Gimmick Some Lovin': WarGames
In each edition of Gimmick Some Lovin', we take a look at one iteration of a gimmick match available on the WWE Network. Some are iconic for their success, others for the extent to which they flopped, and some just... happened.
We defined a "gimmick match" as, in any way, adding a rule/stipulation to or removing a rule from a match, changing the physical environment of a match, changing the conditions which define a "win", or in any way moving past the simple requirement of two men/women/teams whose contest must end via a single pinfall, submission, count out, or disqualification.
NXT TakeOver: WarGames was special because, for the first time in nearly 20 years, two rings will be placed side-by-side, a cage will surround the pair, and three teams will engage in one of the most-requested matches fans thought they'd never actually see again: The War Games Match.
We look to the match's origins, with WarGames: The Match Beyond from the 1987 NWA Great American Bash, pitting the Four Horsemen (consisting of Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, and Tully Blanchard, alongside their manager James J. Dillon) against the team of The Road Warriors (with their manager "Precious" Paul Ellering), Nikita Koloff, and, the mastermind behind the match itself, "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes.
The Son of a Plumber vs. "The Man"
The origins of this match are twofold.
First is the longstanding feud between Rhodes and the leader of the Horsemen, Flair. Flair represented everything Rhodes was not: Flair was the millionaire playboy who bragged about all the expensive liquor he drank (and even more about the liquor he wasted), while Rhodes emphasized his hardscrabble Texas upbringing which led him to become a real man of the people.
Like with Mick Foley in our previous entry, the emphasis on Rhodes's everyman nature made his character resonate with fans like few others, as did his non-traditional look; "The American Dream" generally looked like he'd be just as much in his element chugging beers with the fans in the upper deck as he was enthralling those fans in the ring.
His antithesis was Flair, who made every effort to look and act like he spent more than those ticket-buyers made in a year on just getting to the arena and dressing for his match. Flair was the Tom Brady of his era: a man whose effortless good looks and skin-of-his-teeth victories earned him millions which he was not afraid to flaunt, and which made him the most hated man in the world for anyone outside of a handful of area codes.
The two iconic blondes clashed through much of the 1980s, trading the NWA World Championship on a few occasions, but the advantage always went to Flair because he had the power of his fit, wealthy, and bloodthirsty allies beside him in the Four Horsemen. The Horsemen frequently made Dream's life hell, even breaking Dusty's leg on one occasion (inspiring the famous "Hard Times" promo above), and his arm on another.
Fans everywhere ate it up and asked for seconds; in the era of Reaganomics, Dusty was the guy who worked next to every fan on the assembly line, while Flair and the Horsemen were the factory owner's entitled son(s) who inherited the business and based every decision not on how it benefitted the workers, but how it benefitted themselves.
Dusty was Rocky, but Flair was Wall Street. Dusty was Springsteen-meets-Mellencamp, but Flair was The Rat Pack. Flair was the equivalent of travelling in a Lear Jet, but Dusty was the equivalent of road tripping with six friends to save on gas.