Let the “WarGames” begin! The week Throwback Thursday looks back on the 20th anniversary of the last traditional “WarGames” in World Championship Wrestling (as well as one of the last all-time great swerves) when we revisit WCW Fall Brawl ’97: WarGames on the WWE Network.
By the fall of 1997 WCW was by far the number one wrestling company in the world with a future as bright as its present. The push was on towards the Sting/Hogan showdown at Starrcade ’97 (what would become the biggest match in WCW history), Goldberg had yet to debut, and a bevy of young stars like Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, Booker T and others looked poised to carry the company into the 21st century. And then there was the ever-present (and ever-expanding) New World Order who, by this time, were showing no signs of slowing down.
Centered around the heated Four Horsemen/New World Order angle and supported by a slew of great matches, including a key nWo/WCW tag team “grudge match”, Fall Brawl ’97 came at a time when WCW was firing on cylinders. But how well does the show hold up today? Let’s got to the tape and find out!
If you’re concerned about context, don’t be. All previous editions of WCW Monday NITRO as well as all prior WCW PPVs are currently available on the Network for you to enjoy today!
WCW Fall Brawl ’97: WarGames (WATCH)
Date: September 14, 1997 – Location: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Attendance: 11,939 – PPV Buys: 0.53 (195,000 homes)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Bobby Heenan, Mike Tenay, & Larry Zbyszko – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Steve “Mongo” McMichael
WCW World Tag Team Champions: The Outsiders (Kevin Nash & Scott Hall)
WCW World Television Champion: Alex Wright
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Chris Jericho
WCW Women’s Champion: VACANT
The show opens with a vignette highlighting the Horsemen/nWo feud, including clips of Curt Hennig accepting Arn Anderson’s “spot” and the infamous nWo parody that set the events of “WarGames” into motion.
As the pyro goes off Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show and discusses the “WarGames” to come with Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship (WATCH – 2:47)
Eddie Guerrero vs. Chris Jericho(c)
Jericho’s music is overdubbed with this current WWE theme, for those keeping score. As for the match, this is as good as any Cruiserweight title match in WCW history and one of the very best matches of either mans career that features excellent psychology, timing, and some spectacular action. In the end Jericho hits Eddie with the double powerbomb before setting him on the top turnbuckle for a superplex that Eddie reverses. As Jericho rolls on the mat dazed Eddie scales the ropes and hits a beautiful Frog Splash for the pin and the WCW Cruiserweight title at 17:21. This ended Jericho’s second Cruiserweight title reign at 33-days and marked Eddie Guerrero’s first Cruiserweight title victory of an eventual two. One of the greatest WCW PPV openers ever.
WINNER and NEW WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Eddie Guerrero (Pin, 17:21)
Backstage we see Jeff Jarrett siting with WCWWrestling.com (the poor young kid asking the questions is practically urinating himself with stage fright) and talking about his upcoming match at the WCWWrestling.com exclusive Battle in Seattle card the following Friday before briefly (and I do mean briefly) commenting on his match with Dean Malenko later in the show.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 24:25)
Harlem Heat (Booker T & Stevie Ray) w/Jacquelyn vs. The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) w/Ted DiBiase
Though this was one of the longest running tag team feuds in WCW history and was a staple of TV and PPVs for many years this match would mark the final televised match between the Steiner Brothers and Harlem Heat in WCW. But the two teams go out on a high note with a great tag team match that despite the flubs tells a realistic story and employs solid psychology throughout. In the end Harlem Heat hits Rick Steiner with the Heat Seeker (which seems to have rung Rick’s bell) before Scott makes the save. Stevie Ray tries to battle Rick Steiner but is caught from behind by Scott. Moments later the Steiners hit a crushing clothesline/German Suplex combo on Stevie Ray that looks to have nearly knocked Stevie out for the win at 11:44 to solidify their claim as the number one contender’s to The Outsider’s Tag Team titles.
WINNERS are The Steiner Brothers (Rick & Scott) w/Ted DiBiase (Pin, 11:44)
— WCW World Television Championship (WATCH – 41:10)
Ultimo Dragon vs. “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright(c)
This was a return match from the final Clash of the Champions on August 21, 1997 where Alex Wright defeated Dragon to win the lone WCW TV title of his career. The match itself isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just way too long. The first ten-minutes or so are little more than rest holds and is more than a little tedious before the action picks up with a Dragon comeback. The last portion of the match looks more like a cruiserweight match than a TV title match but it’s fun to watch. In the end the two men trade sleeper holds until Wright nails Dragon with a jaw breaker. As Dragon staggers dazed Wright hits a picture-perfect German Suplex for the pin at 18:43 to retain the WCW World TV title. Great last 7- or 8-minutes but just way too long, the second-longest of the night behind the “WarGames” match.
WINNER and STILL WCW World Television Champion, Alex Wright (Pin, 18:43)
In the back “Mean” Gene plugs the WCW Hotline before Konnan, Buff Bagwell, Syxx, and Kevin Nash storm in and out of the locker room. “What just transpired in here?” Okerlund wonders. Gene opens the locker room door (spoiler, it’s not a locker room) and we see Curt Hennig writhing on the floor, an apparent victim of an nWo attack.
— “Number One Contender’s Match for the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship” (WATCH – 1:05:20)
Jeff Jarrett w/Queen Debra vs. Dean Malenko
Before this match begins Jarrett sends Debra to the back telling her he doesn’t need any distractions. This one is the athletic, psychological battle one would expect but, much like the Wright/Dragon match, it feels dragged out to fill time. First half is rest hold after rest hold with short bursts of action here and there while the second half has the action. Near the end Debra comes back to ringside though she plays no part in the match. The finish sees Jarrett chop block Malenko and cinch in the figure-four leglock for the submission win at 14:56. As a result of the win Jarrett was to have received a U.S. title match at Halloween Havoc ’97 but he left for the WWF before that could ever happen!
WINNER is Jeff Jarrett w/Debra (Submission, 14:56)
Next we get an nWo promo with Nash, Buff, Konnan, and Syxx. They gloat about attacking Hennig and say they have a plan to “end the Four Horsemen careers tonight.”
— “Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:26:58)
Wrath & Mortis w/James Vandenberg vs. The Faces of Fear (Meng & Barbarian)
These two teams had been at each others throat for some time prior to this event. The match is a physical, stiff fight with some solid timing. The psychology leaves a bit to be desired but the brawling nature of the match more than makes up for it. A spot to watch for is Barbarian’s devastating powerbomb on Mortis and the Tower of Doom Wrath and Mortis crush Barbarian with. Meng goes “banana” late and starts cleaning Wrath and Mortis’ clock one big chop, kick, and slam after the next. Eventually Vandenberg attempts to interfere when Meng catches him with the Tongan Death Grip. Mortis attempts to make the save when Meng catches him in the Tongan Death Grip and pops the crowd by holding both men with the Death Grip. From behind Wrath grabs Meng, hits a crushing Death Penalty and scores the 1-2-3 at 12:23. It’s not a wrestling clinic by any stretch but this is a one damn fun match for fans of stiff, realistic action.
WINNER is Wrath & Mortis w/James Vandenberg (Pin, 12:23)
After replays we go to the back where Gene interviews Ric Flair, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, and Chris Benoit about the upcoming “WarGames” and the attack on Curt Hennig. Benoit says it’ll be an honor give the nWo a dose of reality while “Mongo” says the nWo can run but they can’t hide. Flair says, “If I ever thought about quitting when my back was against the wall I would not be here tonight.” Hennig’s injury is just part of being a Horsemen, Flair says, and that if they could piece Hennig back together Hennig would be out there to fight. “And as you so fondly want to talk about,” Flair says, “in this tired old body is more heart, more desire, more soul, and more reality than the nWo will ever know. WOOO!” Flair says that no matter what the numbers are they “will bleed, we will sweat, and you will pay the price for life! WOOO!”
— “WCW vs. nWo Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:47:17)
Scott “Flash” Norton vs. The Giant
This big-man match is a lot better than one would expect. Lot of great power spots in this one including Norton hitting a Stun Gun on Giant! Norton hits a beautiful belly-to-back suplex on Giant who kips up (you read that right) and makes a monster comeback. Giant lands a standing dropkick before squashing Norton with the chokeslam for the win at 5:29. This one was a lot of fun for what it was.
WINNER is The Giant (Pin, 5:29)
— “WCW vs. nWo Tag Team Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:56:08)
New World Order (Randy “Macho Man” Savage & WCW World Tag Team Champion Scott Hall) w/Elizabeth vs. Lex Luger & Diamond Dallas Page
DDP and Luger were supposed to be part of “Team WCW” in “WarGames” before Piper took them out to make this match instead. Despite the multiple angles going in this match is all about Scott Hall and Larry Zbyszko, who runs down Hall for the entirety of this match on commentary. The match itself isn’t all that bad. DDP, who was becoming a big star for WCW by this time, carries the bulk of the match and looks fantastic doing it. Eventually Hall and Savage start flinging DDP from ring to ring while Savage and Liz start beating down DDP until Hall clobbers the referee and the replacement official. Zbyszko freaks out on the mic until throwing his headset down and charging the ring to confront Hall. Larry stands on the ring apron and yells at Hall, feinting as if to enter the ring, when Lex Luger sneaks up from behind Hall. Larry gets in the ring and ends up shoving Hall backwards into Luger who school boys Hall as Larry (who’s not a referee) counts a fast three for the win at 10:19. Afterwards Hall and Savage freak over the defeat as the commentators gloat. One of the silliest finishes I’ve seen before or since and I still can’t stand it!
WINNERS are Lex Luger & Diamond Dallas Page (Pin, 10:19)
After replays we head to Okerlund, who plugs the WCW Hotline with an Arn Anderson interview and Fall Brawl ’97 results, followed by a promo for Halloween Havoc ’97.
In the arena Michael Buffer gives his usual “ready to rumble” intro as the double-cage lowers over the ring complete with pyro. A great sight that I, for one, will forever miss. Next Buffer gives us the rules of the “WarGames” which takes nearly as long as the match itself.
— “WarGames: The Match Beyond” (WATCH – 2:13:47)
New World Order (Buff Bagwell, Konnan, Syxx, & WCW World Tag Team Champion Kevin Nash) vs. The Four Horsemen (Chris Benoit, WCW United States Heavyweight Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Curt Hennig, & “Nature Boy” Ric Flair)
This marked the 29th and final traditional “WarGames” in WCW history and remains one of the best of the PPV editions (in my opinion). Benoit and Bagwell start it off and it’s a fiery, and physical first round. As per the norm the heel nWo win the coin toss and send Konnan in next, who gets taken out by Benoit until Konnan hits a DDT. “Mongo” is in to start the third period and the Horsemen take advantage. Syxx goes in the fourth period and gets tossed around by Benoit but the numbers are too much for the Horsemen and the nWo take over. As the fourth period comes to a close Curt Hennig, his right arm in a sling, comes to the ring and argues to be let in to fight. Flair refuses (though it looks like he’s loading up his blade) and goes in as the Horsemen’s third man for the fifth period and takes it to the nWo. Nash goes in for the sixth period and the advantage swings rapidly to the nWo. It’s at about this time in the match that the Winston-Salem fans start chanting for Sting, who wasn’t going to show up. Oops…
Hennig joins the fray next and the “Match Beyond” begins. Hennig quickly drops the sling and reveals he’s healthy and has two sets of handcuffs. Hennig turns Nash and looks as if he’s about to take out “Big Sexy” when he gloms “Mongo” instead, revealing his double-cross and turn to the New World Order. Hennig, Syxx, and Buff triple-team Flair as Konnan and Nash handcuff Benoit and “Mongo” to the sides of the cage (or try to; come on Konnan!). Nash asks for the mic and demands that Benoit or “Mongo” surrender to save Flair who is beaten down and powerbombed repeatedly. The Horsemen refuse until the nWo drags Flair to the nearest cage door and threaten to slam the door on Flair’s head which leads “Mongo” to surrender at 19:39. Hennig, at his heel best, slams the door on Flair’s head anyways. This was only the third “WarGames” (and second straight) to feature the heels going over and was also the third or fourth straight year that Michael Buffer and the other ring announcers spoiled the order of entry by announcing the teams in the order they would enter the match (with the exception of Hennig, given the angle), a personal peeve.
WINNERS are New World Order (Buff Bagwell, Konnan, Syxx, & WCW World Tag Team Champion Kevin Nash) (Surrender, 19:39)
After the match Nash gets on the mic and says, “Death of The Horsemen, right in their own backyard!” Medics come to tend to Flair as the nWo celebrates and the credits roll.
To me, as a standalone event, this ranks as the best Fall Brawl PPV event in WCW history.
There isn’t a weak point on this entire card. Every match—every single one—delivers in their own way (despite the length of some) and this event’s “WarGames” still ranks as one of the very best of the PPV incarnations despite the lack of star power on the nWo side. You can not go wrong with this PPV. It still stands, from top to bottom, as one of WCW’s greatest PPVs.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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