Get The "F" Out Of Wrestling

No matter where I go, when the topic of professional wrestling is brought up, some would like to strike up a conversation while others would just roll their eyes and use the “F” word. No, I’m not talking about the “F” word that George Carlin used in his seven dirty words routine. (Am I that old)? Jokes aside, the word I consider taboo for wrestling is fake.

Oh hey! Do you want to know what else is fake? Probably your favorite movie or TV series! Because there is no such thing as magical dragons that breathe fire or people with superpowers to take down the bad guys.

Wrestlers are skilled athletes who risk pain and injury...

As wrestling fans, we all know that every match is predetermined on who is winning and who is losing. What people forget, though, is that pulling off certain moves such as Brock Lesnar’s signature suplexes or Shawn Michaels’ superkicks takes specific timing between the two wrestlers, otherwise there will be serious neck injuries that could end up paralyzing someone. 

One of the most important features of a fan-favorite wrestler is not only getting down the timing of pulling the moves but how athletic they are. No matter what the size of the wrestler, big or small, they need to be sure to stay in peak physical condition on strength and stamina in order to survive year in and year out of the ring from either performing their insane signature moves or taking a nasty bump in the ring or going through a table where the athletes risk muscle tears or broken bones.

Non-wrestling fans don't realize that the ring provides very little padding if any at all. What’s underneath the tarp of the ring are 2x8 lumber boards spread across the ring and the only padded things are the turnbuckles. So the bumps you hear after a wrestler gets slammed to the floor and the grimaces on their faces are real because they are feeling that pain throughout their bodies.

One match I'll always remember is the 1998 King of the Ring Pay-Per-View (PPV) Hell in a Cell match Mankind (Mick Foley) vs The Undertaker in a crazy cage. About a  minute after the match started, The Undertaker threw Mankind off the top of the cage (22 ft. off the ground) and crashed down on the commentator’s desk with Jim Ross shouting "As God as my witness that man is broken in half!"

It was a scary moment because Mick lay motionless for several minutes with the EMT rushing out to put him on a stretcher. Vince McMahon broke character as the evil owner persona and was legitimately worried about Mick. What happened next was just unbelievable, Mick got out of the stretcher and walked straight back to the cage, ignoring every staff member, and climbed back to the top to continue the match. 

It would go on for the next few minutes until Undertaker did a chokeslam on Mick that busted the cage and fell straight down to the ring. Even worse is that the match still went on and there is a clip of Mick slouched to one of the ring posts a bit bloodied and one of his broken teeth somehow got into one of his nostrils. What is even crazier is that not only did the match continue beyond that, but somehow thumbtacks got thrown in the ring, and Mick got choke-slammed on top of them.

Another instance of a nasty injury was on an episode of RAW on March 8th. Drew McIntyre faced Sheamus in a no disqualification match. Near the end of the match, both guys beat each other with kendo sticks. They went all out with each strike and they posted pictures of each wound from the loud strike that the microphones picked up. The Twitter post here from WWE UK shows their backs after it all went down. Trust me, I’ve actually been smacked by a kendo stick and I know for a fact that the strike hurts like hell!

Wrestlers are talented performers in engaging storylines...

Flashy moves and physicality are not the only selling points of wrestling. What makes the events special are the different characters and storylines that happen throughout the year. Depending on the story/character arch, it might be a one-and-done month-long storyline that ends at an upcoming PPV or, if the story gets pretty hot with the fans, it could be a months-long feud that will end at one of the big PPV events. For my examples, I’m going to use the top four PPV events from the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE): WrestleMania, Summer Slam, Survivor Series, or The Royal Rumble. (The WWE was formerly the World Wrestling Federation or WWF.) 

Being able to perform in the ring is hard, but portraying the character is intimidating.

Now you can’t just have a great storyline if you don't have the right characters for it. In the wrestling business, there are two different personalities; Babyface (good guy) or the Heels (bad guys). So basically it’s heroes versus villains. Being able to perform in the ring is hard, but portraying the character is intimidating. Not only do you have to look the part of the good/bad guy, but you have to be believable for the audience when you talk to them so public speaking is a must! Of course, it is harder to do that these days with Covid-19 where the wrestler can not get a feel for the audience if they are liking or hating what they are hearing.

The Hurricane

I've seen so many characters from the past and present that everyone loved and hated. Stone Cold Steve Austin was loved for being anti-establishment. He flips off his boss, drinks beer, and kicks ass, which is what everyone wishes they could do at their day jobs. The Undertaker is pretty much a supernatural type character that is hard to take down and super strong. The Undertaker is also a perfect example of the gimmick character with his dead man look, which is what made him stand out and be memorable. There are other crazy characters that I’ve seen that were memorable that no one else could pull off like The Hurricane (superhero), The Godfather (pimp), and Sting (anti-hero crow). Mick Foley portrayed 3 different characters: Mankind (wears a leather strap mask), Dude Love (hippy), and Cactus Jack (a crazy hardcore guy that loves using barbwire bats).

Another essential thing for a wrestler is their theme music. Every time a wrestler shows up, their theme music drops to let the fans know who’s coming out. The music can be either a catchy beat or a song that can be used for your gym playlist. Shinsuke Nakamura's WrestleMania 34 “The Rising Sun” theme is a perfect example of what gets my blood pumping for the start of my workout. It has Alice Cooper’s guitarist Nita Strauss doing an insane solo at the beginning.

Present-day wrestling in America seems to have fewer gimmicky characters because every wrestler wants to be a badass instead of an off-the-wall character. Right now the best gimmick characters to me are The Fiend who is a supernatural clown type monster that sometimes carries a huge cartoonish hammer that has been seen sporadically this year. The other is The Miz who is easily described as the real-life Johnny Cage where he stars in B-listed movies and so full of himself (just like me).

The Fiend

I could go on and on about the different types of characters in the Wrestling Universe and tell you how they can crank up the crowd but it’s something that you would just have to witness for yourself. What makes today’s wrestling so fun it's more than the WWE. Look for:

All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on TNT
Total Impact on Twitch or AXS TV
New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) on Roku

You do not have to rely on one particular promotion because every promotion actually adds a lot of different flavors that a casual fan would like or want to see what else is out there.

Oh yeah, and if you're feeling nostalgic about wrestling in video games? Check out Michael Saint Gregory's article "Pro Wrestling's Greatest Video Games."

Let me know in the comments below if you are a fan or if you are a new fan that wants to know about the other promotions to watch. Feel free to ask and connect!

 

Pro Wrestling’s Greatest Video Games

Who’s got two thumbs and has been a pro wrestling fan since he was six years old? That would be me, your fellow Replayer MSG. Ever since watching the 1992 Royal Rumble of the World Wrestling Federation, I have been a proud fan of the madness that is professional wrestling. I dreamed of being a titan of the ring and holding a championship belt high above my head to the roar of a crowd. The closest I could come to that reality, however, was in the decade's worth of video games that allowed me to battle it out for grappler supremacy. Here are the ones that will always be in my personal Hall of Fame of the greatest pro wrestling video games. Let’s get ready to rumble!

WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game

WrestleMania: A body-slamming, quarter-devouring game.

In 1995, when arcades still existed and a roll of quarters was your gateway into total escapism, this game was the first one on my playlist. Midway Games was riding high off the success of Mortal Kombat. With the WWF license in hand, they brought Mortal Kombat’s digitized photographic fighter graphics and gave you the power to play as the greatest wrestlers of the time. Granted, there were only 8 available wrestlers to choose from in the game, but it was action-packed nonetheless.

By no means was this game meant to be "realistic" in terms of recreating your favorite matches from television. The fighting style was quite cartoonish. Razor Ramon’s arm would transform into a blade. Doink the Clown would smash opponents with a giant hammer. Bam Bam Bigelow’s fist would light his opponent on fire. You could still hit someone with the Tombstone Piledriver if you played as the Undertaker, but be prepared for some spooky graphics from beyond the grave!

 

WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role

WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role: Customization was king with this PlayStation hit.

What’s better than playing as your favorite wrestler? Making your own! The sequel to the 2000 THQ PlayStation hit game Know Your Role introduced the advanced "Create-A-Wrestler" mode. That quite literally changed the game for future entries. Instead of randomizing templates pre-crafted by the designers, players could pick and choose every feature of their customized superstar. Hardcore fans started using every fine-tuning feature to make their favorite real-life wrestlers who weren’t featured in the game or weren’t even in the same wrestling company. In my case, I instantly searched online for the instructions to make my favorite WCW wrestler, Sting. Soon after, every dream match I wanted was coming to life.

What makes this video game’s customization unique isn’t just being able to make your own wrestler but also your own manager, move set, taunt, and stable (pro wrestling lingo for "faction"). I spent hours making dream teams of wrestlers that would have either never teamed up, had teamed up once in the past or were just a super team of the greatest wrestlers of all time from different eras. Customization was king in Smackdown 2, and it set the bar for user-created characters in many other sports games that came after.

 

WCW/nWo Revenge

WCW/nWo Revenge: Arguably the first “wrestling simulator” game.

In 1998, World Championship Wrestling was THE hottest professional wrestling company in the world. It had the number one show on cable with WCW Monday Nitro and an average of 5 million viewers on a weekly basis. Along with great television, WCW and THQ brought their best to the Nintendo 64 console with WCW/nWo Revenge. While previous wrestling games on consoles had more of an arcade fighter vibe, Revenge was out to show the world what a pro wrestling simulator looked like. Not only would you be able to fight with an expanded roster, but you would also have access to fully rendered recreations of both their arena sets from television and their pay-per-view events.

Atmosphere can only add so much to a game, though. That's why THQ made sure in-game simulation would have brand new animations for several variations of the same type of move. One wrestler’s powerbomb would look different than another who used it in their arsenal. Counters and timed reversals made competition between players even more exciting as accuracy counted more than button mashing. Revenge set the bar very high with so many simulated features done in-game like unique ring entrances, championship competitions, strategic movement with the N64 controller’s joystick feature, and a lot of customizable options to create their own wrestler.

 

WWF No Mercy

WWF No Mercy: The game which set the bar for all that followed.

Revenge took wrestling games to new heights, but No Mercy set an even higher bar that all wrestling games afterward attempted to reach. For years, whenever a pro wrestling video game debuted onto new consoles, No Mercy was the game that was its litmus test. Why is this game so revered? Mainly because it brought simplicity to the table without insulting its audience. 

The accessibility factor was a huge step up from all prior wrestling games. Maneuvering around the ring and pulling off dynamic moves were made simple and fun with the ease of the N64’s controller. A directional combination allowed for a more arcade-like fighting experience while still blending in the simulation of a televised show. Much like in the Goldeneye video game, multiplayer was a big selling point. Friends could face off against each other with their favorite wrestlers of WWF’s "Attitude Era" with a very deep roster.

One of the most memorable aspects of this game was their "Championship Mode," challenging players to fight their way through the different narrative branches and win any or all of the championship belts. To become the grand slam champion with anyone in the roster became a satisfying goal to achieve and with so many to select it afforded a lot of replayability.

So there you have it, Replayers! Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever played any of these games or if there are others you think deserve a place in this list. You might end up seeing them in a follow-up article.

 

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