Wrestling is weird. It really, really is. It’s a world where two men can fight it out on the biggest show of the year because one got to be in a Japanese shampoo commercial that the other really had his heart set on. It’s where a voodoo priest prepared for his fight with a neo-barbarian by making his forehead leak black fluid and magically forcing him to vomit. Two men once wrestled over the rights to having the letter “T” in their name. It’s a world where a man once spat green mist into a woman’s fully-clothed crotch, which caused her to give birth to a giant egg that hatched a world champion sumo wrestler. Lots of strange stuff.
On paper, wrestling video games should be side-stepping anything overly strange. You’re just getting the most simplistic version of what that reality portrays. A handful of guys in tights are beating each other up in a ring in order to become champion. You don’t need any kind of ridiculous storyline. “Your guy wants to be the champion,” is good enough and it’s worked for years. Sometimes the guys involved hate each other.
But every once in a while, you get a special moment in a video game that makes you tilt your head at the screen and raise an eyebrow. Strange story moments. In-game concepts that are just out there. Bizarre uses of certain names. Here are twenty-five instances that come to mind:
25. BRYAN CLARK: ALWAYS THE BRIDESMAID
WrestleMania: The Arcade Game was a kooky little thing where the wrestlers had off-the-wall super powers. Lex Luger could turn his arms into metal weapons, Undertaker could throw ghosts, Yokozuna would bleed fish, and so on. There were rumors that Adam Bomb (aka Bryan Clark) was in the game as a secret character, but nothing ever came of it. Random a name as he was, a radioactive bomb enthusiast would have been fun as hell in that game. Many years later, programmer Sal DiVita admitted that Adam Bomb was meant to be in the game, but was unfinished. A shame, but these things happen.
A few years later, AKI released WCW/nWo Revenge, which had an absolutely massive cast of blocky WCW wrestlers. Clark’s Wrath persona was meant to be in it, but they never finished him for whatever reason. Through Game Shark, fans have been able to unlock an unfinished version of the character. He has a complete move set and everything, but he’s also wearing Sting’s singlet and his chokeslam finisher lacks any kind of sound effect.
By the time Wrath got to appear in a video game, it was less playable stuff like WCW Mayhem.
24. JAILBREAKER BULLNOI’S ENDING
Fire Pro: Blazing Tornado was a sweet arcade game (and later Sega Saturn port) from the mid-90s with a cast of eight wrestlers. The most unique character was Jailbreaker Bullnoi, an amnesiac, massive, bearded, face-painted hillbilly with Dibert’s boss’ hair, overalls, and two iron balls hanging from his wrists. Like the other characters, he has his own specific ending based around him becoming the champion. While most of the others have very straightforward epilogues, the giant hillbilly’s is anything but.
Listening to the cheers of the crowd, Bullnoi finally remembers who he is. Two men in robes appear, claiming that they’ve been looking all over for him. It turns out Bullnoi is really some kind of religious and/or political leader who lost his memory and only through the power of wrestling is he able to remember. Wearing a robe, he appears before a massive crowd of followers and promises that their country has a bright future because they have the strongest man in the world looking out for them.
Dude was like the proto-Bray Wyatt.
23. TAG TEAM WRESTLING’S REPETITIVE NIGHTMARE
You think the WWE’s tag team division was bad with its constant Rhodes Brothers/Rybaxel matches a few months back? That’s nothing compared to NES’s Tag Team Wrestling. You play as the Ricky Fighters, Ricky and Ultramachine. Your opponents are two masked men called the Strong Bads,who later inspired years of amusing email-based internet cartoons. Each wrestler not only has a unique move set, but a unique move set against each opponent. All in all, it isn’t the worst game out there.
Except you only have one tag team to face. When you play, you earn three wins to get the American Tag Team Championship, then eight wins to get the European Tag Team Championship, fifteen wins for the World Tag Team Championship, twenty-five wins for the Super Tag Team Championship, and then a special trophy after that. Every. Single. Match. is Ricky Fighters vs. Strong Bads. You don’t even get to pick the Strong Bads. You’re stuck with the same team fighting the same opponents until the end of time and God forbid you lose a match or else you have to win a bunch more to get back to where you were.
22. IT’S KWANG FOR SOME REASON
The LJN WWF games had a lot of stuff that were too minor to include on the list. Like how WWF Royal Rumble didn’t have Hulk Hogan in it, yet the crowd was filled with fans dressed like him. Or how WWF Super WrestleMania was the most skeletal game I have ever seen outside of the Atari. Seriously, I have never felt such buyer’s remorse as I had when I got hyped into buying a wrestling game with no single-player mode, no special moves, and no variety in the move sets and stats. That’s barely even a demo, and they had the balls to release that as a finished product. I’ll never get over that.
The third game in the 16-bit LJN series was WWF Raw, which was also ported to the Sega 32X. This version had what I believe to be the very first hidden character in a wrestling game. His name was Kwang. Of all the possible wrestlers on the roster, they chose Kwang. For those of you who weren’t watching back then, Kwang was Savio Vega in a ninja gimmick where he walked to the ring wearing the same clothes as Ermac from Mortal Kombat.
During this gimmick, he didn’t have a single feud of note, nor did he do anything of interest. Yet while the Game Gear version of WWF Raw got Randy Savage and Crush as extra characters, 32X got…Kwang. It’s like if WWE 2K15 had a special pre-order deal where you got NXT’s Mojo Rawley.
Kwang didn’t even have his own moves, instead getting a cocktail of stolen attacks and finishers from other wrestlers, like the Jackknife Powerbomb. Maybe they expected Kwang to be a big deal and they put him in the game when all they had was a finished costume design.
21. RAW’S MEGA MOVES
Hitting the LJN well one more time, the wrestlers in WWF Raw each had a special extra piece of offense hidden in there. While you could just as easily finish off your opponent with a Sharpshooter or Tombstone, you also had the option of doing Mega Moves.
Mega Moves were special attacks that were over-the-top cartoony and broke the laws of physics, which made them look especially off in such a mundane, ho-hum game.
For instance, Razor Ramon can jump in the air, backflip in place four times, and then drop an elbow. Doink the Clown could punt you out of the ring. 1-2-3 Kid could hop from turnbuckle to turnbuckle and then follow with a senton. Due to a glitch, Luna Vachon could also do that move, only she’d transform into the 1-2-3 Kid with her color scheme.
You would think the Undertaker would have this amazing, badass Mega Move attack, but for some reason all he got was a running clothesline. Granted, it’s capable of knocking someone out of the ring if they’re close enough to the ropes, but it’s still lame.
20. SUICIDE: IN THE FLESH
To this day, I can’t decide if the decision to make Suicide a real TNA wrestler was really smart or really stupid (really stupid, but really smart for TNA?), but it’s certainly pretty out there. TNA Impact had a storyline in which a masked wrestler named Suicide became TNA Heavyweight Champion and was immediately jumped in the parking lot by LAX. He woke up a mutilated mess in Tijuana with no memory of who he was. The player would then use the create-a-wrestler function to give Suicide a new identity via plastic surgery and he’d rise up the ranks once again.
TNA decided to turn the pre-beating Suicide into a member of their roster and after a good bit of hype, they introduced him at the 2008 Final Resolution show, a few months after the release of the game. While he looked cool, he was still only based on a cipher, so it’s not like he was going to be featured in many intriguing storylines.
The gimmick has been used by various high-flyers on the TNA roster, though mostly Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. More recently, they changed his name to Manik, portrayed by TJ Perkins.
19. WWE BRAWL: THE GAME THAT NEVER WAS
A trailer for WWE Brawl appeared in 2011, promising a 2012 release. The game attempted to play more like Power Stone 2 than any WWE game, and embraced a more cartoony, superhero atmosphere in its designs. Big Show would have heavy battle armor. John Cena could do some kind of chain-based sorcery attack. It had a great look and really felt at peace with the goofy side of wrestling’s larger-than-life personalities.
Sadly, news of the game petered out and it was quietly cancelled. Back in 2013, artist Rich Lyons posted a bunch of concept art for the game on his blog, showing off the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ted Dibiase, Steve Austin, and a big-ass mech piloted by Mr. McMahon. The game looked insane, but apparently we can’t have nice things.
18. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU FORGOT THE RING?!
EA introduced the possibility of wrestlers duking it out in the backstage area in WCW Mayhem. No ropes or arena to worry about. Just you, your opponent, and anything you could pick up and hit them with. From then on, it was a regular fixture in most big wrestling games.
In a follow-up to Mayhem, Electronic Arts decided it would be easier to just focus on the backstage fighting. Hence, we got WCW Backstage Assault, the final WCW game released and one of the most head-scratching.
The game had no in-ring action. At all. Every single match took place somewhere in the building that wasn’t the arena, which probably meant it was a whole lot easier for the programmers to churn the game out when they didn’t have to worry about messing with top-rope attacks, pinning, and all the other stuff you’d expect from a wrestling game. Despite having some really good recorded commentary by Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan, it was panned.
17. WHO DO WE WANT?
WWF Attitude hasn’t aged well, but it did set the foundation for what wrestling games would become. While it had a massive roster, dwarfing WWF Warzone, it also featured a rather surprising unlockable character: Head. Yes, Al Snow’s pet mannequin head got to be a playable wrestler in this game. Head came with hands and boots, but nothing else. Just an invisible body that could still take damage.
Head came complete with goofy voices prior to matches, at times sounding like Homsar from Homestar Runner and other times sounding like he was full of helium.
16. THE GIANT MACHINE: PART 2
In 1990, WCW Wrestling came out for the NES. The game was pretty cool, all in all, but it was also a reskinning of a Japanese game from two years prior called Super Star Pro Wrestling.
Super Star Pro Wrestling featured a roster of big international names like Antonio Inoki, Abdullah the Butcher, Bruiser Brody, Giant Baba, and so on. Much like Super Mario Bros. 2 and Doki Doki Panic, the company just changed all the puro heroes into WCW wrestlers. For the most part, it worked fine. It helped that the Road Warriors were in both games.
The problem was that the final boss of Super Star Pro Wrestling was Andre the Giant and he was huge. WCW didn’t really have anyone to put in his place. Shrugging their shoulders, they created a new final boss: the WCW Master. He was also seven feet tall, 500 pounds, and wore a one-strap singlet…but he had a mask! So that made it okay! Please don’t sue! The blatant Andre’ing was even funnier when you realized that he looked an awful lot like Andre’s brief, masked WWF gimmick, the Giant Machine.
15. EDGE AND CHRISTIAN’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
Smackdown vs. Raw 2011‘s Road to WrestleMania mode was straightforward enough. Still, Yukes got a little creative with a certain side quest in the middle of the mode.
Christian and Edge reminisce about a Smackdown segment from 2000 where they used a time machine to make fun of “the Hardy Boyz circa 2050.” They wonder whatever happened to that time machine and Christian goes on a search for its pieces. Once you put it together, you’re able to go to any completed week of Road to WrestleMania.
The highlight of this is when Christian visits Vince McMahon’s office. You have to remember, the real WWE people recorded voices for themselves, so you have the actual Vince McMahon growling about not knowing what madness Christian’s talking about until going, “Oh, that time machine? We stripped it down for parts.”
Also great is Christian breaking the fourth wall when asked by Edge how he was able to carry an entire phone booth in his pocket. “Video game magic, my friend.”
14. STEVEN RICHARDS’ BIG PUSH
WWF No Mercy for Nintendo 64 had a million storylines, thanks to how each WWF title had branching paths based on wins and losses. At one point, you got to reenact the storyline leading into WrestleMania 2000, where The Rock, Triple H, Mick Foley, and Big Show competed for the championship. This was born from the Royal Rumble of that year, where Rock eliminated Big Show last and Big Show later showed proof that he actually won.
That’s all well and good, except Big Show wasn’t in No Mercy. He had fallen out of favor with the company so much due to his excessive weight that they sent him to OVW and removed him from No Mercy completely. They kept the stories with him the same, only they replaced him with the Right to Censor’s leader Steven Richards. The whole thing stuck out like a sore thumb and made you wonder why this mid-card heel was suddenly thrust into the main event.
13. THE BLISTERING BRIMSTONE MATCH
ECW Anarchy Rulz was the second ECW game that used the WWF Warzone engine, and among the new matches introduced, it included the Blistering Brimstone Match. The match was essentially like an Inferno Match, only more extreme. How extreme? Extreme enough to have actual murder.
Rather than the apron being on fire, the ring was surrounded by burning coals. By weakening your opponent, you’d be able to knock them over the ropes and to their fiery doom. Not only would they scream in pain and terror, but they would simply vanish into the fire. No stop, drop, and rolling into safety or anything. No charred bodies. They simply died. Probably for the best that ECW went out of business before they could introduce this match in the Hammerstein Ballroom. I can’t imagine Paul Heyman would have the same job security these days.
12. WWF BETRAYAL
In 2001, WWF released a game for the Game Boy Color that had lots of fighting, but no real wrestling. Rather than taking on opponents in the ring, it was a game more similar to River City Ransom, where your selected character would go around and beat up rogue referees, security guards, auto mechanics, and random women working at an office.
The playable wrestlers included Steve Austin, Triple H, The Rock, and the Undertaker (biker version). The wrestler you chose is screwed out of a title win and suddenly recruited by Vince McMahon to go rescue a kidnapped Stephanie. Through the various stages, you beat up anyone you run into and find that the three wrestlers you didn’t pick are in on the kidnapping.
Once you get far enough, you discover that a game with “betrayal” in the name has actual – *gasp* – betrayal! Steph was never truly in danger. It was all a plot by Vince, Stephanie, and all the remaining characters in the game, hoping that the adventure would take you out of the title picture. Seems a little over-thought, and it’s a moot point anyway.
At the end, you fight the champion (Triple H, unless you chose him) on the roof of Titan Tower. He puts the WWF Championship on the line against you just because and by beating him up, you apparently became the champ.
Too bad there were no cameras there. The fans must’ve been so confused and annoyed.
11. TOO MUCH THUNDER
The game WCW Thunder featured a massive roster of nearly 100 playable characters. If you looked closely at the final roster, you might’ve actually found some wrestlers in there, too! Playable characters included the non-wrestling WCW personalities – such as Mean Gene and Mike Tenay – and the programmers who made the game. Sounds kind of reasonable, right? But then they tossed in a bunch of extra characters for the sake of weirdness.
You have a cowboy, an astronaut, an ant, a horse named Hoof Hearted, a starfish, a cow, a gorilla, a mantis, a knight, and so on. It’s kind of surprising how many of these gimmicks would be found in CHIKARA Pro Wrestling several years later. Still waiting on that horse-based wrestler.
Also, the game had plenty of special arenas, including one in space. The most notable was the USO show, where the wrestlers’ stances and grapples would be replaced with swing dancing. So if you ever wanted to see Hollywood Hogan boogey down with Kevin Nash, do I have the game for you!
10. FALLING DOWN: WWE EDITION
WrestleMania XIX for GameCube had a rather peculiar side-game called Revenge Mode. It begins with your wrestler being escorted out of the building and beaten up by security because your contract is up. Wow, Vince is a dick. You are immediately recruited by Stephanie McMahon to undermine her father. Her delivery is outright terrible and sounds like she just read it off the page in a hurry because she had stuff to do.
As Stephanie’s agent of destruction, your job is to prevent WrestleMania from happening by destroying everything. Sets are smashed up, merchandise is blown up, and dock workers are casually murdered, all in the name of getting your job back. This all leads to a main event at WrestleMania, where you beat up Vince himself. Afterwards, Stephanie has second thoughts about handing off your money and she pays by getting Speared on the spot.
9. HEEL FOR TEACHER
Rumble Roses is the wrestling equivalent of Dead or Alive, a game meant to play up a cast of well-endowed women in revealing outfits. It’s wank material, but there’s enough effort in its bonkers story to defend it as an almost-charming inclusion.
One of the cooler gimmicks of the game is how each wrestler comes in two version, allowing you to choose face or heel. For instance, you can play as upbeat cowgirl Dixie Clemets, but later unlock her heel persona Sgt. Clemets, a corrupt cop.
One of the wrestlers is Miss Spencer, a teacher out to bring in her truant student-turned-punk-rock-wrestler Candy Cane. She too has a heel persona, and it’s a little too excessive. Under the name Mistress Spencer, she wears a miniscule dominatrix outfit to her matches and is way into the idea of punishing her opponents and students. The most notable part of this madness is her entrance, where she’s followed by her personal whipping boy Sebastian, a shirtless gimp in clown makeup. Her eye patch is the least insane part of all this.
8. THE UNDERTAKER’S ZOMBIE POSSE
Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 includes a Road to WrestleMania storyline where you play as the Undertaker. Naturally, that means the story is about someone trying to end his legendary winning streak, as this takes place before Paul Heyman’s client Brock Lesnar did just that. His challenger in this storyline is none other than the Boogeyman, leading a stable called Nu School alongside – of all people – Finlay and Santino.
Part of the story involves Santino and Finlay stealing the urn and using it to take control of Kane against his brother. Undertaker eventually gets the urn back and opens it in front of either Santino or Finlay, shortly before you have a match against the other. Whichever one experienced seeing the urn’s insides turns to the Undertaker’s side during the match, mindless and with green skin.
Yes, Undertaker is able to transform Santino and Finlay into his undead soldiers.
Once he’s made his point, Undertaker undoes the spell and brings his zombie henchman back to normal before focusing his attention on the Boogeyman.
7. CRUSH HOUR: A PARODY BEFORE ITS TIME
Crush Hour has a very silly premise. It’s Twisted Metal with wrestlers as the drivers and Jim Ross doing commentary. The world needs more car combat games, so I’ll give them points for trying.
The story is that Vince McMahon has focused his sights on taking over TV itself, meaning we have the prototype of the WWE Network. Through various cutscenes, we see a cooking show starring Kane, Survivor starring Trish Stratus and Stacy Kiebler, and the very Japanese shampoo commercial that Edge and Booker T once feuded over.
The final stage has you take on Mr. McMahon’s car, and upon winning, things go back to normal with everyone leaving their respective TV shows while Vince gets into golf. That Vince McMahon. Always surviving automobile explosions.
6. BAM BAM KILLS EVERYONE
I’ve already talked about the explosive, cartoony in-game style of WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, but for anyone’s capable of coining their way through the arcade version of the game, you’ll find that the eight wrestlers have unique endings that show what becomes of them after becoming WWF Champion. Bret Hart becomes an accomplished actor. Yokozuna kills United States morale so badly that the entire country collapses. Shawn Michaels…well, Shawn Michaels is basically raped by a bunch of women.
“The Beast from the East” Bam Bam Bigelow commits mass murder.
According to the text that appears after he wins the Royal Rumble, Bam Bam has not only defeated all comers, but he’s also burned them to death. Not satiated, he turns around and unleashes his fire powers, setting all the audience ablaze as the whole arena burns to cinders.
If only Vince McMahon signed Glacier, none of this would have happened.
5. SIMPSONS DID IT?! WHY?
In 2001, wrestling was in its peak and The Simpsons was still incredibly popular, despite beginning its downturn. Someone at Big Ape Productions figured, hell, why not just mix the two together? And so they released a nigh-unplayable, hideous PlayStation game called Simpsons Wrestling where grown men, little children, aliens, and fictional-in-that-world cartoon characters are able to wrestle each other!
Only it isn’t really wrestling.
Despite taking place in the ring and having pins in it (performed by the characters themselves rather than a referee), the game isn’t really so much about grappling as it is running around and punching each other.
Everyone mostly just has a bunch of strikes, as well as their own special attacks. Moe swings around his board with a nail through it, Krusty chases you around with a mallet, Professor Frink pulls out a ray gun, and Ned Flanders is completely overpowered, with both resurrection abilities and the power to summon God’s lightning from the sky.
4. DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY
Back in the day, WWE Diva Candice Michelle used to carry around a magic wand to the ring as an accessory. Smackdown vs. Raw 2007 decided to actually do something with it.
In the game’s story, Candice is aligned with Edge and challenges your wrestler to a singles match. To make it fair, she uses her magic wand to transform you into a woman. You become a blond woman in American tights – which only really “makes sense” if you use Kurt Angle, I suppose. You still talk like a dude despite your new look. That part does little to prevent Viscera from trying to put the moves on you.
The story gets wrapped up when your wrestler and Edge agree that you’re a ten, while Candice is a nine at most. She returns you to normal and Viscera’s heart is broken.
3. FIRE PRO GETS DARK
The Fire Pro series has always been about creating a fun pro wrestling game that features really blatant versions of famous pro wrestlers changed just enough so they won’t be sued. Guys like Million Dollar Davis, Mighty Boy Smith, Abdul the Danger, and so on.
The SNES game Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special features its own story mode and it’s a doozy. As it tells the story of your rookie rising up the ranks to become champion, it takes a lot of dark, dark turns. There’s loved ones murdered, best friends accidentally killed in the ring, and your girlfriend leaves you based on what you’ve become.
Once you finally win the title, your character reflects and realizes that in his quest for greatness, he has lost everything. He sits on a throne, feeling empty. Three days later, we see the outside of the house where our hero lives. It lingers for a moment until we hear a gunshot, then it goes black.
That’s…that’s some ending. Wow.
2. POPEYE IN SPACE
In the early 90s, a plague was released upon the lesser home systems. On the ZX Spectrum, Amiga, and Commodore 64, we were given the third game in the Popeye video game series, which for some reason was about Popeye wrestling aliens in outer space.
Called Popeye 3: WrestleCrazy (including a logo that was very much just the WrestleMania logo), it featured the spinach-eating sailor man going through the intergalactic ranks and taking on various aliens while Olive, Wimpy, and Bluto watched from the audience.
While the game was built differently on every system, they’re all terrible. Regardless of how bad it is, it’s still a video game where you can have Popeye grapple with an Alien Xenomorph and later the robot from Lost in Space, so it at least deserves to be recognized as being too goddamn weird to exist.
1. THE DRUID ROYAL RUMBLE
Smackdown vs. Raw 2011 featured a storyline where you’re the one that ends the Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak. In the actual WWE, trying to do so has led to some crazy moments.
There was the time the Undertaker delivered a casket to Diesel that had Diesel’s corpse inside. Or the time he possessed Josh Matthews during an interview with Randy Orton. Being a video game, that gave Yukes a license to go even further with how wacked out Undertaker’s mystical powers could get.
For instance, there’s a part in the story where you summon the ghost of Paul Bearer and then beat him up. Like, he doesn’t even fight back or anything. You just have 90 seconds to kick his ass. Then afterwards, Undertaker shows up and sends him back to Hell.
What takes the cake is when you go to one of the shows and everything is suddenly a dark, purplish hue. As you wander backstage, the only people you see are druids, just hanging around. You go to the ring and you have a 15-man Royal Rumble match. Your opponents? 14 druids. The audience? Hundreds of druids. The audio? Nothing but druids chanting.
Upon winning the match, everything returns to normal and it seems your wrestler just won a regular battle royal. The commentators bring up how you seemed in a bit of a daze, but that’s to be expected when you have a match with the Undertaker on your mind.
Any other weird wrestling video game moments I missed out on? Sound off in the comments!