WarGames. Those two tiny words combined and plastered across a TV screen or uttered from an announcer's mouth are enough to make any old-school WCW fan nostalgic for not just a time when WCW still existed, but the era of the big feud and more importantly the opportunity to end a feud in style. Created in 1987 by Dusty Rhodes the original WarGames took the idea of a steel cage to the next level by adding an additional ring and enclosing both in a cage made of fencing. WWE fans will instantly recognize the set-up as the spiritual ancestor of that promotion's own legendary gimmick match, Hell in a Cell. Hosted by the man himself, Dusty Rhodes, "WarGames: WCW's Most Notorious Matches" captures 14 (there were a total of 30 that took place from 1987-2000, but the majority were during non televised house shows) iconic WarGames matches in their entirety (a reader let me know that one match edits out Jesse Ventura's commentary for WrestleWar and Fall Brawl '97 has some edits due to the inclusion of Chris Benoit, although I will say I was shocked his name was even listed on the inner case art) for the unique opportunity to allow multiple generations of viewers witness an iconic match that hasn't been seen done in a major promotion since 2000; whether you're an old school WCW fan taking a trip down memory lane or a more modern WWE fan wanting to see the path paved by legends of old, "WarGames" has a little bit for everyone.
Rhodes makes a great presenter not only for his natural enthusiasm and showmanship skills but as well as being the brain trust of the original match and participant in the first two offerings on this disc that pit Rhodes and his teams on two separate occasions against perhaps the greatest faction in pro-wrestling history, The Four Horsemen. While these early matches are all crowd pleasers, the real fun starts with the WrestleWar incarnation of the match pitting The Four Horsemen (Ric Flair, Barry Windham, Sid Vicious, and Larry Zbyszko) against the team of Sting, Brian Pillman, and The Steiner Brothers. The match is a testament to the heyday of WCW talent as well as the real brutality of the match itself which famously ended after Pillman was legitimately knocked out from a powerbomb that smashed him against the ceiling of the cage.
WrestleCrap fans will get a chuckle over seeing the notorious Shockmaster's in-ring appearance at Fall Brawl 1993 (Fall Brawl would serve as the de-facto pay-per-view event for the WarGames event from 1993 through 1998). These latter events while important from a storytelling point of view, most notably at Fall Brawl '96 lack the early intensity of the original matches and the less said about the final WarGames 2000 match that aired shortly before the company folded in 2001, the better. It was a sad send-off to a company-defining match and exists merely as a footnote in history, sullied by the antics of bad booking and a marginal product. Fortunately, one or two lowlights in the collection (I'd lump the awful Team Hulkamaniacs vs. The Dungeon of Doom from the mid-90s alongside WarGames 2000), doesn't sully the bottom line of the product: a solid offering of larger than life matches featuring multiple in-ring legends in their prime. "WarGames: WCW's Most Notorious Matches" serves simultaneously as a history lesson, highlight reel, and yearbook for what will likely go down in history as the only true competition to the WWE.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks solid for the host segments, while the matches themselves are all presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The older the matches, the more likely viewers are able to spot defects from their video origins. To be honest though, the gaudy late 90s WCW era looks a little worse than some of the early to mid 90s stuff from a production standpoint.
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 audio is rather unnecessary, considering apart from the modern day host segments, the source material is stereo at best. The presentations do sound clean though and appropriately capture the various time periods well.
Aside from a few turkeys towards the latter half of the collection, "WarGames: WCW's Most Notorious Matches" is a solid, no-frills, no-nonsense presentation of an iconic "gimmick" match and great timeline of an evolving brand from its heyday in the 80s to its pitiful demise in the early 2000s. Highly Recommended.