Revisiting WrestleMania XIX for Nintendo Gamecube

WWE, Kurt Angle, Triple H (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)
WWE, Kurt Angle, Triple H (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images) /

WWE No Mercy is the universal poster child for how a wrestling game should look and feel. When it was released on the Nintendo 64, it was assumed that Nintendo had the golden goose for wrestling games. Yuke’s and THQ promised that the GameCube would have the best successors to No Mercy. WrestleMania X8 and WrestleMania XIX was Yuke’s first two offerings on the Gamecube.

WrestleMania X8 was a bland attempt that trailed behind the excellent Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth on PS2. Yuke’s decided they needed a fresh approach to wrestling. When WrestleMania XIX was released in 2003 it had beefed up looks, moves, character creator, rosters, and attitude. It combined an award-winning wrestling control system with some of the best production values in gaming. This was also the first game on the Gamecube to bring back Goldberg, Brock Lesnar, and Hulk Hogan to WWE wrestling. All signs pointed that Yuke’s had created a winner.

Strangely, it was not welcomed into the arms of wrestling enthusiasts. Though it scored a favorable 76 on Metacritic for it’s great graphics and tight controls, the audiences felt like they were being cheated out of a fully fleshed wrestling game.

WrestleMania XIX had a very special career mode that would be heralded as the weakest part of the game and the silver bullet that killed the franchise. Instead of the traditional career mode where your wrestler could climb the ranks in the ring and gain their glory at WrestleMania, they replaced it with a Revenge Mode. Think Double Dragon meets No Mercy.

The story goes that Vince McMahon fires you from the WWE and sends your character kicking and screaming out of the arena. You are a disgraced wrestler who is full of spite. Along comes Stephanie McMahon with a plan to upset her father. She tells you that the only way to get revenge is to go to her father’s marketing establishments and start tearing the place up. The whole story mode is your character trashing WWE mall exhibits or construction sites. Let me rephrase that. You don’t actually trash any buildings, but you go into these closed off arenas and start throwing workers and staff off cliffs and scaffolding.

A level will consist of a public arena that is high up on a platform. Your goal is to knock out all the staff and security guards that are trying to stop you. Then a boss will confront you in the form of William Regal or Devon Dudley. As you send helpless construction workers and staff into a black abyss you gain money to unlock new characters in the WWE Shop Zone.

That is the whole entire single-player mode of WrestleMania XIX. Besides that mode, you have exhibitions and tournaments to occupy your time.

History has shown us that removing the ring and the arena in any wrestling game is a recipe for horrible reviews. WrestleMania XIX should have learned that from WCW Backstage Assault. The career mode was critically panned as frustrating, monotonous, and strange. The weirdest part of WrestleMania XIX is how little it has to do with WrestleMania.

This was a pivotal time in wrestling gaming as Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain would come out one month after on the PS2 and sweep the floor with the competition. Bring the Pain would become the new poster child of wrestling games. Even AEW admits that they want their game to be a mix of No Mercy and Bring the Pain.

The Gamecube would later release Day of Reckoning and Day of Reckoning 2, which were two very polished wrestling games that were worth every penny. They corrected the single-player mistake in those games. It may have been too little and too late. Eventually, all WWE games on every console would get sucked into the Smackdown vs. Raw series. Since the GameCube, Nintendo has had some WWE 2K offerings on the Wii and Switch but they have been described as lackluster and underwhelming.

Wrestlemania XIX has almost everything you would want in a AAA wrestling game. There were tons of wrestling match types, accurate entrance themes, ladder and table physics, an incredibly generous create-a-wrestler, and one of the best rosters the early 2000s could afford. Unfortunately, Nintendo lost the right to carry the torch of No Mercy with the WrestleMania series. There’s a lot of factors that would contribute to the dying light of Yuke’s offerings on the Gamecube, but I can’t imagine WrestleMania XIX’s career mode helped.