Chair Shots: War Games- WCW's Most Notorious Matches DVD Review
Jun 30, 2013 - 3:41:44 PM
TripleR comes back to LOP Radio on July 12 at 6:30PM EST for the second edition of “Trippin’ Out”. We will be doing a Money in the Bank Preview Show, along with our picks for the event. We’ll have another edition of “Trip’s Picks” and much, much more. Please tune in for the first part of the July 12th doubleheader, The Right Side of the Pond, featuring Mazza and his UK crew. Hope to see you then!
This is a story of life; birth, growth, deterioration, and ultimately death.
This is the circle of life, but there is no Simba. There is no Mufasa. There is no Scar. There is only miles of twisted metal, enclosing two rings of battle, where only the strong will survive.
This……is the story of War Games
The latest release from WWE Home Video is War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches, a two-disc set chronicling the creation of one of the most brutal matches in the history of professional wrestling. Long before Hell in a Cell; long before the Elimination Chamber, a son of a plumber from Austin, TX created a match that was unlike anything that had ever before been seen in the world of professional wrestling. It was the Roman Coliseum, a back alley brawl, and Mad Max’s Thunderdome all rolled into one. It was called War Games: The Match Beyond
Created in 1987, the War Games was designed to be a way to end the most brutal of feuds. Two teams would send men into this giant steel structure, alternating from one team to the next, until all members were enclosed inside this massive enclosure. It was only then that the real match would begin, because you see prior to that, there was no way for the match to end. Men would have to endure the torturous punishment that would occur minute after minute after minute until the last combatant made his way through the cage door. It was then that the Match Beyond began. At that point, the match would continue until someone from either team was made to either submit or surrender. Then, and only then, would the match be over. Of course that is the way the War Games were created. But as the DVD set will show you, the War Games became something else entirely, and while the world of professional wrestling changes on a daily basis, some times change is for the worst.
The two disc set is narrated by the creator of the War Games himself, the legendary Dusty Rhodes. It is he and he alone that we see over this 7.5 hour set, and not once do you feel like something is missing from the collection. Dusty Rhodes created the War Games. He gave birth to something he ultimately referred to as his “child” as a way for him to get revenge on the group known as the Four Horseman. The stories that Dusty tell about the creation of this phenomenon are insightful, humourous, and incredibly heartfelt. From the very beginning you can see the pride that Dusty took in this match. The sheer joy that he shows on his face as he discusses the early stages of War Games is addictive. You cannot help but be sucked into the wonder and awe that the early War Games matches held. But as the tale continues to be told, Dusty’s demeanor changes. You can see the disappointment, the frustration, and at times glimpses of anger at what happened to this match that he held so dear to his heart.
When corporate America took over the NWA, and WCW was born, Dusty’s role in things diminished. He wasn’t thought of as a valuable entity anymore, but the War Games match was. But instead of it being a special event, used to culminate intense feuds, it was rolled out whenever WCW felt the need to cash in on its name value. The same argument that can be held about how watered down WWE gimmick matches are today can be seen occurring as you watch this history unfold. It became a shadow of itself, changing rules, changing purpose, and ultimately ceasing to be anything that it was originally designed to be. Ultimately, it’s a tale of professional wrestling and the people behind it thinking they were bigger than themselves. It became a tale of men who thought that whatever they did, the fans would follow them. It became a tale of ego and arrogance, and one that you can see through the eyes of a man that watched it happen, and couldn’t do anything about it. Dusty’s role in this DVD set is essential, and he was allowed to be honest, and tell it like it was. Do I think there was more to be told? There absolutely is, but as the story roles on, you’re allowed to fill in those blanks yourself.
I grew up with the War Games. I saw the very first match when it happened. I remember being awestruck at what I was seeing. As I watched the DVD set, I started to see the formula unfold of what the War Games was. The “heel” team always and I mean always, won the coin toss to get the man advantage. The “face” team, in the early years, was allowed to come out victorious, ending the blood feud, but at the same time keeping the “heel” team strong by allowing them to leave the War Games with the same championship belts they came in with. Blood was commonplace in these matches in the early years, so if you’re squeamish, don’t say I didn’t warn you. But despite these commonalities, the matches never seemed repetitive. Talent would change as the years progressed, giving a fresh face to a match that was highly popular, and highly successful.
As you watch this set, you’ll see that this is a Who’s Who of professional wrestling superstars. The Four Horseman, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Barry Windham, the Road Warriors, Sting, The Freebirds, the NWO, and many, many more greats are featured here. Just about every big name in NWA/WCW history shows up in these matches. As I watched, I was personally happy to see a young Paul Heyman, then Paul E. Dangerously, as well as a young “Stunning” Steve Austin. If you’re more of a WWE guy, there are certainly stars on here for you as well. Rikishi (then Fatu), Rick Rude, Curt Hennig, Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, and even Chris Benoit make appearances in this set.
1.) The Road Warriors, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff and Paul Ellering vs. The Four Horsemen and JJ Dillon- This was where it all started, the very first War Games match. The crowd in the Omni during this match is on fire from start to finish. Today we see the pops that Daniel Bryan receives every night. During this time in the NWA, every top face received those pops. With commentary by Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone, this match is legendary. (July 4, 1987)
2.) The Road Warriors, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff and Paul Ellering vs. The Four Horsemen and The War Machine- This rematch occurred only a few short weeks after the first one, but in this day and age, there was no internet, no YouTube to spoil the event for those that were not able to see the first one as it occurred. JJ Dillon was replaced by the War Machine (Big Bossman), after sustaining a legitimate broken collar bone in the first match. His involvement is the only thing that makes this match less than spectacular, as he had no real involvement in the feud. (July 31, 1987)
3.) Tower of Doom Match- Ronnie and Jimmy Garvin, Dr. Death Steve Williams, and the Road Warriors vs. Kevin Sullivan, Al Perez, Mike Rotunda, Ivan Koloff, The Russian Assassin, and Kevin Sullivan- While not a War Games match itself, this was a match that was created during the same time as the War Games. It was three tiers stacked on top of each other, with the goal being the first team to make their way from the top all the way to the bottom and out the door. I was in attendance for this at my very first PPV experience and it was truly a remarkable sight to behold. It is included here for a reason, one that makes itself apparent by the end of the collection. (July 10, 1988)
4.) Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Lex Luger, Dr. Death and Paul Ellering vs. The Four Horsemen and JJ Dillon. This was a match from the road, as the War Games went on tour for a short time during this era. No commentary is included in this match, as it wasn’t televised, but Tony Schiavone is present during the clock countdown. The Road Warriors were replaced in this one by Luger and Williams, but the formula remains the same. Of the three matches of this trilogy, this one suffers from maybe too much of the same. (July 16, 1988)
5.) The Road Warriors, The Midnight Express, and Dr. Death vs. The Freebirds and the Samoan Swat Team - Our first real glimpse of change occurs in this match, as the “heel” team, for the first time, doesn’t consist of the Four Horsemen. The Road Warriors proved time and time again through these matches why they truly were the best tag team in wrestling in this era. Paul E. Dangerously makes his first appearance here, as the manager of the SST. (July 23, 1989)
6.) Ric Flair, Sid Vicious, Barry Windham, and Larry Zbyszko vs. Sting, Brian Pillman, and the Steiner Brothers- This was the first time that the War Games match consisted of teams of 4 instead of the usual 5. The man who created it all, Dusty Rhodes, is on commentary during this match, which features our first appearance of Sting in the War Games. Notable in this match is the sheer amount of blood that Barry Windham lost as the match occurred. This match was also the very first time that the “heel” team won a War Games. (February 24, 1991)
7.) Sting, Nikita Koloff, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Barry Windham vs. The Dangerous Alliance (Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Steve Austin, Larry Zbyszko and Rick Rude)- Paul E. Dangerously makes his second appearance managing the entire “heel” team. After a 4-year absence from the War Games, Nikita Koloff returns as a member of Sting’s team. We also see for the first time, Dustin Rhodes in a War Games match. This match was significant as it was the last time blood was drawn in a War Games event. (May 17, 1992)
8.) Sting, The British Bulldog, Dustin Rhodes and The Shockmaster vs. Sid Vicious, Vader and Harlem Heat- It was about this time that the War Games started becoming less of a special occasion and more of a tool to make money for WCW. There was no real blood feud occurring, other than a couple of individual feuds, and the teams were somewhat thrown together. The addition of one of the biggest flops in wrestling history, The Shockmaster, also makes this match less than spectacular. It just didn’t have the “big event” appeal that previous War Games had. (September 19, 1993)
9.) Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, and the Nasty Boys vs. Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck, and Colonel Robert Parker- As Dusty tells the story of this match, you can tell the only real interest he had in being there at this time was being able to team with his son. He was not an active in-ring competitor at the time, but as he explains he was brought back out for a sense of nostalgia. Using the long-time feud between the Rhodes family and the Funk family as a backdrop for the match, it was actually better than it had any right to be. That credit goes to the men involved, many of whom were veterans of the sport and of this match. (September 18, 1994)
1.) Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Lex Luger and Sting vs. The Dungeon of Doom (Kamala, Shark, Zodiac, and Meng)- This was Hulk Hogan’s first appearance in a War Games match, and it heavily featured many of Hogan’s friends at the time. Randy Savage, Shark (formerly Earthquake),and Zodiac (formerly Brutus Beefcake) brought a very WWE feel to this match. Hogan’s influence is heavily felt in the match, and while he is the last member of the team to enter the cage, once he enters, the camera never leaves where he is, no matter what else is occurring in the ring. (September 17, 1995)
2.) The NWO (Hogan, Hall, Nash and NWO Sting) vs. Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Arn Anderson and Sting- For the first time in War Games history, full teams were not present at ringside during the event. One member was introduced at a time, and only when the countdown clock concluded die the next member appear. This was done as part of the ongoing angle with whether or not Sting had joined the NWO and who the NWO’s mystery partner would be. It was the beginning of WCW believing that they could do just about anything and it would work. For a while, that was a true statement, but as the Monday Night Wars showed, things changed quite dramatically, and the War Games would start changing as well. (September 15, 1996)
3.) The NWO (Nash, Buff Bagwell, Syxx, and Konnan) vs. The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Steve McMichael, Curt Hennig, and Chris Benoit)- The Horsemen return to War Games to battle the NWO, and while the only really member of the original Horsemen that remained was Ric Flair, the excitement for this match seemed genuine. Chris Benoit makes an appearance in a WWE DVD set, and while reports stated that any commentary regarding Benoit was removed, his name and commentary regarding him remained. There are some choppy dialogue moments, and bits of dead air that seemed to indicate that “some” commentary was removed however. The NWO, even this horrible variation of it, continued to ride and run rough-shod over WCW and its roster. Tony Schiavone, who in the early matches showed he was originally somewhat decent on commentary, was absolutely horrible in this match, at one time even referencing the locked cage door, when the camera clearly showed it being wide open. (September 14, 1997)
4.) DDP, Roddy Piper, The Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Stevie Ray, Bret Hart, Kevin Nash, Sting, and Lex Luger in a “Number One Contender’s” Match- Any resemblance to a War Games match is completely coincidental in this event. While there were technically three teams of three, this was an “every man for himself” event, with the winner receiving a shot at Goldberg for the World Title. The rules were no longer War Games rules, as the match could end at any time, by pinfall or submission. The only things that made this a War Games match was the name, and the double cage structure surrounding the rings. Gone was everything that was great about the War Games, and what comes out of this shows how little the history of the match meant to WCW at the time. (September 13, 1998)
5.) Sting, Booker T., Goldberg, Kronik, Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner, Vince Russo and The Harris Brothers in a match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship- Vince Russo was running rampant in WCW at this time, and he completely bastardized anything and everything he got his hands on. He made David Arquette World Champion at one time, and even booked himself in this match as a competitor for the WCW Championship. Remember when I said the Tower of Doom match was included on this set for a reason? This is the reason. Vince Russo basically took a Tower of Doom match, and called it War Games. The belt was hung above the third cage, high above the ring, and whoever left the bottom structure with the belt was World Champion. The match was overly booked like Vince Russo was apt to do, and was a slap in the face to everything the War Games represented. Thankfully, for wrestling historians, it would also be the very last time the War Games was held. (September 4, 2000)
Many other federations have taken the War Games formula and adapted it to their own style of event. There are three matches on the Blu-Ray set that spotlight some of those matches. Two of them are from ECW, and one is from Smoky Mountain Wrestling. If you are deciding between the regular DVD set and the Blu-Ray, I would say if you are a fan of either ECW or Smoky Mountain to get the Blu-Ray, but if not, the regular DVD set will suffice.
1.) Brian Lee, Jimmy Golden, The Rock and Roll Express, and Robert Fuller vs. Kevin Sullivan Killer Kyle, The Tazmaniac, Stan Lane and Tom Prichard- This match is from Smoky Mountain Wrestling and is called “Rage in the Cage”. The match itself is joined in progess, and is shot with only one camera, from quite a distance away. While nostalgically this match is fun because you get to see some classic names, as well as a young Brian Lee, the match itself leaves something to be desired. The surrounding ring looks scarily dangerous, and with only being one camera it is hard to really see what’s going on. This one was a bit of a disappointment (May 1993)
2.) Tommy Dreamer, Public Enemy and The Pitbulls vs. Raven, Stevie Richards, The Eliminators, and The Heavenly Bodies- This Ultimate Jeopardy ECW match appears to have come from a house show of sorts, as Joey Styles is noticeably absent from commentary. In fact, his absence really hurts this match, which suffers from too much going on all at once, in a cage structure that limits so many people being in the ring at once. It was OK in terms of action, but was missing that certain something ECW matches normally have. (December 9, 1995)
3.) The Dudley Boyz and Mr. Mustafa vs. New Jack, Axl Rotten, and Balls Mahoney- The second Ultimate Jeopardy match on the extras, this one has a lot more excitement going on, as the teams were cut down to three members each. Even back in 1999 you could see how great the Dudley’s would become, and it was quite interesting comparing Bubba of then vs. Bully of today. However, I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of New Jack and what he brought to the world of professional wrestling. He’s overly brutal, and just seems to be enjoying himself way too much. The violence in this match is at times hard to watch, with scissors, barbed wire, and cheese graters coming into play. What this match does show though, is how important Joey Styles was to ECW and what he brought to the commentary of their matches. (April 3, 1999)
The Blu-Ray extras conclude with Dusty doing a little bit of Fantasy War Games booking, and seeing his picks for a War Games match of today is quite interesting. I won’t spoil it for you, so if you want to know you have to see it for yourself.
War Games MVP- Arn Anderson
Not only does Arn Anderson appear in 6 War Games matches, but he was often times the very first person to get in the ring for his team. He endured quite a lot of punishment and quite a lot of time inside the steel structure. Arn, throughout his career, was under-appreciated in my opinion, and this set shows what he brought to the table.
I highly recommend War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches, not only for the matches included, but for the story it tells. The talent, the appeal, and the sheer awe surrounding the War Games truly make this DVD set a Must-Have in my opinion. So what are you waiting for? Go get it!
Until next time,
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