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If you listen to wrestling fans long enough, you'll hear a semi-regular tune that the WWE should bring back the War Games match on PPV. For those unaware, War Games was a match made famous in the NWA/WCW that began in the late 1980s, a match that was either a five on five or four on four match that used two rings side-by-side enveloped by a steel cage with a roof. The match featured a lot during the era of the Four Horsemen, being used on house show loops, before becoming a mainstay in the September PPV during the mid 1990s. The last War Games match was in September of 1997.
It's a peculiar match, a bit like a scaffold match, in the sense that it sounds awesome on paper. A double ring with a surrounding roofed cage sounds like an awesome concept. And in many ways it is, but for me it's the formatting beyond this that undercuts the effectiveness of the match. Each team would start with one member in the match then a staggered entry ensured the heel side (via coin toss) regained the numbers advantage every two minutes. The only way to win was via submission once all competitors were involved in the match.
Maybe it's a lack of nostalgia, but the War Games matches I've seen directly as part of this project (which, it should be said the 1993 one is widely regarded to be one of the worst) as well as two or three I've gone back prior to '93 and watched – I've found it difficult to get into any of them. The double ring has its benefits – although there's only so many times you can be impressed by someone doing a flying shoulder charge from one ring to another. Terry Funk also did a great disappearing act after being piledriven by one of the Nasty Boys between the two rings. For once the sight of Funk returning to action just a few seconds later wasn't so welcomed. The low cage too also gives something for wrestlers to work with, even if it can often be a hinderance when some of the bigger guys try to do power moves.
But it's not the physics that do it for me, it's the format. A pointless coin toss, a format which means that essentially nothing can happen in the first 15 minutes followed by trying to hide six or seven guys while you find the time to submit one guy, and the referee's marshalled outside the ring means that often submission comes in an unsatisfying verbal call from a wrestler that makes it very difficult for the crowd or the audience viewing at home to work out when the finish is.
The chances of War Games coming back to modern day WWE are very minimal, although not really for the reasons I listed above. Vince McMahon's problems lie primarily with the fact it's an NWA/WCW idea – even if he owns WCW now it'd still be admitting defeat to bring it back. Also, there's the feeling that with the Elimination Chamber the WWE have a better version of the War Games match. Admittedly WWE haven't tried the 3 on 3 team format, evening turning down what would seem to be the perfect opportunity this year with the Wyatt Family vs The Shield. Another big, underrated reason, is the double ring format. Not only is it ungainly during the rest of a PPV, having two rings rather than one wipes out a lot of high value ringside tickets.
But my problems with the match are more of formatting than they are of anything related to business or past grudges. For me, to improve the War Games match I would make the following changes:
- Pinfall or submission eliminations at any time. Bring in a Survivor Series type element with eliminations possible at any time and it will heighten the interest in the match early on.
- Ditch the staggered entry, go with a new participant from each side every five minutes. The elimination at any time format will enable you to create the one sided heel affair if you want to.
That would be how I would improve the format. Again, War Games to me is a match that seems good on paper but doesn't live up to its potential. People will clamour for it, they do for anything nostalgic in wrestling. But I've seen very little evidence to say that the War Games format as it existed in WCW was better than WWE's Elimination Chamber. War Games is a great movie, but not a great match.