Six classic wrestling video game mechanics that are not No Mercy

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Nintendo 64 controllers at the new '90s room launch at Madame Tussauds on March 27, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 27: Nintendo 64 controllers at the new '90s room launch at Madame Tussauds on March 27, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images) /

WWE No Mercy is considered the hallmark of wrestling video games, but plenty of others offered intriguing gameplay mechanics.

1. WWF Warzone/ WWF Attitude/ ECW Hardcore/ ECW Anarchy Rulz

Acclaim Entertainment was in charge of the mid-90s WWF and ECW games. They opted for a control scheme that felt more like Mortal Kombat (which makes sense because that game was blowing up at the time). Wrestlers would have to learn their move set and perform wrestling moves like back, forward, forward, A. This worked really well in fighting games but did not translate well in the ring. The CPU was way too good at destroying you before you could come up with one of several wrestling moves. Something as easy as an Irish Whip felt too hard to pull off when your opponent was too good.

The idea made wrestling moves more rewarding, especially if you memorized Stone Cold’s finisher, but this type of gameplay never caught on after ECW tanked.

WWF Warzone’s wrestling controls proved that the gamer needed more control and simplicity like the ones we have in No Mercy.

2. WCW Nitro/ WCW Thunder

THQ wanted WCW to have a game that felt like a thrilling arcade experience. They came up with a control scheme where every wrestler had a set of moves that could be pulled off with two or three simple button presses. Dean Malenko could do a powerbomb, a belly-to-belly, or a vertical suplex just by connecting the punch, kick, knee, or chop button. It was universal among all the wrestlers so even Ric Flair could powerbomb Kevin Nash. Each wrestler would get three signature moves that you would have to memorize from the instruction booklet.

It sounded good on paper, but the fatal flaw was that you could spam those buttons over and over and the CPU was defenseless against your ten thousand leg drops. Considering that the game had horrific framerate issues if more than two people got in the ring, this game was a fail all around. The PS1, N64, and PC got ports of this awful game.

THQ jumped off this sinking boat to work on WWE No Mercy later in the 90s. Thank goodness that AEW Fight Forever borrowed none of these mechanics.

3. Power Move Pro Wrestling/ Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling Toukon Retsuden

Considered to be one of the first 3D wrestling games on PS1, Yuke’s made a very simple fighting system for fictional wrestling. A lot of games, including No Mercy, took pointers from Power Move.

Your wrestler could do four grapples and four submissions. It was all based on if your opponent was dizzy or active. Power Move paved the way for a lot of the wrestling mechanics that we use in modern games. Even though you could exhaust your move set in under a minute it was very satisfying.

There were no signature or finishing moves. Power Move had a bit of a problem with wrestlers getting knocked down and staying on the mat way too long. This gameplay style went over to the Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling Toukon Retsuden games.

4. Ultimate Muscle Pro Wrestling Legends Vs. New Generation / Ultimate Muscle Galactic Wrestling

The GameCube and the PS2 were lucky enough to get these games. This sped-up wrestling mechanic was all the rage after No Mercy came out. If you were tired of WWE’s seriousness you could go full fantasy in the galactic ring. Ultimate Muscle’s controls were based on quick arcade motions. You could do different grapples based on dashing or standing still. You really didn’t care about hitting the right move as long as you were faster than your opponent. The jumping mechanic also added a new way to descend on your opponent with a splash or a DDT.

The real reason people got into Ultimate Muscle was the fully animated finishers. Wrestlers would get tossed hundreds of feet in the air and get piledriven into the mat. Each wrestler is larger than life and filled with fantastic Japanese goofiness. I was a big fan of Dik Dik or Kevin Mask.

Note: These games are ultra rare right now. It would be amazing if Bandai re-released them for the modern systems.

5. Legends of Wrestling I, II, Showdown

Originally Acclaim was going to make a modern sequel to ECW’s Anarchy Rulz, but ECW shut down. They instead opted for a wrestling game that included the major icons of the ’70s, 80s, and 90s. Anyone who wanted to have a dream match between King Kong Bundy and Sid Vicious in Madison Square Garden could do it in this game.

The fighting mechanic was overly complicated and each sequel couldn’t fix it. Wrestlers could do special grapple holds. Each grapple holds a designated move a wrestler could do. A headlock hold meant you could link it into a DDT, while a collar and elbow tie-up could be turned into a belly-to-belly. The marathon of buttons you had to press to pull off these moves was frustrating. The CPU had no problem tossing you around the ring, while you tried to get into the right grapple.

This game was ultimately competing against WWE Smackdown: Bring the Pain so it had no chance at all. Acclaim would fall under its own foibles and we would lose another wrestling publisher to bad ideas.

6. Giant Gram Pro Wrestling 2000

The Dreamcast was a wrestling stink pit for those who lived in the US. If you were lucky enough to live in Japan or have a CD that hacked the region lock, you could play Giant Gram Pro Wrestling 2000.

This wrestling system is based on Sega’s Virtua Fighter engine. Wrestlers had three buttons strike, grapple, and slam. While this doesn’t sound as impressive, the fighting engine was smoother than baby oil on HHH. Players had to link together strikes and throws in order to wear down their opponent’s health. Matches were over in under five minutes, but the back and forth was intense.

The roster is based on the All Japan Pro Wrestling team of the late 90s. You could wrestle as Giant Baba or Mitsuharu Misawa. Each wrestler had their core move set, which you had to experiment with by getting into a front lock, behind lock, or a side lock. Players that learned how to do the more advanced moves were rewarded with glass-shattering sound effects, a picture of what bones they were breaking, and an inverted filter. The announcer would also go nuts making you feel like you did something amazing.

Giant Gram Pro Wrestling 2000 is an amazing experience. It plays like an arcade game, but it gets very deep.