AEW has announced that they will be having their first-ever Deadly Draw, with 16 Women in eight teams competing for the AEW Women’s Tag Team Cup.
Despite the details of this tournament being unannounced so far, the name seems to suggest that it has taken inspiration from WCW’s Lethal Lottery.
The Lethal Lottery saw teams “randomly” drawn together. Each team would have one match, the winners progressing to the Battlebowl at the end of the night, a battle royal where the winner would receive a title shot. It can certainly be seen as no coincidence that Cody took the trademark for Battlebowl back in 2019.
Starrcade 1991 – The Inaugural Lethal Lottery
The first Lethal Lottery came at Starrcade 1991, with 40 men drawn into 20 teams for a match against WCW Champion Lex Luger at SuperBrawl II.
The entrants were:
Marcus Bagwell and Jimmy Garvin, Michael Hayes and Tracy Smothers, Steve Austin and Rick Rude, Van Hammer and Big Josh, Dustin Rhodes and Richard Morton, Larry Zbyszko and El Gigante, Bill Kazmier and Jushin Thunder Liger, Diamond Dallas Page and Mike Graham, Lex Luger and Arn Anderson, Terrance Taylor and the Z Man, Ricky Steamboat and Todd Champion, Cactus Jack and Buddy Lee Parker, Sting and Abdullah the Butcher, Brian Pillman and Bobby Eaton, Big Van Vader and Mr Hughes, Rick Steiner and the Nightstalker, Scott Steiner and Firebreaker Chip, Arachnaman and Johnny B.Badd, Ron Simmons and Thomas Rich, Steve Armstrong and P.N News.
Winners highlighted – entering the Battlebowl
The show opens with the 40 competitors waiting at the top of the ramp as the first draw is made.
The matches were drawn one at a time at ringside by Magnum TA, Missy Hyatt and Eric Bischoff. As the match that was drawn took place the remaining entrants waited backstage to find out who their partners and opponents would be.
The random nature of the draw is immediately brought into question as tag team partners Jimmy Garvin and Michael Hayes are drawn against each other, whilst Steve Austin and Rick Rude of Paul E Dangerously’s (Paul Heyman) Dangerous Alliance are drawn on the same team.
All of the matches were rather short, with the longest of the night clocking in just over 13 minutes. The matches weren’t particularly spectacular either, with the highlights coming from Arn Anderson and Lex Luger defeating Terrance Taylor and the Z Man.
But we also had some bizarre matchups, with Sting and Flying Brian Pillman teaming up against Abdullah the Butcher and Bobby Eaton despite being on opposing teams. This would then lead on to Battlebowl. And because this is WCW, it had to be a far too complicated version of a battle royal.
With two rings next to each other, all 20 men would enter ring number one. You are eliminated from ring one once you are thrown into ring two. You are then eliminated from ring number two if you are thrown over the top rope to the outside. This then comes down to the last man in both ring one and ring two before it becomes a normal battle royal between the remaining men.
Lex Luger would be the last man remaining in ring one, whilst Sting would be the last man standing in ring two. Despite interference from Rick Rude and Harley Race, Sting would overcome Lex Luger to win the first ever Battlebowl.
As a result of winning Battlebowl, Sting was awarded a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match against Lex Luger at SuperBrawl II to win his first WCW World title.
This show managed to draw 165,000 pay-per-view buys, down by 10,000 from the previous years Starrcade, although there had been a general downturn in pay-per-view buys so this was not surprising.
Starrcade 1992 – The Second Lethal Lottery
The second Lethal Lottery was heavily cut down from the previous years, with only 16 men entering into random teams for a chance to enter the Battlebowl.
The entrants were:
Van Hammer and Danny Spivey, Johnny B. Badd and Cactus Jack, Big Van Vader and Dustin Rhodes, Kensuke Sasaki and The Barbarian, The Great Muta and Barry Windham, Brian Pillman and 2 Cold Scorpio, Dr. Death Steve Williams and Sting, Jushin Thunder Liger and Erik Watts.
At the 1991 event, the only matches to take place were the Lethal Lottery/Battlebowl matches, but this year we saw a number of championship matches surrounding the event.
This event showed the falling of passion for the event with a 15-minute time limit being placed on the matches – the longest going just over nine minutes.
The matches were once again unspectacular, with Sting and Big Van Vader stealing the show in the King of Cable tournament final later in the night.
The best of the Lethal Lottery matches came in the form of Barry Windham and the Great Muta defeating 2 Cold Scorpio and Brian Pillman, four excellent wrestlers showcasing their talents – with tag team champions Windham and Pillman facing off ahead of their title match later in the night. Muta would pick up the win for his side with a fantastic moonsault.
Thankfully, WCW saw sense and changed the second ever Battlebowl from their contrived two ring concept into a regular Battle Royal, with the eight winners from earlier in the night entering.
Despite losing an NWA World Heavyweight Championship Match earlier in the night, being submitted by Masahiro Chono, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Great Muta would win the match, last eliminating Barry Windham with a drop kick.
Muta would go on to face Chono yet again at the WCW/New Japan Supershow III at the Tokyo Dome with the IWGP and NWA heavyweight titles on the line. Muta would go on to become the second NWA and IWGP champion after Tatsumi Fujinami.
The pay-per-view was the fourth worst bought Starrcade of all time with 95,000 buys and it would be the last time we would see Lethal Lottery at WCW’s biggest show of the year.
WCW Battlebowl 1993
After two years of being the focal point of Starrcade, Battlebowl/Lethal Lottery received it’s own pay-per-view.
The entrants were:
Cactus Jack and Vader, Charlie Norris and Kane (Stevie Ray), Brian Knobs and Johnny B. Badd, Erik Watts and Paul Roma, The Shockmaster and Paul Orndorff, Ricky Steamboat and Lord Steven Regal, Dustin Rhodes and King Kong, Awesome Kong and the Equaliser, Jerry Sags and Sting, Keith Cole and Ron Simmons, Ric Flair and Steve Austin, 2 Cold Scorpio and Maxx Payne, Rick Rude and Shanghai Pierce, Marcus Bagwell and Tex Slazenger, Rip Rogers and Road Warrior Hawk, Davey Boy Smith and Kole.
Despite the event being centred around Lethal Lottery and Battlebowl, this is certainly the worst of the Lethal Lotteries in terms of match quality, with Dustin Rhodes and King Kong vs Awesome Kong and the Equaliser rightly receiving minus three stars from Dave Meltzer, with three slow and plodding men standing around as Dustin Rhodes tries to make it look like a wrestling match.
This event did throw up some of the most interesting tag team combinations on reflection with Ric Flair and Steve Austin as well as Ricky Steamboat and Lord Steven Regal, better known as William Regal, being drawn together.
Although the tag team matches failed to deliver, the Battlebowl was actually really interesting.
It starts as any Battle Royal does, but as we get to a mouth-watering final four of Sting, Steve Austin, Ric Flair and Vader.
As the men brawl, Flair is pulled to the outside by Harley Race before he’s attacked by Austin and Flair on the ramp, leaving him unable to continue as he’s stretchered out.
Vader and Austin then team up on Sting, but Sting cleans up with incredible baby face fire as he looks for his second Battlebowl victory.
Sting manages to eliminate Stunning Steve but is eliminated by the WCW Champion Vader, setting up a match with Ric Flair at Starrcade.
The show was WCW’s worst selling pay-per-view of the year, only amassing 55,000 buys.
WCW abandoned the concept of the Lethal Lottery for three years following that horrendous buy-rate but brought it back at the 1996 Slamboree.
The entrants were:
Booker T and Road Warrior Animal, Lex Luger and Road Warrior Hawk, Johnny Grunge and Rocco Rock, Chris Benoit and Kevin Sullivan, Rick Steiner and the Booty Man, Scott Steiner and Sgt. Craig Pittman, Jim Duggan and V.K Wallstreet, Lord Steven Regal and Squire David Taylor, Dick Slater and Earl Robert Eaton, Alex Wright and Disco Inferno, Diamond Dallas Page and The Barbarian, Hugh Morrus and Meng, Ice Train and Scott Norton, Big Bubba Rogers and Stevie Ray, Randy Savage and Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Eddie Guerrero.
In this Lethal Lottery, a second-round was added to the tournament, meaning that the teams would have to win two matches to reach the Battlebowl. The match of the tournament came with Randy Savage and Ric Flair facing Arn Anderson and Eddie Guerrero, with dream matches all across the ring in this one.
Flair and Anderson would keep attacking the Macho Man, despite Flair and Savage being drawn together. Guerrero and Flair faced off, but as Guerrero would tag in Anderson, Flair would tag out to Savage and help beat him down with Arn.
Savage and Flair would continue to brawl with each other, but Anderson hit Eddie with a DDT, allowing Ric Flair and Macho Man to advance. On paper, the tournament had some good star power, with the likes of Flair, Savage, Guerrero, Booker T, Chris Benoit, Arn Anderson, the Road Warriors and DDP all in it.
The issue with the pay-per-view is that only one of these men would make it to the Battlebowl, making the result incredibly obvious, with a lot of teams losing to double count-outs or forfeits.
The Battlebowl entrants were:
Diamond Dallas Page, Big Bubba Rogers, Dick Slater, Earl Robert Eaton, Ice Train, Johnny Grunge, Rocco Rock and Scott Norton.
DDP would win the Battlebowl by last eliminating The Barbarian earn the title of, and no I’m not joking, Lord of the Ring. This also earned DDP a WCW World Heavyweight Championship match the next night on Nitro. But because this is WCW, there had to be an unnecessary swerve. On a video replay, DDP’s foot is shown to hit the floor before The Barbarian’s, so the title match never happens. Why this opportunity wasn’t given to the Barbarian, only WCW know.
The show drew 155,000 pay-per-view buys, once again the worst drawing show of 1996 for WCW. WCW would never use the Lethal Lottery and Battlebowl concept again until their death in 2001, with WWE never using the IP for themselves.
What AEW should learn:
If AEW is to use the Lethal Lottery concept for the Deadly Draw, there are a number of mistakes that WCW made that they will need to avoid.
Firstly, AEW needs to make sure that the competitors are given the time to showcase their talents. So many of the matches within the Lethal Lottery lasted around five minutes and didn’t give anyone much time to show anything. AEW’s Women’s Division has been criticised, and rightly so, for their lack of showcase and this gives them an opportunity to show their talents and possibly build new stars from the fallout of the tournament.
Secondly, AEW should totally abandon the Battlebowl concept for the matches and lean more towards just a regular tag team tournament. The Dusty Rhodes Classic has shown that a tag team tournament can be successful over a number of weeks of television and can get people over, with the Broserweights becoming a highlight of NXT throughout the tournament.
The random nature of the tournament allows for feuds and storylines to be built in the fallout and develop the characters of the competitors, helping to develop the division itself. Overall, the concept is an interesting one that can definitely be used to bolster the division, but they need to make sure they are making the talent the focal point of the tournament to help build a division that desperately needs it.