The Road Warriors (Hawk and Animal), Paul Ellering, Dusty Rhodes and Nikita Koloff vs. The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger and Arn Anderson) and The War Machine (The Big Boss Man)- WarGames match, NWA The Great American Bash Tour July 31st, 1987
The War Games. The Match Beyond. Since WCW folded, it has been one of the most missed specialty matches in professional wrestling. Sure, many other promotions have run variations on the concept but, in entertainment, the name and the lineage matter. With the WWE owning most of these pieces of the puzzle, it was only a matter of time before they resurrected Dusty Rhodes’ magnum opus. NXT, another promotion dominated by Dusty’s influence, will finally present the match in a WWE ring. Paul Ellering will even maintain his involvement.
I went into this column on a mission: To pick what I found to be a definitive match of the original WarGames run, not necessarily my favorite. Something that truly captured the era. The first condition was that it be contested in an NWA ring, and not a WCW one. Rhodes was looking to create a spectacle to combat Hulkamania and going too late would damage this effect. If it was NWA, it had to be Flair and Dusty as well. I have a soft spot for Nikita Koloff, my favorite eighties performer not in the WWE Hall of Fame, so I wanted him in there too. Probably the most important requirements were the big line up and old school rules. Five on Five action with a coin toss. That’s all here. I even like Ray Traylor as the unknown, masked man War Machine. Its an especially old school NWA touch. Now, outside of typically being pretty bloody, a lot of the allure of the match can be found in the massive amount of talent, even if it gets in the way of technical match. No one is expecting Savage/Steamboat, there’s just too much going on. Not unlike a Royal Rumble, WarGames are built on star power. In the NWA, importance was almost always driven by devious acts of the Horsemen and here it is no different. Honestly though, this match doesn’t need a complex narrative. The WarGames are a brutal spectacle, but its not the cage that truly drives the brutality. The real point of the match is that until all opponents have entered, there can be no winner. The majority of the match is violence for the sake of violence, something fairly unique even amongst the endless match types of the modern era. In turn, this creates a unique narrative. Sure, there is the basic goal of weakening your opponents but that begins to get lost in the chaos. Most matches are exciting in the end, WarGames is most exciting when victory isn’t even possible. The greatest athletes in the business put into a situation in which they cannot win. Unlike the NXT rules set, in this iteration victory could not be obtained by pinfall, only “surrender or submission”. So, just submission. Though I don’t have a big problem with the NXT rules, the “submission only” part does add even more viciousness to the match. Not only does it drag on, but a team can only lose when a competitor can no longer take it. The loser is not only broken, but humiliated. The end of this particular match isn’t terribly exciting, but I liked it. It fit that it would end when the weakest link (you’ll see) simply could no longer endure. In the WarGames, the whole team matters.
This match is available on the excellent War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches Blu-Ray and DVD. If you haven’t picked it up, do. It is worth it just for the commentary from the late Dusty Rhodes.