Retronauts Vol. III Episode 12: Wrestlenauts

Retronauts 12 cover

I think the first time I became aware of pro wrestling was through games — specifically, the first issue of Nintendo Power I received, which had a feature on WWF Wrestlemania for the NES. Having no idea who anybody was in the game, I thus had no real interest in wrestling, and pretty much ignored it throughout my childhood, never quite getting it. But I came to realize there was real passion for the sport since it was televised, by people as smart and nerdy as I am, plus nearly 30 years of video games to fuel that passion. And that’s pretty much the focus of this week’s episode, requested by backer Alex “krae_man” Forsyth — who, if you were ever on the 1UP message boards during the Retronauts heyday, probably saw his demands for a “Wrestlenauts” episode. Well, Kickstarter can make dreams happen on either side, and I guess it works out that this is releasing close to Christmas.

Joining us are Dave Rudden and returning guest Henry Gilbert, both from Laser Time and their associated wrestling show Cheap Popcast; and Michael Donahoe, whom you may remember from EGM and 1UP (and respective podcasts). All three are experienced wrestling nerds who played most of the games that were released on this side of the world, and more, and as I guide everybody through a chronology of wrestling games, I more or less leave it to these guys when it comes to discussing them in greater detail.

Sure, there’s the typical going-down-the-list treatment, but we really get rolling once we get to Fire Pro Wrestling, the premier Japanese-made series filled with customization and realistic fighting system, and the 3D/polygonal era, when the developer formerly known as AKI made some of the best (and best-remembered) licensed wrestling games of all time. Those are times when Japanese developers were honing their skills and making the best wrestling games, becoming a sort of latent golden age for the genre. There’s plenty more to be said about certain arcade games, too, like Midway’s Wrestlemania game with the real digitized wrestlers, and as we reach the present day, some talk about where the genre could be going, perhaps always being led by the WWE and developer Yuke’s.

Maybe this won’t be the most relatable episode of Retronauts — even for me it isn’t, on the whole. But again, it’s filled with information and enthusiasm, and no matter what your interest in wrestling is (if you get lost by any jargon, don’t forget this handy glossary), it’s still pretty fun to hear people who really know what they’re talking about share their expertise on games that can rise above the much-maligned sport they’re based on. Don’t shy away from this one!

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This episode’s breakdown:



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15 Responses to Retronauts Vol. III Episode 12: Wrestlenauts

  1. I love that you guys end the show with the Million Dollar Man theme from the NES game. It almost sounds like a Mega Man stage theme. The weird thing about that song, though, is that it’s actually the theme of the tag team Strike Force.

    There were a few other weird musical anomalies in that game. For example, the theme they used for Andre was the song “Stand Back”, sung by Vince McMahon. Um… You can google that one on your own. You might want to bite down on a screwdriver before you listen.

  2. Haven’t listened to this yet, but I wanted to thank you guys for doing it. Also, FPR is still the best wrestling game ever made. Donahoe was right.

  3. Jmrroo

    Oh what a great topic! This should be exciting! Great job coming up with obscure but meaningful topics guys!

  4. Tato

    What an awesome, unexpected episode. As a retrogaming and wrestling fan, this is very welcome.

    There seems to be more and more people looking at wrestling games lately, maybe because when you look back on all the systems, there really were a ton of wrestling games made since you didn’t REALLY need to have a major license to make a successful one, unlike other sports games. A book specifically focusing on wrestling video games recently got successfully Kickstarted, “Wrestling with Pixels.”

    Thanks again for your work.

  5. BearChair

    I don’t really like professional wrestling, and I haven’t watched it since the Stone Cold era, and even though only passingly.

    But this is the best episode of Retronauts Vol. III yet. Bravo.

    • theBigSnit

      I shamefully admit I too was a wrestling junkie. Although it was a very private thing. No one else I knew gave a crap about wrastlin’, myself included. And it only managed to hold my interest for a year. But man what a year.

      Personal favs (that I remember): 123 Kid, Golddust, some native american dude, Undertaker, Andre…and the rest.

  6. JohnLearned

    I made a hell of a drinking game out of NES Pro Wrestling. I’d like to say I have fond memories of it, but they’re all hazy

  7. Brn

    Great episode guys! I loved wrestling in my early teens, and the interest was entirely sparked by WCW/nWo Revenge. Lost interest in about 2003, but I’ve actually picked it back up again this year, largely due to Cheap Popcast. I always love Lastertime\retronauts crossovers, and it was cool to hear Donohoe too, as I was an EGM Live fan.

  8. Mark P

    Not a wrestling game fan at all, but this episode was truly brilliant. One of the best.

    The only thing wrong was the sad omission of any discussion of Cutie Suzuki’s Ringside Angel on the Mega Drive 🙂

  9. Adam Campbell

    This might just be my favourite episode yet. That No Mercy menu track brought back so many memories. Back in high school, I’d watch all the wrestling tapes I could get my hands on. I’d take a ton of notes on all the moves the wrestlers did, then spend hours creating the perfect Bret Hart/Rob Van Dam in No Mercy.

  10. Finally! Honestly an episode of Retronauts I’ve silently longed after for years. While the Retronauts Triumvirate didn’t add too much, it was great to finally give a popular “niche” some airtime.

  11. Abuele

    Great episode and also great listening to Michael Donahoe again. Now give it a spin off with references for wrestlers in fighting games.

  12. Sean C

    Wow, I totally wasn’t that excited for a wrestlenauts. But this episode blew me away. A great example of bringing on experts to the show because no one man, (or 3) has all knowledge about about all types of games. But I thought that Ray and Bob did a great job moderating the topic and just letting the discussion flow freely while moving it in interesting directions. It made me remember that at one time I really liked wrestling games. Before I forget have to give credit to Jeremy for gracefully bowing out. Not everyone can love violent non sensical combat staged for entertainment.

    And also thanks for mentioning at least Pro Wresting on the SMS. I realize few people have ever played it. And that it is a very primitive game. But boy did I have fun playing it back in the day with my friends. Using those SMS screw in joystick nubs, this is the first game that ever gave me raw thumbs from playing so much. Having played that and pro wresting on the NES, this one was much more fun to play. But I guess its pointless comparing the merits of two turds. I’m sure most peoples thoughts about those games is going to be on pure nostalgia.

  13. Grant

    Guys, Tecmo’s Tag Team Wrestling for NES was so, so bad. This is one of those games that I was given as a kid by some relative who didn’t know better, but I still played the shit out of it because I didn’t have a lot of games.

    You only had two basic moves-punch and grapple-and when you grappled, a menu containing various special moves would pop up for about a second and a half. You had to cycle through it using the B button to pick a move. Many of the move names were in transliterated Japanese. Also, matches lasted forever, which was just torture, considering the basic gameplay.