the Horsemen and Sting’s self-imposed 16 month exile that carried WCW through 1997.

In 1997 the nWo was still raging on and had grown to ridiculous numbers. A b-team of Nash, Konnan, Buff Bagwell and Syxx squared off against the Horsemen team of Flair, Chris Benoit, Steve McMichael and Curt Hennig, who Anderson had given his “spot” to. This match was fueled by Anderson’s retirement speech and the subsequent nWo parody of the event that followed a week later. In a page right out of the ‘80s Horsemen playbook, Hennig turned on his team and joined the nWo, giving them the win.

The bastardized thing in 1998 barely counts as a WarGames but was billed as such and so it shall be. It consisted of three teams, WCW comprised of Roddy Piper, DDP and Warrior, the nWo Wolfpac of Nash, Sting and Luger and the nWo Hollywood team of Hogan, Bret Hart and Stevie Ray. Everyone still came in at random intervals but pinfalls were allowed and the sole winner received a WCW Championship shot the next month at Halloween Havoc, thus neglecting the whole team concept from the on-set. Amidst the mess of Warrior magically appearing and reappearing Page ending up pinning Stevie to win the Title shot. The sad thing was that the trap door that Warrior used to appear out of ended up nearly ended Davey Boy Smith’s career when he unknowingly landed on it early in the PPV.

The Perspective
And so that is how the legacy of WarGames ended, with DDP pinning Stevie Ray and Ultimate Warrior magically disappearing. Fall Brawl still went on in 1999 and 2000 but no WarGames matches were held. In 1999 a couple weeks before the Fall Brawl PPV, Nitro held a cage match between Goldberg, Sting and Hogan against Sid, DDP and Rick Steiner as perhaps as an homage to the forgotten event. And in September 2000 with Vince Russo in full booking control he concocted a three cage WarGames-like match with Goldberg, Kronik , Sting & Booker T against Nash, The Harris Boys, Scott Steiner and Jeff Jarrett with the WCW Championship on the line. Amidst a lot of convoluted rules and interference Nash ended up walking out still as Champion.

WarGames was a unique and entertainment gimmick concept. WCW used it sparingly and made it mean something. It produced entertaining and quality matches, especially in the ’91 and ’92 versions and provided a big match feel for a lesser PPV. The concept of WarGames has to be considered a success just for as much as it is talked about and longed for by fans familiar with the original bouts.

Others on the site on have already mentioned this, but with Dusty back under the WWE payroll and WWE owning all the old copyrights, maybe this year is as good a time as any to see a reincarnation of the true WarGames and show TNA how its done. Maybe the good guys can finally catch a break and land that coin flip in their favor. There is a Great American Bash right around the corner you know…

For this week the vault is closed…

Linked to the Pulse
Scott Keith just did a good rant on the new Ric Flair & the Four Horsemen DVD earlier this week. It’s a good read and was helpful in me finding information about that 1998 WarGames match I never knew existed.

Check out Eric’s ECW Short Form this week. It’s always a good read, plus he gave us newbies an explanation on his naming conventions earlier in the week so that was appreciated.

Also please check out the first issue of VS. I think it’s going to be a solid addition to the IP Wrestling line-up. Big Andy Mac and Eric S. do battle in the inaugural issue.

Everyone Likes to See Their Name in Print
IP Wrestling guru MM dropped me a note on last week’s column to let me know that Tough Enough 1 veteran Taylor Methany has recently been dating Brian Kendrick while TE 2 vet Matt Morgan is currently plying his trade in Japan.

Also someone simply named icon let me know that Shad Gaspard of Cryme Tyme fame was actually featured on the casting special for Tough Enough 2. He apparently was going to make the final cast for the show but didn’t fail the final physical and was cut. Good information.

In another bit about Shad, (who knew he was so popular around these parts?) Sal P wondered if he was in the $1,000,000 Tough Enough. That was actually a guy named Justice Smith who I couldn’t find any current information on. But apparently Shad was on TE 2 as was pointed out earlier.

Thanks for the questions, comments and e-mails and please keep them coming. I appreciate any and all feedback I receive.

Mark was a columnist for Pulse Wrestling for over four years, evolving from his original “Historically Speaking” commentary-style column into the Monday morning powerhouse known as “This Week in ‘E.” He also contributes to other ventures, outside of IP, most notably as the National Pro Wrestling Examiner for Examiner.com and a contributor for The Wrestling Press. Follow me on Twitter here.