“ The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes may not have had the greatest history of booking wrestling, according to many, but one thing that he got right was when he came up with the idea of War Games. Putting two rings together surrounded by a gigantic cage was an interesting idea by Dusty that got its inspiration from the movie Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. And just like that movie we got to see brutal matches where we were never sure if there was going to be a winner.

    War Games began in Jim Crockett Promotions, moving to WCW before ending up in the WWE family. We have been given fantastic matches and total stinker matches but one thing has always been for sure. The second that any on-air authority figure yells War Games into the microphone we get that visceral reaction that we are about to see something special, good or bad.

    Below I have taken a look at some of the most notable moments coming from the Match Beyond. I have tried to be fair and take the good from both organizations because it would have been easy to just focus on the WWE matches that as a whole have produced better quality matches.

    5: Fall Brawl 1996 – Team WCW (Sting, Lex Luger, Ric Flair and Arn Anderson) vs.  Team NWO (Hulk Hogan, NWO Sting, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash)

    A few months prior to this match Hulk Hogan became the third man in the NWO when he turned his back on WCW and dropped the big leg on the Macho Man.  It was a huge turning point for WCW as they now had a great storyline in which to go up against Vince McMahon and thus the Monday Night Wars were ignited.

    After joining his cohorts and becoming a heel for the first time in his career Hulk Hogan and the NWO ran roughshod over WCW beating or recruiting any that would stand in their way. One of those men happens to be the man known as Sting. Sting was the poster boy for WCW for years and to have him join the NWO would be a huge coup for the group and for a little while that is exactly what we were all lead to believe.

    Leading up to Fall Brawl of that year “Sting” was seen coming out of an NWO limousine and attacking his friend Lex Luger leaving the Total Package laying. It was a huge moment that swung the NWO into the drivers seating heading into the all-important War Games match at Fall Brawl. Even though the NWO had said that “Sting” would be on their team at the pay per view the real Sting had insisted to Luger, Anderson and Flair that he was not the man who attacked them, but these pleas fell on deaf ears from his teammates. 

    When the match began the biggest question was if Sting would join the NWO like Hogan, Hall and Nash had claimed or would he lead the charge for WCW. Well, when the NWO Sting came out it appeared as if we had our answer. If you go back and watch the pay per view it is slightly laughable that the creative team thought that we would mistake the imposter Sting for the real deal. It is clear that there is another man playing Sting and hearing the announcers insist that this imposter Sting is in fact the real Sting is a bit outside the realm of reality.

    The match itself doesn’t crack the top ten of best War Games matches. The action taking place inside the cage didn’t bring the fans out of their chairs but what is notable is the ending in which the real Sting comes out and lays waste to the NWO finally proving his innocence. However, Sting was so upset that the WCW competitors would question his loyalty that he screamed, “Is that good enough?” before leaving the cage and letting Team WCW continue the match short-handed. This act gave us a new version of Sting that would become known as the Crow Sting. A character change that would end up becoming one of the hottest storylines in wrestling for over a year and was a huge boost in the wrestling war between WWE and WCW.

    4: WrestleWar 1992 – Stings Squadron (Sting, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat and Nikita Koloff) v The Dangerous Alliance (Steve Austin, Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Larry Zbyszko)

    Nearing the end of 1991 and into 1992 a large portion of the men involved in this match had been embroiled in a feud with one another.

    After winning the World Heavyweight Championship earlier on in the year Sting had hosted a press conference to discuss who he would defend against next. This press conference was interrupted by the United States Champion, and Dangerous Alliance member, Rick Rude who then proceeded to throw coffee on the champ. This sparked a brawl between the Alliance and Sting where we saw the return of Nikita Koloff to save the champ from a vicious assault.

    Speaking of the U.S Champ, at the same event that Sting had won the world title Rick Rude had successfully defended his strap against Ricky Steamboat. Also, on that same show, Barry Windham and Dustin Rhodes would face off against “Stunning” Steve Austin and Larry Zbyszko in a tag team match. So as we can see most of these men had been going at each other for some time before even stepping foot inside cage which is always a nice thing to see instead of just throwing whoever into War Games.

    From name recognition alone this is one of the best matches in WCW history but when you go back and watch the contest it is by far the best iteration of the double cage match that the wraslin’ promotion had even put on.  Some War Games matches that have come before and after this 1992 affair had been filled with punch/kick, punch/kick spots that never really used the treacherous environment to its full potential land but that is not the case with the 1992 version of War Games.

    Not long into the contest, Steve Austin was busted wide open and by god, it is an awesome sight to see him pouring blood all over the ring. There is a particularly great spot where Austin is getting his head slammed off the yellow turnbuckle and we can see the turnbuckle slowing turn a dark orange as his blood slowly changed the pads colour.

    On top of Austin getting the crimson mask, there were very good blade jobs by both Barry Windham and Arn Anderson that added to the brutality of the match. There were many War Games matches in the WCW era but none compare to the once that took place at WrestleWar 1992.

    3: WWE changes War Games

    It was a bit of a shock that when the WWE bought WCW it took as long as it did to revive one of the most popular gimmick matches in the company’s history. Thankfully in 2017, our long wait was over and we got to witness the WWE’s version of War Games.

    Now, of course, the WWE has to change every outside idea just a little bit so they can call it their own and more often than not they change it to the detriment of said idea. However, it is safe to say that when it came to War Games the WWE changed things for the better of everyone.

    The first change, albeit a small one, came with the construction of the cage that surrounded the ring. In WCW there was a steel mesh top was placed over the ring to give a feeling of confinement. It worked aesthetically but had no practical use for the wrestlers. It would prevent them from performing simple moves and did limit them to what they could do in the ring. WWE improved on this by taking the mesh ceiling away completely thus allowing the wrestlers more freedom in the ring and giving us the opportunity to see some amazing spots from the top of the cage.

    A second change, WWE have all participants in a cage at the top of the ramp instead of being free to roam the ringside area. It was something that was small but did add a little extra to the match. The visual of the partners being trapped in a cage on the ramp and in the ring is a cool one to see. It also provided for at least two great spots, one which will be discussed later.

    A final change that WWE made is one that makes me a very happy guy as it bothered me to no end when I had been watching the old WCW matches.  When you put to rings together there is inevitably going to be a gap in the middle as the rings will not be able to flush up against one another.  The amount of times I have cringed watching the old matches as a wrestler almost falls and twists, or breaks an ankle is more than I would like to have done.  What the WWE did by adding a partition in this gap solved this problem and helped to provide some awesome moments in their current version of War Games.

    2: NXT Takeover: War Games 2019 – Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candace LeRae, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai) v Team Baszler (Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Kay Lee Ray and Io Shirai)

    From a historical standpoint, this match is notable in that it was, and remains, the only time that female wrestlers were the participants in War Games.  The women’s revolution had been going on for a few years by this point in the WWE and these amazing athletes were breaking down every glass ceiling that lay before them. So it was great to see that they were given the opportunity to shine inside the double cage.

    Outside of the historical implications of this match these women were able to tell a great story throughout the duration of the contest. Rhea Ripley had been doing an amazing job in NXT U.K so it was only a matter of time before she was brought across the pond to NXT.  Leading up to War Games Ripley was being pushed hard to possibly be the women who finally dethrone Shayna Baszler and this match put those two in the ring against one another.  

    This was a star-making performance for Ripley as her and Candace LeRae were at a disadvantage for the entire match, more on that later.  LeRae turned in a valiant effort in support of Ripley but Ripley really put herself above anyone else in the ring. Particularly, the handcuff spot at the end of the match or the slamming of a trash can into Shirai coming top rope comes to mind when thinking of the insane effort that Rhea put into her match.

    Another story that helps to make this match great was the tension between Ripley, Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai. Kai and Nox were friends and while Ripley questioned the loyalty of Kai, Nox had stood up for her friend and vouched for her. Unfortunately, Ripley’s concerns were validated, when Kai was about to enter the ring she turned around and laid a vicious beating on her friend, slamming the containment cage door into Nox’s knee repeatedly. This angle was a perfect addition to the match and helped to solidify it as a great contest.

    Io Shirai’s moonsault off the top of the cage or Bianca Bel Air using her hair to whip Ripley are other great moments from this match that give us a glimpse into how great it was. Moments like this and those mentioned above are plentiful in the women’s War Games and make it one of the most notable moments in the history of the match.

    1: NXT Takeover: War Games (2017) – Undisputed Era v Sanity v The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong

    A list of notable moments from the history of War Games really couldn’t be complete without mentioning what could possibly be the best match in the history of the gimmick. In the months leading up to William Regals War Games announcement the three teams mentioned above were embroiled in a hot feud that was quickly getting out of control.

    At Takeover Brooklyn; Sanity had beaten the AOP for the NXT Tag Team Championship. After that match, Fish and O’Reilly attacked both teams leaving them lying in the ring. At that same PPV, Adam Cole had debuted aligning himself with Fish and O’Reilly and thus the Undisputed Era was born.

    In the weeks after that Takeover event, the 9 men involved in the War Games match were involved in several matches with one another which never ended cleanly as all three factions were continuously brawling in and around the ringside area. It also came to pass that the Undisputed Era tried to recruit Roderick Strong, foreshadowing here, and Strong was having none of it from the Undisputed Era. Strong teased a heel turn before attacking Adam Cole and putting himself on the side of the Authors Of Pain.

    With all this insanity, heh get it, the commissioner of NXT William Regal had no choice but to come out and utter his now-famous declaration of War Games! Fans immediately popped for this statement as we were finally going to see one of the better WCW gimmick matches make its debut in WWE.

    The match that we were given was, in my opinion, the best War Games match that has taken place in either the WCW or WWE. The action was fast and furious from the opening bell and never stopped until Adam Cole won the match for his team.  It was really interesting to see the triple threat element brought into the equation. We have only ever seen this once before and frankly that match was not anything to write home about so it was great to see the WWE correct that error.

    There were so many high spots throughout this contest it is hard to pick one that stands above the rest but there are two that rise to the top. Roderick Strong superplexing Adam Cole off the top of the cage and Alexander Wolfe German suplexing one of the Authors of Pain (I always have a hard time telling which one is which) are two of the best spots of the year in the WWE let alone a War Games match.

    It is no surprise that given the talent in the ring that we were going to witness a great match but these men gelled so well that we might have seen the best War Games match ever.