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THE ROCKTAGON
W/ JAMES SWIFT

Let's talk about video games for a moment.

Not unlike the world of professional wrestling, video games used to be, and I quote, worth a shit at one point in time. Also not unlike the world of 'rasslin, the current art form has been tarnished by over reliance on technology and casual fan pandering, leaving the hardcore that know who Kiyoshi Tamura is AND what M.U.S.H.A. is an acronym for in the proverbial dark since 2005.

Wrestling games, for whatever reason, have had a pretty consistent run in terms of quality over the years, with titles like Pro Wrestling and WWF WrestleFest establishing the core backbone of the subgenre and many a childhood memories. While it is true that the best wrestling games of them all were basically relegated Japanside (do your homework on the FIRE PRO series and drool much slobber, smarky), I do believe that we can all safely state that the WWF has had some knockout titles throughout the years, explicitly the time frame between 1999 and 2001, which saw the release of the exceptional Smackdown! Titles on the Playstation 1 and quite possibly THE wrestling game to end all wrestling games, WWF No Mercy on the N64.

Sure, we all have fond memories of debating about how the Genesis version of Royal Rumble had better characters than the Super Nintendo version. I'm sure at least some of you out there even recall dropping quarter after quarter on non-licensed fare like 3 Count Bout and Saturday Night Slam Masters, starring the motherfucking Mayor from Final Fight as a playable character.

But that, faithful reader, is far too desirable a plumb. We here at the Rocktagon aim for challenges, and when I think "frustrating" and "wrestling", only three letters come to mind:

W.
C.
W.

Well, actually, that's only two letters with one being repeated, but...

Fuck you. Fuck you so hard.

Today's entry into the vestibule of nostalgia: THE HISTORY OF WCW VIDEO GAMES!

NOTE: For this article, we're scoring the inherent quality of the games on a five point scale. In case you forgot how math works, let me expound: the higher the number, the better. The lower, the shittier. A FIVE equates greatness; a ONE expounds shittacularness and a THREE indicates somewhere in the middle: A middle we like to call "OK".

Our first title in the canon is WCW Wrestling for the Nintendo Entertainment System. In some circles, this game is actually considered a miniature classic in the field, which isn't really that hard considering the temporal competition consisted of shitty half-hearted punch-fests in which Hulk Hogan used the Jesus-y power of cross power-ups to body slam increasingly reddened Andre the Giants.

Truth be told, this really isn't that bad of a title, and considering the technology future games were to utilize, this one is anachronistically impressive. As soon as you boot up the little bugger, a digitized (albeit warbled) Paul Heyman reminds you that you're playing a World Championship Wrestling-licensed title. The audio in this game is better than most Wii titles, and that isn't sarcasm, Holmes.

You're given the option of twelve potential grapplers, a pretty remarkable number for the era. There are some oddities afoot, however; the Road Warriors are labeled "Animal Warrior" and "Hawk Warrior", respectively, and while Rick Steiner is present, his mulleted embryo-mate is nowhere to be seen. Also, the signature moves in the game seem to be a little.off. For example, Ric Flair's in-game finisher is the jumping neckbreaker, a move that, to the best of my knowledge, he can't even spell. Well, whatever.

What makes this game halfway decent is that, as opposed to the WWF games of the timeframe, there's actually a reliance on wrestling holds and maneuvers as opposed to "Hey, I'll punch you, you kick me, eventually somebody gets pile driven, 1, 2 and 3". Before each bout, you get to demarcate which moves you wish to utilize in your repertoire, which lends a microscopic (yet still tangible) element of strategy to the title. Granted, you can still win most matches by pressing B really, really fast, and the selection of moves are pretty limited, but so was WCW at the time: It's not like you saw Kevin Sullivan breaking out the Malenko move set back in '90, anyway.

Let's give the game a test drive, shall we? I'll pick Steve Williams, because I'm not a retard. To commemorate the recent inauguration of our nation's first black president, my opponent shall be Michael "P.S." Hayes. Next up, I get to pick four moves out of a potential eight. One more button click, and it's time to wrestle like gas is still 0.67 cents a gallon.

The basic rules are in play here. Sure, I could begin with the body slams and peppering punches, but I'm going for the weaponry. You have to tap in a nine-button code to escape from ringside, a tradition that makes wrestling games frustrating to this very day. Once outside, you can pull assorted paraphernalia from under the ring. Lucky me, on my first attempt, I receive a monkey wrench. With one 8-bit flick of the wrist, the future Dok Hendrix is a crimson explosion. NINTENDO VIOLENCE FTW! I roll back in the ring after putting in a nineteen-button sequence and the first "power-meter" bar makes its appearance. Basically, this is a primitive mechanism in which lock- up disputes are settled. With P.S. Hayes inactivated, I land a lethal SUPELX to secure the victory. The expected bells and whistles follow suit.

Later on in the game, you get to do battle with something called a WCW Master, which is essentially an Andre The Giant clone. Once you beat him, you are NOW the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, which means that in ten years, you'll be selling cars and pulling weeds for a living. Enjoy the rock and roll lifestyle while it lasts, young gamer.

THE VERDICT: As far as 8-bit wrestling games, this one is actually quite enjoyable, and while the game play won't exactly knock your socks off, it's still the only NES title around that lets you bludgeon disgraced, bigoted ex- color commentators with auto repair equipment, for that, this game gets THREE .

Our next destination on the WCW cruise around the interactive entertainment medium is WCW The Main Event for the Game Boy. All right, monochrome shit! I picked this game up for 98 cents, and in all honesty, somebody STILL owes me about ninety-seven circular pieces of copper. This piss colored abomination is somewhat reminiscent of the NES title, only with less playable characters and an even more restricted move set. The character list isn't too shabby, for what it is worth: you've got Steve Austin rubbing shoulders with Vader and Dustin Rhodes, and the sprites aren't too horrible looking.

The rub, verily, is within the gameplay. You have, apparently, two moves: punch, and kick. Purportedly, there's some sort of button combination one can press to pull off such spectacular moves as "body slams", but fuck if I figured 'em out.

For our experimental run, I'll choose the most disgraced character in the game: Johnny B. Badd. Sadly, there's no secret code to unlock his death list. Damn. For excrement and giggles, we'll pick Sting as our adversary. Three minutes in and I want to choke myself unconscious with the AC adaptor. In addition to the aforementioned punches and kicks, the characters have a third attack, which more or less resembles the fluidity of a Down syndrome patient flying a kite on roller skates. Sting also has the ability to climb the top rope, but since I don't access to the sequential code to allocate such an interactive gesture, my character cannot. It's not really a loss, though, because the artificial intelligence in the game is so shitty that the best the CPU can do is climb, flop like a fish, and land halfway across the ring while I'm in the caddy cornered turnbuckle. Likewise, this cartridge is soon to be sailing into the recesses of the basement, next to a moth- chewed Teddy Ruxpin and a box full of VOTE DUKAKIS '88 pendants.

THE VERDICT: I'd rather watch that one Shockmaster \ Awesome Kong bout from awhile back on an eternal loop while Michael Jeter from Evening Shade pounds my testicles with a meat mallet than play this plastic abortion again. A ONE.

Time to take the great leap into 16-bit territory with our next game, WCW SuperBrawl for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. There's a pretty healthy assortment of wrestlers to choose from, including rarely digitized guys like Brian Pillman and Ricky Steamboat, so the match-ups, at least, should prove mildly intriguing.

So far, so good. We begin with a facsimile of a WCW Saturday Night broadcast, and as a neat touch, Tony S. does some chattering in the corner of the screen. Not exactly the zenith of pro wrestling games, to be sure, but still, pretty neat.

I'll pick Ricky Steamboat. My foe for the trial run will be Vader. Just 'cause.

Dear lord, this game controls like absolute shit. I'd state that this game plays just as clumsily as the Game Boy title IF NOT WORSE. For starters, the skewed view of the ring makes mobility a hardship, and wouldn't you know it? To pull off non-punch\kicky moves, one has to utilize a multi-button sequence to which I do not have access. It's also technically impossible to climb the top rope or leave the ring, and if that wasn't shitty enough, Tony Schiavone refuses to leave the Picture-in-picture box at the bottom right- hand corner of the screen. The Dragon resembles a mullet-sporting pastel blob and Big Van Vader is nothing more than a big van clump of digital corpuscle. Intrinsically, they could've labeled Vader as King Kong Buddy and I, for one, wouldn't have noticed the palette swap. After several minutes of ennui, this one gets the off-switch, never to see the slot-light of a Super Nintendo ever again.

THE VERDICT: Well, they tried. Granted, they tried and failed horrendously, but at least they tried. You have to give the kid that comes in last place at the Special Olympics something, so this one scores a paltry TWO.

Time to voyage into the domain of the 32-bit era with our first of several THQ-developed Playstation titltes. WCW vs. The World is really the first WCW game to come along that resembles an actual, distinguishable grappling title, and in retrospect, this is actually quasi-decent for the era.

All of the big name stars circa 1995 are here: your Hogans, your Stings, your Lugers, your Outsiders. Boring! What makes this game truly worth trekking down (if you're a nerd like myself) is the inclusion of sundry Puro stars of the time frame, which means you can have Randy Savage dancing with a facsimile of Mitsuharu Misawa. Of course, they don't call him Mitsuharu Misawa, they call him some horrendous pseudonym ala Powder Keg, but still, the Mish is the Mish, bitch. No complaints from me there.

On the trial run, we'll have Chris Jericho taking on Alex Wright. The commentary is halfway decent, but the polygonal graphics certainly have not aged well in the slightest. Jericho more closely resembles a spiky, multi- titted mop than a pro wrestler, and Alex Wright looks more like Rick Astley than whom he's supposed to mimic, but whatever. The controls really aren't faring too much better; it's basically a punch-kick affair, as the actual, you know, moves require sequenced button presses that I don't have access to because the freaking manual was misplaced sometime during Clinton's second administration. Wright quickly takes advantage of my novice, and he eventually drains me to the point of a pinfall, culminating with Heenan orgasmically shouting "DAS WUNDERKIND WINS!" Sadly, that's the highlight of the game, folks.

THE VERDICT: For a first attempt at the 3D realm, this isn't too shabby, and if I knew what the hell to do with the control pad, it might actually be somewhat playable and maybe even by god fun. For that, we'll assess a THREE and keep waltzing down the path of mid 90s nostalgia. (PS: This game was also ported to the N64, but fuck it.)

We'll do a double shot of WCW Nitro and WCW Thunder, just because I'm pressed for time and this is the shittiest article I've written thus far for the site. Jaded? Me? Never.

As with the initial THQ title, these two games have some sort of weird fetish for secret characters, including Native American stereotypes, snowmen, and a fat, foam-hat sporting mega-fan. And they say public census finds the sport to be a joke!

The best thing about these two titles, easily, are the introductions from the wrestlers themselves. Per, you can press a button on the character select screen and a brief video clip plays in which the desired star spiels on why you should select him. Raven cuts a rather lachrymose promo when you "circle button" him, DDP cuts a retarded promo in which he says "Oh my God! You want to pick me?" like an illiterate meathead (basically, acting himself), and so forth and so on. Special attention, however, should be paid to Scott Steiner's promo on the Nitro title: watching his arm underfat jiggle when he poses is absolutely, revoltingly hypnotic in the worst way imaginable. I'm pretty sure you could play that video on a loop and eventually, you'd have a Manchurian Candidate on your hands.

THE VERDICT: Blah-blah.not horrible, not great, you know the drill. I'm not even going to bother with a test match, because we already know the ensuing results. Both games get a THREE.brother.

Now, on to the first game in the WCW library that can be actually be labeled as being halfway worth a shit: WCW vs. N.W.O.: World Tour for the Nintendo 64. I think it's safe to assume that all non-retards consider this the first wrestling game on the American market to "get it right", with a grappling system that actually made honest to goodness virtual "wrestling" a possibility. The roster set isn't too shabby, with guys like Ultimo Dragon sharing cartridge space with FMW clones (They call Hayabusha "Hannibal" in this game.how effing cool is that?)

Everybody has their own favorite moment from the title, accumulated from way back when. I guess my all time most cherished sentiment is discovering that weapons could be pulled from the crowd by pressing one of those faggoty yellow buttons that only Lilliputians found comfortable. Funny how the best wrestling games ever were released on a console with one of the shittiest controllers, huh? Granted, weapon stealing from the audience is more in line with an ECW offering, but I shan't pass up the opportunity to pummel Hulk Hogan with a lead pipe brandishing Dean Malenko.EVER.

The VERDICT: A great game. A FOUR.

This brings us to WCW vs. N.W.O. Revenge, without question the best WCW game ever crafted by human hands and one of the best wrestling games of all time.

Where to begin with this game's inherent awesomeness? Is it the huge ass roster? Is it the ability to align and form cliques, and develop heated, intense championship races? Is it the retardedly-fun multi-player, in which you and three buddies intentionally save up enough special juice to unleash Steiner Screwdriver after Steiner Screwdriver in a glorious display of virtual glee?

The answer, of course, is all of the above. I remember me and my pals used to get hammered playing this title, and I was pretty much goddamned invincible as La Parka. If there's anything on this planet more joyous than pounding the shit out of your cronies in a vodka-fueled tizzy with a Mexican guy dressed as the Grim Reaper sporting aluminum furniture.you sir, are a liar.

THE VERDICT: A MOTHERFUCKIN' FIVE. THIS GAME IS ALL THAT IS MAJESTIC IN EXISTENCE..

Revenge was a pretty fitting swan song for THQ, whom subsequently dropped WCW like a fatty on Prom night when blonde, big chested WWF came knocking on their doors. With the still profitable WCW namesake floating around without a licensee, Electronic Arts quickly snatched up the rights to World Championship Wrestling in 1999 and spent little to no time at all crafting WCW Mayhem for the PSX and N64.

If anything, Mayhem is a major step down in terms of quality. Granted, that's not to say that it's all horrible; in fact, there's plenty of good things I can say about the title. That being illustrated, picking up Mayhem for the first time after playing Revenge is like trading in a BMW for a farm tractor. It does it's job but still.it's not exactly the kind of job you want. Know what I mean? [/no.]

A couple of things jump out at me about this game. For one, it was the first wrestling game that allowed access to the backstage area. This also lead to moments in which Scott Hall tried to stab Goldberg with a harpoon, which I really can't recall ever happening. Granted, the world of wrestling is supposed to be fantastical, but even I can't imagine a guy no-selling a fucking machete assault. I mean, seriously, EA, the hell.

Without question, the best thing about this title was the audio, if for only two reasons: one, it allotted me access to Raven's theme, indisputably the greatest fucking track in WCW history, and secondly, the commentary in this game is gosh-damned hilarious, with a mellow Tony S. breaking out the legendary "FRANKEN-STEINER!" in mid stitching. The ensuing result, during game play, sounded like the following:

Goldberg is going up top.FRANKEN-STEINER!
Irish Whip and FRANKEN-STEINER!
Here comes StingFRANKEN-STEINER!

Hell, I even secured a double FRANKEN-STEINER! in succession once and almost expelled my kidneys through my nose. Also notable is the enigmatic Heenan line about "Ham and eggers", which, for the longest time, I thought was a racial epithet, because he only said in during bouts with Booker T.

The Verdict: Nostalgia for nostalgia's sake. A THREE.

Now, WCW Mayhem on the Game Boy Color is an entirely different beast altogether. On my first (AND ONLY) play through, this is what transpired:

As Bret Hart, the first notable discrepancy occurred when my player did a double cannonball to enter the ring. I've seen a lot of Bret Hart matches in my day, and I don't recall him ever pulling that one off before. Guess I must've missed that match in Tulsa or something. Discrepancy #2 occurs when my adversary, Hulk Hogan, comes to the ring looking more like a biker-ized sprite of Meg from Family Guy than the Immortal one. As we grappled inside what appeared to be a robotic arena, Hogan quickly broke out his signature move, the gravity-defying spinning piledriver from twenty feet in the air, which I promptly no-sold, just as I would in real-life, I assume. After a chase through the back area (Which included, among other things, Goldberg placed on an autopsy slab, for some reason), I finally made my way back to the ring, as a divinely sent pink ottoman fell from the rafters. After clocking Hogan with the neon-hued propping agent, I secured a pinfall victory as Bret smugly celebrated by thumbing the air and omitting a warbly "Yeah!" through the GBC speakers.

The Verdict: Hunter Thompson hasn't had trips as bizarre as playing this game. A TWO, now let's move on, for our own sanity.

This, sadly, brings us to our final WCW game in the tour: WCW Backstage Assault, which, much like WCW in its dying days, as an abomination no one should have to sit through. The producers of this game decided that wrestling games were better off sans the whole "wrestling" thing, so there's nary a ring to be found in this game. That's right.a wrestling game without a wrestling ring. But hey.at least it has David Flair and Vampiro in it! Hey. why are you taking so many Advils?

I guess I have no choice but to fire this one up, huh? I'll choose Vampiro. Why the hell not? My opponent shall be Sting, and we shall fight in a truck stop. Seriously.

Oh, do we have some problems with this one. The audio is worse than the original PSX WCW game, and the graphics are so chunky and muddy that all of the wrestlers resemble Michelin Men. The only thing to do is punch and kick (What do you know, progress!) and Irish whip foes into environmental hazards, like flaming garbage cans. Speaking of which, guess where this game is headed? That's right, the thrift store.

THE VERDICT: Eh, a TWO. Bad, yeah, but for the sheer reminisces, it's worth checking out.and by "checking out", I mean stealing from a torrent file.

This ends our journey through the virtual wonderland of WCW videogames. Granted, Vince and Company have fared MUCH better in terms of video representation, and even good old ECW scored a winner with a hidden gem that I may be bringing to your attention in the ensuing months (wink, nudge, handjob). The N64 exclusives were, of course, great, and the NES title is actually worth the $2.99 I paid for it, so if you absolutlety must get your pixilated Dub-Cee-Dub on, those are your best bets. Everything else, though.

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TWF FLASHBACK

November 2006

SATIRE: DISCONTINUED WWE XMAS PRODUCTS!

by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).