It's Still Real To Me: War Games

It’s Still Real To Me: War Games

War Games. The biggest, most brutal challenge in the history of professional wrestling entertainment; a trial of endurance that knows no end. I did it though. I knuckled down, summoned ever last shred of grit I had in my being… and watched all three discs of this collection of WCW’s mass cage battles.

I actually think I came out the other side a changed person. Maybe my eyes focus a little further beyond the horizon now, and maybe I can’t look at a chain link fence without feeling like I’d like to maybe watch some golf, an infomercial about hair loss or a nice daytime women’s chat show. One in which the participants really get to the bottom of what men do that annoys them, for at least half an hour.

Don’t get me wrong; there were moments when it was apparent why this was one of WCW’s big draw events in its early days, and it goes without saying that a TV wrestling show will always push the envelope and stage the spectacular squared.


But even if the War Games premise wasn’t as ridiculous as it is, it’s an even more ridiculous idea to watch fourteen of these matches in a row. Just as a match relies on some quieter, slower moments to paint some shadow around the light, a show needs a range of events unfolding within it.

There are two sides to the physical environment of War Games. One is the mirage of the mystery of the legend, which the downright batshit wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes ably weaves into his interview about his invention of the special ring.

Pumped from a viewing of ‘Beyond Thunderdrome’, Dusty was inspired to create a highly-charged, gladiatorial event where the bold warriors do brutal battle. And this is where the second side to War Games becomes apparent, as the interview is cut with footage of someone else, somewhere else, welding something that isn’t a wrestling ring to something else that isn’t a wrestling ring. Dusty definitely, positively did not just push two rings together. This ultra-hardcore bit of metal construction meant that the aforementioned bold warriors have to clamber between two sets of ropes in the middle to get from one side to the other, making it only marginally less awkward to stage a match using those weird stairs that go nowhere from the set of Fawlty Towers.

So. The two teams enter one by one, as a made-up coin toss determines which entrant goes in next. Once they’re all in there someone will get knocked unconscious or submit (no pinfalls), and the other team will win – and this is where it gets really stupid. It’s quite hard to spot a man who is lying down even more lyingly than all the other men who are lying down at that time, or another man’s hand tapping from underneath the body of another man who is lying down. Then why not put this ginormous clusterfuck behind a chain link fence, and only film it from outside, so it looks like eight uncles having a fight in a zipped-up wedding marquee? Every year or so, extra levels are added, much like Fred West put in extensions.

This box set would be invaluable for anyone who seeks to learn about the evolution of camera work in wrestling, as each successive match is filmed with wisdom gleaned from the previous one. The cameras start to move inside the cage, show more action outside it, and actually move around. There is an beautifully daft promo from the Fabulous Freebirds, who use the not-so-muscular phrase ‘silly talk’ while they chew on each other’s faces and bellow.

I haven’t mentioned names, but largely it’s because the ridiculous setup is the star of the War Games show. There are moments where the skill of the usual WCW favourites shines through the gimmickery, and it’s amusing to watch Ric Flair’s tenyear transformation into a weatherworn Native American Lady Di lookalike. One startling detail is the omission of the omission of Christ Benoit in the 1997 Fall Brawl.

He doesn’t fit into the brand guidelines of any commercial entertainment product, to put it mildly, but if he has accidentally or sneakily slipped in it is a shameful pleasure to witness a rare glimpse of him at work here, before the others all troop in and start pissing about again. It makes you wish that the WWE would just superimpose a yawning puppy’s head over his face so that we can enjoy his legacy, guilt-free, into the future.

Whether or not you’d enjoy this box set really depends what kind of person you are. If you think having the one mid-price sports car isn’t as cool as a top-of-the-range one, so you’ve bought two of the former and welded them together – this is for you.

Ditto if you favour a huge but mediocre Sunday roast for every meal of your life. But so note: by the end of the box set, even Dusty’s saying it’s a bit bollocks.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.