The War Games Retrospective

To commemorate the upcoming WCW War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches DVD and Blu-ray release, we asked the Place to Be Nation staff to select their most memorable WarGames matches and share their thoughts.  This is not a complete guide to the brutal contest, only a sampling of notable wars.  Join Mike Waldrop, Ben Morse, Andrew Riche, Bob Colling and Chad Campbell as they take a trip down War Games memory lane.

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The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Sid Vicious, and Larry Zbyszko) vs. Sting, Brian Pillman and the Steiner Brothers (Rick and Scott Steiner) – WrestleWar  (2/24/91)

The 1991 WarGames was the unintentional blowoff of the Ric Flair vs. Sting rivalry that had come to define Jim Crockett Promotions and later WCW throughout the late 80s and into 1990. Within four months, Flair would be out of the company, and the two would not wrestle again in a major match until 1994. In many ways, this feels like the 1991 WarGames match as a whole. It’s an excellent match, but it also very much feels like a match in a vacuum, due to missed opportunities, injuries, and wrestler defections. Brian Pillman should have been made into a top babyface with this match. Instead, Pillman never gets his revenge on Vicious for injuring him, as Sid leaves for the WWF three months later.  Before long, Pillman is storyline-retired, working under a mask in what is rumored a political sabotage. Sting wrestles his teammates, the Steiner Brothers, at the next PPV before getting into a program with Nikita Koloff that would last through the year. Barry Windham turned face shortly thereafter, when an early foe was needed for new heel champion Lex Luger. The Steiner Brothers saw their really tremendous run, in which they won the NWA World, US, and the IWGP Tag Team Titles, come to a crashing halt when Scott was injured by the Hardliners in May, keeping him out of action until 1992. If anything, the only real connecting piece of this great match in WCW was the association of Larry Zbyszko and Arn Anderson. After filling in for the Enforcer, Zbyszko would go on to team with Arn as The Enforcers, and would both be charter members of WCW’s next attempt at a dominant heel stable, the Dangerous Alliance. Watching the match, you would not think that this would very much be the end of an era, and yet, it very clearly was. – Mike Waldrop

Sting’s Squadron (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) – WrestleWar (5/17/92)

My personal favorite trio of consecutive pay-per-views by any company were the first three shows that WCW put on in 1992: SuperBrawl II, WrestleWar, and Beach Blast. Bill Watts was the booker at the time, and while not everything he did won fans or wrestlers over, you cannot argue about how good the shows were. Every wrestler worked their asses off in the big matches, and WarGames from that WrestleWar pay-per-view is the epitome of that. It’s my favorite WCW match of all time. I still remember the team names. It was Paul E. Dangerously’s Dangerous Alliance, which dominated the company for five months, taking on Sting’s Squadron. Sting was the WCW Champ and he just hated bad guys in general. Rick Rude was the evil U.S. Champ feuding with Ricky Steamboat. Arn Anderson had teamed with Larry Zbyszko and Bobby Eaton to win tag team gold while Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes were a team on the rise. Throw in a young up-and-comer named Steve Austin and a reluctant Sting ally in Nikita Koloff, and you have got a dandy on your hands. And boy, it was. Four guys get busted open, everyone gets their flurry of offense in right out of the gate, and it had a wonderful and fulfilling climax to the whole feud. The action was so non-stop and violent, you almost felt bad for the cage! Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura can barely keep up with the madness. Even the top rope gets broken off, which gives us the weapon that does in the Dangerous Alliance after Sting ducks the ring fork and applies an armbar to Eaton for the submission win. “The Match Beyond” begins when all the participants are in the WarGames match at the same time, and older fans would count down to it like it was New Year’s Eve and they were waiting for the ball to drop. The whole match was so great, it felt like “The Match Beyond” ignited the moment the bell rang. – Andrew Riche

Sting, Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes, and The Shockmaster vs. Sid Vicious, Vader, and Harlem Heat (Kane and Kole) – Fall Brawl (9/19/93)

The 1993 installment of WarGames may be the least remembered one of the WCW era. The teams for the event saw Sting lead a team of Davey Boy Smith, Dustin Rhodes and the Shockmaster against a team lead by WCW World Heavyweight Champion Big Van Vader – who had Sid Vicious, and Harlem Heat by his side. Originally Road Warrior Hawk was suppose to be in the match but was replaced by the Shockmaster due to an injury. They really tried to make the Shockmaster into a star by having him make a debut on Saturday Night but he tripped over a wall, had his head mask fall off and has been picked-on ever since. By the way, Shockmaster was Typhoon in WWE. So, the idea that he could have been a huge star for the company is humorous in itself.

The match itself doesn’t have the real emotion that previous ones had. Just year prior you had the top heel faction in the Dangerous Alliance taking on Sting’s Squadron and producing a classic match. This is the complete opposite, which is sad. I believe Harlem Heat had just made their debut a few weeks prior to this event and aside from Sting & Davey vs. Vader & Sid there isn’t a huge feud to make this match worthwhile. Dustin Rhodes did put forth a nice effort so there is a little bit of redeeming quality to an otherwise uninteresting year for War Games.  –  Bob Colling

Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes, and The Nasty Boys (Brian Knobs and Jerry Sags) vs. Terry Funk, Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck, and Robert Parker – Fall Brawl (9/18/94)

WarGames 1994 is a match wrapped in a wide spectrum of opinions.  There are individuals with wrestling opinions I trust that call this match one of the best in WCW history, and there are others that are indifferent to it.  I fall firmly in the former category.  I think the reason this match resonates so much with me goes beyond the action in the ring.  The action is still very good.  The babyface team of the Nasty Boys, Dustin Rhodes, and Dusty Rhodes consisted of four unqiue personalities and was booked to enter the match in brillant fashion. Dusty being the last one in the ring and clearing house feels like his swan song as a performer, and a bookend on his redemption story.  The Nasty Boys had a ton of stiff, clobbering brawls in 1994 and they are able to convey that energy in the cage with their offense vs. Arn and Funk.  Funk is a madman throwing chairs on the outside of the cage, and then swinging wild punches and taking crazy bumps once he is inserted in the match.  Funk was a true Renaissance man in 1994, having prominent roles in no-less than five promotions across the world.  This was his biggest stage and he brought the best attributes of his persona.  The MVP of the match, however, is none other than Colonel Robert Parker.  There is a great art in being a trained professional at doing something, and still being able to look like a goof.  Parker was one of the top wrestlers of Continental Wrestling, but he was so convincing looking scared and untrained throughout this match.  Truly one of the most masterful performances in a single match I have seen from 1994.  Beyond all of these great performances, though, is the finality of this era in WCW history.  This promotion that had been rooted in southern tradition would bust down that wall over the next year.  WCW had tried to become more mainstream at times before, but the predominantly southern crowd looked at attempts to get Robocop or the Black Scorpion over as desperate attempts that would never be successful in the long run.  Hulk Hogan coming in was something substantial that would not go away.  He signified the change in promotional thinking that would allow the company to reach its biggest highs, but also eventually go out of business.  This is why, as the Rhodes family celebrates in the ring, there is a finality feeling to the occasion.  The old WCW was gone and the Hogan era was being ushered in.  – Chad Campbell