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Midway TNA iMPACT video game media launch
Saturday, August 9th 2008
Held at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton NJ

This past weekend I made the flight up to Princeton, New Jersey to be a part of Midway’s official hands-on media launch event for their upcoming TNA iMPACT video game. I was looking forward to this, as during WrestleMania weekend I was able to play an unfinished version of the game and liked what I saw (you can read my report of that event by clicking here). Back in April, only nine of the characters were playable and the only match type available was a singles match in the Impact Zone in Orlando. With the official release only weeks away, this time around all the characters were in play, along with the specialty matches and various wrestling venues.

There were about twenty or so members of the liberal media elite at the event, with reporters from ESPN, IGN, UGO and other video game and wrestling related websites. I even got a chance to meet my boy Jeff Small from 411Mania along with his writing buddy JP Prag.

Being one of the few coming from a wrestling background, it was certainly odd to be a part of an event that had some class. I’ve been to all the major wrestling conventions, such as the WrestleReunions in Tampa and Philadelphia, and their idea of holding a function consists of a barren room with folding chairs, plastic cups, and a two liter bottle of Mountain Dew. Not Midway. These guys go all out. Led by Reid Druck and Johner Riehl, this was one night that will not soon be forgotten. Held in the prestigious Witherspoon Room (formerly the George Washington room until Sweet Home Alabama opened to 35M), I was blown away the minute I walked into the door. On my immediate left was an open bar, fully stocked. All around the room was catered food that I would expect to see at a classy wedding, certainly not the Hooters wings and beer that I expected. A meat carving bar, just insane.

Even though I showed up 15 minutes early, I was still apparently the last media member to arrive. So I grabbed a beer, a plate of food, and tried to find an empty seat. There were about five small tables in the middle of the room. I ended up sitting next to Bill Barnwell, the sports editor for IGN and talked him up about wrestling and video games. Not long after, Jeremy Borash came into the room and gave us the locker room speech about how big this game is going to be for TNA and how wonderful it was. Borash then introduced the ten wrestlers who would be available for interviews. In walked Jay Lethal, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, AJ Styles, Christian Cage, Homicide and Hernandez (with Salinas), Eric Young, Kurt Angle, and finally, Samoa Joe. Filthee came in with LAX, but I had absolutely no idea of who he was at the time.

Johner Riehl gave a small speech talking about the game before saying that all the wrestlers were available for interviews. We were also invited to play the game as on opposite sides of the room were 42inch plasmas playing TNA Impact on X-Box. At each system was one Midway employee, one was Mark Lappin (lead character designer), and the other was Scott Thomas, who I believe worked a lot on the art direction.

The first wrestlers I sat down with were Alex Shelley and Chris Sabin. Now, before the event I had actually put on my Clark Kent reporter’s hat and come up with a set of questions for each wrestler, but quickly realized I would have to think on my feet as most of the wrestlers at this event had absolutely nothing to do with the game other than the fact that they worked for TNA. AJ and Samoa Joe certainly worked hand-in-hand with Midway from Day One, but guys like Alex Shelley and Homicide hadn’t and I felt that asking them a lot of questions about the game would be odd. It reminded my of Britney Spears heyday, when she released her second album and was being questioned on the lyrics of the songs. I wanted to scream because she had absolutely nothing to do with any of the lyrics or music. So anyway, each interview tried to balance a line between discussion of the game and their careers.

Shelley and Sabin were an absolute blast to talk to. I picked up pretty fast that they learned their lesson about being company men when they immediately started to talk about the great tag teams in TNA. I honestly don’t know how they could say that with a straight face, but I didn’t press the issue. We talked about their appearance on MTV’s “Made” and how much work they had to do for a show in which they appeared for about 10 minutes. I brought up the tag teams from Ring of Honor and both Shelley and Sabin couldn’t put over the Briscoe Brothers and Steen/Generico more. Both guys raved about working in Japan and especially with the Dragon Gate crew. Like me, the Motor City Machineguns were raised on playing video games and are obsessed with Rock Band and Mario Kart.

Favorite game of all time: Alex Shelley – Earthbound (SNES) Chris Sabin: Final Fantasy IV (SNES) In fact, Sabin actually developed his wrestling name from a character in the game.

I walked around the room and stopped by to grill Eric Young, and I asked him what it was like to be in his first video game. Eric described the thrill he received, not unlike seeing his own action figure for the first time. Like Shelley and Sabin, Young grew up playing all the horrible wrestling games that I did and couldn’t stop putting over the realism in TNA iMPACT, including telling me the process each of them had to go to in order to make sure the on screen characters were spot on accurate. I talked to Eric about his current role in the Prince Justice Brotherhood, and as it would become a theme throughout the night, he was just happy to get TV time. I asked Young about what it was like to be a part of Team Canada, and he described how exciting it was to see the members of that team go on to such interesting singles characters. Young also talked about life on the road before going to TNA and how many TNA fans probably have no idea that he can actually wrestle because of the time constraints of the TV show. I told Young I would love to see him in ROH one day, if only to show everyone who Eric Young “the wrestler” really is.

Favorite game of all time: Madden NFL (Sega Genesis). Couldn’t agree more with this pick as I was all over every single Madden game during the ’90s. I even bought a 3DO just to play their version of Madden, one of my secret shames.

Next up was Homicide and Hernandez. At this point, with an open bar, Hernandez was feeling quite well. Surprisingly a big gamer, Homicide talked about not wanting to know much about the game so he can play it for the first time as a fan. I know how he feels as I’ve turned the corner on having to know as much about movies as possible, and on movies I know I want to see I will make sure I even avoid trailers. I asked Homicide about gamers in the Latino community and he said that video games are huge. We got to talking about Konnan, and after putting over his original trainer Manny Fernandez, Homicide couldn’t speak more highly of Konnan. Homicide admitting to hating doing his own promos and loved it when Konnan was the face of LAX. I personally am amazed at how over the group is when compared to the push that they get. I also noticed the next night at the PPV that more fans were dressed as LAX than all other wrestlers combined. Their fan “heat” reminds me of the early days of the Hardy Boyz, right before they skyrocketed to super stardom and just had “it” each and every week on TV.

I wanted to know which tag teams, in the past or present, would LAX like to have a “dream match” with. I half heartedly joked about the Killer Bees, a personal guilty pleasure, and Homicide said he loved the Bees as well. Homicide then said he couldn’t just name one team and said he would have to include the Hardy Boys, the Malenko brothers, the Freebirds (Hayes & Gordy), the Briscoe brothers, and AJ Styles & Samoa Joe. I couldn’t believe how passionate Homicide was about tag team wrestling, and he was also a bit more honest about the current situation in TNA. Hernandez joked about enjoying that Homicide does the lion’s share of talking for the group and I have the feeling I could have talked wrestling with Homicide for hours. We even talked about JAPW, as Homicide said he has had some of his favorite matches there and is surprised the group doesn’t get much coverage or notice from the fans. I had to break the news to ‘Cide that JAPW does absolutely nothing to encourage media coverage, which is something ROH’s Gabe Sapolsky is a master at.

All time favorite video game: Hernandez – Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! (NES) God, how many hours I played that one. Homicide – 1942 (NES) You can imagine my jaw dropping at hearing this one.

That’s it for part one. We’ll be back soon with part two where we interview Christian Cage, Samoa Joe, and Jay Lethal.

Be sure to pre-order your copy of TNA iMPACT, such as this one for the X-Box 360!

Related links:
Christian Cage: Instant Classic DVD review
History of TNA: Year One DVD review
Jerry Jarrett's History of TNA: Year One book review

Derek Burgan has been reviewing wrestling DVDs, comics, books, and other miscellaneous crap for the Observer/F4Wonline Empire since October 2005. He also writes the world famous Wrestling Enjoyment Index, the Gimmick Table, Drawing Heat and is a contributing writer for Number1Contender.net. He even has a MySpace page! He can be reached at: Derek@gumgod.com

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November 2006


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.).