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The complete history of WarGames

It’s the match that nearly ended Brian Pillman’s career. WWE Hall of Famer JJ Dillon was never the same after he was viciously dumped on his shoulder inside the most dangerous battleground in all of sports-entertainment. No competitor ever was. Nothing could have prepared them for the most primal, brutal match ever concocted: WarGames. ( PHOTOS | VIDEO PLAYLIST)

Dubbed “The Match Beyond,” WarGames was unlike anything ever seen before in any promotion. The contest was brought out only once a year in the NWA and WCW, to settle some of the most heated rivalries of all time. It was a battle so monumental, it required two rings. To ensure there were no deserters in WarGames, a massive, roofed cage was constructed around the ring.

It was quite literally a game of human chess. Teams sent in one combatant each to start out on the battlefield, duking it out for five minutes, before a coin toss decided who would have the temporary advantage. The losers of the coin toss would be forced to battle a man down for the next two minutes, until they could send a teammate into the fray. The teams then alternated back and forth until all members were inside the cage. That's when WarGames truly began.

The brutal match forced everyone trapped inside to unleash their most sadistic side. There was no place inside WarGames for a pleasant exchange of technical wrestling holds. The only way out of the cage was to wrench in a submission hold so deep that an opposing member had no choice but to submit, or beat down the opposing team so bad that they are forced to surrender.

WarGames was concocted by the NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions in 1987 as a way to combat The Four Horsemen’s running roughshod over the company, doing whatever they pleased. Officials figured locking them in the hellacious structure with their most bitter rivals would put Ric Flair and company in their place. Little did they know that their creation would change the landscape of sports-entertainment.

The Early Battles

The stage was set for the first WarGames matches, held during the 1987 Great American Bash. At the time, The Bash was a tour of live events throughout the Southeastern United States, rather than a singular pay-per-view.

“The Match Beyond” would open and close the tour, and neither night went well for The Horsemen. The first WarGames was contested, fittingly, on July 4, 1987, at the Omni Coliseum in Atlanta. Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger and manager JJ Dillon were pitted against The Super Powers of Dusty Rhodes & Nikita Koloff, The Road Warriors and their manager, Paul Ellering. 

The Horsemen had some luck, winning the coin toss to get a one-man advantage in the early goings, with Blanchard and Anderson beating down “The American Dream.” The original WarGames was a brutal battle, with most of the competitors donning crimson masks by the time the smoke cleared.

In the end, though, the wild cards were the managers. No one had any idea how Dillon and Ellering would fare in the vicious battle. Dillon’s fate was decided as soon as he stepped into the cage. The WWE Hall of Famer struck Road Warrior Hawk with an elbow. The blow looked like it affected the monstrous Hawk as much as much as a mosquito bite. Then, the Road Warrior laid into Dillon, leading an unrelenting offensive by the heroes on the legendary manager. The strategy of focusing on Dillon paid off for The Road Warriors and The Super Powers. A Doomsday Device dumped Dillon shoulder-first into the canvas, injuring the Horsemen’s caretaker. The Road Warriors continued attacking the injury until Dillon had no choice but to submit.

The brutal ending to the first match forced Dillon out of the rematch on July 31 at Miami’s Orange Bowl. In his place, the mysterious, masked monster called War Machine joined The Four Horsemen in facing The Super Powers, The Road Warriors & Ellering. With Dillon out of the equation, The Horsemen seemed to have an advantage over their opposition. However, Rhodes’ team proved that they could outthink Flair’s crew. The Road Warriors, Rhodes & Koloff isolated War Machine in one ring, taking the monster off his feet with repeated clotheslines. Somehow, Animal was able to sneak in one of his trademark spiked wristbands, which he used to scrape at the monster’s face until he surrendered, teaching The Horsemen that they weren’t the only crew that be vicious when the time was right. ( WATCH)

WarGames was contested several more times throughout 1987, including at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., in November of that year.  One of the greatest tag team rivalries in sports-entertainment history was taken to a new level as The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express teamed up with Rhodes, Barry Windham & Ronnie Garvin to face Jim Cornette’s Midnight Express, Big Bubba Rogers, Anderson & Blanchard.

The following year, the gigantic cage was brought out of storage as a special attraction for the 1988 Great American Bash tour. Nearly a dozen WarGames Matches were contested over the summer, pitting different combinations of Rhodes, The Road Warriors, Koloff, Ellering, Sting, Lex Luger and “Dr. Death” Steve Williams teaming to take on The Four Horsemen. ( WATCH)

By the end of 1988, the landscape of Crockett Promotions was changing as new stars emerged and Ted Turner slowly took over the company, molding it into what would become WCW. The Four Horsemen were no more, as Anderson and Blanchard left for WWE, along with Dusty Rhodes. This left plenty of space for hungry talent eager to ascend to the top of sports-entertainment.

The Road Warriors and “Dr. Death” found new soldiers to enter WarGames with in The Midnight Express, Stan Lane and Bobby Eaton. They stood across the steel battleground from The Fabulous Freebirds (Michael Hayes, Jimmy Garvin & Terry Gordy) and Paul E. Dangerously’s vicious Samoan Swat Team. The experience of the three bruisers, along with the wiles of Eaton and Lane, paid off, as Hawk forced Garvin to submit to a hangman’s neckbreaker. ( WATCH)

The Horsemen Return

It seemed as though peace was going to be the norm in WCW as a new decade began, considering there were no WarGames in 1990. However, the peaceful competition wouldn’t last for long, as a new incarnation of The Four Horsemen emerged. Anderson returned, and his best friend Ric Flair was so elated that he got the band back together. Flair recruited Barry Windham and Sid Vicious into the fold, and the new Horsemen ran roughshod over WCW again, making life miserable for the likes of Sting and his Dudes With Attitude.

Hoping to rid WCW of The Horsemen once and for all, The Stinger called on The Steiner Brothers and Brian Pillman to enter WarGames against Flair’s motley crew. The Dudes had a little luck on their side going in, as an injury to Anderson forced “The Enforcer” out of the match. The Horsemen replaced him with Larry Zbyszko, putting them in the war zone with an unfamiliar partner. Pillman fought valiantly by himself with an injured shoulder in the beginning, holding off Windham and Flair until Sting entered the fray.

Once all eight men were inside the cage, all bets were off. The Horsemen still had the monstrous Vicious on their team. The man who hails from Wherever He Damn Well Pleases set his sights on Pillman’s bum shoulder and went to work. Vicious went for his trademark powerbomb, but because of his height, Pillman’s head smacked against the cage roof before he came crashing down shoulder-first. Sid slammed Pillman with another powerbomb as another Dude With Attitude, the 7-foot-7 El Gigante came rushing to ringside. The giant tore the cage door off to get to his friend. Once El Gigante saw that Flyin’ Brian was unconscious, he surrendered the match, giving The Horsemen their first WarGames victory. ( WATCH)

A New Generation of War

Sting thought things would be safe in WCW after Flair left for WWE in summer 1991, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. Paul E. Dangerously had his sights set on The Stinger as soon as Flair left and The Four Horsemen disbanded. He put together a Dangerous Alliance of stars hell-bent on taking out WCW’s franchise player. Rick Rude almost destroyed Sting’s knee while taking his United States Title, but Sting would soon round up the troops to try and take out Dangerously’s men.

At WrestleWar 1992, Sting’s Squadron (Sting, Dustin Rhodes, Barry Windham, Ricky Steamboat & Nikita Koloff) waged war against The Dangerous Alliance of Rude, “Stunning” Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton & Larry Zbyszko in “The Match Beyond.” It was one of the most chaotic battles in WCW history. Anything and everything came into play during the bout, including Dangerously’s trademark cell phone, which Madusa dropped into the battle after climbing to the roof. ( WATCH)

The battle was so devastating that the ring couldn’t stay in one piece. One of the ropes broke off at the turnbuckle, which gave Zbyszko an idea. He beckoned Eaton to hold Sting up while he grabbed the metal buckle and wound up. Unfortunately, The Stinger pulled Eaton in the way of his partner’s swing. Zbyszko blasted Beautiful Bobby in the arm with the turnbuckle, giving Sting a point of attack. He leaped onto Eaton and locked in a vicious armbar, leaving him with no option other than submitting.

The 1993 installment of WarGames is remembered more for the buildup than the actual match. Several weeks before Fall Brawl, Sting introduced the world to the mystery man that would be joining him, The British Bulldog & Dustin Rhodes inside the massive cage: The Shockmaster. The competitor in the glittery helmet stumbled through a prop wall and into wrestling infamy. ( WATCH) The Shockmaster would redeem himself slightly in “The Match Beyond” as he forced Booker T to submit, giving Sting’s team a victory over Vader, Sid Vicious & Harlem Heat. ( WATCH)

Dustin opted to settle his grudge with Col. Rob Parker’s Stud Stable inside WarGames in 1994. It was a family affair, as “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes joined his son and The Nasty Boys against Parker, Arn Anderson, Terry Funk & Bunkhouse Buck. In his first WarGames in six years, Dusty took a page out of Ric Flair’s book, forcing Parker to give up while trapped in the Figure-Four Leg Lock. ( WATCH)

The Final Battles

Hulk Hogan led squads into the next two editions of WarGames. In 1995, The Hulkster joined forces with Lex Luger, Sting & “Macho Man” Randy Savage to take on Kevin Sullivan’s oddball Dungeon of Doom. The Taskmaster fielded a team of Kamala, The Zodiac, The Shark & Meng. They were no match for Hogan’s camouflage-clad crew. The Hulkster himself forced Zodiac to surrender, earning himself five minutes in the cage with Sullivan. ( WATCH)

By 1996, Hogan’s motives changed. Now the leader of the New World Order, Hollywood Hogan was dead set on taking over WCW. As he led Scott Hall and Kevin Nash into WarGames, he attempted to tear down WCW from the inside, claiming Sting was joining the renegade group. The WCW team of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson & Lex Luger called The Stinger out on his loyalties, and looked to be proven right when Sting entered the cage for The nWo. However, the real Sting would emerge, take out The nWo’s impostor and ditch WCW, leaving Hogan, Hall, Nash & “Sting” the opening for victory. ( WATCH)

Flair hoped to eradicate The nWo the following year, re-forming The Four Horsemen, with Curt Hennig taking Arn Anderson’s place. The Horsemen were riding high against Nash, Syxx, Buff Bagwell & Konnan when the unexpected happened. Hennig jumped into the cage and popped Steve “Mongo” McMichael in the face with handcuffs, launching an all-out assault on The Horsemen that culminated with the former “Mr. Perfect” slamming the cage door into Flair’s head. “Mongo” surrendered to prevent any further attacks.

After 1997, WarGames became convoluted and lost within the massive WCW roster. The 1998 edition featured three teams of three battling for the No. 1 contendership to the WCW World Title. Pinfalls were allowed this time in a match that was more about individuals than the team effort of the past. Diamond Dallas Page pinned Stevie Ray to earn a title opportunity. ( WATCH)

The final WarGames took place on Monday Nitro in October 2000. Instead of the two-ring battle, WCW opted to hold “The Match Beyond” inside the Triple Steel Cage used in their movie “Ready to Rumble.” The WCW World Title was on the line this time as Sting, Booker T & Kronik took on Kevin Nash, Jeff Jarrett, Scott Steiner & Vince Russo. The winner would have to climb all three cages, retrieve the championship and fight back to the bottom. Nash walked away with the title in hand from the final WarGames. ( WATCH)

Though WarGames has not been contested in 12 years, its influence has been felt in sports-entertainment, as both the Hell in a Cell and Elimination Chamber Matches have taken parts of “The Match Beyond” and applied them to their respective rulesets. Still, longtime fans have been clamoring for the return of one of the most devastating battles in history. 

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