Retro Wrestling Gaming: A Look at Tag Team Wrestling (1983, Data East)

Technōs Japan created an arcade game named, “The Big Pro Wrestling” in 1983, which was published by Data East in Japan, and was published in North America in 1984  (where it was named, “Tag Team Wrestling”). This game has the distinction of being the first-ever pro-wrestling video game.

Tag Team Wrestling was also available for many of the computer brands that were popular at the time (Apple II, IBM PC, and Commodore 64), ported by Quicksilver Software, a company that is still in business today.

In 1986, Tag Team Wrestling was ported for the NES by Sas Sakata. Even today this version of the game can be found for sale on Amazon. Data East was the first licensed third-party video game publisher for the NES, with Tag Team Wrestling being one of the first games they published.

Tag Team Wrestling was ahead of its time in regards to its use of pro-wrestling terminology. While the terms, “face” and, “heel” was commonly used behind the scenes in the industry to describe the heroes and villains of the ring respectively, fans were generally only familiar with the terms, “fan favorite” and, “rulebreaker”.  It wasn’t until the 1990s when dirt sheets began growing in popularity, that many fans became familiar with the insider terms. However, the arcade version of Tag Team Wrestling refers to the teams in the game as, “face team” and, “heel team”.

Not only did Tag Team Wrestling trailblaze a path in the video game industry, but even today, the game continues to have an influential presence. All of the wrestlers in Tag Team Wrestling are original characters, and among them is a tag team named, “The Strong Bads”. This was the inspiration for the “Strong Bad” character in the comedy web series, “Homestar Runner“.

Data East went defunct in 2003, and in 2004,  their video game library was bought by Japan-based mobile game content provider G-Mode.