Wrestling Video Games Are Weird
For me, the world of pro-wrestling has always been a colourful place, where I can escape from the confines of reality. A place to watch larger-than life behemoths take off most of their clothes, cover themselves in baby-oil and slam up against one another amidst the glitter and limelight.
A place where undead wizards battle with their demonic and deformed brother, in a ring surrounded by a blaze of fire.
A place where we can see the world’s strongest man impregnate an old aged pensioner, only for the older lady to later give birth to a hand.
A martial-arts expert with an enormous cheddar hat teaming up with a man who is seemingly obsessed with oral sex. Mentally challenged Eugene beating an Olympic gold medallist. The Gobbldy-gooker. The fucking yeti!
Just when wrestling was starting to sound a little bit too gritty and routed in realism, we open the door to the weird and wonderful dimension in which pro-wrestling games are created.
Before my time, came the first ever pro wrestling video game. The Big Pro Wrestling released in arcades in Japan in 1983 and set the foundation for a genre of games which would continue to expand and evolve over the next 40 years.
My entire life, I have adored these titles, from the 90s playing on my first console at home with my family, fighting it out on the super Nintendo. All the way until now, more than two decades later and in terms of my passion for these little pixelated packages of entertainment oddity. Wrestling games serve as time-capsule of what was going on in the squared circle when it was released.
The cultural nuances of the times shine through, from the graphical style and presentation of the game, through the music used. Nostalgia floods over me as I load up a copy of one of these numerous iconic titles from a by-gone era and revel in the memories of forgotten members of the roster and the utter madness which underpins all of these video games, whether it be hilarious glitches, infinitely entertaining create-a-wrestler suites or unlockable characters.
I want to take a trip through the history of pro wrestling games, from some of the most beloved WWE titles, through some lesser known classics from Japan and to the modern day where through all the graphical upgrades and vast rosters, we are left with games which fail to live up to the reputations set out by their predecessors.
CREATE A WRESTLER
As a little kid, all I ever wanted to be was an enormous, hulking pro wrestler with bulging biceps, a wicked haircut and the moves to make me the wrestling champion of the world. However, in reality I was a four foot tall and four foot wide tiny chubster, the only parts of me that were hulking were my belly and my thick sweaty fingers.
As I watched my favourite wrestlers on screen each week, I wished I could one day grow up to be big and strong, so that I could become a pro wrestling superstar and step between the ropes to the adulation of a cheering crowd. So, when I first played WWF Warzone in 1998 on the original playstation, I felt myself getting a little closer to my dream. It was the first game to feature a fully realised create a wrestler mode, where you could start from scratch and create a performer to battle it out with the likes of the Undertaker and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I quickly realised that I could build a proxy for myself in the game, by choosing the gender, size, skin tone and clothing of an in-game version of my 7 year old self. I lost hours choosing his attributes, moves and music and was hooked on the creative side to this mode. But this was only the start of a fascination for me which has grown and developed over the last 2 decades into something which has now seen me spend more time in the create a wrestler modes for numerous wrestling titles, than I ever have actually wrestling in the ring with said creations.
WWF’s next game Attitude, greatly expanded on the basic fundamentals from their previous outing and this sucked me in as a child, where I spent countless hours in the game building characters and enjoying every second of it. But it’s not only me. Creators of these games soon came to realise how popular these modes were becoming and future iterations of create a wrestler were refined and expanded adding ever new ways to personalise and customise your fighter, giving fat little wrestling fans like me, the chance to, in an ever so slight way, put themselves into the boots of a real pro wrestling star.
Through the playstation 2 and Xbox era, the WWE games adding elements to the create a wrestler suite such as custom entrances and custom move sets which became staples of the mode for years to come, adding more depth and allowing my creativity to flow with the freedom that these new additions brought forth. By the time that 2K games took over and gaming hardware had dramatically improved in 2013, there was an awakening within myself, taking the idea of a created wrestler from something I did simply because I enjoyed it, into a place where I could open up my creative stride and create just about anything I could imagine.
Others have taken this idea even further, allowing whole online communities to pop up over the last decade, dedicated to creating some of the most weird and wonderful custom characters found in any gaming franchise. Based around the WWE 2K series, this means that for the most part, any wrestler, past or present, from any promotion around the world can be created by some arty genius out there, uploaded to the 2K server and shared with those who want to use said character in their game. The limits of what you can create these days are limited only by your own skills and imagination, meaning that in the year 2021 you can download and play out a match with the likes of Sonic the hedgehog, Barney the dinosaur and Homer Simpson, facing off against your favourite WWE superstars past and present.
All of this made possible, by the talented creatives behind the scenes working on these pro wrestling video games and the incredibly dedicated people who sit at home and pour their hearts and souls into making new characters for us all to enjoy.
FRED DURST / SMACKDOWN: JUST BRING IT (PS1)
But sometimes, you don’t even need a custom created wrestler to have some incredibly unusual match ups in a pro wrestling game. Over the years so many strange additions have been added to the rosters and I want to take a moment now to remember some of the truly weird ones, which now in the modern day, I look back and ask, were they really added to an officially licensed wrestling game?
No one man personifies the idea of a time-capsule, than Limp Bizkit’s frontman Fred Durst.
Even if you just look at a picture of the bad mother fucker from Jacksonville, you can smell the early 2000’s seeping out from every pixel. The backwards cap covering his died blonde tips. His over-the-top blingy necklace leads your eyes towards his stereotypical tattoo sleeves down to his constantly flipped middle finger. Even in the modern day as Fred Durst continues to flip the bird and appear sporadically in crowds at WWE shows. Nothing much has changed since Limp Bizkit’s short lived-run at the top of the pop charts 20 years ago.
Someone who has changed dramatically in that time. Is WWE’s Undertaker. A man who, during a character transition adopted Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin’ as his entrance theme, cementing his change from the dark-side to the ginger haired sporting, motorbike riding ‘American Badass’ Undertaker. Fred Durst was seemingly delighted to have his band’s music featured regularly alongside one of pro-wrestling’s most iconic stars.
However, there was one caveat added when it came to signing the contract that would give WWE the rights to the song. Fred Durst insisted that he appear in WWE’s upcoming video game, Smackdown: Just Bring it!
Not wanting to miss the opportunity to feature a culturally popular song in their wrestling shows, to his delight, WWE agreed and miraculously Fred Durst appeared in the game as an unlockable character.
Fred Durst became playable after successfully beating 15 enemies in ‘slobberknocker mode’ as the Undertaker. A mission which proved tricky to complete, especially for me as a young chubby boy.
Meaning WWE adhered to their agreement with Durst, without having to make him a focal point of their much-anticipated video game. All parties were pleased, especially when in the final build of the game, the developers at THQ put in extra effort to create a full entrance for Fred Durst, but also a tag-team featuring the singer and the Undertaker.
Fred Durst appeared for a second time in a WWE game, a year later as an unlockable character once again in WWF Raw for Xbox.
If you think that the idea of Limp Bizkit’s front man featuring in a match where he can theoretically defeat Stone Cold Steve Austin, is strange, then I must inform you, as is the case with most things pro-wrestling related – it only gets weirder from here.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter / WWF War Zone (PS1)
Another cross over between wrestling and video games occurred when Acclaim, the developers of WWF’s War Zone happened to be working on another game at the same time as the pro-wrestling title. In 1997 Acclaim had released Turok a revolutionary first-person dinosaur hunting game on Nintendo 64 which would immediately become a critical success and go on to be loved by many a gaming historian, regularly regarded as one of the best games on Nintendo’s legendary console. With the success of the first entry in the series, Acclaim pushed on towards its sequel and as the second Turok game was in development they worked simultaneously on WWF’s latest game. And saw a great potential for a marketing opportunity, designing and creating a Turok Dinosaur Hunter character which would be unlockable in WWF’s War Zone. Come the time of the final release of the game however, the bad-ass dinosaur slayer was no-where to found in the unlockable section and fans were non-the-wiser to his inclusion. As people in the time since have accessed the code of the game through a game shark, the files for this mysteriously excluded character still existed and it is now possible to unlock Turok in the game, pitting him against WWF’s finest in what will surely go down as one of the most niche cross over gaming moments of all time.
Godfather's Hos (WWF WrestleMania 2000, WWF No Mercy)
WWE in the late ‘90s was a smutty mix of scantily clad women and seedy story-lines thrown on top of one of the hottest and most defining era’s in all of sports-entertainment. The Attitude era in WWE was just that and the officially licensed video games that came out during this period and the years that followed were no different. The WWE’s Godfather character – a literal pimp was indicative of the mood in the entertainment world at the time. And with this colourful waistcoat wearing, cigar smoking giant was added into the Wrestlemania 2000 and No Mercy video games, it was only natural that his ‘Hoes’ would come with him, as they would in real-life regularly accompanying Godfather to the ring before his matches.
Four versions of a playable character known only as ‘HO’ were created and built into the Wrestlemania 2000’s gaming code but were never officially released as unlockable characters. However, like with the previous entry on this list, frisky 14-year-old boys worked out a simple way to unlock the barely dressed, streetwalkers as full playable wrestlers. For WWF No Mercy’s release a little while later, the developers had seen how this practise of objectifying women, especially in a game played by children – was becoming a thing of the past.
So, with one last hurrah! The game’s developers included one of Godfather’s companions in the game, but at an absurdly high price. To unlock the prostitute character in No Mercy, you’d have to play through an ungodly amount of story mode and survival mode matches and rack up an enormous amount of in game currency, before heading to the No Mercy shop and passing over industry icons such as Cactus Jack & Ken Shamrock who were also unlockable character, deciding not to unlock them and instead spending all of that long-earned cash on a singular, solitary ‘HO’. The most expensive player in the game – I think its clear, developers knew exactly what lengths 11 year old me would go through, in the hopes of a glimpse at a bit of pixelated tit.
Sue & Pamela, The Ring Girls (WWF War Zone)
If you’ve played through the Season Mode of WWF War Zone, you will no doubt proudly remember the feeling you got when you received a title belt after a hard-fought match during the game. And, if you are a complete saddo like me, you may even remember the character of Sue. A sultry polygon of an addition to the War Zone game, who would hand your character the belt when you won a match. No, you don’t remember her? How dare you push such a beauty to the back of your mind. My first love, Sue. A woman who’s name would be more fitting for a friendly middle-aged neighbour, was available in the create-a-wrestler section of the game with no real explanation – whom, for some unknowable reason was assigned Bret Hitman Hart’s move set. Any answers for the reasoning on this one, maybe the excellence of execution is watching this video, Hitman, please I must know - write your answers on the back of a post card and send it to my PO Box.
Wrestling games have always supplied me with countless years of joy and entertainment. I don’t think I will ever get bored of exploring old classics and more recent instalments in the world of pro-wrestling video games. Next time, I will talk about more characters including a cyborg sent from the future to destroy the wrestling world and a sentient stained-glass window who dreams of making under the bright lights of the squared circle.
When I was growing up, the battle for supremacy for dominancy at the top of the pro-wrestling world was raging between the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. And to me as a plum faced 10-year old was enthralled. Drawn in by the unscripted, anything-could-happen feel of the shows, the edgy presentation with it’s metal music and late ‘90s graphics. The only thing I love to do as much as watch WCW or WWF at time, was playing video games. So, as you can imagine, the pull of pro-wrestling related video games, even to this day, is incredibly strong for me.
Joe Bruiser (WCW Vs. NWo: World Tour)
Most sports have performers who become iconic. An athlete whose skill, determination and sometimes personality stand above the rest, leaving a legacy that remains for decades after they finish competing. Once in a generation, one of those sports-people will ascend beyond the realms of their chosen competition and become world-renowned inserting themselves in the history books of pop-culture.Not many sporting icons can ascend to the level of one Muhammad Ali. A man whose face is instantly recognisable around the globe, Ali became a house-hold name in the 1960s with his unrivalled boxing ability for the time and a silver tongue which media outlets globally couldn’t get enough of. A man who won’t soon be forgotten.So you’d think Muhammad Ali’s cross-over introduction into WCW Vs NWO: World Tour video game, fans would be delighted. So, why weren’t they?
Well for one, the Nintendo 64 game became well-known for it’s revolutionary more fluid combat style with a focus on a more advanced grappling system, taking a step away from the button mashing madness of earlier wrestling titles – when Muhammad Ali’s likeness was added to the game, his move-set consisted of precisely zero actually wrestling moves, and as you’d expect from one of the greatest boxers of all time, used mainly punches and shoulder barges in matches – going against everything that fans seemingly loved about WCW vs NOW World Tour. The second reason as to why the addition of Muhammad Ali into a wrestling game was so poorly received is easier to show you than to tell you. The eagle eyed of you may have noticed the name bar indicating your selected character in the footage displayed in this video. And realised that WCW didn’t have the rights to use the official likeness of the great one. So as their rip off version floated like a moth and stung like a wasp, the similarities with the real life Muhammad Ali were abundant. Who the fuck is Joe Bruiser?
The Terminator (WWE 2K16)
Quick! Your favourite game is about to be released and it’s predicted to sell out! I hope you pre-ordered the game? Your local game shop will only have a limited supply – what if they’re all gone when you get there? What, I can just download the game digitally and there is a zero percent chance that I won’t be able to get the game as soon as I want?
Nah forget that – I want to give my money to a huge gaming corporation before their new game has been reviewed or even finished. I love giving my hard-earned money through pre-orders to these monolithic billionaires who regularly deliver games with enormous game-breaking bugs on day one and seemingly couldn’t give a fuck. I love that. How else would I have gained access to The Terminator pre-order bonus in WWE 2K16. How will 2K survive without my money!
As you can probably tell, I think the idea of pre-orders are an idea as in the past as legendary sci-fi action romp The Terminator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1984. One of the most unusual inclusions into the world of pro-wrestling, T-800 a futuristic cyborg assassin makes his way to the ring accompanied by the legendary film theme from Terminator and even has both variants of Arnie from the first film and Terminator 2 Judgement Day.
This cross dimensional world ender hasn’t been included in any wrestling game since and has seemingly travelled across time to parts unknown. If only The Terminator would take the idea of fucking pre-orders with him.
Andy Kaufman: Legends Of Wrestling
The self-proclaimed ‘Inter-gender champion of the world’ was featured in a much-forgotten gem of a pro-wrestling game. The comedy legend Andy Kaufman was featured as part of the roster in Legends of Wrestling. A video game that aimed to do things differently from the rest of the crowd at the time.
And with Kaufman’s larger than life personality and unusual approach to comedy, he was seemingly a great fit. Andy Kaufamn after-all, had made a name for himself amongst grappling fans when he featured in multiple segments opposite iconic Memphis wrestler Jerry The King Lawler as well as several smaller female wrestling stars earning his character a reputation as a fearsome woman beating bad guy.
Tony: WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2009
So, from one wrestling icon to another. Andy Kaufman And Jerry Lawler are both well renowned amongst wrestling and entertainment historians, but neither can hold a light to the industry changing performer who needs little introduction. His theme tune rings out with cries of world-life and berrrappadooo. His muscular physique could be considered the ‘proto-type’ for current wrestling performers earning victories with his thug-life attitude, 5 knuckle shuffle and F-U finisher. I’m sure most of you know who I’m talking about.
Tony. Fucking Tony.
In WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2009, during the road to Wrestlemania mode a character is included in the story who has since been recognised as a friend of John Cena. When the developers came to add Anthony into the code – they slapped the military fatigue clad army soldier with all of John Cena’s moves and personality. And still to this day, I don’t know why.
Movie stars and celebrity athletes aren’t the only ones to have been computerized, pixelated and imported into pro-wrestling video games over the years. When you eventually get bored of playing as your childhood heroes in epic battles to determine the fate of the pro-wrestling universe.
Once you’ve had your fill changing the grappling landscape in brutal matches between athletes of the past and flippin’ assassin robots from the future. Just when you think that pro-wrestling games couldn’t possibly get any more mind-blowing and exciting. You blow the dust off of the cartridge and plug in your copy of WWF No Mercy for Nintendo 64.
Your thumbs lead you across the character screen and you stop in your tracks when you are faced with the most important performer of all time and somehow you just know, this will be the only person you ever need to play with in a wrestling game ever again.
It’s Michael Cole, I can’t even joke. It’s so shit.
The Announce Team (WWF No Mercy)
Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dwayne The Rock Johnson and The Undertaker. Are all wrestling legends that you’d have to skip over before deciding to play with this wimpy, skinny, double denim wearing, blonde tips toting, knacker goatee sporting wanker.
Maybe people liked to just get beaten up by real wrestlers playing as Michael Cole. A man who has spent decades screeching his regurgitated buzzwords over the top of almost all of WWE’s broadcast. Michael Cole. A man who has been positioned as the mouth-piece for Vince McMahon ruining historic moments in pro-wrestling history with his marketing and rhetoric. Michael Cole. A man whose total sum of in-ring action consists of nothing more than light-hearted joke matches, like this one at Wrestlemania against Jerry Lawler, and getting severely beaten by proper athletes.
Why wouldn’t you want to play as this guy.
But Michael Cole in a Canadian Tuxedo isn’t where the fun stops for all you lovers of the larger-than-life characters of pro-wrestling and video games.
Who is more muscle clad and physically imposing than an overweight ring announcer who (rightfully so) is considered a legend in the squared circle, for his voice and personality more than his physical acumen?
A balding middle aged man in a suit is exactly the type of character I wanted to play with as a 10 year old. So you can imagine my delight to see not only Michael Cole included in WWF No Mercy, but the entire announce team. Howard Finkel, the man who’s known to 90s wrestling fans as the voice of so many iconic ring entrances.
Whether running down the rules for that years’ Royal Rumble or announcing your favourite wrestler’s entrance to the ring. Howard Finkel should have let his voice do the talking because his chubby little fists were never going to get the job done.
One man who could – a legend from the wrestling scene in the ‘70s and ‘80s – was Jerry The King Lawler. Whos inclusion into the game made much more sense than the rest of the WWF announcers and commentators. At least Lawler had a long history of battling between the ropes and years of knowledge of how to perform in a match. The King’s Piledriver is iconic and was even featured WWF No Mercy.
But that is where the logic stops. Jerry Lawler was a wrestler; it’d be fun to win matches with an older legend. It might even be fun to play as someone really tough and absolutely destroy ratty knacker Michael Cole or the silver-tongued Howard Finkel. But can you think of a reason as to why anyone would want to play as an obese southerner in a cowboy hat with barbecue sauce around his mouth.
JR Jim Ross. One of the best commentators in the history of the business was born to bring excitement and insider knowledge to pro-wrestling, with his unique brand of excitement and charm.
Just think of the sick individual who would choose to face off against this defenceless older gentleman, with less than no pro-wrestling training. Subjecting JR to punishment in the ring as he attempts to use such devastating moves in his arsenal such as the falling ankle twist the dragon screw.
Look I’m not going to judge you if you admit to wanting to see good ole JR get a whoopin’ in a classic slobber knocker of a match. I won’t even judge you for making the Oklahoma icon take off his classic cowboy hat as he bumbles to the ring. But just remember that this poor bloke has the muscle paralysing disability Bell’s Palsy. You sick fucks.
Vince Russo: WCW Backstage Assault
If you really are in the mood for a one-sided beat down. Looking to satiate your lust for the destruction of the weak and undefended. Then may I try and save the soul of Jim Ross and persuade you to boot up WCW Backstage Assault.
Another ‘90s classic video game which (as its name suggests) aimed to put the focus on action occurring backstage in a more hard-core, unscripted form of violence that was so beloved by rabid fans of the era.
And as I implore you to have mercy on poor old JR, I present you with an option which many wrestling fans would agree with.
Let me tell you something.
As much as the extreme violence and sexual titillation of the late 90s in pro-wrestling has become somewhat a thing of the past, something which certainly hasn’t aged well. So, the same can be said for former WWE magazine editor and pro-wrestling executive producer Vince Russo.
His inclusion in WCW Backstage Assault goes a long way in explaining the way in which pro-wrestling was being presented in the ‘90s.
WWF had Vince McMahon acting as the boss from hell, featuring on every show the company put out at the time, as a foil for the fan favourite heroes. Vince Russo had a similar role in their competitors WCW, garnering hatred and boos from fans who wanted to see their beloved good guys win, only to be thwarted by Russo every week.
At the time, people online discussed how successful Russo was at acting like a self-important know-it-all, who thought he was too good for the fans, people considered him a genius for his role in the attitude era in WWF and the success of pro-wrestling at the time.
It turns out, he was just a bit of a cock.
No wonder it’s so much fun to kick the shit out of him.
Everyone And Everything In WCW/nWo Thunder "The Wackies"
This journey into the strange and wonderful world of professional wrestling games had led us down a path of nostalgia and absurdity. Some of the characters covered are wrestling icons, who have been fun to relive classic matches with and to create dream matches that never happened in real life. Andre the giant kicking the piss out of poor middle-aged Howard Finkel. That’s just great wholesome family fun.
Seeing stars of the silver screen battle your favourite inter-gender comedian – it just makes sense. Even throwing in legends of sporting history has its merits, maybe some people do like to imagine a fight between the world’s best boxer and the world’s best pro-wrestler, in a weird distantly connected way – we have MMA today. Most have been happy experiences and enjoyable to play with if not a little bizarre.
And I hope that this video is able to encourage some of you to go back and relive some happy memories from he past, slot in that old game cartridge and experience some of this weird and whacky stuff for yourself.
This next section however, comes with a warning on the side of the box. A message which explains that the characters that we’ve decided end on are certainly not a case of saving the best till last. These mysterious and forgotten characters defy all logic and this section is intended more as a cry for help from me. Please can you help me. Please help me understand why? Why? Why?
Lou Bega delivered his version of Mambo Number 5 in 1999. Dinosaurs the TV show aired until 1994. I was born in 1991. The point I’m trying to make is that some things made in the 90s are just a bit shit.
Some things that were conceived in this era of exuberance however go way beyond just a little bit naff and strange. Pro-wrestling at this time was racing forward in a direction never before trodden for those in the squared circle and with it the video games which were licensed by the big companies at the time were also taking huge leaps forward (and sometimes sideways) not just in terms of the gaming hardware available at the time, or the graphics – but in the way in which they pushed the boundaries for what was considered possible for a pro-wrestling video game.
The games which covered WWF’s biggest competitor WCW, as previously mentioned were beloved gems of this bygone era.
Developers from Islander Productions/THQ and AKI games had put together a series of games for the Nintendo 64 which have gone down in infamy for some of the most barmy and expressive forms of pro-wrestling ever put into pixelated form. Aside from the induction of an incredibly deep create-a-wrestler suite, especially for its time and several match types which had never been played on console before – you had the roster, this fucking roster.
WCW/nWo Thunder & Revenge.
Staff:. “Dudeman, Chickenboy, 5 O Clock Tony, Zoomie, Sleep Dep Ed, Wrestling Matt, Reanimator, Cobra, Veal, Uncle Monkey, Stingray, Goochie, Dynamite Johnny, Benji, Cobra, Devastating Dorizas, Jamie The Learned, And who could forget, my persona favourite character to chose in this game. John.
But the insanity hasn’t even started – let me introduce you to: Zuit Suit a pimp in a bright yellow suit with a magnificent feathered fedora.
A wireframe character model known simply as Wire Frame.
The developers chucked in a load of animals to batter around the ring too. A starfish. Just a massive starfish. Oh and a pig. Called Sargeant. A praying mantis and Hoof-Hearted a friendly looking horse. And a gorilla called guerrilla. And an ant called Adam. Not to milk this point, but there was also a cow called Bessie.
A Native American chief. Called Indian.. A man in a scuba costume with the coolest name ever – Crush Depth. It’s starting to get weird isn’t it? An astronaut made it into the code.
Short Circuit a PC monitor for a head and a CD case for a torso. Yep throw that in there. His mortal enemy the aptly named Robot 1. A robot. Chrome Dome another metaling monster in the ring I’m sure. And The tin man from Wizard of Oz called Bobby, fuck knows why.
There was Squire, a medieval warrior clad in a harness of chainmail and steel.
Snuff the skeleton. Not a man in a skeleton outfit. An animated pile of bones with a disconcerting grin. A cowboy, obviously. A sailor called sailor.
Arge & Barge. A two-headed cyclops beast. How could you leave them out?
Tiffany Pane. Half Tiffany. Half Pane. A literal stained glass window in humanoid fighting form.
And for me, the cherry on the top of this heart-attack inducing cake is this.
CELEBRITY DEATH MATCH
If you find yourself more interested in the celebrity side of these pro wrestling videos games and less concerned with the classic elements of a pro wrestling match, then you may want to check out Celebrity Death Match the video game.
Taken from the short lived MTV television series of the same name, Celebrity Death match featured as the name very well suggests, celebrities fighting it out in deathmatches.
A simple concept, presented in clay-mation style, which serves as a reminder that even if you think you are the biggest A lister in the world and manage to get onto a programme which specifically aims to use your celebrity name in order to promote itself, in a little over a few years, most likely you will be irrelevant if not completely forgotten.
The roster from Celebrity Deathmatch the game is packed full of has beens and those who are sadly still trying to cling to their 15 minutes of fame more than 2 decades later, which to me adds to the already sadistic nature derived from enjoying the visuals of seeing these desperate celebs getting their bodies mutilated in an over-the-top fashion. Cindy Margolis, do you remember her? I certainly hadn’t heard of her when I played the game back at its release in 2003. Okay, an easier one. What about Youree Dell Harris, aka Miss Cleo. No, I haven’t got a clue who she is either. Alright, it’s easy to pick on the really Z list celebs, here’s one we will all remember fondly. Shannen Doherty. Remember her and her illustrious career? You see my point. It’s all just hilarious to me, the idea of celebrity worship culture and the ever turning wheel of time crushing these poor people. That feeling is summed up perfectly in Celebrity Deathmatch.
The game is developed by Big Ape productions, the same master craftsmen who brought us the other worst wrestling game of all time in Simpsons Wrestling. And this game suffers from all the same downfalls that the Simpsons game did. It all feels massively rushed and unpolished with more on an enphasis on the celebrity aspect of the game rather than the deathmatch.
If you go on Youtube and search for it, you can find all of the better parts of the game. The voice work is awkward in part due to the lack of skill by the celebrities and the impressionists who worked on the game, the humour is dated and feels like the low brow jokes which are the worst part of this era. And the commentary team does it’s best to hold the whole thing together. But remember, those are what I considered the better parts of the game and they are still all pretty terrible.
The worst parts are the cheap graphics which often times mean the screen feels incredibly empty with little going on, but completely crowded and impossible to see what’s happening when any action takes place. The combat is entirely clunky, unresponsive and deeply unsatisfying. I bought an old copy in order to review it for this video and I must say that I haven’t regretted a purchase more in a long time.
If you like watching celebrities getting their heads cut off in inventive and sometimes funny ways then check out the MTV celebrity deathmatch show, it’s creators clearly put a lot of artistry and love into making those clay animations and it feels like a great trip down memory lane for those who watched it at the time.
But if you want a wrestling game, look elsewhere. Celebrity Deathmatch the game is barely passable as a video game let alone a wrestling one and as you play it you will feel more and more like you are wasting your life on something which was never made with any care and attention, but yet another example of a licensed video game which looks simply to feed off the popularity of it’s far superior origins.
WRESTLING GAMES IN JAPAN
Popular culture in Japan is very different from that seen in the West. So it only stands to reason that although pro wrestling is just as popular in Asia as it is in Europe of the United States, things will be a little different. Although there have been many performers who have been successful in both New Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Noah, Dragon Gate or All Japan and then made a name for themselves in the West, there is no doubt that pro wrestling on our side of the world is far removed from what the Japanese know and enjoy as Puroresu.
And, if we extrapolate that further, we can see these similarities and differences translate to the video games which are released in different parts of the world.
In Japan, there is a huge focus on the realism of combat in pro wrestling, with strong style matches based around hard hitting action and technical mastery, often shying away from the grandeur and over the top characters seen in WWE and AEW in favour for a simpler, more grapple focused form of our beloved entertainment.
1983 saw the release of Tag Team wrestling in arcades across Japan, the very first pro wrestling related video game, which, looking back is basic in its simplicity, but nonetheless laid the groundwork for every future title to follow.
Pro Wrestling Nintendo Entertainment System 1986
The Nintendo entertainment system was the host to some excellent early wrestling video games, with Pro Wrestling for NES from 1986 being the stand out.
For someone who was born 5 years after its release and who didn’t play it until later in life, there is oddly something so nostalgic about the way this classic Japanese game feels. The bright pixel sprites, the happy music and the presentation of the ring let you know that this game was from the 80s before you even pick up the controller.
But what I was most fond of was the clear attempt to rip off real world wrestlers without having to pay a licensing fee. With the blonde haired King Slender a close representation of Ric Flair and Giant Panther and his yellow trunks a clear nod to Hulk Hogan. Fighter Hayabusa and his square jaw seems like Antonio Inoki, with Great Puma an obvious ode to Tiger Mask, King Corn Karn is the notorious Killer Khan in looks but mainly his name and everybodies favourite pick, and mine to play with was always Star Man who many believe is meant to represent Mil Mascaras.
Wrestling Kingdom 1 & 2
Both Wrestle Kingdom 1 and 2 are games which only released in Japan, and I am sad that they did. I never got a chance to play either title as a child and only recently managed to get my hands on a copy from the early 2000s.
Both games were developed by Yukes and were based off of a modified version of the engine which powers the WWE Day Of Reckoning series which released on Gamecube in the west, one of my personal favourite games of all time.
Those of you who have played the classic Day Of Reckoning games will be aware how different they feel from the other games from WWE at the time and Wrestle Kingdom 1 and 2 take it a step further.
With a slower, more methodical approach to fighting and a more realistic approach to presentation. The matches centre around going after a body part and attempting to fill up your momentum bar before delivering a special or finishing move, which feels both satisfying and exhilarating as you weigh up your options and learn how to best take down varying opponent types.
For me these games have aged like a fine wine, with the story mode featured, known as Drama mode, one of the most captivating in any game in this video. You start out by creating your own character and then take them on a journey from young upstart, through All Japan, NOAH and New Japan’s rosters and onto the finals of the G1 Climax, on the way learning new moves from your trainers and improving your stats, more like a classic JRPG.
The graphics still hold up today and the rosters are vast, including many legends from both Japan and around the world, allowing for hours of excellent dream match potential. The disc can be hard to come by these days, especially outside of Asia and you’ll need a translator to make it through unless you speak fluent Japanese, but when I say that all the effort is worth it, you’ve got to believe me and give this game a go.
Fire Pro World
Fire Pro World can trace it’s lineage back to the first game in the franchise from 1989. And the creators of the series have always taken a different approach to any other pro wrestling game. Its top down view of matches and simple sprites mean that for a modern game, it doesn’t match up to the likes of the 2K series in terms of graphics or physics.
What this game does offer however is freedom. Fire Pro World Is simply the most customisable pro wrestling game ever made. Huge communities have grown not only in Japan but around the world, dedicated to creating new content and modifying the game in a way that isn’t matched anywhere else. From custom ring attires, styles and looks for the wrestlers in the game, to the ability to start from scratch and create brand new wrestling moves, the creative room you have in this series is phenomenal.
The gameplay itself is also engaging, focused on trying to deliver the best possible match for the fans, something which makes the series feel more like you are in the role of a sports entertainer than almost any other rival release. Most long time fans of wrestling games would have dipped their toe into the vast ocean of content that Fire Pro has to offer, but if you haven’t then I couldn’t recommend this series highly enough.
There are dozens of other games which I could have included in this list, but have never had a chance to play myselt. Kinnikuman the beloved wrestling anime had a number of spin-off titles. Cutie Sazuki had her own all womens wrestling game. And of course Virtual Pro Wrestling, which many consider to be the best pro wrestling game of all time, sadly I’m still to play this classic, but one day, when I do, I will bore you with my experiences and opinions on it.
BACK YARD WRESTLING
In the era of Tony Hawks pro skater, Jerry Springer and Jackass spear-heading the rise of counterculture for young teens around the world in the late 90s. We saw the pro wrestling industry respond with the attitude era.
For those pro wrestling fans whose appetite for the extreme was still not satisfied, a hardcore offshoot began to emerge, full of extreme violence, stupidity, and humour, known as back yard wrestling.
An extremely budget and even more low brow form of wrestling, with little in the way of rules, presentation or indeed limits, exploded in popularity and began to gather momentum amongst youngsters in the US.
Taking pro wrestling and turning the dial to 11, backyard wrestling featured more violence, more weaponry and more nudity than even the most hardcore of its contemporaries, often times seeing untrained performers battling it out in unregulated and ungoverned spectacles, which rode the line between a wrestling match and a car crash.
With the popularity of backyard wrestling at an all-time high as we entered the new millennium. In 2003, Paradox Development and Eidos Interactive created Backyard Wrestling: Don’t Try This At Home for the Xbox and PlayStation 2 to mixed reviews.
The game revolves around a talk show homage to Jerry Springer called Today’s Topic, which sees various members of the backyard wrestling scene interviewed before being entered into several ludicrous arenas of combat.
You can take your chosen wrestler into war surrounded by cars in a parking lot and truck stop, surrounded by hanging meat in a slaughterhouse or women who are treated like meat inside of a strip club. The roster consisted of a mix of real life backyard wrestlers, some made up for the games release and even some names from bigger promotions such as hardcore deathmatch icon Sabu.
A year later, Eidos and Paradox created a sequel where they tightened up the controls, improved the graphics and added more interactivity to foreign objects and backgrounds during matches.
Back Yard Wrestling 2 There Goes The Neighbourhood had an expanded roster which features more of the Insane Clown Posse, New Jack, Vampiro and The Sandman as well as some porn stars and even some indie wrestlers such as Sonjay Dutt, Ruckus and Vic Grimes.
The graphics are fairly smooth and the action although fairly repetitive, does offer a great alternative to the less violent and ridiculous simulation type games that are released in the modern era. There is so much packed into these 2 titles, that going back and playing them all these years later was satisfying and very reminiscent of a by-gone era, even if only for a brief couple of hours.
Playing through these 2 games was a real hit of late 90s and early 2000s nostalgia, which heavily relied on all the tropes present in mainstream media at the time. Dick jokes, violence, nudity and a post punk attitude seep through every orifice. Now, it’s in no means a great game, but for a blast from the past filled with over the top action, boobs and blood, you can’t go far wrong with this often-forgotten slice of wrestling video game history.
Kids are dumb. They don’t know anything about the world around them and have no discernible taste in music, art or entertainment. I am still dumb. But when I was a child, I was even more so. That’s why, back in the day, I loved nothing more than to sit down by the TV and turn on my PlayStation 1, load up the Simpsons Wrestling disc and play for hours, whilst thinking to myself that life couldn’t possibly get any better. Like I said. Kids are dumb.
As I revisit this much talked about game, developed by Big Ape Productions and released in 2001, I felt a sense of horror wash over me. Did I really enjoy this broken, ugly mess so much when I was younger?
Did I really spend hours performing the same moves repeatedly whilst the characters on screen repeat the same 4 or 5 voice lines again and again? Did I really think the whole premise was funny and entertaining? Because I can say with the utmost certainty, that The Simpsons Wrestling game feels like one of the laziest cash grab games to ever come out of the murky world of licensed TV crossovers.
As soon as you load up the disc the whole event just feels off. I understand the lesser capabilities of the original PlayStation console but going from watching an episode of the Simpsons from 2001, to playing this game from the same year, feels like the developers hadn’t ever watched the show and merely heard about it through pop culture osmosis. It’s a nice touch that the real voice actors were used to perform the pre match taunts and victory poses, but their compressed audio files and repetitiveness wears thin after a match or two, It just doesn’t feel like an episode of the Simpsons in any measurable way.
The games graphics are horrendous to look at, with simultaneously washed-out colours and over-saturated parts. The camera is awkward, and the entire presentation just feels so unfinished and rough around the edges.
The 2D Simpsons artworks have proven notoriously difficult to render in a 3D space for animators over the years, but there must have been a better way. What we are left with is a cell-shaded mess, with the confining lines which define each character’s shape flickering in and out, off and on, especially when you attempt something as outrageous in a wrestling game as say, try to wrestle.
The hit detection is atrocious, with wild misses causing your opponent damage and clear connections going completely unrecognised. It’s clear that this game cannot handle anything more taxing than a simple set of kicks and punches, with very little in terms of actual wrestling in the entire game.
Each character is given a basic set of attacks and then via a convoluted combination of health metere, momentum bar and collectibles in the ring, they are afforded a chance at what is supposed to be a devastating finishing move, Lisa gets her saxophone, Bart a skateboard, Groundskeeper Willie a rake and so on. However, the only thing devastating about these attacks is how you feel after 5 minutes of non-sensical and frustrating button mashing attempting to unlock them, only for them to miss due to terrible collision detection or to hit but cause almost no damage to the opponent.
If you like the Simpsons, watch the Simpsons. If you like wrestling games, play one of the hundreds out there which are better than this. Because The Simpsons Wrestling game is so much worse than the sum of it’s parts, even with the nostalgia factor attached I couldn’t recommend anyone to go back and play this. You’ve been warned.
WWE TRADING CARD GAME
Another staple of my childhood was trading card games. Whether it was taking time out to head to the local comic book shop with my saved-up pocket money to buy a booster pack of Pokémon cards or building my best deck to go head to head with my cousins and friends with my Yu-Gi-Oh cards, there is something so engrossing about slamming a physical shiny card down on the table and hearing your mates let out an audible oooooh sound.
My research uncovered the following: “Playing cards may have been invented during the Tang dynasty around the 9th century AD as a result of the usage of woodblock printing technology.” And how far we have come from those simple card games, through parlour games and poker tournaments to today, where so many companies have a version of what they call a trading card game, which features absolutely no physical cards at all. EA’s FIFA Ultimate Team has earned the company billions in revenue through online gambling and pay to win mechanics aimed primarily at children, something which has been the hot topic of debate in governments around the world since it’s initial release back in 2009.
WWE has their own version, via an app on mobile, which allows you to collect Super cards to level up and face off against millions of players around the world. You unlock packs, the same way you would buy a pack in a shop, and it even features an unwrapping animation to really try to give you that same exciting experience you felt as a kid, hoping as the foil was removed that you’d uncover a rare card to add to your collection.
The problem for me is that you don’t receive any cards, you never get to add them to your collection and after you have spent your money, or in the case of many children their parents money, you are left with nothing but animated pixels on a screen which could become completely useless when the app is updated or the game no longer exists.
Ultimately, physical trading card games are fun ways to play with friends and sink time into as a kid but inevitably pointless, as are most games you play. However, there is a whole new level of pointless in my opinion, in paying for and collecting something which you never even really own.
These types of games are usually designed around a few core principles which aims to draw as much time from it’s userbase as possible, in the hopes that some players will get hooked on the gameplay loop and eventually tire of the mechanics, leading them to purchase currency within the game via real world money.
These tactics include having incredibly small drop rates for cards which are the most sought after, continually suppling players with duplicate cards as rewards and making the progression through the game as tedious as possible, all the while serving screen after screen of ads which promote the idea that you can unlock all of your dream cards with just a small amount of in-game currency.
The games survive by targeting those who are more susceptible to the fear of missing out and those who game developers refer to as whales.
A player who will sink sometimes thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars into a game, simply to acquire a certain card.
Sometimes these whales are wealthy individuals who have the right to waste their money in anyway they see fit, but often they are people with addictive personalities and less self-control, leading to a circle of debt and remorse for those who spend money they cannot spare on something so trivial.
Real world trading card games use these exact same tactics, but at the very least you are left with a physical copy of the mass-produced and often low quality cards you paid for, with WWE Super card and all other online trading card games, all you are left with is a sore wallet and often times a huge sense of regret.
WWE has never been one to shy away from shady and unethical business practises, targeting children in order to maximise revenue, but these trading card games are some of the worst in the genre and I simply wish they didn’t exist.
WWE 2K14 GLITCHES
Like many, during my teens I took a hiatus away from being a full-time pro wrestling fan and didn’t interact with the wider wrestling world much at all. By the time I had returned to my fandom in 2014, the entire business had changed. And along with it, the wrestling games which I had loved so much in my younger years.
Naturally, after catching up on all the amazing matches and entertaining shows I had missed over the few years away, my next logical step was to jump right back into the video games.
So, I purchased a copy of WWE 2K14 and was just as impressed with the improvements and evolution of the game as I had been with the dramatic changes seen on my television.
Improved graphics, incredible physics engines which helped to make matches feel more life-like, a presentation which was a much closer resemblance to WWE programming and once again I was completely sucked in.
I was unfamiliar with much of the roster at the time and I had such a fun time playing as wrestlers who I knew little about, their likenesses seemed so realistic, their entrances so vivid, I felt like I was falling in love with this niche part of the video game landscape all over again and found myself playing for hours on end.
And then I started to notice a few things which at first confused me, but, as I kept playing, those things began to happen more often to the point where I was eagerly anticipating the next one.
I am talking about the glitches. Something which all modern games seem to suffer from, often times just small visual mistakes or the odd misplaced pixel here and there. But when it comes to wrestling games, and specifically the WWE 2K franchise, they take game bugs and glitches to a whole new level.
WWE 2K14 is riddled with some of the funniest and most entertaining moments in my entire history of playing these types of games. You find yourself immersed in a hotly contested battle of wits, planning out your next grapple and preparing for your next slam, when suddenly, this happens.
I found myself showing my friends and we would be rolling around with laughter, seeing all the strange and unusual things that would happen during a match. Never have I been so entertained my any form of media this unintentionally and I’m not sure if I ever will be again.
WWE 2K14 revolutionised the way in which I interacted with pro wrestling and brought me back to this genre with vigour, leading me on a path over the next 7 years which saw me pick up each annual title to enjoy some of the greatest pro wrestling games of all time.
But for me, my standout memory will always be the broken messes, the unexpected mistakes, and the laughter that this game brought to me for so many hours back then. At the time I remember wishing that the game would never get a patch, would never be fixed so that I could enjoy it forever, worried that by the time the next years game came out, all the bugs would have been removed and I’d lose something which I thought was so special. 2K games are an enormous company with billions of dollars to spend on hiring the best developers in the world, so surely, they would fix it. Wouldn’t they?
WWE 2K20 GLITCHES
When long time WWE game collaborators Yukes pulled out of the 2020 instalment of the game, it was left up to the 2K in-house design studios to fill the gap. One which was seemingly much more vast than they had expected.
When WWE 2K20 released it only took a number of hours before #FixWWE2K20 was trending globally and hundreds of videos were flooding onto YouTube showing the terrible state that the game had released in.
So often is the case that the so-called hive mind takes over when a gaming company puts out a sub-par game and many fans, some of which haven’t even played the game, jump on the hate filled bandwagon and drive reviews down after a release. I thought to myself, even after seeing all of these bugs and glitches on YouTube and twitter, surely people are overreacting, no game can possibly be as bad as those videos and tweets make out right?
So I hopped on my PC and bought a copy for myself. I love these games. I love the depth of the rosters, the various game modes and most importantly the always enjoyable creative suites. I’m sure I will come up against a small bug or two, buy nothing that will directly affect my enjoyment. Right? The game finished downloading and within 2 hours I was done. It crashed and crashed and crashed. The textures and lighting flickered in and out as did the audio files and music. The menu screens got stuck and appeared to load indefinitely. And when I did make it into a match it wasn’t humour that I found in the small visual bugs, but frustration in the terrible performance and game breaking glitches which littered every single moment of the experience. I opened up my emails and instantly chased a refund, which I received with little to no resistance.
I then let out a sigh of relief as I hadn’t just wasted £60 and moved on with my life, happy in the knowledge that the money grabbing 2K wouldn’t see a penny from me. I then proceeded to carry on with my love for pro wrestling in other ways and enjoyed many older titles on my Gamecube and Playstation 2. The initial buzz from just how bad the game release was died down and I forgot about the whole affair.
But then. It happened. The funniest glitch to me, occurred a few months after the games launch. Due to some seriously sloppy coding errors, when New Years Eve came and went at the end of 2019 and clocks on players PlayStation automatically rolled over into 2020 the game completely crashed. Users around the world were left frustrated as the 2K game couldn’t be played for more than a few minutes before the entire system would crash, closing the game and losing any unsaved data. It was annoying for sure, but there is something so hilarious to me that 2K rushed their game and failed so spectacularly that WWE 2K20 would completely break if you tried to play it in the year 2020.
The game was so poorly received by critics and fans alike, garnering so much anger from it’s playerbase that for the first time in 8 years 2K studios decided to completely scrap the following years installment and spend a full additional year that was needed in order to find and fix all of the games coding bugs.
Hopefully the release of WWE 2K21 will be the start of something new and exciting for the franchise and at the very least, be playable for those who have waited for the latest WWE game.
Hot off the heels of one of the most poorly received and low selling games in the entire WWE 2K franchise, the wrestling behemoth and 2K decided to try a different approach to their more realistic style of pro wrestling games and go back to a classic arcade feel, with fast-paced combat, simpler controls and a more streamlined roster.
This it turns out, was also a massive mistake.
Skipping their annual release and filling the gap with WWE Battlegrounds seemed like a smart business move on the surface. Build a game which is fun to play, incorporates a mixture of fan favourite and current roster superstars and simplify the whole process, giving the company time to focus on their mainline game whilst fans have something wrestling related to keep them occupied in the meantime.
Battlegrounds is indeed fun to play. For about 5 minutes. The co-op mode is an excellent addition which means you can play with your more casual friends in a more pick up and play fashion. The art style is rather charming and lends itself well to the more paired back nature of the game.
But unfortunately, that is about where the positives ended for me.
This game is cheaper. It costs less. And it feels less. The first thing I noticed was how the commentary team seem to randomly call out actions which aren’t happening at the time, there is a realism and excited feel to both the commentators, but when the audio clips play in all the wrong places, it throws you off from the very start of your first match.
Beyond that is an empty shell of a game which offers little to no replay ability and no reason to return after your initial moments with it.
The controls are simple enough that anyone can pick up a controller, grasp the basics and be slamming and jamming in no time. But that is also a problem, there is no depth to the gameplay which feels as if there are a small handful of archetypes in terms of character size, speed and move set which are simply copy and pasted across the entire cast of wrestlers.
You have brawlers, highflyers, technicians, powerhouses and all-rounders, each of which feels slightly different from one another initially, but after just a handful of matches you will see how each wrestler in this class is restricted to the same exact set of moves and wrestling style.
There is no reason to get better at the game, there is no reason to try anything more complex than the simple attacks and grapples as you won’t find anyone who wants to do the same. You’ll be left feeling as hollow as the game itself when the lack of depth hits home after an hour or so of playtime.
And if like me, you do want to give the game the benefit of the doubt, try to improve and get competitive over in the online mode, like me, you will be greeted with a world of frustration and some of the least engaging matches I’ve ever played in a wrestling title. The problem arises from the enormous window of opportunity each wrestler has to reverse their opponents’ attacks, something which for the casual player feels more fun, but up against tougher opponents online means you become entangled in a stalemate of reversal after reversal, which quickly becomes tedious.
But all of that is simply my opinion. Perhaps there is fun to be had in this game and it was simply lost on me. However, what is not lost on me and what is more a fact than opinion. Is that WWE Battlegrounds is packed to the brim with microtransactions. Bursting at the seams with in-game advertisements begging for your hard earned money at every step. Battle Bucks are earned through long grindy sessions of playtime whilst of course you can buy gold bucks with real world currency.
The game boasts a packed roster of 70 playable wrestlers, but you only have 24 to start with and the rest must either be earned through hours of monotonous matches, and daily trials or purchased out of wallet.
In all honesty, I respected 2K’s decision to take a break after the disaster of WWE 2K20 and applauded their decision to try something else. But in hindsight, from my own opinion, those of critics and sales numbers of the game, WWE Battleground just ends up feeling like another huge misstep, one which I wont be scrambling back to play anytime soon.
WWE YUKES & AEW
What the future holds for pro wrestling video games, only time will tell. 2K have recently been hyping up their newest WWE game which looks set to fix the majority of complaints which many held after playing the monstrosity which was WWE 2K20.
Though originally planned to release during its typical October window, 2K have since pushed back the release to March of 2022, which may be frustrating to those of you whole are chomping at the bit to get your teeth into their first outing on the new generation of consoles, but for many will be comforting in the knowledge that 2K are aware the project still needs time in the oven and are willing to delay the game until it is ready, rather than serve us another under cooked pile of shite.
Keith Lee, Karrion Kross, Nia Jax, Andrade, Ric Flair, Bray Wyatt, Tyler Breeze, Braun Strauman, Aleister Black and Buddy Murphy are amongst a list of around 100 wrestlers who were under contract with WWE when 2K started their face and body scanning process, but whom have now moved on to pastures new.
A huge part of the problem with WWE 2K20, was the departure of the Yukes creative team who have worked on these games for generations. The team have since created a partnership with All Elite Wrestling and are currently working on their first ever main line video game.
With their own approach to story telling and combat inside the ring, AEW will also surely want to have their own take on the wrestling game genre. Working with a company with so many years of experience can only stand them in good stead and hopefully this combination of youthful exuberance and battle hardened know how will prove a success.
Tony Khan, owner of AEW has insisted that he wants to make their first game as close to perfect as possible and isn’t willing to settle for second best, he has said that he is willing to wait for the game to be complete before its release and doesn’t want to rush things in order to avoid jeopardising what he considers the future of pro wrestling games.
Current AEW World champion and lifelong gamer Kenny Omega said he has had a large input on the game and it’s clear to see through his interviews that he is putting much of his spare time into working with the team at Yukes to produce the best possible experience for us fans. I for one, cannot wait to see what AEW and their new video game has in store for us all.
There are a whole host of other weird, strange, and unexplainable characters that have appeared over the course of pro-wrestling video game history. For every eye-brow raising, ass-whooping, in-ring general who you can play with on the road to pro-wrestling glory – there is a fat, ugly beast just waiting to rip your beloved title belt away from around your waist, so be careful out there.
I think that pro wrestling games are so popular because it resonates with a lot of fans, such as myself. This is for many reasons. They are often times simple to pick up and quickly enter into your first match, whilst also having deep mechanics which can take a lifetime to master, this depth means as you progress with your skills and understanding of the game, you can draw more enjoyment from attempting more complex moves and to put on ever increasingly exciting matches.
The games, for the most part are a lot of fun, not only for those of you who are life long wrestling fans, but also for a casual fan, or even someone with no interest in wrestling at all. You don’t need to know the complete history of ECW and its downfall, for example, to find picking up an inanimate object and beating your opponent into submission with it. This factor also means that it can be easier to persuade your non grappling fan friends to pick up a controller and have a great time playing in these games often expansive multiplayer modes.
The ridiculous nature of pro wrestling which is only exaggerated through the video game medium, alongside the hilarious glitches and sometimes captivating story modes, means that these games have become popular amongst gaming streamers and their viewers, which has in recent years, only served to increase their popularity. So many online gamers who had never touched a WWE product before wanted to jump on the bandwagon and make a video about how broken 2K20 was for example, because when something is as rubbish as that game, its fun for all of us to laugh at.
Like many fighting games, wrestling games allow fans to choose their favourite performers, sometimes ones who are no longer competing and even those who have passed away and put on dream shows with matches that feature whom they consider to be the greatest of all time. They allow us to finally see who would have won in a match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan, we can find out who would come out on top between AJ Styles and Shawn Michaels and more importantly get an answer to question nobody has ever asked, who is the better cow based wrestler Mauntaur or El Torito in the battle of the bovines.
The games most importantly allow us to live in the massive shoes of these legends and through the ever-deepening abilities of the create a wrestler modes, allows us in a small way to create ourselves within the game and experience briefly how we may fair when stepping into the ring against some of the industry’s biggest icons.
I don’t think I will ever stop playing these games, I’ve loved them from the moment I was old enough to play them and they have such a special place in my heart. A wave of nostalgia washes over me every time I think about firing up my old PS2 and playing through a career mode or simply relaxing and making some abomination in the creative suite. I constantly look forward to the evolution of pro wrestling games and am hotly anticipating what’s next in this weird, wonderful niche of video games which are rightly beloved by so many fans around the world.