15 September 1996. The pay-per-view was WCW Fall Brawl. The main event was a WarGames match between Team WCW and Team nWo.
Team WCW: Arn Anderson, Ric Flair, Lex Luger & Sting
Team nWo: Hollywood Hogan, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall & a mystery partner.
What played out is stuff of pro wrestling legend.
WarGames has a long and storied history that stretches back long before they became William Regal’s favourite words to shout. Some of the recent NXT WarGames matches have gone above and beyond in terms of in-ring brutality and high-risk spots, but if you’re looking for pure wrestling storytelling, look no further than this gem.
Despite the star power on display in the main event, the story was mostly focussed on Sting. Before we get into the match itself, let’s take a look at how it all came about.
Only two months prior, Hogan had dropped the leg on Randy Savage at Bash at the Beach ’96, aligning himself with The Outsiders and changing the pro wrestling landscape forever. This was the new world order of wrestling, brother, and they were taking over WCW.
Sting and Lex Luger, two fan favorites, stepped up to the plate to defend WCW from Hogan and the nWo. After some cowardly attacks by the nWo over the ensuing weeks, this set them up for a 4-on-4 WarGames match at the upcoming Fall Brawl event. It would mark the first major clash between the two opposing forces.
On the Nitro before Fall Brawl, it was announced that Sting wouldn’t be in the building that night because he was wrestling in Japan (WCW had a talent exchange relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling at the time). But later in the evening, as Luger was chasing Ted DiBiase through the backstage area, Sting jumped out of the nWo limo to attack Luger, betraying his WCW comrade and jeopardizing their team at Fall Brawl.
But of course, things weren’t so straightforward. We later learned it was a fake Sting and the attack was orchestrated by the nWo. However, Lex and the rest of the WCW team weren’t convinced. The seeds of doubt were planted.
The Fall Brawl pay-per-view begins with a video package recapping the rivalry between nWo and WCW and highlighting all of the chaos The Outsiders have reaped since their unannounced arrival back in May of 1996. The commentary team notes that we still don’t know who the mystery partner for Team nWo is going to be, and they emphasize Luger, Flair and Arn’s reluctance to trust Sting. Of course, the implications here are quite obvious – we are meant to assume that Sting is the nWo’s mystery partner and he is playing the long-con with his teammates.
In a backstage segment before the match, Sting looks Luger in the eyes and tells him he didn’t attack him. Luger feels differently. Back in the arena, the cage is lowered and WarGames is about to begin. For anyone not familiar with the rules, here’s a quick rundown.
The match is 4 vs 4, although this match is unofficially 4 vs 3 since WCW have kicked Sting out of the team. Each team sends one wrestler and they fight one-on-one for five minutes. Every two minutes thereafter, one more person is sent in from each team in an alternating fashion. Once all 8 men are in the ring, the first person to land a submission on someone else is the winner (there are no pinfalls in this variation); the match can only be won after all eight men have entered.
This match begins with Scott Hall and Arn Anderson exchanging blows. Arn gains the advantage over Hall, but Nash is the next entrant and so helps Hall put the beat down on Arn. Luger enters second for Team WCW to even up the odds, but the nWo still keep the upper hand. Things look even bleaker for Team WCW when Hogan joins the fray and lays further waste to Arn and Luger.
The final known entrant arrives, Ric Flair, to the kind of pop we haven’t heard since 1999. Flair evens the match out, but his feat is overshadowed by the anticipation of the mystery partner. Two minutes later, the fourth nWo man arrives.
And it’s Sting! Neither the crowd nor the commentary team knows what to make of his arrival. Has he joined the nWo? Is he coming to help out Team WCW? With Hogan’s unexpected betrayal only two months before, more shocking heel turns were not beyond the realm of possibility. For a few minutes, a lot of fans genuinely thought that Sting had defected, just had Hogan had.
This meant that Team WCW had no fourth teammate, so they were outnumbered. Sting began to beat down Team WCW, hitting Stinger Splashes in every corner. However, the clock began to count down again after two minutes had elapsed (with Bobby Heenan joining in with the countdown to add to the anticipation). Everyone thought it would be in vain, but once it reached zero, the final WCW team member appeared.
The real Sting! He rushes to the ring, then stares down the imposter, then cleans house. Team WCW stand tall.
But things take an unexpected turn. “Is that good enough for you?” Sting shouts at his teammates, then proceeds to walk out of the WarGames cage with authority. Luger and Arn look on confused (although Flair continued to punch on Nash), but luckily, a possibly-drunk Bobby Heenan clears things up for any confused viewers.
“He just told them to stick it. He said ‘is that good enough for you?’ He showed them. You thought I was a traitor? You turned your back on me. Now I’m gonna show you that I can take the nWo all by myself, and I don’t need you guys anymore.”
Heenan, realizing he might have just dropped too much of an info dump rather than letting the storyline play out naturally, then added a “…well, that’s the impression I get,” at the end. Classic.
Now 4-on-3, Team nWo clean house. Fake Sting locks a Scorpion Deathlock on Luger and forces him to tap out. The nWo take the victory.
After the match, the fight continues out on the ramp. Luger tries to crawl away but Nash, Hall and Fake Sting put the boots to him, but suddenly, help arrives in the form of Randy Savage. Savage heads straight for Hogan and throws him back into the ring. Hogan pleads for Savage to spare him, and while he’s biding his time, The Giant (Big Show) rushes out to attack Savage. The rest of the nWo join in the beat down before Miss Elizabeth rushes to the ring and begs the nWo to spare Savage. They spray paint NWO on her back then continue their assault on Savage.
The broadcast ends with the nWo taking over the commentary desk and talking smack about WCW. By this point, the WarGames match had ended twelve minutes ago. Tony Schiavone comments that “this might be the lowest point WCW has ever reached.” Luckily, he was talking in a kayfabe sense, as it would be a few more years before Buff Bagwell’s mom was suspended on a forklift.
Overall, this was a fantastic match from start to finish. The wrestling itself was nothing spectacular, even for a match involving Ric Flair, but given the condensed space in the ring, they worked with what they had. This was the beginning of a huge character arc for Sting, culminating in his eventual transformation into his Crow persona. The nWo picked up megaheat from their multiple assaults, and the friendship between Luger and Sting was on shaky ground.
The match is available on the WWE Network.