You’d think that Pro Wrestling, with its larger than life characters, ridiculous storylines and incredible athletic combat, would be a perfect fit for videogames. Unfortunately, for the past decade, almost every Wrestling game released has been little more than a tedious beat ‘em up. This is largely due to their reliance on the old gameplay mechanic of depleting your enemy's health bar until you win. Even legendary grapplers Virtual Pro Wrestling/No Mercy and Fire Pro have this hidden away in their otherwise amazing representations of the sport, but it is this that seems to be holding them back from their true potential.
Here, watch this. I’ll be here when you get back.
Right, did you enjoy that? Did you see how two guys, masters of the fucking craft, can take an audience and put their emotions in the palm of their hands? People talk about going to see performances - ballet, orchestral, whatever - and being taken on an emotional journey by the performance. That is EXACTLY what Pro Wrestling is! Why the videogames are boiled down to the most basic aspect of the sport, the fact that two wrestlers are trying to beat each other, is a true shame. There is so much more. One of the greatest games of all-time is the pro wrestling game that will never see the light of day.
Think about it. You make a character and give him a move set - finishing moves and the like - and you start getting ‘booked’ to work shows for small local companies. Now, its not about winning to progress, its about your performance. For a while, you’ll be told by promoters to go out and lose to a particular wrestler in a certain way within a certain time limit. Perform this well, and the promoter and crowd will start showing interest in you, offering you greater opportunities, such as win streaks and storylines between you and another wrestler. Your ‘score’ is the crowd, and how much they buy into the match, which you achieve by hitting your moves and following the planned outcome. You’re still performing moves like any other wrestling game, but with these added goals - a focus - to the usual wrestling game gameplay. As you gather more fan support, be that with cheers or boos, you get picked up by bigger companies, obviously with the main objective being to eventually headline the Wrestlemania equivalent.
It isn’t just about the matches, though. You’ve got to manage your wrestler, too. A bit of RPG character management. For instance, high risk moves would come at a price. Go too hard on a heavy work schedule and you’ll risk injury, putting you out of the spotlight until you’re fit to return and potentially harming the fans’ interest in your wrestler. Backstage politicking could backfire on you and scupper your push to the top, or you could put on an absolute stinker of a match on the biggest stage of them all. You can hit the gym and train, unlocking new moves and abilities to freshen up your matches. Every aspect of the life of a pro wrestler should be covered.
The best part would be the multiplayer. You and a friend putting on an actual wrestling match, orchestrating every false finish and teasing the virtual crowd with finishing move reversals. Hell, you could even upload them for others to watch - see if you can earn that illustrious five star rating from the community. What about the ability to create your own federations? Actually thinking up storylines with other players for an entire group of wrestlers, putting on the matches, scripting the backstage cutscenes (an avenue explored in recent Smackdown vs. Raw games, and one that could be truly interesting if they took it much further) and essentially creating your very own wrestling show for people to see. A pro wrestling game should be about cooperation, working together to put on the best possible match, rather than slugging each other until one drops. We’ve got Street Fighter, UFC Undisputed and Skullgirls for that sort of thing - we haven’t got a game that is about putting on the best possible fight imaginable.
You’ll never see this from the WWE guys, as bluntly admitting how the entire wrestling business works isn’t something they’ve ever really done - but there are plenty of independent federations who could lend their names and talent to a game that is about capturing all aspects of the industry - from the awful indie promoters that rip you off and book you in terrible matches to the absolute beauty of that main event that takes the crowd to the emotional extremes and leaves both wrestlers looking like absolute superheroes.
Someone, get this made.