WarGames-101: The Match Beyond

After years of demand, WarGames will finally have its coming out party on the mainline WWE product at Survivor Series on Saturday. WarGames was a WCW staple and the brainchild of Dusty Rhodes dating back to 1987. “The match beyond” occurred once a year, except for 1999, due to budget cuts, until Vince McMahon purchased WCW in 2001.

Despite owning the I.P., McMahon never allowed WarGames to occur on the main roster. Triple H got the green light to use the concept in NXT beginning in 2017 to a resounding success. Some say McMahon felt it would cannibalize the Hell in a Cell concept, while others claim he believed two rings would take up too much space and cut into ticket sales.

Of course, there’s the age old theory that McMahon will never support a concept he didn’t create. Despite proof of sucess in his own company, McMahon wouldn’t allow the match to touch anything related to Raw or SmackDown. Once Triple H became the head of WWE creative, one of the first things he did was officially bring WarGames to the main roster.

Despite the match’s popularity, many fans will be experiencing WarGames for the first time at Survivor Series. Some wrestling fans, past and present, only watch WWE programming. They never tuned into WCW and don’t fancy the developmental offerings of NXT.

Welcome to WarGames 101: An introduction to “the match beyond.” I’ve assigned two WarGames matches for your viewing pleasure, an oldie, and a newbie. Why an oldie, you ask. You have to know the past to understand the present.

WCW WrestleWar ’92 was headlined by a five-on-five WarGames match featuring Sting’s Squadron (Sting, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windam, Dustin Rhodes, and Nakita Koloff) against The Dangerous Alliance (Rick Rude, Arn Anderson, Steve Austin, Bobby Eaton, and Larry Zbyszko).

The Rules:

  • 7 periods, with the first being 5 minutes.
  •  The remaining six periods are two minutes each.
  •  Coin toss at the end of the first period to see which team gets the one-person advantage.
  •  The match officially begins once all 7 periods have ended.
  •  No pinfalls, No Disqualification. 
  •  The only way to win is to make your opponent submit or surrender.

There is a roof on the cage that is often slumped and would hinder wrestlers from performing certain moves, such as a backdrop. Wrestlers also used the roof to their advantage, pulling themselves up to deliver a hurricanrana or a double boot to their opponent’s face.

There is no large strip of metal holding the two rings together like we’ll see at Survivor Series. While wrestlers had to carefully step over the divide between rings, they also found creative ways to use the open space to their advantage.

Both teams are stationed at ringside on opposite sides of the ring. The coin toss occured after the conclusion of the first period with both team captains. Wrestlers often get so eager to enter the cage that they stand at the ready 30-15 seconds before the period expires, spoiling the reveal of the next contestant.

Visually, there are some differences in how WCW presents the match. Besides the roof, WCW’s ring is 16 x 16 compared to WWE’s 20 x 20 ring. However, the WCW stars knew how to make the most of the space to exhibit an intense brawl.

The 1992 WarGames match is often considered the greatest of them all. A collection of 7 Hall of Famers and 3 others who will no doubt be enshrined someday. If anything, it’s nice to see how good Steve Austin was before the neck injury. Paul Heyman as a crooked Vince Lombardi was the icing on the cake.

The ending occurred rather quickly after the final entry. While it’s a finish that might fall flat for a modern audience, it made perfect sense from a ring psychology standpoint.

NXT TakeOver: WarGames 2019 produced a four-on-four caged encounter. Undisputed Era: Adam Cole, Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish, and Kyle O’Reilly squared off against Team Ciampa: Tommaso Ciampa, Keith Lee, Donovan Dijakovic, and mystery partner Kevin Owens.

It’s poetic that Owens was the mystery partner and the final entrant revealed in this year’s match. 2019 was a homecoming for the former NXT Champion, while this year’s entry is all about getting his hands on Roman Reigns.

In NXT, both teams were locked in a separate cage at the top of the stage. The referee feverishly unlocked the door as the next contestant bolted out of the cage and down the aisle creating a nice visual as opposed to both teams huddled at ringside.

NXT also did away with the coin toss at the end of the first period. Instead, Adam Cole beat Donovan Dijakovic in a ladder match on NXT’s weekly show to earn the one-person advantage for Undisputed Era. A match determining which team earns the advantage offers an additional attraction with stakes.

Looking at it another way, it spoils the narrative element going into WarGames instead of keeping the mystery intact. Ultimately, determining the one-person advantage going in creates a different type of intrigue. Plus, the heels win it nine times out of ten.

Perhaps, they win it too often, but there’s no heat with two good guys beating up a bad guy.

The most significant difference between the two eras of WarGames is that pinfalls are allowed in the present incarnation, and there is no roof on the cage. No roof is the biggest point of contention amoung fans. While a roof adds an element of no escape, no roof allows for a spectacle of spots off the top of the cage.

The time of the additional periods have increased to 3 minutes.

NXT addressed the no-roof concern by implementing a rule. Any wrestler who leaves the cage on purpose will forfeit the match for their entire team. It’s a good plot point. However, someday they will exploit the “on purpose” aspect with shenanigans causing someone to fall out of the ring.

After all, this is WWE we’re talking about.

Survivor Series will host two of its titular cage matches. Women’s WarGames – Bayley, Dakota Kai, Iyo Sky, Nikki Cross, and Rhea Ripley will take on Bianca Belair, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Michin, and the returning Becky Lynch. Bayley’s team has the one-person advantage.

The Bloodline (Roman Reigns, Solo Sikora, Jey Uso, Jimmy Uso, and Sami Zayn will face Team Brawling Brutes (Sheamus, Ridge Holland, Butch, Drew McIntyre, and Kevin Owens) in the men’s WarGames match. The Brutes earned the one-person advantage on SmackDown.

Babyfaces usually don’t get the advantage, but this is WarGame’s maiden voyage on the main roster. It’s a good call to give the audience two different scenarios instead of repetitive acts to draw heat.

You have your assignments. WCW WrestleWar 1992 and NXT TakeOver: WarGames (2019). Enjoy this sinister structure’s past and present to prepare for the future on Saturday in Boston.

Class dismissed.

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