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I don’t remember how old I was when I first discovered professional wrestling. What I do remember are the sights, the sounds, and the larger-than-life mountains of muscle and testosterone that were Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Andre the Giant, Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, Mr. Perfect, The Hart Foundation, etc.
I consider myself lucky that I was born and grew up in an era when pro wrestling WAS pro wrestling. If I was an adolescent these days, pro wrestling wouldn’t be my passion, because wrestling today is mostly unwatchable. But I grew up when Hulkamania was running wild, when The Rock was forcing you to smell what he was cookin’, when Jerry Lawler still referred to breasts as “puppies.” This was a time when wrestlers actually played characters and were entertaining. Are there any gimmicks these days outside of Undertaker? If there are, you can probably count them on one hand. I get it Randy Orton, you’re tattooed and you’re angry. I get it Batista, you’re tattooed and you’re angry. I get it CM Punk, you’re tattooed and you’re angry (not to mention boring as hell).
Does anybody remember the 80s and 90s? On one Monday night, you could see a dead guy (Undertaker), a deranged psychopath (Mankind), and a gold-painted narcissistic metro sexual (Goldust), and then you could turn the channel and see The Crow (Sting), a human bull (Psicosis), and a skeleton (La Parka). Pro wrestling, my friend, does not get better than that. On one channel you would have Stone Cold Steve Austin chugging beers and giving a Stone Cold Stunner to Vince McMahon, and on the other you would see Chris Jericho and Dean Malenko putting on a wrestling clinic.
So what I’d like to do is discuss some of the wrestling games that captured and reeled me in as a child, a teenager, and an adult. I can’t cover every wrestling game, so I’ll just go over the ones I played the most. I didn‘t go back and play any of them because I want this to be pure nostalgia, although I did read up on some of them just so I could make sure I had my facts straight. But before I begin, perhaps I should show you some of my credentials.
My first step towards fulfilling a lifelong dream began on March 7th, 2004. This was my first day of wrestling training with TNA wrestler Shark Boy. It was a fifteen week course, three days a week, three hours a day. I couldn’t describe to you in words how sore I was after the first week, but I couldn’t have been more excited for the next training session. I loved every bump, every punch, every body slam. After graduating from the “Shark Tank,” I had my first real match on August 9th, 2004, one week after my 19th birthday. That was the day I began my career with the Northern Wrestling Federation under the tutelage of former WWE referee Roger Ruffen at the Bonekrusher’s National Pro Wrestling Training Center in Cincinnati. This is the same company where TNA stars Abyss, “Wildcat” Chris Harris, New Japan star Karl “Machine Gun” Anderson, and WWE Diva Jillian Hall all began their careers.
I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the ring with a decent amount of “names” in the wrestling business: Tatanka, Abyss, Al Snow, Billy Gunn, Kevin Thorn, and the best talent in the Midwest. I’ve been in Street Fights, Ladder Matches, Cage Matches, and just about any match you can think of. I’ve wrestled in front of 10,000 people at an anime convention in Toronto, and at the other end of the spectrum, I’ve wrestled in front of 12 people in West Liberty, Kentucky.
I think being in the pro wrestling industry for over five years, and being a gamer for over twenty will help me to provide a unique perspective on these games. So, without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.
PRO WRESTLING (NES) Released: 1987
Did you ever notice that you remember some really dumb things from your childhood? This game reminds me of one. My grandmother’s neighbor had a son and daughter who were mine and my brother’s ages, so we would spend a lot of time hanging out over there. Their mother also played games from time to time, and I remember one specific time she was playing the original Castlevania, and she was on Dracula’s second form. She had to get up to answer the phone, and seeing as how I was a jerk-off little 4-year-old, I turned the game off and put in Pro Wrestling because I wanted to play as Star Man, who, even to this day, I wish was a real pro wrestler. Needless to say, she was none too thrilled and made me go back to my grandmother’s. I don’t know why I remember this, it’s not like the woman still hates me to this day or anything, but I just don’t know why I remember this event so vividly, and I can’t remember important events that happened recently at all.
Another thing that is etched into my mind is my earliest memory of Engrish. After each victory, the game displays a congratulatory message stating “A WINNER IS YOU!” Pro Wrestling is also one of the first wrestling games to have a referee inside the ring with the wrestlers, and is the only wrestling game I can think of that has a cameraman on the outside of the ring filming the match. The cameraman is unable to be interacted with, but this is about as authentic as you’ll get in terms of what actually goes on in and around a pro wrestling ring.
The game is pretty archaic by today’s standards, but this was the tadpole on the wrestling game evolutionary scale. Because of this game, if I ever run my own wrestling promotion, it will be called the Video Wrestling Association, in honor or Pro Wrestling on the NES. WRESTLEMANIA (NES) Released: 1988
The ridiculous picture of Hulk Hogan on the front of the box should be a foreshadowing of the atrocious gameplay that comes with it. The game only features a handful of characters, all featuring the same mentality of “punch the other guy until his life bar is empty.” There really isn’t much to this game. I don’t expect a lot from an NES wrestling game, but I do expect more than this. Outside of the sweet 8-bit versions of “Real American” and “Cool Cocky Bad,” and the ability to do cartwheels as Bam Bam Bigelow, the game is mostly unplayable. Every wrestler has pretty much the same move set of a limited number: punch, kick, run attack, body slam (only certain wrestlers), a back attack, and a turnbuckle move (only certain wrestlers). I like to think of it as Double Dragon if it were confined to one screen.
If you have to have a wrestling game on NES, there are lots of better choices: the aforementioned Pro Wrestling, WWF Steel Cage Challenge, WWF WrestleMania Challenge, WCW Wrestling, and Tag Team Wrestling, just to name a handful.
WWF SUPERSTARS (ARCADE) Released: 1989
This game was released in arcades after Pro Wrestling on NES, but this was the first wrestling game I ever played. The graphics remind me of a more cartoonish version of the recent Legends of WrestleMania, the characters are depicted as larger than life, because that’s the way we remembered them as kids. It also features something very common in the late 80s: COLOR! Does anyone else remember when games had color?
The character selection was standard fare for WWF circa 1989: Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Big Boss Man, Honky Tonk Man, Jim Duggan, and Randy Savage. The story mode requires you to choose two wrestlers as a tag team, and after winning three matches, you then get to face the team of Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant. If you win, you’ll be rewarded with your team’s faces being slapped on the cover of a newspaper, praising the new Tag Team Champions. The story mode continues in a similar fashion as Ghosts N Goblins, where you basically just go through the game twice without being defeated to truly win.
The game featured a pretty simplistic move set. Every wrestler had standard strikes, running attacks, top rope moves, etc. The grappling system gave you three options: an irish whip, or two different moves specific to each character. Instead of the wrestlers making boring entrances, they took a page out of the WrestleMania 3 playbook and had each wrestler being carted to the ring on tiny wrestling rings.
When I was a kid, if I happened to find myself in an arcade, this was the game I tried to find. If that particular arcade had it, then it’s the only game I played until I ran out of quarters.
WWF SUPER WRESTLEMANIA/ROYAL RUMBLE/RAW (SNES/GENESIS) Released: 1992, 1993, and 1994
Wrestling games have the same bad habit that sports games do: They’re the same thing every year. This couldn’t be more true than with this trio. Notice that I didn’t say that these games were bad, but they were just too similar for me to buy all three. The one I chose was Royal Rumble. How much did I play this game? Well, it’s been over a decade since I’ve played it (SNES version), and I can still list every character in the game in the order they appeared on the select screen from left to right: Randy Savage, Mr. Perfect, The Undertaker, Bret Hart, Tatanka, Krush, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Razor Ramon, Yokozuna, Lex Luger, and Ted DiBiase. FACE!
The Genesis version swapped 5 wrestlers, taking away Mr. Perfect, Ric Flair, Tatanka, Ted DiBiase, and Yokozuna in favor of Hulk Hogan, “The Model” Rick Martel, IRS, Jim Duggan, and Papa Shango, a far inferior roster, but solid nonetheless.
It wasn’t really anything spectacular. Standard 16-bit wrestling action. You got pretty much what you would expect. Although, I must say, I spent a lot of time at the wrestler select screen just so I could listen to the wrestler’s entrance themes, because they were the actually themes and not just 16-bit renditions. It was the first time I had ever seen that done, and it nearly blew my mind. You had your standard singles matches, tag matches, and they even threw in 3-on-3 matches. The funny thing about 3-on-3 matches was that, rather than have one member of the team in the ring, and the other two on the outside, instead you only had one, and you could literally transform your one partner into the other one with the Select button.
There was no ability to save champions, so during story mode (if you can call it that), you go through 11 matches, and at the end of the 11th match, a guy walked into the ring and lifted a belt above his head. That was it, that was all you got for your 30 minutes of hard work. Your character doesn’t even get to hold it, just some random asshole.
Like most wrestling games that came before it, every wrestler had the same moves other than signature moves, but I don’t remember a time that Shawn Michaels’ signature move was a back suplex. Head butts, body slams, vertical suplexes, and hip tosses are all over the place in this game. Regardless of the move you perform, Vince McMahon and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan can be seen in the background acting like they‘re witnessing a woman giving birth to a wild boar. I never thought a video game NPC could overact, but LJN pulled it off.
Obviously, the main attraction in this game was the Royal Rumble mode. You select a character, and proceed to try and outlast the entire roster and be the last man standing at the end. You can get 6 men in the ring at a time, which is impressive considering the amount of technology available at the time. My only complaint is that the only way to eliminate someone from the Rumble is to shoot them off the ropes and hip toss them out of the ring or use an atomic drop near the ropes and throw them out on their asses. Once again, it’s fine for the technology, but I’ve been a wrestling fan for almost my entire life, and been in the business for half a decade, and I’ve never seen anybody get hip tossed or atomic dropped out of a ring.
Secret best part of the game: the sound the referee makes when you knock him out. WRESTLEMANIA THE ARCADE GAME (ARCADE, SNES, GENESIS, 32X, SATURN, PS1, DOS) Released: 1995
This was another game I played to death on the SNES. In the original arcade game, you were given 8 characters, in the SNES version, they got rid of Bam Bam Bigelow and Yokozuna, reducing the number to 6: Undertaker, Bret Hart, Doink, Shawn Michaels, Lex Luger, and Razor Ramon.
Everything about this game is as over-the-top as the sport it portrays. Wrestlers glow when doing special attacks, certain moves require the wrestlers to jump several dozen feet in the air, and when attacked, items fall out of the wrestlers similar to the way they do in the latest version of Punch-Out on the Wii.
The digitized graphics are about as good as you’re going to get for the time; you can’t get much more authentic than having the actual wrestlers portray themselves, complete with posing. I didn’t play it a whole lot in the arcade, but the SNES version doesn’t look very different. Each wrestler had their own stage, a la Street Fighter. You get what you would expect, Doink has a circus themed level, Undertaker’s is a crypt, etc.
There were two different story modes, you could either choose to do the Intercontinental Title mode or the World Title mode. In the IC mode, it consisted of a series of singles matches, followed by 2-on-1 matches, and culminated with a 3-on-1 match. The World Title mode, as would be expected, it a bit more difficult. Starting with four 2-on-1 matches, two 3-on-1 matches, and it ended with a gauntlet match. You began the match in a 3-on-1 match, and every time you defeated an opponent, he was replaced with a new wrestler, so not only were the odds still very much against you, but you then had to deal with fresh opponents with full life bars.
I really don’t have a lot of complaints about the game other than the limited roster. Even for a game as good as this one, 6 is still a small amount of wrestlers to select from. I found it odd that they opted to get rid of Yokozuna and Bam Bam Bigelow, and decided to keep Doink and Shawn Michaels. Yokozuna and Triple B were certified main eventers at the time. Some of you may say that I’m wrong about Shawn Michaels, but at that point Shawn had yet to establish himself as a headliner. He wouldn’t do that for another year. Regardless, this game is still fun to throw in every now and then, and it’s still one of my all-time favorites on the SNES.
WCW NITRO (PS1, N64, PC) Released: 1997 and 1998
This game sucks. That’s about all I can say, it absolutely sucks. But for some reason, I played the hell out of Nitro. Why? Because they gave you so many unlockable wrestlers, and I was determined to unlock every one of them. You started with 16 wrestlers. You pick a wrestler, go through a gauntlet of 10 matches, and once it’s over, you unlock a new wrestler. Each wrestler on the roster unlocked a specific new one, therefore, you actually had to play at least once as every wrestler to unlock everyone. There were a total of 64 characters, meaning if you wanted to beat the game with every character, you had to play a total of 640 matches. That’s a mind-boggling amount of matches, and I did it. Am I proud that I wasted that much time? Eh, maybe a little.
The first set of wrestlers consisted of WCW’s top stars: Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Sting, Kevin Nash, Roddy Piper, and of course, the greatest wrestler of all-time: “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright. After you go through this set, you unlock the likes of Ultimo Dragon, and a few managers and lesser known wrestlers. The third set of wrestlers was people who worked on the game. Wait, what? That’s right, the third set of 16 wrestlers were the people who worked on the game. And past that, I don’t even remember, I think they threw in Frankenstein’s monster or some bullshit like that just to pad the amount of wrestlers. I would have liked to have seen that meeting:
Smith: “We need a total of 64 characters, we’ll include 32 of WCW’s top stars, and beyond that, who can we include?”
Johnson: “Why don’t we just put us and a bunch of retarded public domain characters in there?”
Smith: “Johnson, I like the cut of your jib.”
Johnson: “What’s a jib?”
Smith: “Ha, promote that man.” (I’m sorry, I had to add a Simpsons reference at some point.)
There were a few upsides to the game. For one, a couple of the unlockable wrestlers were The Hulkster and the original “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Secondly, they had big head mode, and that’s something. But the one thing that really stands out about the game are the rants. The what? Well, at the wrestler select screen, you could hit a button, and whatever wrestler you’re currently scrolled over will then begin a rant. These things were absolutely hilarious. A coked up Roddy Piper would scream incoherently about something, Kevin Nash would jokingly beg the player to pick him, and then guys like Chris Benoit had to ruin all the fun and be serious. Both Nitro and Thunder had them, but Thunder’s were way better, sit back and enjoy…
As for the gameplay, every single bit of it stands out, but not for good reasons. The camera seemed to do a constant loop around the arena. Every character had the exact same set of moves, with the exception of finishing moves. This never bothered me, but good luck trying to pull some of them off. In the manual, it says that a powerbomb is performed by hitting Square and X. So I hit the buttons, and what happens? I throw a punch. This goes on for a few minutes before I realize that the correct input is: Square (pause) X. It doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, it’s really annoying. As a wrestling fan since birth, I have a few pet peeves about the game. Why does the computer always have someone interfere in the match, and it doesn’t cause them to get disqualified? Why doesn’t Hulk Hogan hit the ropes before he does his world famous leg drop? Why, at some points, does the game decide that I’m not hitting any buttons and let the computer destroy me? This game is the reason the WCW went under. It wasn’t shoddy management, bad writing, and the unwillingness to promote new stars, it was WCW Nitro on PS1.
WCW/nWo REVENGE (N64) Released: 1998
Now we’re getting into the “Holy Trio.” There are three games that are the reason for owning a Nintendo 64 for me. Not to say that I don’t love Mario Kart, Starfox and Goldeneye, but when it comes right down to it, Revenge, WrestleMania 2000, and No Mercy are the three games I sunk the most hours into on the system. Goldeneye may be the Godfather of console FPS games, but it’s hard to go back and play. These wrestling games, however, are the golden standard for professional wrestling games even today. I’ll go on record and say that even with today’s ever-evolving graphics and gameplay mechanics, no wrestling game will ever top these masterpieces, and you can still go back and play them to this day and it’ll be like you never put them down.
The Christmas that I received a Nintendo 64 was one of impatience. As a kid, every year you know the one big present you’re going to receive, and I knew that the N64 was my big present that year, and I asked for two games, one of which was Revenge. I opened it up, acted surprised, and rushed my family to hurry up and open presents so I could run upstairs to hook up my N64 and spend the rest of the day playing Revenge.
In wrestling games that came before Revenge, you were given a finite number of wrestlers to choose from, and it always consisted of the top stars. Revenge, however, gave you the entire WCW roster, and it also threw in a bunch of wrestlers that didn’t even exist, the best of which being THQ Man. I was so obsessed with this game that whenever I would have to go somewhere, I would bring the strategy guide along just so I could read the bios of the various wrestlers and memorize their move sets.
Very rarely did my champions ever change. Kevin Nash was my World Champion, Scott Hall was my United Stated Champion, Chris Jericho was my main cruiserweight, Hall and Nash would keep the tag belts, and Diamond Dallas Page and Mortis would share the Television Title. Everything about this game was fun, but there was one certain match that stood out: the 40-Man-Battle-Royal. This was the match that my friends and I wasted many a Saturday night playing. It was a challenge among our friends to try and win the battle royal with the most ridiculous characters. By God, I was determined to win a battle royal with Dr. Frank. Brikowski, Dake Ken, and Maya Inca Boy were also among the often selected characters.
The most epic match I can remember was a 40-Man-Battle-Royal in which we changed the rules to where the only way to eliminate your opponent was by knocking him unconscious. I started the match with Buff Bagwell, and in a match that lasted 2 and a half hours, I was still standing with Buff Bagwell at the end. How? Because I’m a professional ass kicker.
This game also has the most incredible/awful opening sequence in the history of video games. Why would Sting just be standing in the middle of nowhere, at night, in a thunderstorm, waiting for a trucker?
Although the game didn’t have a superstar creator, you were given the ability to edit any superstar in the game. This lead to some rather humorous moments. One particular friend of mine decided to give every character in the game an Eddie Guerrero “Cheat to Win” shirt. I, on the other hand, edited the non-WCW wrestlers to make them look like wrestlers that I knew. Maya Inca Boy was given an nWo shirt and became Dennis Rodman, Brikowski became Steve Blackman, Hawk Hana became the late Yokozuna, and Dake Ken was given blue trunks and was switched to Ken Shamrock.
I struggled to comprehend just how wrestling games could get better. I mean, seriously, Revenge had Lodi. Freakin’ LODI. But they did get better, and then they got better again. But not until 2000.
WWF WAR ZONE/ATTITUDE (PS1/N64) Released: 1998 and 1999
WWF’s answer to Nitro was War Zone. War Zone was a far superior product to Nitro, but paled in comparison to Revenge. You’re given a limited wrestler count, but you can use the create-a-wrestler to increase the amount. The story mode is pretty generic, complete with your opponents cutting promos on you before matches, and ugly cinematics of a blonde woman in a limo inviting you in once you win the Intercontinental Title. Gold-digging whore.
The ring seemed to be a little too large, either that, or the wrestlers were just very slow, it seemed like it took several seconds just to get from one side of the ring to the other. The moves, for the most part, looked pretty good and were easy to pull off. There were some noticeable things missing, like the People’s Elbow and entrances before matches, but these were small miscues. This game was much more fun when played with friends. There really just weren’t a whole lot of redeeming qualities when it came to the story mode to keep the game enjoyable when playing alone.
WWF Attitude, on the other hand, improved almost everything that was wrong with War Zone. Wrestlers moved at a normal pace, the wrestler selection included nearly the entire roster, a more robust create-a-wrestler mode, entrances (which were customizable in creation mode), and it also gave you the chance to be a wrestling booker with the create-a-pay-per-view mode. Let’s also remember that this was the “Attitude Era” of WWF, the second best era of professional wrestling behind only the mid-late 80s. This means that the game came complete with the likes of the Ministry, the Corporation, Degeneration-X, The Brood, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, The Nation of Domination, and a plethora of unlockable characters to add to the already impressive amount of replay value.
Another huge improvement was the story mode. It actually has one of the more realistic story modes as far as what it’s really like being a newcomer. For anyone that doesn’t follow wrestling and has managed to make it this far into the retrospective, I’ll break it down for you…
Pro wrestling is just like any other business; you start at the bottom and work your way up based on your improvement. However, not every show is televised, these are called “house shows,” shows that are organized just for the paying fans to attend and enjoy. At the time that Attitude was released, there was no Friday Night Smackdown! Instead, they had Sunday Night Heat. Newcomers usually participate on house shows or “dark matches,” matches that occur before the taping of a major event to warm up the crowd that are not aired.
So, in the Attitude story mode, you start off wrestling only on house shows. After enough wins, you work your way up to wrestling on Sunday Night Heat. Then, with enough improvement, you start appearing on Monday Night Raw, the companies premier weekly broadcast. Then lastly, you start regularly appearing on Pay-Per-Views, with the ultimate goal of wrestling at WrestleMania, the biggest show of the year.
I still think this is one of the better story modes for a wrestling game, mainly for it’s authenticity. However, my only gripe is the way you move up to the bigger shows. At the time, the WWF had 3 major singles title belts: the WWF Heavyweight Championship, the Intercontinental Championship, and the European Championship. Naturally, the first belt you win is the European title. Up to this point you competed in a lot of singles and tag team matches. But when you finally win the belt, it seems like the game is determined to make you lose it. You start competing in handicap matches where you’re outnumbered 2 to 1. And before it’s all said and done, and you’re close to winning the World Heavyweight Title, you’re often competing (and losing) in a lot of 3-on-1 matches. It gets to the point that you try to convince yourself that you’ve done enough and you can live with not winning the belt, but then the game eats at you and you wind up subjecting yourself to torture, and most likely, you’ll wind up hating yourself for it. It’s not that any one individual is too hard, but when you have 3 different guys interrupting and destroying all momentum you gain, it wears on you.
Create-a-PPV was my favorite thing about the game and I spent a lot of late nights creating the ultimate Pay-Per-View. Obviously, my love of pro wrestling was a little bit larger than your average wrestling fan. I would skip homework to create the best possible card. I would daydream in class about who I would have going up against who that night. Not only could you create the matches, but you could also design the set. It wasn’t anything elaborate, you were given a number of items to choose from and then select the color scheme you wanted, but at the time this was awesome. Then, after you had created your dream matches, you could participate in all the matches to make sure who you wanted to win did.
The entrances were pretty authentic for the time, nothing compared to what they are now, but still pretty good. I always loved playing as The Brood (Gangrel, Edge, and Christian), because, well, lets face it, if you were a wrestling fan in the late 1990s and you didn’t think the Brood had the best music and best entrance ever, there’s something wrong with you.
This game was released just after Owen Hart tragically died in a preventable accident at an event in Kansas City, and the game features two different tribute videos, as well as an OH armband you can add to your created wrestler.
WWF WRESTLEMANIA 2000/NO MERCY (N64) Released: 2000
And now we return to the other two-thirds of the “Holy Trio.”
I’ll be honest with everybody, I’m not a Zelda fan, and Super Mario 64 left something to be desired for a diehard Mario nut like me. The PS1 had Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and Symphony of the Night, and I was huge into the PS1, so my interest in the Nintendo 64 in 1999 was waning and I had nearly given up on the system. It all changed with WrestleMania 2000. I was always more into the WWF than I was WCW, mainly because the WWF had Undertaker, who has been my favorite wrestler since I was about 5 years old (if you ever watch one of my matches, you may notice a few moves of his that I rip off).
When you compare WrestleMania 2000 and Revenge, they look like the same game, only with different wrestlers. Well, look again my friend. WM 2000 had everything fans of Revenge had been asking for: a better story mode, gimmick matches, the ability to create not only wrestlers, but entire stables and championship belts. The Create-A-Wrestler mode was the best and easiest that you had ever seen in a game before or since. Creating his appearance was only the beginning. Not only could you create your entrance, but you could also create your entire move set.
The company I wrestle for, the Northern Wrestling Federation (nwfwrestling.com), runs an annual show called Fanfest, which is basically a picnic type event where fans get to spend the day with the wrestlers before watching our version of WrestleMania. This past summer was the third year we’ve done it, and we have the usual activities you would see at an event like this: corn hole, a dunk tank, karaoke, and so on. This past year, they made a deal with a local game store to set up some video games. They brought in an arcade cabinet of some WWE game, they set up Rock Band (where me and some of the wrestlers put on a stellar performance of “Livin’ On A Prayer“), and one of our wrestlers brought in his N64 and his version of No Mercy, where he created every wrestler on our roster. It kind of felt good that I was the most picked wrestler among the kids.
No Mercy is a direct sequel to WM2000, the game featured a bigger story mode, the ability to create female wrestlers, and the ability to individually edit every wrestlers four outfits. Fans often debate which game is superior, similar to the way we also debate between Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World (*cough* Super Mario World). But honestly, arguing about this is trivial. Both games are incredible, and its really just about personal preference, can’t we just be happy that we were given two amazing games? (*cough* No Mercy.)
DEF JAM VENDETTA (PS2, GAMECUBE) Released: 2003
“Dude, you can play as DMX.” This is what my friend Cole said to me to try to sell me on this game.
In a million years, I never thought this would work. A wrestling game consisting entirely of rappers. I’ve always been a metal guy, so this game never really appealed to me. My friends, however, despite also not being big rap fans, loved this game. As far as the gameplay, it was a No Mercy clone (also developed by AKI, so go figure), so at least it was easy for us to jump right in to it.
This game has an interesting story, you choose from one of four characters to become the champion of the “urban fighting league.” You receive challenges from different rappers to fights, working your way up in the ranks. The story is more like Fight Club than a pro wrestling story, you work your way up by fighting in underground bouts. Did anyone ever see the movie Gladiator? Not the one with Russell Crowe, the one with Brian Dennehe and Cuba Gooding Jr.? No? Just me? Anyway, it’s like that movie.
The series eventually got two sequels: Def Jam Fight For NY, and Def Jam Icon, neither of which as good as the original, ditching the wrestling aspect for a more traditional fighting game, Fight For NY had your character choosing between fighting styles, with some wrestling still remaining. Icon was most like a Fight Night type game.
Remember how I said that WrestleMania: The Arcade Game was over the top? That game has nothing on Vendetta. The finishing moves are completely impossible, but also amazingly awesome. You literally break guys necks, arms, legs, backs, if there is a bone, it gets broken.
Just watch it from 1:47
The game is a lot smoother than the “Holy Trio.” The graphics are more crisp, moves seem to have a bigger impact, and it’s a lot faster and closer to a normal pace. Also, did I mention that you can play as DMmotherfuckinX?
SMACKDOWN VS. RAW SERIES (PS1/PS2/PS3/XBOX 360/WII) Released: 2000 - Present
Originally just called Smackdown!, this series has become the Madden of professional wrestling games. The only difference between this and Madden, is that at least this series changes more than just the rosters. Each new iteration evolves more and more. I recently tried playing the latest in the series after not playing it since Smackdown! Vs. Raw 2006, and I played it for about 30 minutes before I realized that I’m too stupid to play it. Do I want to do the “Road to WrestleMania”? Do I want to do “Create-A-Story” mode? Or do I want to turn it off and play No Mercy? No Mercy it is.
It’s not that I don’t think the games are good anymore, they’ve just evolved too much, and at this point in my life I don’t like games that don’t actually end.
I can’t talk much about the first couple entires, or the last four. My experience began with Smackdown! Just Bring It, and ended with Smackdown! Vs. Raw 2006, so rather than talk about each game I played, I’ll just speak about the series as a whole.
Like I said, the first game I really played was Just Bring It, and I was introduced to it by watching a friend play. When I saw how well animated Triple H’s entrance was, I knew I had to have this game. From there I became obsessed and became what I like to call a “Maddenite.” A Maddenite is the guy who trades in the latest version of Madden to use towards the newest Madden, and I did that with this series, I became “That guy.”
The one bad thing about being in the wrestling business is that I’m now better able to spot when other wrestler’s botch a move. I also know when something “doesn’t make sense.” You see, pro wrestling has a certain “psychology” to it, and you can’t teach artificial intelligence psychology. Remember in Terminator 2 when John tries to explain to the Terminator why he can’t just go around killing people? It’s kind of like that. The video game versions of Kane and Big Show don’t understand why Kane shouldn’t hop right back up after Big Show power bombs him through a table. I think that’s my problem with the series now. Granted, this is the closest to a pro wrestling sim that you’re going to get, but it’s different when it comes to sports games because they don’t require psychology.
I had a blast in the five years I did play the games, they were the games that I always came back to when I finished playing whatever else I was playing. These days, I just can’t get into them. Maybe it’s the fact that I feel like I’m better than some of the guys that are actually in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near an Undertaker or Chris Jericho level, but I am a couple steps ahead of The Boogeyman.
There you have it, a pro wrestler’s view on pro wrestling videogames. I know I neglected games like Fire Pro Wrestling and Saturday Night Slam Masters, but remember, I included only the games I played a ton of as a kid and young adult, and those games pulled a Solid Snake and slipped right by me unnoticed. What? That reference was lame? Well, then watch this…
Longtime Destructoid community member AgentMOO's High Strangeness was back at PAX this year with a nearly done build. With the help of indie publisher Midnight City, High Strangeness is coming out late this year on PC and consoles.
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Update! Our meetup dates/locations for Friday and Saturday have changed. (E&C is now on Saturday.) See below for more details!
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