I’ve mentioned before that I am a huge wrestling fan, and consume more than my fair share of it to be sure. I could go on and on for quite a while about competing companies and different promotions, and I probably will at some point in the future, but just not right now. For today, I had a different idea that I wanted to discuss, and I hope that you’ll enjoy reading it as much as did in bringing it to you.
I was recently skimming through YouTube after finishing an episode of NWA Power, looking for something else to keep me occupied before turning in for the night. I managed to stumble upon a video by a user that goes by the name Kim Justice, a fellow I’ve checked out before and usually find quite funny. In this entry, he was going through his list of his top ten best and worst WWE/WCW wresting games ever produced, or at least the ones that he enjoyed playing the most, and boy did they bring back some memories. I actually agreed with most of his choices, barring one that I really thought should have been on the shit list, 1989’s WCW Wrestling for the NES, which was just a torturously terrible experience in my opinion. After it was all over, I couldn’t help but feel a bit let down that my favorite wrestling game of all time wasn’t at least mentioned, but seeing as how it was only a WWE/WCW list it was okay, it was still a damn entertaining thing to watch. But luckily, I have my own platform that I can use to sound off on a bit, so I thought that it might be interesting to give it a little shoutout here. This is my first ever video game review so cut the new guy a little break if I happen to stumble a bit, so if you’re ready, let’s go.
To say that I have played a lot of wrestling games over the years is putting it mildly, there being a time that I would pick up every new title that came out and that I could get my eager little hands on. To me, anything that hit the market that hade the letters THQ attached to it I knew I was going to enjoy, while anything marketed by Acclaim meant run like hell (seriously, they were that bad). And then one day I found a little treasure in a bargain bin called Fire Pro-Wrestling Returns, which quickly became my favorite series and is pretty much all I played from then on. But as great as Fire Pro is, it’s still not my fave, as one title still just manages to edge it out, mostly thanks to all the great times I had with it when I was a kid, I suppose. I’m talking about NES’s gem that is simply titled Pro-Wrestling, and it still holds up as one heck of a fun time if you ask me.
Pro Wrestling was first released in 1988 for the Famicom, and by extension, NES home entertainment system, and is pretty sparse and rather basic by today’s wrestling game standards. There are no entrances of any kind to speak of, and there are only a handful of moves for the characters to pull off. But what it lacks in diversity I think it more than makes up for with its charm, with a playability that was ahead of its time when I came to wrestling titles. There are only six wrestlers to choose from on the whole roster, but they are so unique and quirky that they are all worth getting to know a bit better.
There’s Starman, a bright pink and blue luchador that’s based off Mexican wrestling great Mil Mascaras. His special moves include the flipping dropkick and flying forearm, and he might be my favorite character in the game.
Next, we have the dreaded Amazon, a notorious heel (rule breaker) that’s modeled after the original Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher. His moves of choice include the piranha bite and the outlaw choke, which is actually him stabbing his opponent in the head with a fork that he keeps hidden in his tights, and he’s a blast to play too.
Following him, we have Giant Panther. He’s patterned after the Von Erich family of WCCW fame and uses the big headbutt and the iron claw to put his opponents down, and he is so ungodly tan and blonde that he looks like a damn bronze statue walking around.
Up next, is Kin Corn Karn, the evil Korean wrestler based on 80’s monster heel Killer Khan. His moves are the awkwardly slow karate chop and front kick, and oddly enough he’s the only character I’ve ever actually managed to beat the whole game with, so go figure.
After the Korean, we have the Japanese superstar Fighter Hayabusa, a competitor that is undeniably inspired by the legendary Antonio Inoki. His specials of choice are the jumping enziguri kick and having one big ass chin, but it’s Inoki so it had to happen.
We round everything out with the default champion of the game, King Slender. I’m pretty sure he’s supposed to be a mirror of Ric Flair, but the hardware couldn’t quite pull off a submission like the figure four leglock quite yet, so he’s the master of the backbreaker instead.
Now, while the six guys mentioned above have a couple of special moves apiece, everything else in the game is pretty much the same across the board when it comes to the actual gameplay. Every match is a singles match with the only way to win being a pin fall or a wring out, it’s based in Japan so it was a twenty count instead of the familiar ten when you tossed you opponent over the ropes. You can execute a basic punch or kick to wear your opponent down, along with whipping them into the ropes and pulling off a running clothesline. After they were beaten up enough you could start going for the more powerful body slams, suplexes, or piledrives, along with top rope moves and the more devastating specials to finish them off. What’s different than most wrestling games of the time is that Pro-Wrestling actually let you pull of counters, turning a move into a backdrop of toss out of the ring if your opponent tried it on you and your character wasn’t worn down enough yet. You could also take the action to the outside and perform all your standard moves on the floor, including ramming an opponent into the ringside and doing a super top rope dive onto the poor bastard if you could get him to stay down for long enough. A few other nice touches were a visible announce team in the background and a camera man that would follow the action in the foreground, along with a referee that could cost you a pin fall by having to run over to get in position for the count if you tried a pin too far away from him.
The object of the game was to pick your fave and then defeat the other five competitors, becoming the VWA (Video Wrestling Association) champion. You then had to successfully defend your title ten straight times, twice against each character, which earned you the right to challenge the Great Puma, based on Mitsuharu Misawa’s Tiger Mask gimmick when he was tearing ass through All Japan Pro-Wrestling in the 80s. Great Puma is still ranked as one the most difficult boss battles in video game history and he can use any of the special moves of the other characters, which he does, a lot. I’ve only ever gotten to him a handful of times, and then only managed to beat him once, by ring out if you’re wondering. If you can manage to take this beast down, you’ll unify the VWA and VWF (Video Wrestling Federation) titles, becoming the undisputed video wrestling champion of the world.
There are definitely more buffed up, streamlined wrestling games out there today to be sure, especially when compared to the capabilities and standards of the good old NES system. But I always come back to this one when I think of my all-time favorite wrestling title, no matter what I seem to be playing or have played in the past. All of the characters here just work and click with me, and it moves incredibly well and fluid for an older title and is so simple to just pick up and play for a few minutes here and there. I remember we used have tournaments with this thing when I was younger, and I loved coming off the top rope with a flying splash or knee drop with Starman. Whenever I would buy a new wrestling game with anything close to a create mode all seven of these guys (yes, the Great Puma too) would always make an appearance, with me spending more time than I care to admit getting their looks and move sets just right. Fire Pro-Wrestling might be my modern tastes for wrestling games, and Tecmo Pro might have done it a little better on the NES in case you want to look that one up too, but for me, Pro-Wrestling is always going to have a special place, because it’s still just so much fun and brings back some great memories. If you have a Switch and access to the Nintendo eshop give a look and see if this one is on there. If it is, grab it and lace up your boots and enjoy one heck of a goodtime. And remember, gang, A WINNER IS YOU!