This week Throwback Thursday gets ready for “war” as we dip into the archives of WWE Network to celebrate the 20th anniversary of World Championship Wrestling’s Fall Brawl: WarGames ’98!
The summer months of 1998 were the most even, competitive portion of the “Monday Night Wars” yet. And while the World Wrestling Federation had pulled even with their jugular demolishing “Attitude Era” and momentum had clearly abandoned them, WCW wasn’t finished yet. Thanks to Goldberg winning the World Heavyweight title the prior month, Jay Leno’s lone foray into professional wrestling, and the previously unimaginable debut of the Ultimate Warrior, WCW owned the month of August ’98.
With the upcoming Hogan/Warrior II showdown, the massively popular Goldberg on top, and the imminent return of Ric Flair the next night (M.I.A. since “no-showing” the live April 9, 1998 Thunder to attend his son Reid’s wrestling tournament in Detroit), the future looked bright for World Championship Wrestling. But chaos in booking, the growing corporate rejection of the WCW product at TBS/Time Warner, and frustrations amid younger talent, were creating a toxic climate within WCW that would soon engulf the entire promotion.
Fall Brawl ’98 is generally regarded as one of the worst PPVs of 1998 and is best remembered for the clusterflub that was the “WarGames” main event. But is the event, or “WarGames” for that matter, really that bad? How well does it hold up twenty years later? Let’s hit ‘play’ and find out!
Edits are minimal and context is complete with all prior editions of NITRO and Thunder, as well as all previous PPV events, currently available for you to enjoy on the Network right now!
nWo/WCW Fall Brawl: WarGames ’98 (WATCH)
Date: September 13, 1998 – Location: Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Attendance: 11,528 – PPV Buyrate: 0.7 (>256,000 homes)
Commentators: Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay, & Bobby Heenan – Interviews: “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Lee Marshall, & Mike Tenay
CHAMPIONS AT THE TIME
WCW World Heavyweight Champion: Goldberg
WCW United States Heavyweight Champion: Bret “Hitman” Hart
WCW World Tag Team Champions: nWo Hollywood (Scott Hall & The Giant)
WCW World Television Champion: Chris Jericho
WCW Cruiserweight Champion: Juventud Guerrera
The PPV opens with a vignette highlighting the three teams involved in this year’s “WarGames” match: “Team Hollywood”, “Team Wolfpack”, and “Team WCW”.
In the arena, as the obligatory pyro blows the doors off the Coliseum, Tony Schiavone welcomes us to the show before going over the rules of this year’s “WarGames” and announcing that Bret Hart and DDP will start the match. Fans chant “we want Flair” as Tenay talks about the oddity of the rules. Suddenly we jump to footage of “The Cat” Ernest Miller being pulled away from an unknown bloke before returning to the announce position where Heenan talks about “WarGames” being able to end before all nine men are in the ring and about how wide open the match is.
Next we go to “Mean” Gene, in the aisle, who attempts to hype a few of the other matches when Television Champion Chris Jericho interrupts and announces that World Champion Goldberg has accepted Jericho’s challenge to a title-for-title match tonight, which excites the fans.
— Tag Team Match (WATCH – 6:07)
The Dancing Fools (Disco Inferon & Alex Wright) vs. “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart
This is the match in which Davey Boy, slammed hard by Wright on the trap door in the center of the ring, suffers a serious, life-changing back injury. The match, thanks to a number of flubbed spots and timing issues, is not good, and the fans alternate between “boring” and “we want Flair” chants while Tony and the gang continually talk about the “WarGames” match as if they’re still selling the PPV. In the end “Bulldog”, struggling on account of his injured back, lands the running powerslam for the pin at 11:44.
WINNERS are “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith & Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (Pin, 11:44)
After replays we go backstage where “Mean” Gene is investigating a “rumor” that Scott Steiner is yet again unable to face brother Rick. Scott shows off a bag of ice on his lower back and a pair of band-aids on either side of his left bicep while Buff shows off a signed doctors note. J.J. Dillon arrives, calls the paperwork fake, reiterates his threat to ban Steiner for life if he doesn’t face brother Rick, and tears the papers up before storming off with both Buff and Steiner in hot pursuit.
In the arena Jericho’s WWE theme plays but Jericho is nowhere to be found. In the back the future Ralphus and “Jericho-holic Ninja” knock on Jericho’s door, a la Goldberg, and the three men pull a Spinal Tap, unable to find their way to the ring. Jericho finally makes his way to the aisle to mock the Goldberg entrance.
— “Title-for-Title Match” (WATCH – 24:44)
WCW World Television Champion Chris Jericho vs. WCW World Heavyweight Champion “Goldberg”
Goldberg wasn’t advertised or booked for this event and the fans are wild thinking they’ll get to see him. But when they pyro fades and they see that it’s a fake Goldberg, who Heenan says “looks like Goldberg when he was seven”, they are more than unhappy. A comedy match, Jericho has fun with “Goldberg” until the impostor lands a spear on Jericho. Jericho promptly crushes the fake “Goldberg”, winning with the Liontamer at 1:16.
WINNER and STILL WCW World Television Champion, Chris Jericho (Submission, 1:16)
After Jericho celebrates and destroys “Goldberg’s” foam World title belt, we head back to the WCW internet location where Lee Marshall interviews Rick Steiner, who says he’ll “do whatever I gotta do to teach my brother a lesson.”
Up next is a pre-taped segment in which Mike Tenay attempts to interview Scott and Steve Armstrong about the tag team division in WCW when “The Cat” Ernest Miller, upset about not getting the time on TV, waylays the brothers. Norman Smiley shows up and he and Miller get into a pull-apart. The highlight, however, is Heenan “lurking” in the background peeking out of the window.
“The Cat” comes to the ring and warns Smiley that he is a “three-time world karate champion” and that he could “take a man apart in five seconds” but that because Smiley’s “a brother like I’m a brother” Miller gives him five seconds to leave the ring. At the count of five Smiley belts “Cat” and the match is underway.
— “Special Challenge Match” (WATCH – 34:26)
Norman Smiley vs. Earnest “The Cat” Miller
For what this is, and with the crowd being somewhat out of it after the “Goldberg” farce, this is pretty good. Miller and Smiley make the most out of the short time they’re given and deliver a believable bout that tells a solid, realistic story. In the end “Cat” lands a pair of Feliners for the pin at 5:05. After the match Miller grabs the mic and screams that he’s the greatest.
WINNER is Earnest “The Cat” Miller (Pin, 5:05)
Next we see a decent vignette chronicling the drama of the Steiner Brothers.
— “Brother vs. Brother Grudge Match” (WATCH – 44:49)
“Big Poppa Pump” Scott Steiner w/Buff Bagwell vs. Rick Steiner
Rick opens the match on fire, beating the bejabbers out of “Big Poppa Pump” until Scott turns the match around with a mule kick to the old dog biscuits. As Rick makes a comeback Buff tries to interfere and gets posted, and we’re led to believe Buff has re-injured his neck as he crumples to the mat. At last the match is waved off at 5:29 as Scott tends to the injured Bagwell.
NO WINNER declared (No Contest, 5:29)
EMTs come out to help Buff as a “bullsh*t” chant breaks out. The announcers sell Buff’s recent injury and Heenan & Schiavone relate it to their own experience with neck injuries. Eventually, after what feels like an hour, the EMTs cart Bagwell out of the arena with Scott, Rick, and Eric Bischoff in tow.
In the back the EMTs load Buff into the ambulance and Scott joins him. As Rick turns around Scott and Buff (perfectly healthy) pop out and ambush Rick, attempting to beat the Kibbles ‘n Bits out of Rick until the three are pulled apart.
— WCW Cruiserweight Championship (WATCH – 1:03:39)
Silver King vs. Juventud Guerrera(c)
Tenay says this will be the “sleeper match” that may steal the show. Not so much. Though the fans are into it to a degree (some chant “Taco Bell”) this match has virtually no psychology or story and is a glorified WCW Pro main event. In the end Juvi hits the Juvi Driver and the 450 Splash for the pin at 8:36 to retain the Cruiserweight title.
WINNER and STILL WCW Cruiserweight Champion, Juventud Guerrera (Pin, 8:36)
After replays we head back to the internet location where Lee Marshall chats with Konnan about “K-Dawg’s” upcoming match with Scott Hall when an intoxicated Hall crashes the interview and tosses a drink in Konnan’s face.
Next up is a sloppy vignette detailing the Raven/Saturn finger breaking drama.
As Raven comes to the ring J.J. Dillon and Doug Dellinger, with added security, walk an irate Kanyon to ringside where they handcuff Kanyon to the ring post for the duration of the following match and hand the key to the referee.
Prior to the match Raven calls Saturn an “embarrassment” and says this match “begins the beginning” of Saturn’s “permanent indentured servitude.”
Saturn says the match is about honor and that win or lose Saturn will retain his integrity.
— “Raven’s Rules Match” – If Saturn Wins Raven Must Set The Flock Free; If Raven Wins Saturn Must be ‘Subservient’ to Raven Forever (WATCH – 1:16:40)
Raven w/Lodi & Kanyon vs. Saturn
This one is one helluva ride, a rare booking gem from WCW at this point that tells a fantastic story. We see Kidman turn on Raven, a clever handcuff sequance with Kanyon that nearly costs Saturn the match, and Saturn driving Lodi through a table with a Spicolli Driver from the apron to the floor. After putting Lodi through the table Saturn walks right into an Evenflow DDT for a near-fall. Moments later Saturn catches Raven coming out of the corner with another Spicolli Driver to score the pin at 14:04 to disband The Flock.
WINNER is Saturn (Pin, 14:04)
After replays Tony Schiavone informs the fans that doctors have removed the football-sized tumor “encapsulating” “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s kidney, that the tumor was malignant but the doctors believe they got it all. The announcers give hearty “HOOOO!” in honor of Duggan.
Next up is footage from the go-home NITRO of Rick Rude and Curt Hennig swarming Dean Malenko inside the steel cage and of Arn Anderson making the save. This is followed by footage from the go-home Thunder of Arn Anderson calling Malenko an unofficial Horsemen.
— “Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:42:02)
Curt Hennig w/Rick Rude vs. Dean Malenko
As this match starts we get one of the loudest “we want Flair” chants of the night. This match isn’t terrible but it’s nearly the exact same story from NITRO, just without the cage. In the end Malenko hits the Hennig-Plex when Rude breaks it up for the DQ at 7:39.
WINNER is Dean Malenko (Disqualification, 7:39)
After the match Hennig and Rude wipe out Malenko until, as he did on NITRO, Arn Anderson runs in. This time, though, Rude and Hennig get the upper hand, targeting Anderson’s injured left arm before leaving both men laying.
We get a Halloween Havoc ’98 promo next that subtly hints at a Hogan/Warrior showdown.
Hall’s tipsy shtick is now full blown “drunk”, confusing rings and having a hard time standing on the ropes. Hall grabs the mic and does his usual shtick or, as Heenan quips, “his Foster Brooks impression”, as he sips his iced tea.
Konnan arrives, steps into ring number one, and does his usual “K-Dawg” shtick that gets the crowd on his side.
— “nWo Hollywood vs. nWo WolfPac Grudge Match” (WATCH – 1:57:45)
WCW World Tag Team Champion Scott Hall w/Vincent vs. Konnan
Though it starts out fine this match is terrible and drags on forever. Konnan dominates the match until Hall gets a swig of his drink and traps Konnan in the never ending surfboard. A low blow keeps Hall in control and the crowd is all but dead. One too many trips to the bar costs Hall as Konnan kicks the drink out of Hall’s hand, lands an X-Factor, and cinches in the Tequila Sunrise for the submission win at 12:03.
WINNER is Konnan (Submission, 12:03)
— “9-Man Number One Contender’s ‘WarGames’ Match for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship at Halloween Havoc ’98” (WATCH – 2:18:55)
Special Guest Ring Announcer: Micheal Buffer
Team nWo WolfPac (Team Captain Kevin Nash, Sting & Lex Luger) vs. Team nWo Hollywood (Team Captain Hollywood Hogan, Stevie Ray, & WCW United States Heavyweight Champion Bret “Hitman” Hart) vs. Team WCW (Team Captain Diamond Dallas Page, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, & Warrior)
This is arguably the worst “WarGames” in WCW history and is an absolute mess. DDP and Bret start the opening period which, for some reason is still five minutes, and each go for the win early though the fans could care less. Stevie Ray comes out to no reaction and works over DDP until Sting joins for the third period where the match, and the fans, finally picks up. Piper is out for period four and the match becomes a brawl as teammates DDP and Piper go at it until Luger joins the fray for the fifth period. The team structure for the match starts to make less and less sense as Kevin Nash joins the match to start the sixth period.
Hogan sneaks down a full minute early and begins to wipe everyone out with a slap-jack as the match goes off the rails. Hogan hits Nash with a couple of leg drops and stalls for time until the smoke fills ring one. When the smoke clears “Warrior” appears and is promptly beaten down by Hogan until we get more smoke, in the midst of which the “Warrior” disappears. Suddenly the real Warrior sprints to the ring to take out Hogan and Stevie Ray until Hogan escapes through the door and locks the cage behind him. Warrior eventually breaks through the cage, falls to the floor, and limps after Hogan in the aisle where the two brawl. In the ring DDP ducks Stevie Ray’s slap-jack, which hits Hart by mistake, and lands a Diamond Cutter on Ray to score the pinfall at 20:06.
WINNER is Diamond Dallas Page (Pin, 20:06)
After the match the fans boo and begin to leave as DDP celebrates to a very mild reception with the fans. Tenay and “Brain” talk about Goldberg facing Sting tomorrow night on NITRO and the event abruptly fades to black.
Fall Brawl ’98 is a mess. When Ernest Miller and Norman Smiley have one of the best matches on a card stacked with incredible talent that tells you all you need to know about the quality of this show!
The best match, hands down, is Raven/Saturn, which is a must-see for WCW critics. Though the “WarGames” bombed and the card largely under delivered Fall Brawl ’98 is worth checking out at least once.
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Thanks for reading – until next week, see ya at ringside!
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I have recently finished listening to the 83 Weeks podcast with Eric Bischoff and Conrad Thompson (a podcast I HIGHLY recommend) concerning this event and it prompted me to watch this particular War Games match after learning more in depth details since being there 20 years ago this was a confusing and disappointing end to the tradition that was War Games after attending every Fall Brawl event in Winston-Salem from 96 to 99 I was very disappointed to see the War Games tradition end after (and I would honestly have to say as a result of) this particular event