In the world of sports games, there are few that are as crazy, unusual and varied as professional wrestling games. Today’s grappling games have reached a point where it’s becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between a simulation and real life footage, and the majority of wrestling titles in the past have attempted to do the same, often pushing the limits of their respective hardware.
To kick off our Press R2! series, let’s take a look at WCW Wrestling. Released on the NES in April 1990, it was the first (and, at the time of writing, only) game to be based on the National Wrestling Alliance; a group that WCW was a part of at that time.
Gameplay is very simple. Each wrestler has eight selectable moves, a duo of Irish Whip moves and a unique finisher. The character movesets were somewhat customisable before matches, but this was limited to a small number of moves each.
Irish Whip moves are performed by first initiating an Irish whip (throwing the opponent into the ropes by pressing left and B or right and B) and then pressing either A or B when the opponent is near. Finishing maneuvers are only available when an opponent is at two health squares and in the middle of the ring, then pressing A and B simultaneously triggers the move, resulting in either a KO or victory via submission.
WCW Wrestling features 12 selectable wrestlers from the era.
Here’s the full lineup, complete with their finishing moves (as listed in the game):
- “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – Jumping Neck Breaker Drop
- Lex Luger – Neck Wringer
- Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat – Flying Body Press
- “Dr. Death” Steve Williams – Oklahoma Stampede
- Mike Rotunda – Double Arm Suplex
- “Taskmaster” Kevin Sullivan – Brainbuster
- Road Warrior Hawk – Lariat
- “Hot Stuff” Eddie Gilbert – Jumping Elbow Drop
- Sting – Scorpion Death Lock
- Rick Steiner – Belly To Belly Suplex
- Road Warrior Animal – Powerslam
- Michael P.S. Hayes – DDT
The game’s final boss was not a real wrestler, but instead, a huge masked wrestler by the name of “the WCW Master“. The character is clearly meant to resemble Andre The Giant, and seems to be a direct reference to Andre‘s “Giant Machine” gimmick, which saw him don a mask (watch his 1985 debut of the gimmick in a match against Seiji Sakaguchi here!).
In June 1990, the Road Warriors left WCW due to heat that they had with the head of the company at the time, Jim Herd. As a result of their departure to the World Wrestling Federation, WCW continued to advertise the game in their catalogs, but with an alternate cartridge design that replaces Hawk and Animal with Sting. Despite this new artwork existing in the company’s marketing, no actual copies were made with the new labels.
Super Star Pro Wrestling
Interestingly, WCW Wrestling was actually released in Japan a year prior on the Famicom as Super Star Pro Wrestling, and featured an almost entirely different roster of playable characters.
Besides some practically identical gameplay and graphics (besides the obvious branding switch up), the game’s core roster featured competitors that were considered to be “big names” in Japanese promotions during that era (and Andre The Giant as a final boss!). They include:
- Giant Baba
- Antonio Inoki
- Jumbo Tsuruta
- Genichiro Tenryu
- Riki Chōshū
- Akira Maeda
- Bruiser Brody
- Stan Hansen
- Abdullah The Butcher
- Big Van Vader
- Road Warrior Animal
- Road Warrior Hawk
Instead of creating new movesets for the WCW Wrestling version, the new roster simply just re-used them from this previous lineup, resulting in some rather confusing (and inaccurate) moves for each wrestler. Some make sense (for example, Sting‘s finisher, the Scorpion Death Lock, was originally created by Riki Chōshū), while others were tough to imagine for wrestling fans (when did Ric Flair ever do a Jumping Neck Breaker Drop?!).
Overall, WCW Wrestling is a glitchy mess of a game that is slightly saved by the novelty of it being the only NWA game. It isn’t the worst of the WCW-licensed titles, but it’s by no means an enjoyable one either. It’s also a fascinating look into how some games during this era lazily swapped names and character sprites from older Japanese releases, with varying results (not everything worked as well as Super Mario Bros. 2 ya know…).
Are you a fan of the original WCW Wrestling game? Let us know in the comments below, or send a tweet our way!