WWE’s November show, now called Survivor Series WarGames, will feature the two-ring steel cage match type popularized by the NWA and WCW in the 1980s and ’90s and, more recently, by NXT. The Ringer has heard exclusively from a chat with WWE chief content officer Paul “Triple H” Levesque that two WarGames matches would be featured prominently on the Survivor Series event.
“There will be a WarGames contest between the men and a WarGames match between the ladies. Levesque remarked, “This will be in the same vein as the Survivor Series, which has seen its own share of ups and downs and changes throughout the years. Not Raw versus SmackDown, that’s for sure.
A stronger emphasis on the plot is planned. Because it involves large teams of individuals battling against one another, I consider it to be a classic element of the Survivor series. Basically, we basically made WarGames more difficult and advanced it a little bit.
The next premier lives event at Boston’s TD Garden on November 26 will substitute the regular Survivor Series format with cage battles à la those made famous by WWE’s competitor, WCW (formerly Jim Crockett Promotions, the NWA’s standard bearer).
Since its inception, the Survivor Series has featured an elimination tag team battle, typically pitting teams of four or five wrestlers against one another. It was rumored that the then-WWF planned to counterprogramme its own pay-per-view event on the same night as Crockett’s planned Starrcade ’87 on pay-per-view, which would have been their first use of pay-per-view (prior Starrcade events reached a smaller audience via closed-circuit TV).
After this, Survivor Series became more popular than Starrcade in terms of pay-per-view purchases, and it quickly became the second major event in the current four-supershow rotation, which included WrestleMania, the Royal Rumble, and SummerSlam.
As the show progressed, it added elements such as world title bouts, tournaments, and the first-ever Elimination Chamber match to its formula, which had previously consisted solely of elimination bouts in which either multiple or single survivors prevailed for their teams.
(The “Montreal Screwjob” at the 1997 event, in which Bret Hart lost the world title to Shawn Michaels through the intervention of Vince McMahon, and the birth of the chicken-suited Gobbledy Gooker in 1990, are arguably the two most memorable moments in Survivor Series history, though they did not take place during actual Survivor Series matches.)
However, despite having their share of memorable moments and allowing various feuds, like the Hogan-Andre storyline that began at WrestleMania III to continue developing, few Survivor Series elimination tags established themselves as instant classics, including the Raw versus SmackDown matches that became the standard starting in 2016.
On the contrary, the WarGames match has produced numerous legendary events. In 1987, when Jim Crockett Promotions was struggling financially against Vince McMahon’s fast-expanding WWE, it was one of many ideas used by wrestler and booker Dusty Rhodes to rescue the organization. Rhodes, who passed away in 2015, had previously stated that he was inspired to create the battle after viewing the gladiatorial arena in George Miller’s post-apocalyptic 1985 film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
In the American South, where Rhodes found his greatest success as a wrestler, “cage bouts” were viewed as the best method to put an end to brutal feuds by locking hated rivals together in a chicken-wire construction that could take hours to assemble. If Rhodes and his allies Nikita Koloff, the Road Warriors, and manager Paul Ellering were going to have any chance against the Four Horsemen and J.J. Dillon, they would need a system robust enough to hold them all back.
“I adore the old ones, the very first ones, with the Horsemen and Dusty and the Road Warriors and everybody else,” Levesque said. That particular type has always been my favorite. Back then, things were much easier and the corporate environment was very different.
After two successful NXT TakeOver: WarGames matches in December 2021, the match’s future was called into question by the NXT reorganization that led to the introduction of NXT 2.0. A closed-cage version of WarGames was revived by AEW in 2021 as a quit-or-submit “Blood & Guts” special Dynamite event, and another was held in 2022 (the title refers to Vince McMahon’s comment that he didn’t intend to do the “blood and guts and things of that nature such as being done on perhaps a new potential competitor”).
WarGames is as much a part of Paul Levesque’s history as Dusty Rhodes’ because of how it was utilized to showcase so many top talents in NXT. Long overdue, its inclusion in a WWE main roster show once again serves as a tribute to Dusty’s groundbreaking contributions to the industry and Triple H’s determination to preserve wrestling’s rich history.