Great American Bash
July 23, 1989
The Road Warriors (Road Warrior Hawk and Road Warrior Animal), The Midnight Express (Bobby Eaton and Stan Lane), and Steve Williams
The Fabulous Freebirds (Jimmy Garvin, Michael Hayes, and Terry Gordy) and The Samoan Swat Team (Fatu and Samu)
Bookended by two ****+ matches in a charter year creatively for the now-Turner-owned World Championship Wrestling, the 1989 War Games stands the test of time — holding up as an awesome match even 28 years after it aired.
War Games took place during WCW’s Great American Bash 1989, a top-to-bottom excellent show main evented by a spectacular Ric Flair/Terry Funk match.
This is one of only two War Games matches to this point that didn’t feature Ric Flair and the first to not feature “The Enforcer” Arn Anderson. Only The Road Warriors (12 of the first 15 War Games), “Dr. Death” Steve Williams (July 14, 1988 & July 16, 1988) and The Midnight Express (November 25, 1987) had prior War Games experience.
Their foes, the heel side of The Fabulous Freebirds & Samoan Swat Team, were all War Games virgins.
Both teams were very new to WCW as a whole, with Michael Hayes of the Freebirds coming into the company in January while Jimmy Garvin eventually came aboard in May. Terry Gordy would be around for a short time but would end his run on this night only returning to the company in 1992.
The Samoan Swat Team, made of up Fatu (24 years old at this point) and Samu (26), were new as well coming into the company in the spring under the tutelage of their manager Paul E. Dangerously.
The build to War Games began in the spring when during a NWA World Tag Team Championship tournament interference from both the Road Warriors and Samoan Swat Team gelled with a bubbling feud between the Fabulous Freebirds and Midnight Express. In June, Williams turned face, aligning with the Midnight Express. This, combined with the other two tag team feuds, created chaos in WCW’s midcard.
On July 1, War Games was officially announced, leading us here.
What this match lacked in in-ring prowess (warning there are A LOT of clotheslines) and brutality (no blood, a point of contention in Wrestling Observer reader letters at the time), it makes up for with a molten hot crowd throughout. Every move, every clothesline (all 300 of them), every fist was met with an explosive reaction, particularly when it involved either member of the Road Warriors.
Beautiful Bobby and Luscious Jimmy started the match off but were met with some apathy (relatively so) as the crowd was clearly waiting and saving their next-level energy for the big dogs.
Jim Ross and Bob Caudle—our commentary team for the night—discussed the history of the War Games with Ross adding unique anecdotes as only he can. Caudle seemed confused at first by the rules of the match but quickly picked it up thanks to the explanations of Ross. The commentary team made mention numerous times of the revolutionary camera INSIDE the cage.
We may take this small bit of tech for granted but watching a cage match only from outside the cage is not as great an experience as being able to get into the cage at times. This is even more obvious when you watch a few of the original War Games shot at a distance to get both rings and all competitors in the hard cam shot at once.
So while it may seem like not a big deal to have the camera man in the ring, it really does make a huge difference.
Gordy was our next competitor and gave the heels a two-on-one advantage. Man, the luck on those heels. Those bastards had one hell of a win percentage of the advantage coin-flip.
Gordy’s time in the ring was uneventful until “Dr. Death” Steve Williams—who in a pre-match promo mimicked winged and continually said “I’m going BIRD hunting tonight!”—went right after Gordy. Williams lifted Gordy above his head and press slammed him into the cage eight times. This may not seem like a huge deal until you realize Gordy is 6’6 and 300 lbs. Williams was a monster.
Samu and Animal were the next two in, Animal hit 175 of the 300 clotheslines mentioned during this portion of the match. I could sit here and critique Animal’s performance but c’mon, the pop when he entered the cage and the subsequent pop each and every time he threw a clothesline proved he didn’t have to do much, the crowd was eating out of his hand regardless.
The big home runs—or cleanup hitters as Caudle and Ross said—we’re Hayes and Hawk. Hayes came in first and DDT’d everyone in the ring. Hawk, was like a caged animal ripping at the door to the tune of “We Want Hawk!” chants. Finally, the referees let him in the ring to a nuclear pop. A lot of clotheslines followed, a lot, but, again, it didn’t matter, these guys were the ass-kickers and the crowd loved it.
The finish was a little anticlimactic for someone watching with 2017 eyes but certainly fit the feud and tenor of the match. The Road Warriors cornered Garvin in the left ring with Animal playing defense to the others in the right ring. Hawk grabbed Garvin and put him in a Hangman’s Neckbreaker. Garvin did all he could to slip out but finally had to tap.
The babyfaces put Hawk on their shoulders and started leaving the ring one-by-one. This is when the heels got their heat back trapping Animal in the ring with the door closed. After beating him down for a few minutes, the faces ran in again for the save.
Dave Meltzer gave this War Games match **** in the July 31, 1989 Wrestling Observer Newsletter. I’m going to go a little lower, don’t think it was quite **** but an easy ***½ and a War Games match that definitely holds up nearly 30 years after it took place.
February 24, 1991
The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Sid Vicious, and Larry Zbyszko)
Sting, Brian Pillman and the Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott Steiner)
WCW WrestleWar 91 is a pretty historic event. It was the first WCW PPV not to be promoted under the NWA banner. It was the first time WCW would present a WarGames outside of a show under the Great American Bash name. It also hosted a Dave Meltzer rated ***** WarGames match with the face team of Sting, Flyin’ Brian, and the Steiner Brothers taking on The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Barry Windham, and Sid Vicious) along with Larry Zybszko. Larry was subbing in for an injured Arn Anderson.
On the episode of WCW Saturday Night the day before WrestleWar, the Horsemen and Zbyszko were able to injure Flyin’ Brians shoulder in a four-on-one attack, which meant Pillman came into the match with his shoulder heavily taped. The injury did not stop Pillman from beginning the match for his team. In a typical WCW moment we were told he broke away from his team during a huddle before the match began, but we didn’t actually see it due to poor camerawork. Opposing Flyin’ Brian for the first five minute period was Barry Windham. For the majority of the five minutes Pillman is on the attack and within minutes Windham is wearing the famous crimson mask and it’s a hell of a gusher. Windham also takes one of the most insane bumps I have ever seen a man of his size take when he flies from one ring to the other and very nearly lands on the top of his head.
As is the norm the heels win the coin toss to gain the man advantage and the third man into the cage is the WCW World Heavyweight Champion “Nature Boy” Ric Flair. The crowd is already bouncing as the Horsemen begin to work over the previously injured shoulder of Flyin’ Brian. I also need to mention that Flair is sporting the worst bowl haircut I have ever seen, but somehow he makes it work. The fourth man in is Sting and at this point the crowd are at a fever pitch. We get Stinger Splashes and bulldogs aplenty with the man from Venice Beach dominating
Windham and Flair.
Honorary Horsemen for the night Larry Z is the next man in and his most memorable moment is to be on the end of a flying shoulder tackle from Sting as he leapt from one ring to the other. I can’t help but feel that Double A would have contributed a hell of a lot more to this match than Zbyszko. Rick Steiner is the third man in for the face team and boy is he an early 90’s mish mash of colours; green head gear, orange and black singlet, blue knee pads, and one red boot and one white boot! It’s one hell of an ensemble. Steiner runs Flair head first into the cage and the Nature Boy is a mess of blood and blond hair.
The last man in for Team Horsemen is Sid and boy is he impressive. In a moment that made me actually burst out laughing, Sid holds Rick Steiner and leaves him open for Flair. Now in most circumstances you would expect a trademark Flair knife edge chop, but this is WarGames. Instead Flair delivers the most vicious kick in the balls I have ever seen. Scott Steiner is then the last man in and the match beyond begins.
We see Sting military pressing Flair into the top of the cage before we get all of the babyfaces putting figure four leglocks on all of the heels. In a moment I can’t explain, none of the heels break the holds the face team just kinda let them go. At this point, Sid zeroes in on Flyin’ Brian, particularly his injured shoulder which the Horsemen worked on throughout the entire match. In the spot which I am sure everyone has seen hundreds of times, Sid drops Pillman dangerously on his shoulder with a powerbomb and rapidly follows up with another powerbomb. Hilariously, this draws El Gigante down to the ring and he surrenders the match on behalf of his good friend Flyin’ Brian who is out cold and can no longer defend himself. The Horsemen are declared the winners.
I came into this match expecting something on a par with the infamous WarGames 92. Instead I was left extremely disappointed. The only highlights of the match for me were the opening exchanges between Windham and Flyin’ Brian, the ridiculous blade job by Windham, and the duo of powerbombs by Sid that ended the match.
Star Rating: ***1/2
Follow Voices of Wrestling’s War Games Week below:
May 17, 1992
Sting’s Squadron (Sting, Nikita Koloff, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Barry Windham)
The Dangerous Alliance (Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Steve Austin, Larry Zbyszko, and Rick Rude)
As someone who didn’t start watching wrestling until 2004 (when I was ten years old), I never really knew what War Games was. By the time I started to watch WWE, both WCW & ECW had been dead for over three years, so aside from general knowledge I was able to gather at the time about these two defunct promotions, I didn’t know too much about them.
The first time that I became aware of War Games was actually through TNA, which I started to watch around the fall of 2006 (sadly, this is around the same time when Vince Russo was brought back into the company on the creative side).
Following their LockDown 2007 PPV, I was just searching around online to read about what happened at the show, and I found out that the Lethal Lockdown Match was loosely based on something called War Games. Since then, I’ve watched a number of different variations on the War Games concept (from TNA’s Lethal Lockdown, to ROH’s Steel Cage Warfare, to CZW’s Cage Of Death), but aside from seeing assorted YouTube clips several years ago (pre-WWE Network), and a few of the later War Games after Hulk Hogan came to WCW (1995 & 1996 specifically), I’ve never really seen a true, classic War Games match from the NWA or early WCW in full.
When I found out that the site would be doing this project ahead of War Games returning at the next NXT TakeOver, I saw it as a big opportunity for me to finally watch one of the classic War Games matches in full. Now in the past, any time I mentioned War Games on Twitter, or read conversations about War Games on a variety of different forums, almost everyone would mention that the War Games from WCW WrestleWar 1992 as being one of the best, if not the best, version of the match to have ever taken place. If I was going to watch a classic War Games for this project, why not take a look at the most critically acclaimed on the bunch?
Before I dive into the match, it should be made clear that I really haven’t watched a lot of classic wrestling. Prior the launch of the WWE Network, the WrestleMania Box Set that came out in 2005 (which had every WrestleMania there had been, up to that point, on DVD) was really the only time I had ever watched a wrestling event from the 80’s or the early 90’s. I’m also not going to pretend to be some kind of expert on 1992 WCW. This should simply be taken as a review and reaction to a classic War Games from a set of fresh eyes. With that being said, hopefully I’ll be able to provide a new perspective on a match that is held in such a high regard by so many.
Tony Schiavone & Eric Bischoff (both of whom looked so young in 1992!) gave a little prelude speech prior to War Games structure being lowered. After the cage had been secured around the two rings, I had a couple of immediate thoughts. The first of those involves the cage itself. To me, it just looked so….rickety. Now to be fair, the cage seemed to be put together a bit better in later versions, and perhaps this look was intentional on WCW’s part, but as someone who admittedly pays too much attention to detail when it comes to structures (that’s what you get when you’re around architecture and engineering students for almost five years), this War Games cage just looked incredibly flimsy. Some of the sides of the cage didn’t line up properly, and it looked like the roof, which is already too low, could cave in if any amount of weight was put on it (though it’s strength would be tested later). I know this was 1992, but still, I feel like they could’ve done a better job with the actual design of the structure.
The second thought is more about War Games as a whole. To be brutally honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of the two rings concept. I completely understand why these matches use two rings under one cage (you’re going to need some more space for a match inside of a cage that involves eight or ten people). However, seeing two rings instead of one just looks….wrong. When you think of wrestling, you think of one ring. It’s the epicenter of everything that happens on any given show, from your local independent promotion to the biggest shows in the world like WrestleMania or Wrestle Kingdom. If you add a second ring, it completely messes with that equilibrium. This is a weird architecture analogy, but it would be like if you added a second dome to the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington. Sure, you could just throw on another dome, but that doesn’t mean it’ll make the building look better, or improve it in any way. Additionally, it just makes the rest of the matches on the show seem really awkward. Earlier, I mentioned that I watched the War Games from 1996 (in the first year after the WWE Network launched). Well, I watched the rest of that show (Fall Brawl 1996), and seeing regular matches happen in that setting was just so odd. There’s the opportunity for creative spots, for sure, but that doesn’t change my views on it that much. It’s hardly an issue that would prevent me from watching War Games matches, but two rings will always look visually wrong to me.
Back to the match itself, Jim Ross & Jesse Ventura were on commentary (what a team!), and instead of having just one person from each team come out to start, with each subsequent entrant coming out from the back when their time come, both teams came out in full, and huddled around their respective entrance door on opposite sides of the ring. The Dangerous Alliance, of course, had Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heyman) in their corner, along with Madusa.
Sting’s Squadron got a big reaction from the crowd when they came out, and I quickly discovered that cowboy boots are a popular choice of in-ring footwear for southern babyfaces during this time period as both Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes were sporting them. Speaking of Windham, he was picked to start the match for his team, while Steve Austin went in first for the Dangerous Alliance. I don’t know what was going on with Austin at the time (aside from being involved in the WCW Television Title picture), but I feel like it was a big deal for Austin, a relative rookie in a stable of veterans, to be the guy that started the match for his side. He definitely worked hard in this first five minute period, when it came to dishing out offense (such as a great running clothesline on Windham from one ring to the other), as well as taking it from Windham. Austin took some nice bumps off the cage walls when Windham tossed him into them. It was so strange to see a version of Steve Austin that was much more nimble and mobile. Meanwhile, Jesse Ventura kept complaining during this segment of the match about the Windham’s taped fist, which he claimed was illegal (how exactly is taping your fist considered illegal?).
As the first five minute period came to a close, a coin toss was held outside of the cage, and of course, The Dangerous Alliance won the toss. Rick Rude soon entered the match and went right after Barry Windham, which gave Steve Austin (who had been bused open at this point) the chance to recover. After two minutes, the crowd exploded when Ricky Steamboat entered the match to even the odds. It was an interesting choice to have two of the biggest stars in the match enter so early, but I thought it worked, especially since (I believe) they both were in a feud over the WCW United States Title at the time. Steamboat ran wild on the two heels, taking them out with DDTs, tossing them into the cage, and even hitting a couple of moves while hanging from the low roof of the cage.
Arn Anderson entered the match next for the Dangerous Alliance, and as Jim Ross mentioned earlier, “The Enforcer” had the most experience in this environment, going all the way back to being one of the first entrants in the original War Games match.
Anderson went right after Barry Windham (who was busted open at this point), hitting him with a DDT. Poor Ricky Steamboat took a ton of punishment in this portion of the match, as he got hit with a spinebuster from Anderson, a piledriver from Rude, and was locked in a tandem Boston Crab by both Anderson and Rude. Dustin Rhodes then entered the fray to a massive reaction from the crowd. He cleaned house on the heels, managing to hit a big electric chair on Steve Austin. While that was going on, Barry Windham managed to turn Anderson upside down, and shoved his head between the rings in a very cool visual.
Larry Zbyszko was the fourth entrant for the Dangerous Alliance, but he immediately got attacked by Dustin Rhodes, and his selling was pretty hilarious. While this was going on, Madusa actually climbed to the roof of the cage so she could slip Paul E. Dangerously’s ridiculously large phone to Anderson. Sting then got an insane reaction from the crowd as he climbed to the roof of the cage to confront Madusa, who quickly climbed back down. I saw that image of Sting on the roof when I would Google search this match, and I had the impression that there was going be a move of some kind performed on top of the cage, which probably wouldn’t be a good idea, considering how weak that roof appeared to be. The fact that Sting got such a big pop for just climbing up there to essentially scare Madusa off wasn’t a surprise to me, since this was several years before the crazy bumps that would become associated with Hell in a Cell. I’m not sure if this was the first time someone climbed to the roof of the War Games structure, but if it was, I can understand the fans seeing it as a big deal.
Sting got another huge reaction from the crowd when he officially entered, and much like his teammates before him, he cleaned house on the heels. He gorrilla pressed Rude into the roof of the cage several times, tossed Anderson into the cage, and gave Austin an insane backdrop into one of the cage walls. Those were all awesome spots. Sting looked great as these heels were bumping their asses off for him. More blood was flowing by the time the final member of The Dangerous Alliance, Bobby Eaton, entered the match. He really didn’t do much in this one, though he would play a big part in the finish. It was during this final two minute period that Rick Rude and Larry Zbyszko started to take down the top rope in one of the rings. Nikita Koloff then entered the match to make it five-on-five, officially kicking off “The Match Beyond”. It appeared that one of the stories coming in was whether Nikita Koloff would be able to co-exist with Sting (I believe those two had been rivals previously) and be loyal to Sting’s Squadron. After saving Sting from a double team attack, the crowd exploded when the two hugged, and they went on the attack together.
Eventually, the top rope in the one ring was finally taken down. While a ton of brawling was going on in both rings, Bobby Eaton & Larry Zbyszko decided that they were going to use the metal turnbuckle on Sting. Zbyszko went to use it on Sting (who was being held by Eaton), but Sting moved out of the way, and Eaton took the full brunt of the turnbuckle shot on one of his shoulders. Sting then took out Zbyszko, locked Eaton in an armbar, and got the submission victory for his team. As Sting’s Squadron celebrated their victory, the rest of the Dangerous Alliance argued with Larry Zbyszko about what happened.
While I don’t think I loved this War Games as much as those who watched it in 1992, it was still a very enjoyable match to watch from start-to-finish. There were plenty of memorable moments throughout, which says a lot considering some of the incredible things we’ve seen in the ring in the twenty-five years since WrestleWar 1992.
Steve Austin took a number of big bumps, the other members of the Dangerous Alliance played their roles well, and everyone on the babyface side had moments to shine, though I would say that Sting stood out the most. Something that added a ton to this match was the enthusiasm from the crowd. They absolutely adored everyone on Sting’s Squadron, and exploded whenever one of them entered the match to even the odds against the heels. It was amazing to see such a hot crowd that was invested right from the opening bell. This match wouldn’t have come off nearly as well as it did if those crowd reactions weren’t there. I can’t stress enough how much they added to this War Games, especially for someone that hasn’t watched a ton of old wrestling, as I already mentioned.
Another thing that really stood out to me was the amount of blood that we saw. This particular bout certainly lived up to the violent reputation that had been established by previous War Games matches, especially when it comes to blood. At least half of the participants got busted open which, when looking at this War Games through 2017 eyes, isn’t exactly the most sanitary thing in the world. Multiple people mixing blood? You’re just asking for trouble. Something that also caught my attention when it came to all of the blood was just how….easy it was for some of these guys to get busted open. One toss into the cage and they were covered in the proverbial crimson mask. I have no issues with blood being used in this kind of match, but I don’t think guys need to start bleeding profusely as soon as they get thrown into the cage for the first time.
Most of the wrestlers involved in this War Games worked pretty hard (I say most because the likes of Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyszko, & Nikita Koloff didn’t do much aside from a few key spots), but one of the big MVPs wasn’t even in the match. I thought Paul Heyman was GREAT in his role here as the heel manager/leader of the Dangerous Alliance. In particular, I really enjoyed seeing him going over his battle plans with the team both before and during the match. When the camera was on him, you would hear him going over strategy, telling his team what to do in certain situations. This might sound odd, but that added a sense of realism to the match. If I was managing a team in War Games, of course I would come prepared with a bunch of different strategies! You have to be prepared, and as the mastermind behind his powerful heel faction, Heyman certainly was. He play his role to perfection, and the crowd certainly made their feelings about him known, with “Paul E Sucks” chants coming up multiple times (mainly from kids, based on how the chants sounded).
My first experience with a classic War Games Match was, for the most part, pretty positive. The action throughout proved to be more entertaining than I was initially expecting (given that this was from 1992), and they managed to weave in a number of different stories. Even though I don’t understand all of these stories in their complete context (as I hadn’t watched anything from this period of WCW before), it wasn’t hard to pick up on what was going on. I did have critiques about the setup of War Games itself (which includes the ring and the cage), but aside from what I mentioned earlier about the blood, I had no issues with anything that was done inside of the ring, with regards to the action. What we saw in the two rings was pretty great, and as a blowoff, this was exactly what you would’ve wanted. Now, as I already mentioned, I didn’t think this particular War Games Match was as amazing as people made it out to be, but again, that comment is coming from someone in 2017 who hasn’t seen a ton of wrestling from this era. If I was watching it in 1992, in that context, I would’ve probably seen it as one of the greatest matches I had even seen. Was seeing this match for the first time a stunning revelation? Not really. Would I put this match among some of my all-time favorites? Probably not. However, I definitely view it as an excellent example of how great a War Games Match can be, and in the context of its time period, it was perfect.
September 19, 1993
Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes, and The Shockmaster
Sid Vicious, Vader, and Harlem Heat (Kane and Kole)
Only a year after arguably the best War Games match of all time (1992), WCW main evented their inaugural Fall Brawl event with War Games: The Match Beyond.
We’d be remiss if we jumped straight to match without talking about the insane amount of turmoil going on in and around World Championship Wrestling at this time, so let’s do it.
WCW’s long-held relationship with the National Wrestling Alliance came to a tumultuous end just days prior to the Fall Brawl event. On September 1, WCW officially withdrew as a member of the NWA. This wasn’t a shock to many as WCW management and the NWA Board of Directors had many issues with one another in recent years. The straw that apparently broke the camel’s back, though, was WCW wanting to put the NWA Title on Rick Rude. For some background, Ric Flair—the current champion—defeated Barry Windham in a tournament that summer. Flair was intended to lose the title to Rude at Fall Brawl but the NWA Board of Directors didn’t want that to happen. Fair enough. WCW withdrew from the NWA and a court battle ensued over the “Big Gold Belt.” When the dust settled WCW was told they could not continue to use the letters NWA to promote or describe the belt. Thus, it was known as simply “The Big Gold Belt” until WCW eventually settled on the WCW International World Heavyweight Championship.
Making matters confusing, the courts ruled that WCW did possess a right to the physical Big Gold Belt and its historical lineage. Thus the newly-named WCW International World Heavyweight Championship was “created.” Rude would win the title in an uninspiring match earlier on the card. Just a year later, the title was unified with the WCW World Heavyweight Championship but during its time was held by Rude, Hiroshi Hase of New Japan Pro Wrestling and Sting, who ultimately lost the unification match to Ric Flair in June 1994.
Now onto the odd selection of wrestlers for this match. Again, I’ll reference the 1992 War Games which featured several wrestlers synonmous with WCW during the early 80s and 90s: Sting, Nikita Koloff, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton. Those are names that scream WCW in this era.
Davey Boy Smith, The Shockmaster, Sid Vicious and Harlem Heat. Well, do not.
We’ll start with Davey Boy, who came to WCW earlier in the year amidst after being let go by WWE for receiving Human Growth Hormone from a pharmacy in England.
WCW welcomed Smith with open arms and almost immediately pegged him as one of their top babyfaces. The bloom fell off the rose pretty quickly though and despite being in top programs for his entire tenure, he was released from the company in December 1993. The reason stated was legal issues stemming from a bar fight in July 1993.
The Shockmaster. What more do I need to tell you? If you don’t know about The Shockmaster, watch the video below:
Fred Ottman, the former Tugboat and Typhoon, debuted at Clash of the Champions XXIV and, yeah, it didn’t go well. People will blame the botched entrance on the downfall of The Shockmaster but c’mon, it was Fred Ottman in a fucking bedazzled Stormtrooper helmet voiced by Ole Anderson. Even if he burst through that wallpaper with the grace of the Kool-Aid Man this thing was dead on arrival. On the bright side, Ottman DID trip and we were lucky enough to witness one of the greatest WrestleCrap/Botchamania moments of all-time. The fall is hilarious but my favorite part of his entire debut is Sid Vicious having to fake scratching his forehead to prevent him from bursting out in tears of laughter. The whole thing is a beautiful disaster. As we’d see, WCW would pivot away from this Shockmaster to, well, a different Shockmaster. We’ll get to that shortly.
Sid returned to WCW in May 1993 as the mystery client of Col. Robert Parker (and his massive schlong). Sid would make quick work of Van Hammer on that night and would shortly make quick work of this WCW tenure. After this War Games match, Sid entered into a feud with Sting which ended when Sid turned babyface, turning on his manager Parker. Unfortunately, we’d never see that feud—or the rumored Sid vs. Vader match—as Sid was fired from WCW after a hotel room scuffle with Arn Anderson. The infamous scissors incident sent shockwaves through the WCW locker room with several wrestlers threatening to walk out if he wasn’t released immediately.
WCW was a mess and there was no better representation of the chaos than the main event of Fall Brawl 1993: War Games… The Match Beyond!
Jesse Ventura can barely contain his excitement as he—within seconds of Tony Schiavone hyping the tremendous significance of the match—gets distracted by a fan showing off a giant printout of his photo op with Sting. WCW Head of Security Doug Dillinger, for whatever reason, pushes the guy away. Why? He’s just showing how much he loves The Stinger.
Schiavone, in perhaps his greatest act as a not-that-cool-of-a-cool dad, gives Jesse a “go get’em, tiger” punch to the chin to cap off the segment.
Gary Michael Cappetta gets things rolling but first “very briefly the rules…” The very brief rule explanation took 1 minute and 38 seconds in case you’re wondering. To be fair to GMC, the War Games rules are super convoluted and anyone in the arena would have their head spinning within a few minutes without the explanation. Still, this felt like the infamous Howard Finkel Royal Rumble explanations that would often take about three minutes and be followed by Gorilla Monsoon saying “Feet hit the floor, you’re out, very simple.”
One-by-one, our participants make their way down to the ring. Kane and Kole—better known to most as Stevie Ray and Booker T of Harlem Heat—are the first out. Kane (Stevie Ray) looks at the camera and explains “aint no thing but a chicken wing on a string.” Of course I’ve heard “aint no thing but a chicken wing” but the string? What the hell does the string part mean?
Sid enters and he is massive like literally bursting at the seams. Given WWE’s steroid policy at the time, well, WCW was the right place for Mr. Eudy.
As the faces start working their way down the ring they are led by “Team Advisor” Animal. This was confusing as hell because why was Animal a Team Advisor on a seemingly random team and more than that, why the fuck was he wearing full Road Warrior Animal gear? Thanks to Dave Meltzer and the Wrestling Observer, I got my answer:
“Road Warrior Animal was in Sting’s corner for no apparent reason other than he had been advertised in all the cable ads until the day of the show as being a participant in this match even though at no time was it ever possible that would be the case because of his Lloyd’s of London policy.”
WCW was such a fucking mess at this time.
Dustin Rhodes gets one of the biggest reactions of the night. Only 23-years-old at the time, he looks the part of a babyface and is put over huge by Schiovane. Venture—who was in full-on checked out mode—couldn’t even fake brief excitement about anyone or anything in this match.
Finally, the last babyface to enter is The Shockmaster. Repackaged after his infamous debut gaffe, The Shockmaster is now an electrician or something? He’s wearing a white construction hat, white sleeveless shirt, he looks like the least imposing man in pro wrestling history and he’s supposed to be this team’s secret weapon.
Again, I know the debut was a trainwreck but did anyone in the world actually think “Fred Ottman as an ass-kicking babyface” was going to be successful? “Oh and make sure he gets a glittery Storm Trooper helmet too! Really drive home the point of how awesome he is!”
The teams devise their plans for who will enter War Games… The Match Beyond! first. For some inexplicable reason the faces determine that the fucking klutz who can’t walk without falling down should be the first one to enter the ring. This decision is capped off by a fucking BOTCHED HIGH-FIVE.
Can this guy do anything right?
In literally the only interesting part of this entire match, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Rhodes sneaks past his teammates and enters the cage. He’ll be doing battle with the heels opening match representative, Vader. This was not only a cool visual but a great story as well. Rhodes, in his home state of Texas, is too big for his britches and despite having taped up ribs thinks he’s going to be the hero for his team.
It didn’t work. Vader beat on Rhodes tossing him across the ring and busting him wide open. Kane was next to enter putting the already beaten and bloodied Rhodes at a 2-1 disadvantage. It was at this point where Jesse forgot the rules of the match and started going on a rant about Rhodes giving up and costing his team the match. Schiovane tried, unsuccessfully, to tell Jesse this wasn’t possible but alas, it continued.
I’ll make the rest of this short and sweet, the rest of the guys came in. They kicked, they sometimes punched, but nothing and I mean nothing happened. Let’s play a game here to make the finish fun. Try and dream up how you would end this match. I promise in a million years you would never fantasy book THE SHOCKMASTER making Kane submit via a really, really, really tight bearhug.
This is War Games. This is a match where men are made. Where the weak and feeble are separated from the strong. Nobody leaves feeling the same ever again. The ultimate match. And yet you have THE SHOCKMASTER win via a bearhug. Oh boy.
Meltzer, at the time unaware of the actual spelling, referred to Kole as “Heat Coal” which is an incredible name and makes more sense than whatever the hell Harlem Heat was supposed to be at this time.
A fucking bearhug, REALLY?!
This was the shortest War Games match ever. A record that still stands today. At only 16:39, it beats out the 1991 version (17:55). Surprisingly, it’s even shorter than the Russo Rules War Games from 2000. That match aired on an episode of WCW Monday Night… in the Vince Russo era and was still longer than this trainwreck.
Meltzer gave it *1/2 and that’s too damn kind…
Star Rating: DUD
September 18, 1994
Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, and The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags)
Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck, and Robert Parker
“The Natural” Dustin Rhodes, he who would later be called Goldust, had a rough go in 1994.
Positioned as a secondary babyface on the upswing towards main event status, young Dust had many young southern fans ravenous while others couldn’t be bothered. The son of a son of a plumber spent most of 1993 as the WCW United States Champion before definitively losing the belt to “Stunning” Steve Austin and his manager Colonel Robert Parker at Starrcade.
Rhodes floundered around the undercard for the first few months of 1994, before reigniting his feud with Parker, who was hellbent on destroying any Rhodes he could. Parker introduced his old running mate Jimmy Golden, now Bunkhouse Buck, at Spring Stampede in April, in an effort to take it to Dustin.
Buck, for his part looked every bit the old time “bunkhouse” miner of yore, clad in tight colored jeans tucked into nondescript boots, a dirty, thermal long sleeve shirt with thin suspenders and sporting hair as greasy as any you’ve seen.
The two men, an era apart had one of the best brawls of the 90’s, taking it all over the ring and working super stiff. With this match, a new rivalry was born. The two met again at Slamboree, this time in a Bullrope match, and in various formations on TV and in house shows. While wins were traded, Dustin often came out worse than his opponents, a lone soldier up against an army. By the summer, Parker had brought in Terry Funk and Meng (as silent bodyguard) to round out his Stud Stable, and the crew (sans Austin), took advantage of Rhodes every chance they got. In an act of desperation, Dustin recruited Arn Anderson to tag with him against Funk and Buck, and while Arn was hesitant at first, he eventually agreed to team with Dustin three weeks later to take on the Stud Stable at the inaugural Bash at the Beach. In a nothing match, Arn stood aimless on the apron until turning on Dustin with a huge DDT and aligning himself with the Stud Stable.
And then came Dusty.
On the July 24th episode of WCW Saturday Night, Dusty Rhodes confronted the Stud Stable in the middle of a match, which brought out Dustin from the back before delivering one of the best and most heartfelt promos of all-time.
“Come here, Dustin. I want everybody to bear with me for just a minute. I wanna talk to my son in front of the whole world.
“When you were born, when you were a baby, when you were born, I went off to seek my fame and fortune. I neglected you. Then later on, when I became world’s heavyweight champion, I neglected you. Then lately I became this corporate cowboy if you will, in public with a suit and tie on, and I neglected you. And when it came down to choose a partner, I was off in Hollywood and I neglected you.
“Let me tell you something — Bunkhouse Buck, let me tell ya, Col. Parker, they all nothin’ but chicken feeds, that’s all they are, brother. Let me tell you something else. Terry Funk is nothing but a lowlife, watermelon thief, egg suckin’ dog! And let me tell you something about Arn Anderson. Arn Anderson, my son offered up his innocence, and you paid him back in scorn. The hell with you, Arn Anderson! Arn Anderson has never been nothin’ but a walk-behinder. And when you walk behind and you’re not a leader, then the view never changes baby. The view never changes, baby. The view never changes.
“You have the ability to be the world’s heavyweight wrestling champion. There is not a greater athlete at your age in this sport. But I … I want to ask you a favor. I wanna ask you a favor in front of … in front of God and the whole world. I know that the Clash of Champions on August the 24th, you put your name on the dotted line. I don’t want you to look for another partner. I don’t want you to go and find another man. I don’t want you to go out and get on your knees and beg another scum-suckin’ pig to be your partner. I’m asking you if you can carry this ol’ out of shape, old bent-out, old spinly legged man … *I* wanna be your partner! I don’t need no handshake because up there right now tonight, there’s … there’s people with their brothers and sisters and their wives. They are blood! The Kennedys were blood. The Earps were blood. The Rhodes are blood. I don’t need a handshake. What I need now from you is just a hug and a kiss to seal the deal, baby.”
-Dusty Rhodes, WCW Saturday Night 7/24/94
While the Dusty and Dustin reunion set up the two to tag against Funk and Buck at the upcoming Clash of the Champions, that match would end in a brawl, with the Stud Stable taking advantage of the Rhodes’ and Dusty eventually ducking from the imposing Meng. Thus began the quest to find two more tag team partners to take on Dusty’s old rivals and Dustin’s current rivals.
Enter the Nasty Boys.
Having previously been heels and even having feuds with Dustin Rhodes, Dusty approached the Nasty Boys in the most hilarious bar/promo scene you can find (check it out on the Fall Brawl 94 on the Network), using reverse psychology to see if Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were indeed NASTY enough for a match that goes BEYOND like the War Games. Turns out they were nasty enough, and the sides were set for Fall Brawl. Dusty, Dustin, Knobbs, and Sags Vs. Terry, Bunkhouse, Arn, and Meng. Or so we thought.
As the match approached, the WCW Board of Directors delivered Mean Gene (clearly fishy) a letter stating that Meng was NOT cleared to compete in the War Games match and insisting that the leader of the Stud Stable, Colonel Parker must replace him. Now, I don’t know much about law or contracts or anything, but you would think the Stud Stable would have an opportunity find a new partner.
On the plus side: We were finally going to see the Rhodes’ get their hands on Parker.
As for the match itself, Fall Brawl 1994 was a somewhat lackluster show compared to much of the WCW’s shows from earlier in the year. Hogan and his crew had come through a few months earlier and wrecked havoc on match quality and while the undercards remained strong, there was a complete overhaul of the top of the card. War Games though, to this point had been mostly great. The early matches in the 80s were good if not classic. ‘91 was an entertaining clusterfuck of near death experiences and Sid. ‘92 was one of the best matches of all time. ‘93…existed amongst a pretty excellent show. The feud setting up this match in ‘94 was heated, the participants were new and fresh, with only Dusty and Arn having previously competed in the match, and having people like Terry Funk and the Nasty Boys meant we could expect all kinds of insane plunder. But this was ‘94 and brutal insanity was a thing of the past in WCW, so while the match is indeed excellent, full of fantastic brawling and use of the stipulation, the lack of blood really detracts from this being an all-time classic.
The match starts with the all-time legendary War Games lead-off man Arn Anderson going up against the young, fiery, babyface of young Dustin Rhodes. The crowd is hot but tempered, wanting desperately to see Dustin finally get HIS against the Stud Stable and the partner who turned on him 2 months prior, but there is this feeling that as “Natural” of an athlete that Dustin is, he’s in there with one of the most legendary wrestlers of all time. Going up against a wrestler so skilled, nuanced, and technically savvy maybe, just maybe, all of Dustin’s passion is going to do him in and exploit his weakness. The two start off exchanging blows, with Dustin having the overall upper hand. Arn attempts to throw Dustin headfirst into the cage, but Dustin, running on pure adrenaline, is able to pop up and deliver blows back to Arn, this time throwing Arn headfirst into the cage, who no sells it as well.
The two stare, but Dustin’s strength takes hold, and he is able to knock down Arn after 3 consecutive slams into the cage, followed by an atomic drop and big boot that puts Arn between the rings. With a diving axe handle, Arn finds his own head between the two rings, a classic War Games spot, and Dustin abuses him from there. On commentary, Bobby Heenan is worried that Dustin will win the match right now, not understanding that all 8 men have to be in the ring before a pinfall or submission can be counted. This works, giving the viewer the impression that we are about to watch minutes upon minutes of Arn Anderson’s destruction. The build and countdown to the first coin toss is incredibly tense, with the ring announcer shouting a countdown each minute that passes. As we reach the 10-second count, Arn has finally gotten the upper hand, and we know what that means.
A botched, worked coin toss from Randy Anderson and our favorite greasy scumbag Bunkhouse Buck enters the cage. The two dismantle Dustin, before the camera cuts to Dusty worried on the outside, shouting words of encouragement and seething with rage, before Bobby Heenan connects the match to the incredible promo from months before, “It’s your fault pal! It’s your fault for neglecting your kid!” Ouch, that cuts.
As the countdown to the next entrant begins, the crowd (and Schiavone) are eager with anticipation to see Dusty forgo his Captain duties and enter the ring to defend his son, but there noticeable deflation once Jerry Sags comes inside to even the score. For his part, Sags works to his strengths, upping the plunder, foregoing the exhaustion and delivering piledrivers. But we know, as viewers, that the babyfaces can only stay on top temporarily. Terry Funk is going nuts outside of the cage, screaming and shouting as he prepares to enter the cage. Being the insane, forgetful person he is, he tries to throw a steel chair into the ring, before it bounces off the cage and back to the outside. As the countdown ends, Terry takes his boot off and comes into the cage, foaming at the mouth, whacking Dustin across the back with his boot before falling over the ropes himself. It has been said ad nauseum at this point, but Terry Funk is one of the best to ever do it, and even throw away performances like this one, where he is one of the least important members of a match show just how well he can control a crowd, can set drama within a match, and can amp up the excitement level like few others.
At one point, Sags nails a sudden piledriver on Funk in between the two rings, and Funk falls down to the floor between the rings. “He’s disappeared!” Heenan shouts. For the rings to have a gap that large between them is questionable at best, career ending at worst. Immediate visions of someone’s leg getting trapped between those two rings flash in my mind. The heels get the upper hand and are prepared to attack Brian Knobbs as he enters, but Knobbs takes a cue from his best buddy Hulk Hogan, taking on all 3 at once. He grabs Arn Anderson and gives us our first face grating shot across the cage. Funk is swinging at thin air, Knobbs is smacking everyone with the boot, eliciting a clear “WHAT THE FUCK, MAN?!” look from Bunkhouse Buck in the corner. The camera focuses on Parker, who is miming heart palpitations on the outside. Despite being physically the biggest man in the match, and having years of experience, Parker’s character work here of being a truly chickenshit, egg-suckin’, yellow-bellied slimeball is a masterclass.
Parker is in, and immediately starts whipping people with his belt, but Dustin is able to get Terry’s, and the crowd reaches it’s apex of volume when Dustin, after months of dealing with Parker and The Stud Stable is finally able to unleash the fury across the Colonel’s back. The whip crack of the belt audible and disgusting. I recall on the War Games DVD set that Dustin claimed Parker literally started shitting his pants towards the end of the match.
DUH-STEE, DUH-STEE, DUH-STEE! The crowd is hyped to see the American Dream enter the match, the entire arena either chanting his name or counting down from ten. Dusty is in, if you will, brotha! The Match Beyond starts and just like most War Games matches, it isn’t long before the good guys prevail. Dusty is set ablaze, delivering atomic elbows to everyone in the ring, shimmying, jiving, letting them all have it. Colonel Parker is desperately trying to escape the wrath of the former Heavyweight Champ, but he cannot. It is at this point, one realizes that while in nearly every War Games match, the heel team gets the advantage by having the upper hand throughout, that dynamic completely changes once we reach The Match Beyond, because the faces have the freshest face when it really matters. And Dusty, being the one that DOES matter (sorry, Dustin), gets Parker down on the ground and locks on a figure four leglock. Parker screams in pain. Dustin continues to beat on Arn Anderson as the Nasty’s deliver big jumping splashes onto Parker. Dusty fights off Funk with his fists and in a flash, the match is over. Parker has submitted and the Nasty Rhodes have won!
The match was brutal fun, but could have been helped with blood, a longer Match Beyond segment, and making Dustin central to the story. It is this last piece that drags it down. Dustin was the central figure to this feud. Dusty came in to help his son finally thwart his attackers, but everything was built around people constantly bringing down the younger Rhodes. For Dustin to not only be involved in the finish, but to be in the other ring is a letdown. Rather than let Dustin get his with Parker, destroying him, clotheslining his head off, and submitting him on his own, the biggest star, Dusty Rhodes gets put over here. It feels good, the match is great, but it lacks the finality this match should have provided.
The War Games isn’t a match type for everyone, the Rhodes/Stud Stable feud isn’t a feud for everyone, but it has always delivered upon rewatch and did so here. A few short nitpicks aside, and this would be an all-time classic. As it is, it’s a “great”, and solid cap to this feud.
Star Rating: ****1/4
September 17, 1995
The Hulkamaniacs (Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger, and Sting)
The Dungeon of Doom (Kamala the Ugandan Giant, The Zodiac, The Shark, and Meng)
I can’t think of any match that better encapsulates the death of Hulkamania than this WarGames match.
It’s Hulk Hogan at his peak hokeyness. Hogan and friends face off against the dumbest, most ridiculous gimmicks they can find. You might think John Tenta as a shark is dumb, but then you get Brutus Beefcake in white and black facepaint as “The Zodiac.” I don’t want to discount the reactions Hogan is still getting at this time, but it’s obvious the run of Hogan as the top babyface is creatively bankrupt.
WCW knows it by this time too. Hogan may be their champion, and WarGames may be the main event, but throughout Fall Brawl 1995, Tony Schiavone and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan talk constantly about the real main event of the night: Arn Anderson vs Ric Flair. WarGames barely gets mentioned until it begins. The territory is Horseman territory, WCW is the Horseman’s company, Wargames is the Horseman’s match, and Hulk Hogan is just visiting.
Hogan doesn’t even enter first for his team, because of course he wouldn’t. Sting, ever the trooper, is the first of the Hulkamaniacs to enter the ring. Throughout the match, it’s Sting holding it together. It’s Sting getting double teamed by the Dungeon of Doom. It’s Sting building sympathy for the hot babyface entrances. It’s Sting trying to keep their team together while Hogan hangs around outside the cage. It’s Sting who grabs the Taskmaster after the match and throws him into the ring for Hogan to beat up.
But it’s Hogan who gets the glory. He’s the champ, and the team is named for him after all. He enters last, when things are most dire for the Hulkamaniacs, clearing house and throwing powder in the eyes of the Dungeon of Doom. After Hogan evens the odds, the Hulkamaniacs have a pretty easy time with things, and Hogan makes the Zodiac submit to a Camel Clutch in short order. The stipulation after the match lets Hogan beat on the Taskmaster in the cage until he is rescued by the Giant. Hogan vs the Giant would be Hogan’s last hurrah as the top face of WCW. In less than a year, Hogan would help form the nWo, helping bring WCW into a new boom period.
I haven’t seen a ton of WarGame’s matches before this project, but the few I had seen were brutal, violent affairs, where guys just wanted to make each other bleed and suffer. This felt like a Saturday Morning version of WarGames, with no emotion, little violence, and no real stakes. There’s a reason I spent more time talking about Hulkamania than the actual match, and that’s because there’s very little about this match worth talking about.