Featured image by Kevin Wallace

This review was commissioned by Hippoboy281 over on my Ko-fi account.

GCW tastes like fast food to me. Having spent the day going through this particular batch of reviews, I find myself never really actively disliking the time I spent consuming what I did. The further I get away from each match though, the more the lasting impression left on me more often than not is one of lack. Emptiness, a lack of substance and nutrition, even when the individual moment-to-moment experience isn’t unpleasant, and occasionally even has its delights to offer.

Take this The Art of War Games match, for instance. It’s not really so bad in the moment, but it’s just kind of a match that passes by, with its own high points, but not much left that sticks. Many of these problems are not GCW-exclusive though. As with many a modern WarGames, this suffers from a total lack of respect and understanding of its source material. This commits a dozen different sins that have plagued pretty much ever WarGames-adjacent match post-2006, and some of the mistakes are cliche enough in themselves to just have me immediately check out when they present themselves.

The biggest problem here is that it suffers from the key mistake so many people make when attempting WarGames: it places far too much importance on The Match Beyond.

I imagine this is a byproduct of having too much emphasis on false finishes and nearfalls in modern wrestling, such that most promoters and workers can’t fathom running this match without the opportunity to create tension in those means. This bout compounds those issues by making it elimination rules once everyone enters the cage as well. What this means is that the staggered entry feels even more perfunctory than ever: just a means of getting pops to recognizing the wrestlers’ theme music instead of being the actual substantial narrative of the match itself.

A second cliche gives away how little thought everyone involved gave The Match That Precedes.

Nick Gage is the final entrant for the GCW side of the match, and instead of his climactic arrival acting as a shifting of the tide, it instead precedes the most vapid and disgusting of modern WarGames tropes: each team standing still in one ring to have a lame face off that ends with everyone throwing weak punches at each other. Pure dogshit choice, not just here, but every single time I see it in Blood & Guts or WWE or in every non-Briscoes tag featuring FTR. A real indicator that the staggered entrance is for pops alone without real regard for how the final babyface showing up for his team levels the playing field through sheer force of effort and skill–not through the coordinated decision to manufacture a Moment that every other promoter with two cages to spare has tried and fail to capture.

Another major problem is that Team FREEDOMS don’t work heel all that well. They’re cast in that role as both an outsider force as well as winning the numbers advantage in the coin toss. The problem is their control segments in the initial half of the match don’t feel all that threatening outside of when Takeda and Sugiura get the chance to isolate Rina in the first handicap portion. Another awful example sees Takashi Sasaki entering the match as the final member of Team FREEDOMS and going up on the turnbuckle to pose and hotdog instead of helping his team. Sure, he pays for it when the babyfaces come for him, but that doesn’t last all that long as the heels go back into control soon again anyway. A totally wasted opportunity to build the tension for Gage’s final entrance.

The shame here is that for the first ten minutes or so, the rhythm is a little off but it is at least recognizable. Sometimes, a comeback comes to soon, or it’s a little too back and forth, but the big swings in momentum still come through when John Wayne Murdoch enters or when the Macizos start diving in and making their presence known. Rina’s also such a great character, incredibly likeable as the babyface getting worked over, and filled with so much life when on offense. By the end, you’ve even got Jun Kasai and Nick Gage, two extremely charismatic performers even to this day. The backbone to a decent enough match is there, but the construction actively flushes it all away by the end.

Perhaps the one saving grace for this whole mess is that spot you’ve probably seen of Violento Jack and Ciclope coming off the scaffolding through a whole pile of chairs, tubes, and glass. It’s sick as hell, made all the most boring people in the world mad, and it’s easily the best moment of the match. I don’t care for all the boring bad faith takes that stick with great deathmatch stuff like that with regards to safety and pay. A much more interesting discussion here might be how the spot is awfully placed in the bout, coming in at the halfway point of the The Art of War Games segment where eliminations are in play. It is so spectacular and breathtaking that the crowd actively stops caring about anything happening in the ring for about five minutes while the others kind of just fumble about doing nearfalls trying to regain the crowd’s attention.

What so few seem to understand is that WarGames is predicated on teamwork. That’s obvious in the narrative sense, but it should come through in the performances as well. These matches work best when there’s the genuine feel that two squads are fighting, using the numbers and the shifting circumstances to their advantage. So many WarGames now just feel like modern Royal Rumbles: the people who need to do their spots are the center of attention while a bunch of others just sit waiting for their turn to get into the fray.

Fast food wrestling, man. Stop for even a moment to think about it, and all you feel is regret.

Rating: **

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