Fall Brawl 1996 was the second WCW pay per view after Hulk Hogan’s shocking heel turn, and held a major plot point in the WCW vs NWO storyline that was underway. It was also a glimpse at how the company would go on to treat one of its most iconic groups, the Four Horsemen, and its own history. And lastly it was a full introduction to what would become the WCW pay per view show style for the next two years with the full immersion of the luchadores and other cruiserweights into the match lineup. The big drama here surrounded Sting, who was thought all along to be on WCW’s side until a guy who looked like Sting was seen helping the NWO lay the beatdown on some WCW guys.
The War Games main event featured two teams of four, with the NWO not revealing it’s fourth member alongisde Hogan, Scot Hall, and Kevin Nash and WCW fielding Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger and maybe Sting??? Outside a WCW vs NWO grudge match between Randy Savage and The Giant the rest of the card consisted of WCW guys facing each other. Of course at that point the NWO didn’t have enough guys to full populate the card like it would a few months later. That’s actually not a bad thing, as it would soon become overkill. So how did this show shake out? Let’s take a look.
Diamond Dallas Page vs Chavo Guerrero, Jr
Good opener. DDP as finally coming into his own as a good in ring worker and Chavo as a good young talent just getting started. DDP as still working heel here. Chavo started off doing most of the work but DDP started pulling his weight more later on. The ending sequence had some neat false finishes but nothing unrealistic. Page wins it with the Diamond Cutter and a good reaction from the crowd; he hadn’t quite perfected it yet so it didn’t look as spectacular as it would a year later. All in all a very good match to open the show that went the perfect amount of time (13 minutes) without feeling rushed or too long.
Scott Norton vs Ice Train
And we go from the good to the………bad. This was a submission match between two former tag team partners. Scott Norton was a journeyman power wrestler, Ice Train was a power guy also; neither was very good. Train was accompanied by Teddy Long. They went just over seven minutes trading power moves and brawling tactics. For what it was worth, not really a bad match here. Both guys were just mobile enough to not look too stiff in there. The finish comes kinda abruptly; Train gets a submission out of the blue after taking several minutes of beat down from Norton.
Mexican Heavyweight Title Match: Konnan (c) vs Juventud Guerrera
These were the early stages of the luchadores doing work in WCW. Konnan had been there for a little while already and had turned heel, aligning himself with Jimmy Hart. He also signified his heel turn by dressing like a stereotypical Latin gangster a la Kid Frost (he may have set a record for saying ‘La Raza!’). The crowd woke back up for this one. Konnan got lots of power stuff to start off and the crowd dug it a lot. In fact, even though he was working heel the crowd was behind him more than the newcomer (to WCW) Guerrera. Konnan was also working a lot harder here than he would a year later when he joined up with the NWO, so much so that it looked weird to me because mail it in Konnan was the only one I knew. Another good match here.
Chris Jericho vs Chris Benoit
This was the first WCW pay per view appearance for Jericho. Great match here, both guys brought their A games and went all out. Benoit was with the Horsemen here, who were working as tweeners of sorts (they were heels against other WCW guys but were de facto faces in the WCW/NWO feud.) Two of the best young workers then and in the last 20 years got 15 minutes and were able to use all of their tools. The match was just a joy to watch, and it was a rare occasion where having no storyline involved was a plus in that it saved us from some overbooked finish and allowed the guys to just work.
Cruiserweight Title Match: Rey Mysterio (c) vs Super Calo
Seeing Mysterio back in 1996 at his athletic peak, and a good 30 pounds lighter, is mindbending compared to his final years in WWE when he was getting by on a few highspots. Calo was another luchadore but was just a guy by comparison. The early going looked it Rey was going to have to carry him, but Calo picked up his end later. The crowd died down for this; Calo was a new player entirely and Rey hadn’t blown up yet. It picked up later as Rey started getting into some of the high flying moves that he became famous for, and Calo added some of his own for good measure. Crowd notwithstanding a good match here.
WCW Tag Team Title Match: Harlem Heat (c) vs The Nasty Boys
This was kind of a last gasp of the WCW that existed a few years prior. Harlem Heat was still in their ‘we like these guys but they’re real problematic’ phase in that they were still being accompanied to the ring by their ‘promoter’ Col. Parker in addition to Sherri Martel. The idea of a southern gentleman in full plantation owner regalia managing two black street toughs from Harlem would not fly in 2017. And in all honesty Parker wasn’t even necessary because Sherri was one of the best in history at interfering on behalf of her charges. The match itself was a brawl peppered with some athletic moves from Booker T. The Nasty Boys were fairly washed up at this point and did little more than punch, kick, and get distracted by Parker and Sherri. They got 15 minutes to work, which was just about right. Good but not great match.
Randy Savage vs The Giant
The Giant, as you know, would go on to WWE fame as the Big Show but had recently joined the NWO here. This was your standard match for the Giant back then, when he clobbered the opponent while they valiantly tried to fight back. Match was ok for what it was, and Savage’s comeback was a legit good moment. But of course it was interrupted by Hogan, Hall, and Nash who lured him out of the ring and beat him down while the Giant distracted Nick Patrick. The Giant won in a fashion that was pretty unbecoming for him; a seven minute match and he needs help from three guys to beat Savage? Ugh……..
This was par for the course during this era. The card would go really well until you got to the big names, and then you got short overbooked messes of matches with them. Not to mention that having the Giant join the NWO this early in the game was a waste, as he should have been a foil for Hogan, Nash, for a while. And of course before long he would be out and Savage would be in.
WarGames: The NWO (Hall, Nash, Hogan, Sting???) vs Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Lex Luger, Sting??
Arn and Hall start the match off, and continue the tradition of getting the two best workers to start off. And as always the heels win the coin toss to get the one man advantage, so in comes Kevin Nash followed by Lex Luger for WCW then Hogan then Ric Flair. Flair’s entrance was a nice moment as he went to town on all three of the NWO members in the match with a foreign object in a callback to his dirtiest player in the game nickname. Wargames matches were cage brawls, so a lot depended on the crowd’s relationship to that participants The big question here was who the fourth member for each team would be and whether or not Sting would be it for either team. And the answer was yes for both.
The fake NWO Sting made his debut here, made to look exactly like the original, and he came to the ring first followed by the genuine article for the WCW team. Real Sting lays out the entire NWO team including his doppelganger and then walks off in disgust, leaving the WCW team in the lurch to go down in defeat. Not a bad bit of storytelling here as it set up the eventual appearance of the Crow Sting and kicked off a year long great storyline that of course crashed and burned at the end. After the match the NWO keeps beating down the WCW team, then Savage runs out to get at Hogan before he catches a four on one beat down from Hogan, Hall, Nash, and the Giant. Miss Elizabeth hits the ring to cover Savage and gets the NWO spray paint treatment.
Really good show. The War Games main event was the best one in years, and the last good one that took place. Lots of really good matches up and down the rest of the card and no real stinkers. Even Ice Train vs Scott Norton, which should have been terrible, ended up being watchable. If you’re looking for some good WCW pay per view action this is an excellent choice.