More than 30 years ago, at NWA's The Great American Bash on July 4, 1987, a barbaric, yet uniquely entertaining, tradition was born in War Games.
It has been nearly two decades since WCW (formerly NWA) produced its final War Games with a match stipulation that combined a specific set of rules with unbridled chaos. First, there were no pinfalls, countouts or disqualifications in the match. However, some timing guidelines were put in place to halt instant brutality.
One superstar from each team began the match for the first five minutes. After the initial five minutes, a new team member from one team entered the fray every two minutes thereafter. This continued until every superstar entered the caged-in, two-ring set-up.
One important note: The match could not end until all superstars had entered, a phase referred to as "The Match Beyond."
NXT will put its own spin on the rules as it carries out the triple-threat version of the match at TakeOver, with the aforementioned ground rules the basis of the match.
As Jim Ross said on commentary before the War Games match at WCW WrestleWar '92 (more on that match to come), "I have had the privilege of seeing every War Games here on pay-per-view, and I can tell you after being in the sport 20 years, there is nothing more violent, more volatile, and more dangerous, fans, than what you're about to see."
With that, we look at five of the greatest War Games matches in history:
Great American Bash '87: Road Warriors/Dusty Rhodes/Nikita Koloff/Paul Ellering versus Arn Anderson/Ric Flair/Tully Blanchard/Lex Luger/War Machine
There were three Great American Bash events that took place in July 1987. Two of those events featured the first two War Games matches in history, but it was the second version that took place on July 31 at the Orange Bowl in Miami that truly stood out.
Blood -- a common theme in War Games matches -- gushed from the performers, while effective double-team tactics were utilized. Brilliant sequences were designed in one of the most complete War Games matches of all time.
The creative conclusion came shortly after the final participant, Paul Ellering, entered the match. Ellering, who will lead the Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong to the ring at TakeOver for their War Games match, entered the ring with a wristband full of spikes, a weapon that he passed along to his teammate, Animal. Gruesomely, Animal began to grind the spikes into the masked face of War Machine (who later became the Big Boss Man in the WWE) causing him to submit.
While this second War Games match set the bar high, it was just a glimpse of what was to come in the years that followed.
Great American Bash '89: Road Warriors/Midnight Express/Steve Williams versus Fabulous Freebirds/Samu/Fatu
Perhaps the best War Games match in the 80's took place at the 1989 Great American Bash. The Freebirds, Samu and Fatu were accompanied to the ring by Paul E. Dangerously (Heyman), while the babyface team was led by Jim Cornette and Ellering.
The early stages of the match saw Jimmy Garvin and Terry Gordy of the Freebirds do a number on the Midnight Express' Bobby Eaton. That was until Williams entered and took over. He provided one of the early highlights of the match as he lifted the larger Gordy over his head in a press slam formation and subsequently lifted him up and down about eight times as his back pressed against the steel cage ceiling.
The match did a wonderful job of building to the Road Warrior Hawk's arrival. Hawk, the anchor of his team, was the final superstar to enter the match and served as his team's savior, bailing out the rest of them from a difficult 5-on-4 situation. "We want Hawk," chants filled the arena as the suspense continued to build.
When he entered, Hawk kicked things off with a double clothesline off the top rope on Samu and Fatu. From there, Hawk completely took over, and the babyfaces had the advantage. The finish saw Hawk first nail Garvin with a stiff clothesline from the top rope, then a neck-breaker. After that, Hawk locked in a hangman's neck-breaker submission, which ended the match.
This was the ultimate display of building to a satisfying payoff.
WCW WrestleWar '91: Ric Flair/Sid Vicious/Barry Windham/Larry Zbyszko versus Brian Pillman/Sting/Rick and Scott Steiner
The third WrestleWar pay-per-view, and the first under the WCW banner, featured one of the greatest main events in the company's history. This four-on-four version of War Games was bloody, innovative and intense.
Pillman began the contest with incredible athleticism, using the top of the cage to swing himself onto Windham and perform a hurricanrana. Pillman continued to use the cage to his advantage, and it didn't take long for blood to begin pouring from Windham's head. To illustrate the merciless nature of the match, Pillman then began biting Wyndham's open wound. "It's like Pillman is possessed," Jim Ross said on commentary.
The match, which was already in a state of anarchy, saw its temperature rise even more with the additions of the Steiner Brothers and Sid as it reached "The Match Beyond" phase. More blood began to pour. This was arguably the bloodiest War Games match in history.
The conclusion came when Sid power-bombed Pillman twice, knocking him unconscious. It was at that point in which El Gigante (known as Giant Gonzalez in the WWE) entered the match to check on Pillman's safety, pleading with officials to call for the bell, which they did.
WCW WrestleWar '92: Sting's Squadron (Sting/Nikita Koloff/Dustin Rhodes/Ricky Steamboat/Barry Windham) versus Dangerous Alliance (Arn Anderson/Bobby Eaton/Steve Austin/Rick Rude/Larry Zbyszko)
The second War Games match to occur at a WrestleWar pay-per-view had a tough act to follow, as the previous year's bout was a classic. This version met that challenge.
Austin, who was entering in his first War Games match, and Windham, a War Games veteran, kicked things off with fast-paced action. Blood began pouring from Austin just minutes into the match to the point where his face was barely recognizable.
Luckily for Austin, Rude, the United States Champion at the time, was in next to make the save, and the two beat down Windham, who began to bleed as well until Steamboat entered. When Steamboat, a classic babyface, made his way into the ring, the arena came unglued.
At one point, Madusa, who, along with Dangerously, accompanied the Dangerous Alliance to the ring began climbing the cage with the gigantic cellphone that was a staple of Dangerously's persona. She dropped it in the ring for her comrades to use as a weapon. However, World Champion Sting, who had not yet entered the match, met her at the top of the cage to chase her down.
"It's bloody battle royal time, now," Jesse Ventura said on commentary after all the combatants entered.
The finish saw Zbyszko use the steel from a turnbuckle he dismantled to try to hit Sting, but Sting ducked and Zbyszko caught teammate Eaton in the arm. This allowed Sting to apply an arm lock, forcing the submission and awarding the win to Sting's Squadron.
Zbyszko's error marked the end of his run as part of the Dangerous Alliance, a stable that didn't stay intact too much longer after this event.
Fall Brawl '94: Dustin and Dusty Rhodes/Nasty Boys versus Arn Anderson/Bunkhouse Buck/Robert Parker/Terry Funk
Unfortunately, once the War Games concept started becoming a WCW Fall Brawl tradition in the mid-to-late '90s, the match quality began to dwindle. Different variations of the nWo began taking over, and the programs became less appealing.
The one exception came a couple of years before the nWo was born at Fall Brawl '94, when Dusty and Dustin Rhodes teamed up with the Nasty Boys to take on the foursome of Anderson, Buck, Colonel Parker and the hardcore icon himself, Funk.
The match was built upon Parker's (a manager) unexpected inclusion into the bout after the executive board excluded one of the team's original members, Meng, from participating.
That wild card combined with Anderson's recent betrayal of Dustin Rhodes created a captivating atmosphere, and the match delivered.
The clash included an entertaining opening five minutes out of Dustin and Anderson, the two standouts in the match, along with all the expected pandemonium that comes with War Games.
The match culminated when Dusty Rhodes, the final entrant in the match, cleaned house and applied a figure four leg lock to Parker as the Nasty Boys dropped continual elbows on him. The officials called for the bell and the Rhodes reunion was a success.