NXT is Triple H's baby, and this weekend he gives it a new toy to play with.
NXT is Triple H's baby, and this weekend he gives it a new toy to play with.
Photo by Mike Brooks

WWE Resurrects WarGames This Weekend in Houston, Kinda

Beyond the towering classic that is Wrestlemania 17 and the one match wonder that was Wrestlemania 25, recent years have seen Houston play host to some interesting moments in WWE history. Back in 2013, John Cena battled Randy Orton in a WWE/World Heavyweight Championship unification match. In 2015, WWE Hall of Famer Sting wrestled his last match. And just last year, Kevin Owens won the WWE Universal Championship in one of the most exciting main events of the ‘10s.

The point is that the WWE treats Houston pretty well, which is maybe why the city is the first to be a part of the WWE’s new plan to make its Big Four pay per views – Wrestlemania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series and the Royal Rumble – destination events. While they typically go all in for ‘Mania and SummerSlam, this will be the first time a city hosts an NXT show, PPV, Raw and Smackdown on four consecutive days for a Survivor Series. The next four days in Texas are going to be wrestling heavy.

These are loaded shows too, featuring the returns of Triple H and John Cena to the ring and the first Brock Lesner match in a while that might be more than just two slabs of meat hitting each other in the face. But while Survivor Series is the anchor attraction – look upon the ticket prices on StubHub and weep if you don’t already have them – the most intriguing match of the weekend actually takes place on Saturday night.

For almost two decades now, there’s been a match that hasn’t been seen in mainstream wrestling. It’s one of the few gimmick matches that the simple idea of gets long-time fans blood pumping. It’s a match that most thought would never be seen in the WWE. And if we’re being honest, it’s a match that probably shouldn’t be happening this weekend.

For the first time in company history, the WWE is putting on a WarGames match.

This is how things are supposed to go: you set up two rings right next to each other and put a steel cage around the entire thing so that no one gets in or out (unless they have special magic powers, which in 1998 was totally a thing). You get two teams of four or five guys that are all feuding; one guy from each team starts off in the cages, and every few minutes another person enters; the bad guys always get the advantage because that’s good storytelling. In the end, one team picks off the weakest member of the other team and gets them to submit, ending the match. Someone usually bleeds. It’s exciting, and when done right it’s the best gimmick match in wrestling, one worthy of blowing of huge company defining feuds.

Now, make no mistake: in spite of the uncomfortable politics of supporting the company, I remain a WWE fan. I follow the product religiously, pay for the WWE network and am planning on attending NXT TakeOver: WarGames Saturday night. The emotional side of my wrestling fandom is extremely excited about this show, even though the rational side of my brain has some pretty big doubts about the entire endeavor.

The big issue here is that the WWE is taking something that worked in a particular era and trying to remold it for modern times. WarGames, for the most part, existed as the big, violent final fight between two different groups ready to spill blood to win. It was pure faces versus heels where fists were the order of the day as opposed to flips.

But the WWE’s version of the WarGames is going to feature three teams of three men who kind of maybe hate each other a little. More importantly, while the WWE is moving forward with the traditional two rings and a cage structure, they’re passing on the idea of having a closed roof to the cage, largely because they want the wrestlers in the match to be able to jump off the cage.

For most, especially those that didn’t grow up watching the match when it meant something, this probably seems like a small change that’ll add more excitement to the event; who doesn’t love watching guys jump off cages? But that’s the thing: every year we watch dudes jump off cages. We just weeks ago saw Shane McMahon jump off the Hell in a Cell in a stunt that was way bigger than anything the WWE will allow to happen at an NXT show.

With WarGames, the WWE is sanding down the violence to turn it into yet another stunt show. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; stunt shows are just what the WWE does. But it’s curious why after all this time they’re bringing back the name of something that some fans have a deep affection for rather than coming up with something more their style. And while many of us will still watch, it’s a shame they’ve yet again turned something special into just another thing.

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