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Title: Pro Wrestling
Author:Nintendo of America
Rom Player: NNNesterJ v 0.22c
Reviewer: Chris Hoffman

Synopsis: Pro Wrestling - a game which details the quest of one character of your choice for the Videogame Wrestling Association Title. This game provided me with a lot of great memories when I was a kid, most of them involving Star Man (STAR MAN! (Star Man's name tends to echo.)), or the in-ring music from the game. The music part, especially, provided my mom with a lot of fun.

Five-year-old-me: "Dodo dodododo dodo dodododo dooooo dooooo dooo doo do do doooo dooo dooo, dodo dodododo dodo dodododo dooooo dooooo dooooo doooo do do doooo do..."
My mom: "Shut... up."
My mom: (delivers backhand)

As the years went on, any memories I had of Pro Wrestling (with the exception of the music and Star Man (STAR MAN!)) grew dim. When I first gained Internet access, however, I quickly discovered the magic of ROMs, and as a result quickly rediscovered the magic of Pro Wrestling. It still provided me with the same amount of entertainment I had gleaned from it in times past, but now for totally different reasons.

At the outset of the game, you get to choose one of six gladiators as your avatar in the quest for the VWA title. The selection screen tells you some basic information for each wrestler - for example, it tells you that Fighter Hayabusa is six foot two inches tall, 230 lbs, and hails from Japan. His chin and skin coloring make him look more like Mel Gibson than Ryu Hayabusa, but that's because all Asian characters in NES games are Europeans who've changed their legal name. This trend continued even into the 16-bit era, as construction worker Jake Twardowski changed his name to Ryu and hadokened his way into our hearts in Street Fighter II. Anyhow, the stats screen also tells you the name of the characters' finishing maneuvers - Star Man (STAR MAN!)'s finisher is the "Somersault Kick", despite the fact that it has nothing to do with somersaulting. Apparently his "Flying Cross Chop" is a finisher too, but given that it seemed to do less damage than an actual clothesline, the chop never actually finished anything. Nintendo of America later apologized for the error.

The characters of Pro Wrestling are fairly diverse in their characteristics. Below is a brief synopsis of what each one brings to the table.

Fighter Hayabusa: The everyman of the VWA. The fact that his first name is "Fighter" gives us a lot to speculate on: Did his mom name him that, in an attempt to ensure her son a life of hardship? Did he give himself that name when he changed it from his former European name (see above) in a (failed) effort to make himself soundbadass? Did anyone ever call him "French Hayabusa", "French" being the antithesis of the concept of a "Fighter"?
His finisher is the "Back Brain Kick", which may or may not devastating. No one knows, because of the fact that IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CONNECT WITH. It requires you to be in an awkward position to even attempt the move, and is entirely dependent on your opponent's willingness to stay there as you try and kick him in the head. For kicks, when I played the ROM version, I attempted to win the title using Hayabusa. I am a sadomasochist.

Star Man: (STAR MAN!) Star Man is so cool, he even makes the moves that he shares with everyone else in the game does look transcendental. One of the most prolific videogame heroes of my youth, the mysterious Star Man dresses in a pink bodysuit with a large blue star on his face. Years later, it seems an odd choice of apparel, but when I first played the game I was in awe of his costume and of his general in-ring prowess. I would arise at the crack of dawn each day, two hours before I needed to wake up to get to school, go out to my backyard, and attempt to learn the Somersault Kick. Yes, in that spring of 1988, I broke my neck and learned a valuable lesson: Nobody can be as cool as Star Man. Nobody.

Kin Corn Karn: Kin Corn Karn, in stark contrast to Star Man, led the way for years of worthless videogame protagonists. It must first be noted that much like King Slender and Giant Panther, he is listed as being at least 40 lbs heavier than some of the other guys, yet looks built exactly the same. The truth is, at least in KCK's case (wow, that's one letter away from being uncomfortable), Nintendo realized exactly how horrible they had made him, and jacked his weight up 40 lbs. in order to justify his existence. (And no, this explanation doesn't account for the same weight/appearance disparity that Giant Panther and Slender have. Shut up.)
You see, if you look at KCK's stats screen, it lists his specialty moves as the Mongolian Chop and the Karate Kick. Both these "specialty" moves did the same exact amount of damage as the regular punch and kick, so right there calling them "specialty" moves was a clear case of hyperbole. Unless you're of the position that KCK's specialty is sucking; sucking with gusto. This position is reinforced by the fact that the Mongolian Chop is actually worse than a regular punch, since it requires jumping. In conclusion, Kin Corn Karn is horrible. I would never attempt to win the VWA title using him - and consider when you read that that I DID attempt to win the title whilst relying solely on Hayabusa's Back Brain Kick.

Giant Panther: The first thing you'll notice about Giant Panther is that he's listed as six foot six inches tall and 320 lbs, yet - again - he appears no bigger than anyone else. This special affect was achieved with simple camera tricks, which Peter Jackson later stole for use in his Lord of the Rings movie trilogy to make the actually-huge John Rhys-Davies look small. The second thing you'll notice about Giant Panther is his deeeeeeeep tan and all-american blonde hair. If you're anything like me, you think nothing of this and just chalk it up to, perhaps, a lifetime of fun n' sun for our boy GP. This all changes when you look at his specialty move:

The Iron Claw.

The Iron Claw, a manuever long used by anti-American scum in pro-wrestling rings worldwide. The Iron Claw, popularized by the nefarious Baron Von Raschke. The Iron Claw, a symbol of all things evil and anti-American. This has led, in recent years, to a revelation about Giant Panther - he's clearly a pasty Communist who dyed his red hair blonde and spent long hours at the tanning salon to rid himself of his pasty skin in order to fool us all. He plans to use the VWA Title as a stepping stone to advance the Communists to world domination. If you enjoy freedom, don't pick Giant Panther. Or you can, and teach the Russians a lesson by letting him lose to Kin Corn Karn all the time.

The Amazon: The Amazon takes second place to Star Man for the title of Coolest Pro Wrestling character - that's not a knock against Amazon, it's just that Star Man (STAR MAN!) is insufferably cool. The origins of the Amazon are largely unknown, so let's focus on what we do know: Using his Piranha Bite, he makes opponents bleed in a mid-1980's NES game.

Let's go over that again. The Amazon drew blood in a game by Nintendo, which infamously changed Mortal Kombat's blood to "sweat" for its SNES release. Nintendo censored blood in 1994, but the Amazon was makin 'em bleed in 1986. What this means?

It means that the Amazon and the Piranha Bite are not to be fucking trifled with.

Incidentally, the Amazon also had another less-heralded move, the Outlaw Choke. Which was really just a fancy way of saying "headlock", if you look at the move. It's funny that a game full of suplexes and brainbusters as normal moves has a headlock as a special move, but I digress. The move was named the Outlaw Choke to underscore the Amazon's criminal nature, I guess, but this was one criminal that stole the hearts and minds of the youth of America. We love you, The Amazon. Long live the Piranha Bite.

King Slender: I... I'm not sure I can hold it together after that outpouring of emotion for The Amazon. Give me a second... ... ...

... (tear falls)

Alright. I'm gonna make it.

King Slender: Finally, we come to King Slender. I think he was supposed to be the real protagonist of the game, what with his youth (a full 10 years younger than just about everyone else in the game), his rebellious long hair, and his royal prefix. In fact, his powers of goodness were so great that Nintendo felt they might have been too great; if you use King Slender, you have to wrestle everyone an additional time more before facing Great Puma (more on him later). That's another bout of getting your ass kicked by Star Man. Moral: Don't pick King Slender. He also has a ho-hum specialty move, one that starts with the generic animation for the body slam. You get the feeling that King Slender gets picked on a lot - here's a self professed "King" who is also named for his skinniness. His "specialty" animation is second-rate, and even Nintendo makes him work harder than anyone else to gain the VWA title. The more I think about it, the closer King Slender gets to Kin Corn Karn in terms of uselessness. Fuck King Slender.

The Great Puma There's really not much to be said here. The Great Puma is the final obstacle on your quest for the VWA Title, and he's just like any other character except for the fact that his A.I. is turned up about fifty notches. That, and he seems to win every lockup, ever. My advice to you: Bribe a female in the audience to flash Great Puma and the ref. Then, when the ref's not looking and Puma is distracted, pummel the hell out of Puma's nuts for about two minutes. I have no other viable strategy here. Puma is insanely difficult - even harder than Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!, as Puma doesn't wink at you to telegraph his moves. He winks at you, sure, but that's only because he's going to sodomize you after he wins, and he knows it. Puma is a bad, bad dude.

The actual gameplay is fairly basic. You're in the ring with the other character, and you attempt to beat the crap out of each other. The ring has "GO FIGHT!" written on the apron, which actually seems like more of an encouragement to the wrestlers to leave and take their differences elsewhere. So I'm not sure why that's there, but it's there. The VWA has many mysteries. There are also two commentators for each of your matches, and they don't ever seem to change their level of excitement. Many years later, I realized that the commentators were actually Disney's first experiment in animatronics. Whenever you pull off a specialty move, the crowd goes wild - or seems to, at least. There's a sound effect of the crowd roaring in appreciation, but no one in the crowd seems to care what you're doing either way. World Wrestling Entertainment would eventually steal this idea and provide audio effects of increased crowd noise during their TV presentations in order to make it seem like the audience was paying attention. But getting back to Pro Wrestling, you can't blame the crowd for not getting into Kin Corn Karn vs. King Slender.


When you WIN a match.

The crowd goes APESHIT. They actually change different colors in the most insane display of celebration that I've ever seen. Each crowd member flashes neon greens and pinks and blues while yelling loudly, and its just hard to understand the mechanics of the situation. The best I can think of is that VWA performs in front of fringe cultures of American society who rapidly change shirts in order to show appreciation, but feel free to develop your own theory.

The "pummeling your opponent" part of the game is somewhat repetitive, but fairly cool, especially by the standards of the time. While all wrestlers have the same basic moves except for their specialties, they're fairly interesting moves - back suplexes, piledrivers, big splashes and double kneedrops from the top rope. You can also knock your opponent to the outside and fly onto him from inside the ring, which is something that I believe seriously took about 10 years to be seen again in an American wrestling game. One of the standard moves is the running flying knee to the face, which tells me that Triple H was a HUGE Pro Wrestling fan when he was younger.

In the end, Pro Wrestling is a game about salvation and redemption, struggles and glory, triumph and defeat. If you can defeat the Great Puma, you will know a joy like no other. Playing as Star Man (STAR MAN!) will also allow you to know a joy unlike any other. When I go to bed tonight, I'm going to pray that one day, I can be as great of a person as Star Man is, misleading specialty move name or not. I hope we can all be as great as Star Man, someday.

Best Cheats: At the character select screen, select Fighter Hayabusa as your wrestler. You will then be able to lose every single match you play using him. A similar cheat can be used by picking King Corn Karn, as if you pick him you will immediately cry irresistably.

Game Play: 7
Graphics: 5
Music/Sound: 8
Originality: 7
Overall Rating: 7


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