Man, the Battlebowl/Lethal Lottery was the weirdest thing ever! As a kid, though, I thought it was the most exciting idea. Then, I saw Sting team up with Jerry Sags and felt differently…
For those unfamiliar with the event, it’s an interesting one. It was originally held at Starrcade 1991 and Starrcade 1992, and spun off into a PPV event of its own (ala Money In The Bank) in November of 1993. This was the first and only PPV under the Battlebowl name however, and the Lethal Lottery would not make its return to WCW until Diamond Dallas Page emerged victorious at Slamboree 1996.
The Lethal Lottery was comprised of tag team matches where partners and opponents were paired up randomly. Members of the winning team in each match would then participate in the Battlebowl Battle Royal later that evening to crown the Battlebowl champion.
The grand prize at the end of this grueling series of matches? The Battlebowl Ring! This prize was no doubt inspired by the championship rings athletes in other professional sports leagues like Major League Baseball and the National Football League win, but I don’t think a physical ring was ever created. In fact, the ring concept was scrapped for the final Lethal Lottery series, where DDP instead won the title of “Lord of the Ring”…which, unfortunately, ultimately proved to be about as meaningless as a ring that didn’t exist.
What made the Lethal Lottery even more unique than it appears on the surface was the fact that, by most accounts, the participants and matchups for the WCW Lethal Lottery were legitimately random. In other words, this wasn’t the more common situation in professional wrestling where most outcomes were indeed random, but possibilities were heavily influenced or limited by choices presented. We saw that approach taken with WWE’s Taboo Tuesday series of events years later, for example, along with RAW Active Twitter polls where fans can vote on match stipulations and the like while the WWE retains ultimate booking power…
But nope; not in this case! Apparently the Lethal Lottery was legitimately random each and every time, with only match outcomes (and the ultimate winner) decided by the company. This legitimate game of chance led to extremely odd pairings and…well, really clunky in-ring competition, of course. On the bright side, WCW’s large and tag-team heavy roster provided some interesting and exciting possibilities, at the very least.
Unfortunately, these possibilities were never fully realized, and instead what we got was stranger than anything. Jushin Liger teaming with Erik Watts is odd enough, but the penultimate match of a card featuring the team of Steve Armstrong and PN News?! Only in early 90s WCW can you see something like that.
Rather than dismiss the Battlebowl as an emblem of WCW’s early struggles or eventual failure, I think we should celebrate what a unique and interesting concept it was. For various reasons, the Lethal Lottery tournament is unlikely to happen in any other major promotion and it’s hard to imagine it happening in today’s professional wrestling landscape. However, the core of the tournament speaks to one of the things I like most about professional wrestling: the potential of possibility, regardless of how bumpy the outcome might be.