War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches DVD Review

WarGames1Over the years, wrestling promoters have developed a number of big-time match types in order to go that extra mile on pay-per-view events. From the Royal Rumble introduced in the late 1980s, right through to Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. These are the attention-grabbing highlights of the calendar, often featuring numerous top talent vying for a title or a future opportunity at one. Yet there’s one match in wrestling history that was rarely about titles, instead focusing on settling more personal issues and proving who was truly dominant. That match was War Games.

Much like the aforementioned Rumble and also Survivor Series, War Games was a child of the 80s. Developed by Dusty Rhodes as a speciality match for The Four Horsemen, War Games happened 17 times between 1987-1989 as an NWA match before continuing as a WCW speciality at Wrestlewar 1991 and beyond. When looking back historically, many critics and fans alike mention these early War Games matches as some of the highlights of NWA and WCW, bringing together many stars and an electric atmosphere to create something truly special.

With that being said, there is no one better to contribute to War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches than Rhodes himself. Fans of today may only know The American Dream from his role on NXT or popping up as a Legend on Raw or Smackdown from time to time, but decades ago Rhodes was a legit star in his own right. Not only did he create War Games but he put himself out there in many of the matches and put his body on the line. These matches took place in a giant cage covering two rings side by side, with two teams fighting against each other with individual entry staggered over time. You can certainly see where other formats have taken inspiration from War Games, and it’s hard to argue against it being often imitated but never quite beaten.

Much like the Rumble, War Games was always a format that made a crowd hot before it even started. Sometimes the quality of the wrestling itself may not be the best, but that never mattered. It was brutal, crazy, and more importantly enjoyable, and they peak with the Wrestlewar match in 1992. Not only regarded as the best War Games match in history but also up there with the best WCW matches of all time, Sting’s Squadron vs. The Dangerous Alliance was even given a 5 star rating by Wrestling Observer Newsletter editor Dave Meltzer.

Featuring the WCW elite such as Sting and Arn Anderson, as well as a pre-Stone Cold Steve Austin and a fresh looking Dustin Rhodes, the match was as heated and full of hatred as you could expect from the gimmick. This was the epitome of what War Games represented and by far the best in terms of action, wrestling quality and the excitement from start to finish. It’s edge-of-your-seat stuff that you can’t keep your eyes off, and you can’t help but wonder if WWE could create something as good if they brought back the concept today. Of course you’ll also recognise the dastardly one himself, Paul Heyman, far before representing CM Punk or Brock Lesnar, and it’s surprising to see just how long Heyman has been such a fantastic heel manager. For all his risqué business moves, the managerial role is one he was born to play.

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While we may have one of the best ever WCW matches in this set, a few of them unfortunately fall a little flat – specifically ones that tend to mess with the format, like the Tower of Doom match in 1998 and Vince Russo’s War Games 2000 match in a triple cage. These overcomplicate the idea and make the competitors struggle to perform to a high standard. War Games is at its best when kept simple, effective and brutal without adding any unnecessary twists to it. The match did peak in 1992 and it’s a shame that none of the Fall Brawl yearly matches after managed to quite hit that same level. The talent involved was big on names but never as technical or high on performance as before – for example, it’s great to see Hulk Hogan and the NWO, but those feuds were more storyline based and no one expected 5 star matches.

War Games: WCW’s Most Notorious Matches is a very enjoyable collection that is certainly worth picking up. Dusty Rhodes gives some fascinating insight into the idea and the history of the NWA and WCW, much of which many fans of today will have missed out on. There is no documentary feature here, with the set simply going through the historical matches in order, but Rhodes’ input is more than enough. Beyond Wrestlewar 1992, none of the matches will make your top 10s, but they all feature some great talent and you can see why War Games is held in such high regards. I certainly hope this sells well and that it encourages WWE to consider bringing it back. With stars like The Shield on the rise, there’s no better time to try it out.

The DVD set comes on 3 discs including 14 matches in total from 1987-2000, while the Blu-ray comes on 2 discs and adds a number of extras: Smokey Mountain Wrestling’s Rage in the Cage from 1993, and two Ultimate Jeopardy Steel Cage matches from ECW. There is also an interesting feature on War Games Fantasy Booking with Dusty Rhodes. If any of these variations on War Games interest you then it’s worth picking up the Blu-ray, otherwise you’re not missing out on much by purchasing the DVD. If you are into your wrestling history and like to see today’s legends in their prime in one of the most famous gimmick matches then this is the set for you.

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