Ever since WWE purchased WCW from Time Warner back in March 2001, many wrestling diehards have been praying for WWE to bring back one or more recognizable WCW pay-per-view events, even though Vince McMahon have preferred to focus upon his own creations instead of adapting programs and characters from other promotions; one of the much discussed events from the diehards was the WarGames, a match that was created by the late legendary “American Dream” Dusty Rhodes for 1987 Great American Bash main event between the Four Horsemen, which consisted of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, “Enforcer” Arn Anderson, “Total Package” Lex Luger, Tully Blanchard and its manager James J. Dillon, and the alliance of Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, the Road Warriors (the late Mike “Hawk” Hegstrand and Joseph “Animal” Laurinaitus) and RW’s manager Paul Ellering. For many years, the idea of bringing back the WarGames was mooted as WWE’s preference to their concepts such as Elimination Chamber and Hell in a Cell, it wasn’t until the passing of Rhodes that such idea would finally make their debut on WWE programming; yet, in order to convince McMahon, they somehow need to do a trial run, and since WWE has its own developmental program called NXT with his son-in-law Triple H at the creative helm, it was a matter of time before The Match Beyond finally made its return to televised event, much to the chagrin to McMahon, considered what had occurred in that match type during the last days of World Championship Wrestling as well as above-mentioned opinions from McMahon. Then, the impossible has happened, though not in the main PPV list yet close enough, on November 18, 2017 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, which marked the first official WarGame appearance in 20 years and first in Houston since 1993. The triple-threat match participants for this momentous occasion are Authors of Pain & Roderick Strong (with Ellering at ringside), factions of SAnitY, which consisted of Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe, and “Showtime” Eric Young, and “The Undisputed Era” consisted of Adam Cole (former Ring of Honor Heavyweight Champion), REdragon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish), whose accolades included IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in New Japan Pro Wrestling and ROH Tag Team Champions). When the dust had settled, battered and bruised, it was one of the most barbaric matches in recent memories. However, rather than giving spoiler alerts to those who have not that match, never mind the event itself, this column will focus towards negative comments made by the wrestling purists in relations to this particular matchup, and address concerns with related issues concerning WWE usage of non-WWE intellectural properties such as WarGames and Starrcade.
Before I address those concerns, however, I would like to say that I have indeed watched the whole NXT Takeover, including the above-mentioned main event and also re-watched that very match on replays at least twice, on WWE Network over the Thanksgiving weekend. I enjoy every bit of it in spite of its violent nature, after all, the history of such match have always been in its grueling nature, but since this was a WWE first, it was a must-see event for sports-entertainment fan such as myself; however, I’m saving my review at the end. Shall we begin addressing the talking points that is primary focus of this article? Although I must emphasize make the following disclaimer that comments made below excerpt from other sources, specifically from the likes of MLW Radio podcasts “Jim Cornette Experience” and “Something to Wrestling” with Bruce Pritchard, and I am merely paraphrasing the approximate nature of their comments.
According to Brian Last, the producer of JCE, he asserted the following grievances concerning the NXT WarGames match:
- A WarGame cage without the roof is not WarGame
- There was no staggered entrances for each of those teams
- The match was a clusterf*** as the match has not reached the sort of danger levels as those preceded this match, such as plating the gaps between the two rings
- Too much aerial attempts on top of the cage
To genuinely undetstand the logic of WWE bringing back such iconic match, one must first realize, as I have previously stated at the top of this article, Vince McMahon have preferred to display gimmicks thst he has created, in truth, since his rise to prominence in 1984, he has never felt comfortable sharing his gimmicks with anyone, so much so he had even shot down Ted Turner when WWE obtained timeslot on the Turner Network, citing that he had no need for any partnership, much less from Turnet himself. Even former WWE creative Bruce Pritchard acknowledged that McMahon has always telling everyone, especially on television, that he is a “self-made millionaire”, so he didn’t really anyone else to tell him how to run his shows, never mind gimmicks. Since the purchase of WCW back in late March 2001, Pritchard and a few others have unsuccessfully persuade McMahon to at least consider using one of the most iconic ring setup in the history of sports-entertainment, or something as simple as having 2 rings back-to-back. McMahon would instesd be mooted that idea each of those attempts, and it went on for years until that fateful day in November 2017 when it was finally made its debut. His rationales have included less floor seatings and staging areas for the production crew, amongst a few, never mind safety concerns on the construct while minimizing alienizing the diehards in attempt to “modernize” the iconic match. Yet, there are those who believes that WWE and the contracted metalsmiths should have known how to make those concepts possible, as they were able to construct and strengthen the traditional steel cage, Hell in a cell, and the Elimination Chamber, WarGame cages shouldn’t be any diffetence. Yet, McMahon still felt such idea would not be suitable for younger audience or casual fans whom WWE are targeting; same could not said, though, with the Chief Operating Officer Triple H (Paul Levesque), who oversees development and programming for NXT brand. Levesque had seen WarGames match during his time at World Championship Wrestling, his expert knowledge towards this subject by watching intently every one of those matches and having constant discussions with those who were involved became instrumental in bringing it back.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard about the match has to do with the lacking of roof on top of the cage, to his defense of excluding what made it rather brutal, though, one must be reminded of what had occurred during the conclusion of WrestleWar 1991, which, at least according to Flair and myself, the match concluded rather abruptly with El Gigante threw in the towel after Brian Pillman was knocked unconscious during a powerbomb attempt by Sid Eudy, who wrestled under the name of Sid Vicious, with Pillman’s head bonked into the steel piping on the roof support. While it has since been acknowledged by those what had fought as part of the collateral, that can also be stated as part of the rationale of excluding the roof, regardless of how well it could be constructed, the roof has signified a certain of limiting what superstars can perform. Back when the inception of such match, there weren’t that many lighter weight wrestlers fighting in the ring, as well as any heavyweight superstars who could do aerial moves such as over the top rope, unlike today’s talents. While some may consider such removal diminish the effects of the damages incurred during the match, one can also argue that the current setup hasn’t changed in spirit. In addition, Triple H had also added the stipulation of forfeiture of contest due to exiting the cage via any means, though unlikely as it may have been, kept all competitors from bailing out, thus keeping the spirit of the WarGames match. Some of the examples during the NXT match-up included the superplex from the top of the cage and the trifocals launching from one cage from another. As to whether WWE would incorporate the roof, unless McMahon would adhere to the recommendation of raising the cage height for another 5 feet or so, perhaps it might be acceptable if not for anyone in the WWE management would counter such proposal with a preconceived notion of replicating Hell in a Cell with 2 cages in one.
Another issue that Brian Last mentioned involving the lack of staggered entrance though some of Cornette’s show listeners have since forced Last’s opinion somewhat, to which they paid specific attention to the rules of that particular match while Last apparently didn’t. During the match, one from each team began the match for 3 minutes, then the remaining members of one team would join the battle, the second team followed suits after another two minutes until the final team entered the cage then the The Match Beyond finally began, with ways of winning the match via pin fall or submission. Last also claimed that the real battle in that cage was way too long, to which I really wish that he would watch the whole match in its entirety before he further humiliates himself with such lack of information regarding to that match. All three teams risked their careers by pushing to the limit from one end to the other, and all nine competitors lived up the reputation, expectation, and hype of WarGames match. Another point that must be emphasized regarding the length of that match was due to lack of television times during its heyday, particularly with the staggered entrance of 8 other competitors that left so little time left for them to do more spots in its finale. As previously stated, Triple H is a “student of the game” and influenced by the likes of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson, the match lasted much longer than its predecessors with participants providing more actions rather than hurrying the finish. While I would admit that letting two men instead of individual entrances might be a bit too chaotic to control, still they managed to pull it off rather well..
As for the complaints concerning too much aerial moves from Last and some of the old school wrestling diehards, truth be told, all I can say is that this isn’t the 1980s when the heavyweights reigned supreme. Some believes that today’s wrestlers aren’t as durable like they used to, instead they would use too many high risk moves recklessly and doing less selling moves, hence the grievance of diluting skills in today’s wrestling climate. However, there are a lot of “diamonds in the rough” within today’s independent scenes with the likes of of Kevin Owens, who had wrestled under his real name at the time, Sami Zayn (El Generico), CM Punk, who later became one of the controversial WWE Champion of all time due to his epic rants on a certain podcast within months after his dismissal from WWE, A. J. Styles, who ironically began his career during the dying days of WCW before returning to the independent promotions such as Ring of Honor and then-TNA Wrestling, where he spent the majority of his career before transition to New Japan Pro Wrestling for two years, Samoa Joe, who was with Styles at TNA for many years, even in this particular match, it included a few notable names such as aforementioned O’Reilly & Fish, Cole, Young, and Strong, who had garnered some notoriety during their respective ROH stints. While I concurred with the sentiment of too many high spots, one cannot blame the culture on today’s talents as they emulate the likes of La Parka, Rey Misterio Jr., Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho, and Jushin “Thunder” Liger, all of whom had performed many death-defying moves during their heights. In other words, the sport has evolved and we should learn to appreciate their efforts rather than degrading their talents so much, while also praying for them to more adaptable towards the ground.
With all that said, I felt that the match have teeth while there may have had aforementioned flaws, the brutality was not less sickening than its predecessor though sans face-grinding on the cage, though folks like Brian Last felt that WarGames without the roof is not what it was advertised, I just don’t see Triple H having any regrets on getting rid of it because it still has the feel from the predecessor. If people like him would give it a chance, the possibility of making it into the main PPVs would be endless. What is your thoughts about the match?