You would think that with HULK HOGAN not only on your roster but as your champion, you would want to, I don’t know, maybe have him defend his title on an event that you want people to pay to see.

Such is the conundrum of WCW in 1994. The first pay-per-view after Hogan won the World Heavyweight Championship at BASH AT THE BEACH, and he has absolutely nothing to do with the card. The main event – War Games – is focused on the return of Dusty Rhodes to the two-ring enclosed cage. Hogan does, thankfully, grace our presence via satellite.

World Television Championship Match: Lord Steven Regal (c) vs. Johnny B. Badd – While I was always a big mark watching the WWF growing up, cheering the baby faces and booing the heels, when it came to WCW I was the opposite. I was always pulling for the bad guys. Lord Steven Regal was especially one of my favorites. I loved watching his matches and listening to his interviews. His TV Title matches were especially great, as he managed to believably tie people in circles until the match hit a time limit. Unfortunately, he can’t keep Badd at bay here, as the “Prettiest Wrestler in WCW” finally manages to flummox his Lordship, winning the title with a roll-up.

We get a lengthy recap of the main event angle at the August CLASH OF THE CHAMPIONS, where a masked man took out Hogan’s knee.

Loser Leaves WCW Match: Cactus Jack vs. Kevin Sullivan – Jack was a low-key MVP for WCW in the year or so before the company signed Hulk Hogan. He had a great feud with Big Van Vader and his tag teams with both Maxx Payne and Sullivan produced amazing matches against the Nasty Boys. But he was never going to fit in with Hogan’s WCW. Jack takes one of the sickest bumps of the era when Sullivan tosses him from the second rope to the exposed concrete at ringside. No one else in this company would be willing to do something like that. I’m not sure anyone other than Sullivan would have been willing to do that TO someone else. Sullivan has his brother Dave with him at ringside, the Lenny to Kevin Sullivan’s George, and his reluctant brother plays in to the ending, as Jack runs into Dave on the apron and Kevin rolls Jack up. It’s OK, Jack leaving WCW was for the good of all Mankind.

We run back to the dressing room with “MEAN” GENE OKERLUND interviewing Col. Robert Parker and his stable. In one of the clearest cases of telegraphing the ending of the main event, they discuss Meng being out of the match to be replaced with manager Parker.

United States Championship Match: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat (c) vs.”Stunning” Steve Austin – The rematch doesn’t happen as Steamboat is incapable of competing. The Dragon is forced to hand the title over to Austin. Steamboat would quietly retire after this and wouldn’t get back in the ring for about 15 years. Unfortunately for Austin, he’s not done for the night.

United States Championship Match: “Stunning” Steve Austin (c) vs. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan – An unhappy Austin argues with WCW Commissioner Nick Bocwinkel and keeps trying to leave. Bockwinkel forces him back in the ring, where Duggan hits him with a shoulder tackle/back drop and Austin’s title reign comes to an end. Austin wouldn’t be long for WCW either. Cactus Jack, Steamboat and Austin are all casualties of Fall Brawl, and they didn’t even step inside War Games this year.

World Tag Team Championship Match: “Pretty” Paul Roma and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff (c) vs. Marcus Alexander Bagwell and The Patriot – Before the match starts, officials remove the loud, obnoxious fan that debuted at the August Clash – the future Big Bully Busick. How many people did WCW partner up with Bagwell before the American Males finally clicked? It feels like he was the catch-all guy for tag team wrestling in the early 1990s WCW. As much as I love Paul Orndorff, this match just never got me interested. Orndorff dumps ice from a cooler on top of Bagwell, which was filled with water and Hi-C juice boxes. I imagine the juice boxes were for play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone. Bagwell grabs a bottle of water as he tries to climb back in the ring, but loses it before Orndorff gets a hold of him. Bagwell finally makes a tag, but the ref doesn’t see it. Instead of forcing the Patriot out, the ref gesticulates wildly out of Patriot’s view as the Patriot takes care of Roma. Orndorff, for his part, goes outside and hits Bagwell with a piledriver on the floor, rolls him in the ring and pins him. Good finish to a bit of a dull match.

Four matches in just over an hour. The whole show – which still has another 100 minutes to go – only has another two matches left.

Triangle Elimination Match: Guardian Angel vs. Big Van Vader vs. Sting – Under WCW “triangle match” rules, three men flip a coin and the odd man out has to stay outside the ring with a “bye” until the first pairing finishes their match. So, instead of a triangle match, it’s really two singles matches that gives one man a decided advantage. Schiavone goes into a diatribe about what happens in the event of a 15-minute time limit draw, which gives us a five minute overtime period and then a sudden death period where you have to push your opponent off their feet to win. So convoluted… So, really, what we have here is…

Guardian Angel vs. Vader – Two big guys who are deceptively quick and agile. Vader and Angel are two of the best big men of the 1990s. There’s not a whole lot here that we haven’t seen in other battles between these two, and the “first round of the triangle match” finishes pretty quickly with Vader’s manager Harley Race knocking out the referee and then delivering a vicious head butt to Angel to help Vader win. After a 30-second rest period that lasted a couple of minutes, Vader has basically a second match.

Vader vs. Sting – I think Vader is probably Sting’s best opponent. Every match between the two had high energy and the crowd into every move. This match was no different, though there was less of a David vs. Goliath feel here as they’ve wrestled enough for Sting to know how to get the better of Vader when he needed to. With Vader already having gone through a tough match with Guardian Angel, Sting has the advantage over his bigger opponent. The convoluted overtime rules come into play as Sting and Vader go 15 minutes and then an extra 5-minute overtime before having their sudden death. The Guardian Angel attacks Vader’s manager Harley Race, distracting the referee when Sting knocks Vader down. The masked man who took out Hogan’s knee at the August Clash comes in and takes out Sting’s knee as the referee turns his attention back to the match and Vader wins it to become the new number one contender to the World Heavyweight Championship. Another epic encounter.

With about an hour left in the show and just one match left, we get a recap of the Hogan-Flair feud. Hogan, at the gym, talks on the phone with Flair, in Vegas with four or five women and Hogan offers up a “master plan” to get Flair back in the ring, since he supposedly retired after he beat Hogan at the Clash. This is a ridiculous segment that just doesn’t work and probably should have been relegated to WCW Saturday Night. Hogan offers to put his career on the line, setting up the main event of October’s Halloween Havoc.

When Flair agrees to the match, Hogan reveals to Okerlund that his knee is healthy, and when Okerlund brings out Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel, the commish says he knew about Hogan’s ruse, he appreciated Hogan’s ruse and he approves of the whole thing. One more thing: the match will be inside the confines of a steel cage.

War Games: Arn Anderson, Bunkhouse Buck, Terry Funk and Col. Robert Parker vs. Dusty Rhodes, Dustin Rhodes and the Nasty Boys – I can’t believe Bunkhouse Buck, Parker and the Nasty Boys are in the main event of a pay-per-view. Even for WCW, that’s just weird. Despite stemming from a feud that had been building for a couple of months, it’s one of the more underwhelming War Games lineups. If Meng were still on Parker’s team, I’d say the heels were way too overpowered, considering how well WCW built Meng up as a monster, but with Parker on the team instead, it’s a pretty predictable match. The best part is listening to BOBBY HEENAN on commentary, getting the feel of calling his first War Games match. Parker doesn’t last long once “the match beyond” begins with Dusty’s entrance and the Nasty Dream Team gets the win.

Final Thoughts: A little underwhelming without the World Heavyweight Champion in a match, but it was still a fun show. It just had an anticlimactic finish.