The SmarK Rant for WarGames: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches

(Oh hey, with WarGames about to return, mostly, on the NXT Takeover show this Saturday, I figured we might as well reminisce about the Match Beyond with this repost of the DVD set, which thankfully keeps it simple and just archives every damn one.  God bless the WWE video library.) 

The SmarK DVD Rant for Wargames: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches

I have of course reviewed these a bazillion times, but they sent me the DVD so let’s review them again! The very first one is at the very least due for a redo, although I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the Blu Ray so I can do the extra matches. Honestly, I’m just happy that I will now have a master copy with ALL the matches, uncut and in order. I only held off buying it because I figured I’d be getting it to review.

Hosted by Dusty Rhodes, naturally.

Disc One

Dusty talks about the origins of the match, as he took the idea from Mad Max and gave it to Klondike Bill to design. The promoters complained that two rings would take away ringside seats, so Dusty told them to charge double for the remaining ones. That’s Dusty for ya.

Wargames: Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger & JJ Dillon v. Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, Hawk, Animal & Paul Ellering

The rather woeful state of the Bash 87 master tapes is evident here, as this looks only marginally better than the original VHS transfer and might actually come from that source. Dusty starts out with Arn Anderson and throws him around the rings, as he wins a slugfest and blatantly punches him in the nuts to the delight of the crowd. They end up on the top rope and poor AA gets his forehead sliced open on the CEILING, and Dusty just continues battering him. Figure-four, although it means nothing this early in the match, and we get the first ever coinflip, which is won by the heels. So Tully comes in and Dusty holds them both off with elbows, and the quality of the transfer suddenly improves dramatically. Inevitably the Horsemen beat him down and destroy the knee, but Animal makes the save and does the epic bearhug/catapult of Tully into the cage. That visual alone had me running to the video store as a kid wanting to rent this thing. The faces hang Tully on the top rope and tee off on him, but Flair is next into the match. He beats on Animal while the Brainbusters work Dusty over, but Dusty keeps coming back on them. Dusty is just bleeding everywhere and Flair gives him the cheese-grater on the cage for good measure. Nikita makes the save and clotheslines everything, and we get Flair gigging himself on camera back before I understood what he was doing. Poor Tully gets trapped between the rings by an angry Russian and Flair is just bumping all over. Lex Luger comes in and allows Flair to get a mighty, mighty ballshot on Koloff, and a pair of spike piledrivers. Ouch. Hawk makes the save and just kicks the everloving shit out of Lex Luger as Jim Ross is ready to have a heart attack. The Horsemen manage to take over again, however, and JJ Dillon comes in as the last man on the heel side. Hilarious spot as Hawk completely laughs off Dillon’s offense, but the heels retain control anyway, even though Dillon is pretty messed up already. Finally, Precious Paul is the last guy in, wearing a spiked gauntlet. And he just stabs JJ repeatedly in the face with it before the Road Warriors finish him off with an ill-advised Doomsday Device following an epic beating. Dillon actually broke his shoulder on the move and couldn’t do the second iteration of the match. Dillion surrenders at 21:08, probably wisely. Just awesomely violent. *****

Wargames: Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, The Road Warriors & Paul Ellering v. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger & War Machine (Ray Traylor)

I never actually reviewed this one in the Bash 87 rant, so here we go. Dusty starts with AA and slugs him down before adding the Flip Flop and Fly, then sends him into the cage. Dusty beats him down and goes for the shitty figure-four, but Arn slugs his way up until Dusty hits him in the nuts. We get some cheese grater action into the cage and Dusty elbows him down again and suplexes him into the figure-four. And with the 5:00 period running out, the coin toss reveals that…the heels have won it! And so begins the great tradition. Bubba Machine enters for the heels and goes after Dusty, joining Arn for some double-teaming, and soon Dusty is bleeding like himself. They go after the leg and Big Boss Machine splashes the knee as Dusty just bleeds like crazy. He fights back, however, and Hawk makes the save and dropkicks War Machine. Powerslam for Arn and a regular slam for Machine, but he won’t go down, so Hawk adds a clothesline from the middle rope. Neckbreaker for Arn and Dusty drops elbows on everything he can reach with minimum effort. And with two minutes gone, that means it’s time for Ric Flair, but he quickly gets clotheslined by Hawk. However, where there’s Dusty Rhodes, there’s Ric Flair to beat on him, so he goes after Big Dusty and drops a knee on him. Hawk and War Machine continue their no-selling contest, meanwhile, until Nikita Koloff heads in to even it up. And he immediately walks into a piledriver from Arn, but promptly no-sells it. The resulting Sickle on Arn and the sell job is just awesome. He’s all over Flair and the champ eats a Sickle as well, and a trip to the cage draws blood. Koloff pounds on AA in the corner and Flair throws chops at Dusty, but Tully Blanchard enters the match to give the Horsemen the advantage. They go right after Dusty, teaming up on three-on-one while War Machine continues his quest to not sell a single move from anyone. But then Animal comes in for the spot that makes his one an automatic *****, as he holds Tully in a bearhug and then rocks back and forth, ramming Tully’s head into the cage several times in the process. That is BADASS. This is a magnificent car wreck of human wreckage, as Jim Ross might say. Things slow down a bit until Lex Luger enters last for the heels, but quickly gets overpowered by Animal. Another awesome spot as Animal just javelins Tully from one ring to the other and Tully sells it like a human lawn dart. Ellering comes in last to begin the proper match, and he brings a spiked gauntlet with him and jams it into various people’s eyes. And now War Machine finally sells, as The Road Warriors and Dusty take turns teeing off on him with clotheslines, allowing Animal to jam the spikes into his eye until he surrenders at 21:30 to give the faces the win. Still awesome, but Traylor’s constant no-selling was driving me nuts, sorry. ****1/2

Tower of Doom: The Road Warriors & Jimmy Garvin & Ronnie Garvin & Steve Williams v. Kevin Sullivan & Al Perez & Mike Rotundo & Ivan Koloff & The Russian Assassin (Dave Sheldon).

This was a goofy-ass idea they stole from World Class, themselves known for off-the-wall booking notions at that time (like the infamous “blackout” finish to the Iceman Parsons-Kerry Von Erich World title match), and the concept is thus: There’s three cages stacked on top of each other, with the smallest on top, and team members at the top every two minutes and fight their way down, with the winner being the first team to exit. Precious holds the key and decides who wins, presumably. It’s kind of funny to think back on a time when Jimmy Garvin WASN’T playing a smarmy sleazeball heel. Ivan Koloff and Ron Garvin start in the little cage on top and slug it out, despite being so high that no one can possibly follow the “action” from the crowd. I have no idea why they didn’t just do the Wargames instead of this stupid idea. So the door opens and Garvin proceeds to the next level, leaving Steve Williams 2-on-1 against Koloff and Rotundo. The next period sees Ron Garvin heading to the bottom level and leaving while Ivan Koloff and Steve Williams fight to the second level. Up on top it’s Rotundo & Perez v. Animal. What a fucking retarded match concept. The rules are so convoluted that it’s like something even Vince Russo would reject for being too tough to understand. Anyway, next period sees Animal & Williams v. Koloff & Perez in the second cage, with Hawk v. Russian Assassin & Rotundo in the top cage and no one in the bottom. It’s all just guys punching each other, so there’s nothing really to call other than that. Third period and we’ve got Perez and Animal in the bottom cage, RA & Koloff v. Williams & Hawk in the middle cage, and Rotundo still on top with Kevin Sullivan against Jimmy Garvin. Animal and Perez both walk out to put the faces up 2-1. Next period and the Russians both drop down and look to depart, but beat up on Hawk first. Jimmy Garvin and Kevin Sullivan, the principles in the whole dumb Precious feud, are alone on the top, with Rotundo & Williams in the middle cage. Hawk walks, as do the Russians, so it’s 3-3. The build is just all off for this thing, as guys fight in the bottom cage when they can just as easily walk out. What a mess. Rotundo and Williams both exit, leaving us with Garvin & Sullivan in the middle cage, where we should have just gone to in the first place. Garvin actually tries a spinning toehold of all things. They make it to the bottom and Garvin hits the brainbuster and leaves at 19:13. Yay, it’s over. I don’t know that I can even rate it. Call it a solid DUD and leave it at that. Afterwards, with Precious having chosen hubbie Jimmy Garvin over Sullivan, Kevin takes it badly and tries to kill her by strangling her. Uh, I don’t know that it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to edit that out given the time when they were airing it and all.

War Games 88: Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Arn Anderson, Barry Windham & JJ Dillon v. Dusty Rhodes, Steve Williams, Lex Luger, Nikita Koloff & Paul Ellering.

This is something of a rarity, only seen on the Four Horsemen DVD set before now. As usual, Dusty Rhodes starts out with Arn Anderson for the five minute opening period. No commentary here either. Slugfest to start and Dusty wins that, so Arn backs off into the other ring and forces Dusty to follow. He tries a sunset flip for no reason I can fathom, and Dusty elbows him to escape and gets his shitty DDT. Arn wisely kicks him in the knee to slow down the fireball of speed that is Dusty Rhodes, and goes to work on the leg, but Dusty (already managing to cut himself) catches him coming off the middle rope and gets his shitty figure-four. Seriously, Dusty has been a wrestler for HOW LONG and he still can’t figure four the proper way to apply the hold? The heels SHOCKINGLY win the coin toss and Barry Windham is next in, and of course Dusty wants a piece of him. It’s elbows for everyone! Arn does his team proud and hits Dusty from behind, however, and the beating begins, as Barry claws him while Arn kicks him in the head and chokes him. Things look bad for Dusty, but the two minutes is up and Dr. Death saves the day. Double clothesline for the Horsemen and he chop blocks everything that moves, leaving Dusty to exact his revenge on Windham again. Barry is just bumping all over the place for him. Next in is Ric Flair., who jumps Williams and quickly regrets it, as Doc no-sells the chops, but can’t no-sell a shot to the junk. Arn and Barry go back to messing up the Dream, and Arn stops by to DDT Williams, trading off with Flair. Lex Luger is next in for the faces, and anyone with blond hair is the target. Powerslam for Flair, and Windham, and he puts Flair in the rack, but Windham hits him in HIS rack. Hope there’s a testicular specialist on call tonight. Luger decides to no-sell, however, and hammers away on Flair in the corner, until Tully is the next guy in. He brings a chair with him and takes care of Luger in short order that way. The Horsemen dominate again, as Arn DDTs Luger the heels pound on the faces, but Nikita Koloff is in and he’s not taking any shit. Of course, this was skinny, crew-cutted Koloff, not the cool roided one, so the threat is not as scary at this point. He puts Flair in the figure-four, but gets jumped and the Horsemen take over again, until JJ Dillon is the last guy in for the Horsemen. He and Windham double-team Luger, and Dillon goes around the ring poking people in the eye and trying to be all bad-ass, while Dream makes his comeback by elbowing four people at once. Paul Ellering is the last guy into the match, and now it’s the Match Beyond portion. Dillon beats on Ellering in a ring by himself, but misses an ill-advised dropkick and Dusty puts him in the figure-four as a result at 20:59. **** Typically good War Games match, but Steve Williams and an unmotivated Nikita Koloff were a pretty poor substitute for the Road Warriors. Too many slow spots here.

Dusty chimes in with some fun stories about working the shows on the road, as they always saved Hawk for last because otherwise he’d hurt someone from working too stiff.

Wargames ’89: Steve Williams, Bobby Eaton, Stan Lane & The Road Warriors v. Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin, Samu, Fatu & Terry Gordy

This is from the legendary Bash 89 PPV, of course, although this is considered one of the lesser WarGames. We start with Bobby and Jimmy, and they exchange shots before Jimmy puts his head down and takes a neckbreaker. Bobby misses an elbow and Garvin slams him, but Bobby comes back with an atomic drop before walking into a boot in the corner. Bobby is the first one to taste the cold, unforgiving steel of the cage, and Garvin stomps away on him. Bobby comes back with a kick while hanging from the cage, but Garvin levels him with a forearm. He slugs away on the ropes while Michael Hayes puts the badmouth to Bobby from the outside (apparently, he’s SCUM. Good thing he’s not black or who knows what might have made it onto live TV…) until Bobby comes back and puts Garvin into a boston crab. The 5:00 period ends and Terry Gordy is the next heel in, so they do some Freebird beatings. I think, for trivia buffs, that this is the only time that Michael Hayes teamed with both his Freebird partner Terry Gordy as well as his lesser replacement, Jimmy Garvin, in the same match. Dr. Death interrupts the trivia and clotheslines the shit out of everyone, and it’s a Doc v. Gordy slugfest that results in Doc pressing Gordy into the ROOF eight times! Garvin, meanwhile, chokes Eaton down, but Gordy comes back with a corner clothesline on Williams. Poor Bobby just gets worked over by Garvin, and then Samu comes in to make it worse, but Eaton fights back along with Williams. Animal comes in to save and he’s all over the place, hitting a flying shoulderblock from one ring into the other to take down Samu, and the faces actually turn the tide and just clothesline everyone to death, drawing a big reaction. The faces continue their rare dominance until Fatu comes in to give the heels the advantage again. The SST double-team Animal with headbutts in the corner and hit him with a double-clothesline. Gordy chokes Williams down with the Asian spike and Garvin hammers on Eaton in the corner, but Bobby headbutts him away. Stan Lane saves for the faces and rams people into the cage, and Paul Heyman does a little skit with Michael Hayes for the cameraman, as Hayes finally realizes he has to WRESTLE tonight. The MX double-team Garvin, but the Samoans work Animal over until Michael Hayes joins us as the fifth heel. He throws DDTs like they’re going out of style and then stops to strut, which is generally the fatal error made by most heels and comic book villains in general. Things look bleak for the faces as there’s more choking than a year of John Cena main events, but Hawk makes the save and now it’s on. He just goes medieval on Terry Gordy and hits the SST with a double flying clothesline. And now Bobby hits some DDTs as Jim Ross is going crazy trying to work in all his metaphors. God bless him. More greatness as Paul tries to get the phone into the cage, but is foiled by Tommy Young and geometry. Everyone slugs it out and the Road Warriors try the Doomsday Device on Gordy, but Garvin breaks it up with a high knee. Alas, Hawk is so pissed off that he hits him with the clothesline instead, giving us a GREAT 180 sell, followed by a neckbreaker and the best submission finisher EVER, the Hangman’s Noose to finish at 22:20. I really, really enjoyed this one this time around, although the lack of blood and inexperience of the Samoans hurt it a bit. ****1/2

Disc Two

Dusty notes that he’s not BITTER or anything, but the Wargames ceased to exist as we knew them once Bischoff took over and fired him. But he’s not bitter.

WarGames ’91: Ric Flair, Sid Vicious, Barry Windham & Larry Zbyszko v. Brian Pillman, Sting, Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner.

Pillman’s shoulder is all taped up, due (kayfabe-wise) to a Horsemen attack covered in the pre-match video. Pillman starts with Windham and gets a flying clothesline with the good arm, and uses the roof of the cage for leverage as he takes Windham down with a rana. He chops away in the corner, and headfakes Windham into taking a missile dropkick. He misses a splash, however, but comes back with a low blow. All’s fair in love and Wargames. Barry hits the cage and starts the blood flowing early, so Brian gives him some extra treatment on the cage. Jawbreaker and he bites the cut and hammers it in the corner. Hiptoss and he goes ground and pound, and back into the cage goes Windham. Pillman goes up with a flying clothesline and another jawbreaker, and he tosses Windham into the second ring and into the cage again. Windham is just selling like nuts for Pillman here. Spinkick puts Windham down and Pillman goes to work on the leg, but Windham comes back and slugs it out with him. Windham tries a piledriver, but Pillman reverses and comes off the top with another shot. The first period expires and the heels win the coin toss (duh), so Flair is in next.

They exchange chops, which Pillman WINS, but the Horsemen double-team him and send him into the cage shoulder-first. Windham spikes him into the cage and Flair holds the arm while Windham pounds it, and they dump him into the other cage. They work over the shoulder until Sting makes the save. He goes nuts on both of the heels, and gets a double-clothesline that sends the crowd into the atmosphere. Sting pairs off with Flair with a bulldog while Pillman keeps at Windham, but Brian gets crotched and the two-on-one commences on Sting. Pillman comes back to save while Sting no-sells Flair’s chops, but Larry Z is next in. Pillman puts Windham in a figure-four, and Sting dives from one to the other with a clothesline on Zbyszko. Flair & Larry go after Sting, and Flair breaks up Pillman’s figure-four. The Horsemen take over and pound on Sting, but Rick Steiner is in next to save. He clotheslines everyone and pounds Flair in the corner, into a belly-to-belly. Flair meets the cage and starts bleeding. Meanwhile, Pillman pounds Larry in the other ring until getting hung in the Tree of Woe and stomped. Sid Vicious is next in, and he goes right for Pillman’s injured shoulder. He then helps Flair out by holding Rick in place for a low blow, and clotheslines Sting. Pillman keeps pounding Flair into the cage, as does Rick. Poor guy. Larry sends Rick into the cage, but he no-sells it. The heels take over on Pillman & Steiner, but Scott Steiner is the last man in and clotheslines both Flair & Windham. Butterfly bomb on Larry, and he nails Sid with a flying clothesline (blatantly called on camera by Sid and Rick) as Sting puts Flair in the Scorpion deathlock.

Sid works on Pillman’s shoulder, ramming it into the corner and ripping the bandages off it. Pillman fights back, however, and goes low, and soon it’s four figure-fours on the Horsemen as the crowd goes insane. They all escape, but Sting presses Flair into the cage roof in a cool visual stolen from Steve Williams. Pillman chokes out Zbyszko while Sid stomps Rick Steiner and the Horsemen double-team him. The Horsemen go after Pillman, but he keeps fighting Flair with chops. Scott DDTs Windham, but Sid lays him out. And then the spot that makes this a famous match – Sid faceplants Pillman, and then powerbombs him, catching his feet on the roof on the way up and dropping him right on his neck, nearly killing him. Then, he does it AGAIN, legitimately injuring him and drawing El Gigante out for improvised finish whereby he surrenders the match on his behalf to give it to the Horsemen at 22:05. Most assumed Pillman’s career to be over at that point. Typically great and bloody Wargames, although not quite as great as I gave it credit for first time around. Still one of the best WCW matches of the 90s, though. ****1/2

WarGames ’92: Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Nikita Koloff, Dustin Rhodes & Barry Windham v. Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, Arn Anderson & Larry Zbyszko.

I have to change a previous Mailbag answer, because someone once asked what my favorite match ever would be in a world without Flair v. Steamboat. It would in fact be this match. Windham slugs it out with Austin to start and Steve sends him into the cage, but Barry blocks it. Windham with a slam, but he misses an elbow and Austin pounds him with shoulders in the corner. Windham tries a piledriver and Austin reverses out of it, so they fight into the other ring, where Barry hits the DDT. Austin comes back with a running clothesline that puts them both into the first ring, and he goes up with a kick from the roof, but Barry yanks him down onto his face. Barry throws Austin around the ring and into the cage, and here’s the blood, baby. Jesse accuses Steamboat of spitting on the wounded Austin, which is pretty funny. Windham gives us a nice closeup of biting the wound and puts Austin down with a kneelift, and the coin toss goes to the heels. So that brings Rude into the match and he just kills Barry with knees, but Barry fights back. Rude fires away with shoulders in the corner and Barry holds his own, so Austin attacks from behind and adds a flying clothesline to put the Dangerous Alliance back on top. Barry eats cage and the heels beat him down, and Steamboat wants in! Huge fire from the Dragon here, as he DDTs Rude and Austin and goes crazier than you generally see him. He rams Rude into the turnbuckles, but Austin attacks from behind , so Steamboat uses the roof to kick Austin down and then takes Rude down with a rana. AA comes in for the heels and it’s SPINEBUSTERS for everyone.

Rude and Arn do a unique double-crab on Steamboat, which would normally be illegal but this is WAR. Everyone slugs it out and Rude piledrives Steamboat and JR is making vehicular metaphors again. Rude and Steamboat clothesline each other and Dustin is in for the faces, throwing elbows and taking names. Atomic drop and lariat for Austin while Steamboat returns the crab on Rude. Austin tries to run up the ropes to escape Dustin, so Rhodes puts him down with an electric chair. Meanwhile, Arn manages to get his head stuck between the rings, so Barry takes advantage of that. Rude and Steamboat continue their private war with a figure-four, and Larry is next in for the heels. Dustin is all over him, but Paul finally figures out how to get that phone into the match: Send Madusa onto the roof and put it through an open joint. So the heels make use of it to take over again, and now Rude goes after Steamboat’s broken nose in a wonderfully brutal bit. Windham goes into the cage and starts bleeding, his tights already stained with Austin’s blood. Hygenic, no, awesome, fuck yeah. Sting comes in next for the faces and cleans house, pressing Rude into the roof and then tossing Arn into the cage. Arn starts bleeding as it’s apparently a matter of pride as to who can do the sickest blade job tonight. The faces work Rude over, but now Eaton is in to fill out the Alliance, and he sends Steamboat into the cage. Larry and Rude undo the top rope in one of the rings while Windham and Arn fight for a figure-four. The heels get the advantage one last time, and Nikita Koloff is the last man in. He and Sting finally set aside their hatred and make up, and celebrate by clotheslining Austin and Anderson and then beat the hell out of them to a huge pop. Rhodes and Windham team up on Larry and Sting gets the Scorpion deathlock on Arn, but Eaton breaks it up. The top rope actually breaks off and Dustin puts Austin into the figure-four, blatantly holding the ropes in a nice touch. He goes up and misses an elbow on Austin, but Eaton accidentally gets hit with the steel hook holding the turnbuckle, and Sting wrenches in an armbar for the surrender at 23:20. Truly one of the greatest matches of all time, as the Dangerous Alliance era nearly revitalized the promotion until it inevitably fell apart because WCW didn’t know what to do with it. *****

Dusty talks about the match moving to a once-a-year format in the 90s, because the business became about how much money you can make instead of entertaining the fans. Isn’t this the guy who JUST TALKED ABOUT doubling the prices of ringside seats to make more money?!

WarGames ’93: Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes & THE SHOCKMASTER~! v. Harlem Heat, Big Van Vader & Sid Vicious

This of course was the match that gave the world the infamous debut of the Shockmaster at Clash of the Champions. Vader starts with Dustin and they slug it out, with Dustin winning that battle, and he takes his boot off and beats on Vader with that, too. Vader just kills him with a clothesline, however. Dustin and Vader had some crazy weird chemistry together in WCW, but just couldn’t recapture it in the WWF outside of a pretty good match at Royal Rumble 98. Vader fires away in the corner, but Dustin throws forearms to put him down. Vader recovers and hits the pump splash in the corner, then pounds away on the broken ribs of Dustin. Dustin comes back with a DDT and then gives Vader a couple of good whacks with the boot, but Vader beats him down again and goes up. Dustin catches him with a powerslam and Stevie Ray is in for the heels. Vader & Stevie team up and put Dustin down with his own boot, and wouldn’t you know that a Rhodes would be the first one to bleed. Sting comes in to save and the heels double-team him right away, but he fights back and sends Ray into the cage, then hits Vader with the Stinger splash. Sting pounds Vader down in the corner while Dustin bleeds on everyone. Sting sends Vader into the cage a couple of times, and that brings Sid into the match. Sting fights them off for a bit, but gets chokeslammed by Sid and the heels go on him 3-on-1 with Dustin’s boot. They team up and press Sting into the ceiling, which doesn’t really work as a heel spot, and Sid stomps on the bloody Dustin in the corner in fairly unconvincing fashion. Bulldog comes in to save and powerslams Vader, and now Sting & Bulldog return the press slam on Sid. The crowd is pretty dead for this whole thing, which isn’t surprising because it’s all a bunch of weak battle-royale style brawling. Booker T is the last guy in for the heels, and everyone is just kind of standing around and slugging it out. Shockmaster comes in last, managing not to trip at least, and he goes after Vader and throws Booker T around. Bearhug gets the surrender from Booker T at 16:38. A bearhug? Really? Incredibly weak, but this wasn’t even the WORST one they’d do. Think about THAT. **1/2 And after making fun of him for much of the match, Tony and Jesse suddenly have to put Shockmaster over as some unstoppable monster babyface.

Dusty talks about how cool it was to finally team up with Dustin in a Wargames match, and adds a story about Robert Parker’s involvement that frankly I did not need to know.

WarGames ’94: Dustin Rhodes, Dusty Rhodes & The Nasty Boys v. Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck & Col. Robert Parker

Dustin starts with betrayer Arn Anderson and beats on him with his arm cast, then sends him into the cage. Arn backs off and tries to lure Dustin into the cage, but Dustin slugs him down and follows with an atomic drop and a big boot that puts Arn over the top and back into the other ring. Arn gets his head stuck between the rings…again…and Dustin uses him as a jackhammer for a bit, but Arn goes to the eyes. Dustin comes back with a nice diving clothesline over the ropes and puts him down with the Flip Flop and Fly. Lariat and elbowdrop follows and Dustin stomps away on the arm. Arn comes back with a DDT and chokes Dustin out with the wrist tape, and they fight into the second ring, where Dustin reverses an enzuigiri into a half-crab as the coin toss puts Bunkhouse Buck into the match.

Dustin eats some cage but miraculously doesn’t bleed, because that wouldn’t be family friendly. So remember, it’s OK to show graphic violence between angry white men, as long as there’s no CONSEQUENCES for their actions. Buck and Arn put Dustin into a double crab, but Jerry Sags in next in for the faces and he makes the save. The heels eat cage and Sags piledrives Buck, then Dustin gets a sleeper on Arn. Funk is in next for the heels, and he’s so desperate for a weapon he just takes his own boot off and uses that. And it works quite well, thank you. Sadly, he goes up and gets crotched, and Sags piledrives him on the crack between the rings…and Funk falls into it. Now that’s a Funk spot. Knobbs is in for the next save, ramming everyone into the cage and dropping the leg on Arn before gaining custody of Funk’s boot. The faces make use of the boot and Dustin holds off both Funk & Buck at the same time, and that leaves Parker to go in. He waits for someone to jump Dustin and then heads in to join into the attack. And now belts get found and Dustin just whips the shit out of everything, and Daddy joins in to complete the WarGames portion. The Nasties double-team Parker as Meng goes nuts outside, and Dusty uses the shitty figure-four and elbows from the Nasty Boys to finish Parker at 19:11. I actually kind of like the story told there, with the chickenshit Parker avoiding getting involved until the end and then getting his ass kicked. Much better than the disappointing 93 version. **** Lack of blood kept it from truly epic territory, though.

Disc Three

Dusty talks about Hogan’s involvement in the later Wargames, and how he’s a “great historian of our sport” (WHAT?!?) who would have loved to have been involved in the early ones. That would have literally been the worst thing ever.

WarGames ’95: Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Sting & Lex Luger v. Kamala, The Zodiac, The Shark & Meng

The Hulkamaniac side is all decked out in camo paint and army uniforms, although I’d say that Hogan’s bright yellow boots would negate any stealth benefits. Sting starts out with Shark (John “Earthquake” Tenta in yet another of his failed gimmicks) and gets thrown around, but comes back with a dive over the ropes into the other ring. Sting slams Shark, but hurts his back, and Shark goes to the bearhug. Or sharkhug, if you will. Sting fights out and Shark tries his own dive, but gets hung up between the ropes in one of the dumber spots I’ve seen in a serious match. Shark poses while straddling the ropes for some reason, and Sting crotches him, then starts kicking at the leg. Sting gets the Scorpion Deathlock and Zodiac (Ed “Brutus Beefcake” Leslie, on only the second stupid gimmick of his WCW run) comes in for the heels and quickly gets beat up. The Dungeon of Doom finally realizes that there’s two of them and starts double-teaming Sting, dropping elbows and ramming Sting into the cage. Randy Savage is the next one in, but Meng hangs onto Sting from outside and allows Zodiac & Shark to double-team Savage. Choking results, but Sting fights back and clothesline Zodiac. Kamala is the next one in for the Dungeon, and we get more choking out of that. Punch punch kick kick punch punch kick kick. Lex Luger comes in to save and gets choked down by Zodiac. Luger and Savage have a scuffle because they don’t trust each other, but now it’s time for Meng to come in and beat on everyone. Kamala is just kind of standing around and watching. More aimless choking and punching from heels until Hulk Hogan finishes up for the faces. And sportsman that he is, he throws powder into everyone’s faces. Sadly, Zodiac tries to collect it up and sell it on the subway. And now the faces all come back, using their babyface choking instead of the heel choking. And Hogan finishes Zodiac with a rear chinlock at 18:59. Now THIS is the worst one they did, which is sad because it’s not a terrible lineup on paper. ** And lucky us, the Hogan win gives us 5:00 of Hogan v. Kevin Sullivan, as Hogan beats on Sullivan and gets the big boot, but Giant heads down and attacks Hogan and gives him the Zeus neck twist to put him down.

Dusty talks about the nWo influence on the match, as changing loyalties and factions made it a more intriguing match than the past few years.

WarGames 96: Sting, Lex Luger, Ric Flair & Arn Anderson v. Hulk Hogan, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash & The Mysterious Fourth Man

Arn starts with Hall and slugs away in the corner, then goes for the leg, but Hall comes back with the corner clothesline and smashes his head into the cage a few times to get his point across. Arn fires back with knees and goes for the leg again, but Hall escapes to the other ring. For some reason Nick Patrick is inside the ring here, a fact that the announcers pick up on pretty quickly as well. Hall pounds away, but walks into the spinebuster, and Arn goes to a half-crab until Kevin Nash saves for the nWo. Doing the Royal Rumble mystery entrance thing for the WarGames is a nice format change that works well with this feud. So, um, Outsiders v. AA is not a particularly fair fight, let’s say. More specifically, they beat the hell out of him and Luger comes in early to save, ramming both Outsiders into the cage and using the STAINLESS STEEL FOREARM OF DEATH to great advantage. However, the Outsiders whip them into the cage, and now Hulk Hogan is out…and immediately gets jumped by Team WCW to a huge pop. Hall and Nash go after Luger, however, and Hogan isolates Arn and drops elbows on him. Hall gets some REALLY nice-looking punches on Luger in the corner and the WCW guys are in trouble, but here’s Flair to save. He stops to dance and invites the nWo over to his ring, so Hogan accepts. Flair procures a set of brass knuckles and knocks him out, then hits Hall in the bar-nuts and Luger follows with a million atomic drops on Hall as well. Ha! Flair puts Hogan in the figure-four and “Sting” joins the match, apparently having joined the nWo and changed his name to Jeff Farmer. The crowd is immediately hip to the room and doesn’t buy the “turn”, but the announcers don’t even bring up the possibility that it’s not him. The actual Sting is the last guy in for WCW and he cleans house alone, but the other WCW guys don’t trust him and won’t help. So Sting tells them to stick it and walks out on them, kicking off the biggest and most successful storyline WCW ever ran. This leaves it open season for the nWo, and the fake Scorpion Deathlock finishes Luger at 18:14. That was a pretty shocking ending at the time, in the days before the crowd-killing heel finish became the rule in WCW. I really liked the sense of tension that the match had back in the anarchic, Wild West period for the New World Order angle, before it became the Wild Wild West with Vince Russo riding a giant spider. Technically speaking, as with most WarGames matches from the early 90s on, the lack of blood and true violence undercuts the point of the match, so we fall somewhere in the middle here. ***1/4

Wargames 97: Ric Flair, Curt Hennig, Chris Benoit & Steve McMichael v. Kevin Nash, Buff Bagwell, Syxx & Konnan

Haven’t seen this one in a while due to the deletion of Benoit from WWE 24/7 when they were doing the Wargames marathon there a few years ago, so let’s hit it again! This was of course the direct result of the famous nWo Horsemen parody, one of the few times that something like that led to a serious blowoff. Hennig as a Horsemen should have been so great and perfect (pardon the pun) but they just couldn’t let them get over on the nWo. Benoit starts with Bagwell and beats the hell out of him, suplexing him into the cage and chopping him raw. Diving headbutt misses and Buff stomps away as the nWo wins the coin toss. Konnan is the next guy in and Benoit fights him off and slams Buff onto him. Both heels eat cage, but Konnan comes back with a DDT and they move to the other ring to better beat on Benoit. Mongo makes the save and the Horsemen do some double-teaming, including a cute spot where Bagwell hides in the corner and Benoit taps him on the shoulder before putting him down with a chop. Syxx comes in for the advantage and Benoit gives him a well-deserved beating to wake up the crowd. Mongo tosses him into the ceiling in a neat spot and Benoit applies the crossface, but the nWo takes over again. Did Syxx and Benoit ever do a match on Nitro? Seems like it would have been pretty awesome. Curt Hennig arrives at ringside with his arm in a sling after an nWo “attack” backstage, and Flair comes in to get his revenge on everyone. Nash is the last guy in for the heels, and he destroys everyone while Bagwell mugs for the camera. Question: Is Buff Bagwell one of the best makeovers in wrestling history? Hard to imagine many better outside of, like, Stone Cold Steve Austin. Flair makes a brief comeback and hits people in the nuts, but don’t worry, because Hennig is here to even it up. And he was faking the injury, but quickly turns on the Horsemen as they get handcuffed to the cage. Poor Flair gets mauled in a lengthy beatdown by the nWo , and Mongo finally submits at 20:00 after Hennig slams Flair’s head in the cage door. Nash declares the death of the Horsemen in their own backyard, and he wasn’t far off. About as good as it was going to be at that point, but why couldn’t they just let the Horsemen win and then do the turn on Nitro later? The finish still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and no one ever get their revenge for any of it. ***1/2

WarGames ’98: DDP, Ultimate Warrior & Rowdy Roddy Piper v. Lex Luger, Sting & Kevin Nash v. Hulk Hogan, Stevie Ray & Bret Hart

This one pretty much stretches the concept of WarGames as thin as you can go, since we’re down to teams of three and it’s a one-on-one format with a pin deciding things at any point. So it’s more of a Royal Rumble now. Bret starts with DDP and gets suplexed for two and I stop and nearly choke at Bobby Heenan declaring a match with Stevie Ray in it as “The nine best wrestlers in the world”. Bret works him over and goes for the legs, but Page takes him down with an armbar and gets two. He works Bret with knees in the corner, but Bret gets a legsweep for two. Bret with a small package for two. Next in is Stevie Ray, representing nWo Guys Who Were Left After The Wolfpac Picked Everyone Good. Stevie and Bret double-team Page with nothing special, but Sting The Red Lobster is next into the match and stomps Stevie down. He hits hits cross-ring dive and splashes Ray into the cage a couple of times, and Roddy Piper is the next guy in. He randomly goes after guys because they’re on the other “team” but also hits his own “partner,” DDP, “because it’s every man for himself” according to the announcers. Writing copy for the WCW announcers and having it make sense should be part of the SATs or something, just to see if it can be done by the brightest minds of America. Lex Luger is the next guy in and we get some more random punching and standing around as the announcers are trying to find some kind of story or psychology to cling to here and just can’t find ANYTHING to make sense of. It’s just turned into a battle royale, essentially. Big Kev is out to wake up the crowd and he goes after Piper, but then Hogan just decides to come out regardless of time left as this loses all semblance of reality and Hulk hits everyone with the dreaded slap jack. Tenay declares that it’s all beginning to make sense. Of COURSE it is. So now we get a couple of minutes of Hogan posing as he has everyone beat single-handedly, but the ring fills up with smoke and the “Warrior” appears, smelling like Curt Hennig’s shit, only to disappear in another puff of smoke so that the real one can run down and go after Hulk. Luckily for Hulk, Ed Leslie is there to get him away from the ring (and probably supply the white powder that had everyone seeing clouds), so Warrior smashes out of the cage with only the power of DESTRUCITY, and the will to rip off the paying customer, to support him, and both he and Hulk fight back to the dressing room and leave DDP to pin Stevie Ray and win the title shot at 19:18 in the biggest piece of fucking crap WarGames I had ever seen up until that point. Yeah, this one has a funny story about a bucket of shit attached to it, but it also had Magic Smoke and the SLAP JACK OF DEATH and DDP winning a major PPV main event without a trace of irony, so I’d say the negatives outweigh the one positive by about three negative stars in this case. -***

Dusty RAGES about Vince Russo ruining the Wargames and how ridiculous it was. He notes you might as well put two Divas out there playing Jacks and call it the Wargames for all that Russo’s abomination had in common with the original.

WarGames 2000: Sting, Booker T, Goldberg & Kronik v. Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner & Vince Russo.

This is LOOOOONG past the point where I was paying any serious attention to WCW on a weekly basis, so I have no clue what the backstory was supposed to be here or why they’re in the cage from the movie with WCW World Champion David Arquette. This is for the WCW World title, apparently. One ring, three cages, in one of those twists on the genre that no one asked for, like endless US remakes of low budget Asian horror movies. Sting starts with Jarrett and gets the Stinger splash, but Scott Steiner is next in and he teams up with Jarrett to batter Sting with a ladder before he can climb up and fulfill whatever needlessly complicated stipulations that Russo has attached to a match that didn’t need any. Kronik, apparently acting as a single unit, are next in while Steiner climbs up to the second level and finds some bolt cutters while Tony explains the predictably labyrinthine rules (LITERALLY this time — you have to navigate a damn maze to win) as though it was the simplest thing in the world to go up three cages, grab a belt, then climb back down through them and out the door to win. Kronik double-teams Steiner and Vince Russo is next in, and he brings the Harris brothers with him, because fuck it at this point, that’s why. And suddenly a hardcore match breaks out in the second cage while Sting puts Russo into the deathlock. How this helps him win the match, I do not know. Next out, the guy who actually has the belt at this point, Kevin Nash, and he chokeslams Sting and wants to do it to Russo as well, but gets talked out of it. And now the Harrises and Kronik have just abandoned all pretext of competing in the match and left the cage, and Booker T is next out with an axe kick for Jarrett and Steiner. Russo takes one as well, but that allows Nash to lay Booker out with a big boot. Last guy out is Goldberg and he hits everyone , but gets laid out with a baseball bat, by Russo. “Not even Goldberg can stand up to that!” Tony declares, as though cowardly heel Russo and his whiffle bat were a deadly weapon. Everyone arbitrarily moves to the second cage, because it’s time to, and poor Goldberg gets handcuffed to the ropes while Nash just stands by the door to prevent anyone from getting out with the title. It’s true, the man is a genius on many levels here. Booker is the guy who actually gets to climb up and get the title, but now it has to come back down, which is just so needless complicated for a company that marketed to southern hick mouth-breathers and NASCAR fans. Sorry, no offense to southern hick mouth-breathers there. All the remaining faces gets handcuffed to the second cage and Russo ends up with the belt, but now Ernest Miller runs into the match and tries to steal the belt for no adequately explored reason. Luckily for all of our sanity, Goldberg snaps his handcuffs and prevents THAT abomination, seemingly leaving Goldberg to walk out the door and win, but Terry Gord…or, no, Bret Hart, rams the door into his head, despite being retired. But then, Russo swerves us all, because Kevin Nash is really with him and walks out to retain or regain or win or lose or whatever the fuck happened at 18:27, but the match is OVER. Yeah! Was anyone SERIOUSLY watching this show in 2000 and enjoying it? Honestly? -** This made the main event of Uncensored 96 look reasoned and well thought out at times. Yeah, I WENT THERE.

Dusty finishes by noting that he’s a fan of the Elimination Chamber, because they were trying to improve on Wargames rather than just copying it to make a buck. I kind of wish they would copy it to make a buck because I’d give them a lot of bucks.

The Pulse

It’s Wargames, it’s the compilation set that people have been begging for since they stared doing these things, it’s discs full of blood and five-star matches, just buy it already. Ignore the last two matches, though.

Strongly recommended.