Winning a Losing Battle: The Plight of Professional Wrestling Games

WWE 2K15Recently, while watching my older brother struggle to defeat an opponent in the latest WWE game, I came to a realization: Every wrestling game I’ve ever played fails to deliver an honest wrestling simulation.

Sure, most may have all the right moves, ring attire, entrance music, spectacle, and even the color commentators. But every game that I’ve played to date — the stellar N64 WCW games included — has tasked you with fighting one or more opponents while trying to win the match-up.

“Well, no duh,” you might respond. “That’s the point of wrestling, dummy. To win.”

Yes and no. Actually, more no than yes. Even though the acrobatics and ring work are very much real physical acts of endurance, and the pain at times is also very much a reality of the sport, winning is almost always — if not entirely — predetermined. Therefore, tasking the player with having to beat their opponent to claim victory flies in the face of what professional wrestling actually is.

One could argue that this feeds the fantasy, and that is a valid point. I’ll admit that it makes it more exciting having to actually win the match by brute force, cunning, luck, or some combination thereof. I suppose it could also be argued that the player’s character has been slated to win every bout and must work to sell the illusion. But ultimately, that would mean your victory should be guaranteed, which would require the opposition to give up or take a dive. I have yet to encounter anything like this in a wrestling video game.

WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011

Although it is more exciting and fun and challenging to have to actively secure a victory, perhaps offering a branching path should you lose instead of forcing a string of rematches might help bring the game closer to the sport it mimics.

Or maybe some developer could offer a pure wrestling sim — like some franchise modes have done in the past — that allows players to book the cards and determine the outcomes before the match, then sit back and watch the mayhem go off as scripted.

I guess that doesn’t really sound as fun as having to earn that victory, does it?