Wrestling in the Clinton years : The Disappearing / Reappearing Warrior (Bonus Review)

By Martin Dixon (@ BunnySuicida)

War Games Match, WCW Fall Brawl September 13th 1998

Kevin Nash, Sting & Lex Luger VS Warrior, Diamond Dallas Page & Roddy Piper VS Hollywood Hogan, Stevie Ray and Bret Hart.

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Oh dear, this bastardisation of the classic NWA/WCW War Games match still will take some explaining. This is a three team match with an added every man for himself stipulation of a WCW World title match for the one winner of a bout ostensibly about the faction war tearing through the company, all contained within 2 rings surrounded by a huge steel cell. This sounds like a recipe for a confusing mess but does it somehow transcend its awfulness? Probably not but I need to write something this week so let this fustercluck begin!

The match itself starts in bad fashion as both of the opening wrestlers, United States champion Bret Hart and Diamond Dallas Page, enter to the same generic military music instead of their own distinctive theme, leading to what must’ve been a lot of “who’s that?” from the fans in the cheap seats. Michael Buffer’s garbled introductions don’t help matters either.

What does help is the opening 5 minute period of the match. (The rules include an opening period of 5 minutes with subsequent entrants coming in every 2 minutes thereafter.) Bret and Page exchange some good of brief action with Bret playing heel in his role as a member of the nWo Hollywood faction, choking Page throughout and even hitting a headbutt to DDP’s er, “lower abdomen” after hitting a superb backbreaker. Page manages to level Hart with a clothesline as the clock ticks away and the first 5 minutes ends with Stevie Ray lumbering down to the cage to aid his nWo teammate Hart.

Stevie and Bret try for a double clothesline on DDP but Page ducks under their linked arms and levels both men with a double clothesline of his own. Stevie is the first to his feet after this and instead of pinning Page and winning the title shot for himself it becomes clear that he is acting on orders from Hogan and just attacks DDP some more. This signals the end of the period as the buzzer sounds and the first nWo Wolfpac member enters the match as Sting sprints down the aisle. He and Stevie begin to fight with Sting splashing Ray against the cage twice before crashing and burning on a third and careening into the mesh that surrounds both rings.

Sting’s wipeout precedes the arrival of WCW representative Rowdy Roddy Piper who looks crazed as he enters the fray, striking anything and everything in sight, even his own teammate Page as the two briefly fight. Sadly as the numbers grow in the match the action seems to settle into a rhythm of punching and holding from everyone, except when they are laying on the canvas for extended periods. That, the reliance on wide camera angles and the mesh of the cage obscuring things really make this tough to watch and follow.  Into this malaise of a melee Lex Luger of the Wolfpac enters the cage and does very little except get trapped in a sleeper hold courtesy of Piper. The short intervals are welcome however as it means that the lacklustre action is over that much sooner as the leader of the Wolfpac Kevin Nash soon runs (yes, RUNS) to the ring to a huge roar from the crowd. An energetic Nash destroys Piper before attempting a Jackknife Powerbomb on Stevie Ray in short order. Piper attacks Nash before he can hoist Stevie into the air as the camera cuts to Hollywood Hogan skulking to the cage ahead of his allotted entrance.  The sneaky Hogan enters the cage, a lead slapjack weapon in his hand and begins to knock out everyone in the match with the help of Stevie Ray. Even fellow nWo member Bret Hart is not spared, taken down with a chop block to his perpetually injured left knee. The villainous pair’s attention turns to a prone Kevin Nash and the cocky Hogan delivers not one but two leg drops to Nash (as well as a lot of time wasting) before the cage begins to fill with smoke, signalling the arrival of the last entrant, the [Ultimate] Warrior. The smoke clears and we see the Warrior stood in the centre of one of the rings, pounding his chest.  Hilariously Warrior is soon brought to his knees as Hogan attacks him from behind, tearing at Warrior’s long trenchcoat as the ring fills with smoke once more. This time when the smoke clears Hogan is holding Warrior’s coat aloft like a trophy but his joy is short lived as Warrior himself is nowhere to be found.  

Attention turns to the entrance as a crash of fireworks herald the return of the Warrior who thunders to the ring to finally attack Hogan. Stevie takes the bullet for his leader however, opting to face Warrior as the Disciple (Ed “Booty Man” Leslie) pulls Hogan out of the cage door to safety, locking it behind them and trapping Warrior in the cage. Even metal must bow before the power of the Warrior however as he soon kicks open a hole in the mesh and climbs out to attack Hogan and Disciple in the aisle. Doug Dillinger and WCW security appear to hold Warrior back however as Hogan flees backstage.

All the while everyone else in this main event has spent the last few minutes laying in the ring and earning the easiest money of their careers and with Hogan’s exit Page and Stevie are soon up for the finish, a Diamond Cutter from nowhere to gift Page the victory for “his team” and earning himself his infamous title match against Goldberg at Halloween Havoc (the match famously had to be aired on Nitro as the PPV ran long and cut out as the match began.)

This was the last War Games match WCW promoted and sadly the gimmick hasn’t made the transition to WWE. This means that the legacy of War Games ends with a whimper, playing host to a glorified Nitro segment and leaving the winner of the match as an afterthought to Hogan vs Warrior.  That is exceptionally sad considering the wars that War Games played host to in years prior and this lacklustre, confusing match must’ve felt like an insult to the PPV buying public back in late 1998. After all, as a WWE network viewer in 2015 I felt a little cheated myself.

All hail 1998 and its excellent music!

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