“Bizarro Worlds” in WWE Video Games

Paragon Fantasy Wrestling ArenaThe new WWE 2K14 video game is scheduled for release October 29, 2013, and I am waiting with great anticipation to sink my teeth into it.  The announcements so far, from the slight tweaks in the way the game plays to the inclusion of surprising new characters like the Ultimate Warrior, are exciting enough to me.  However, I am most curious about one particular detail the game’s developers have not fully revealed yet: what the story mode will be like.  For me, WWE games provide an escape from the worries of the real world; the over-the-top superstars and storylines of the wrestling world are exaggerated even more when viewed through the prism of a video game.  Of course, sometimes those exaggerations end up creating “bizarro worlds” where the most illogical things can, and often do, happen.  Here are a few of the more outrageous events I have seen go down in WWE games of the past which have made me love to play them even more.  Here’s hoping 2K14 can somehow manage to top them in sheer absurdity and fun while creating its own “bizarro world.”

The “Great One” comes to WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2007… just not that “Great One.”

One night in late 2006/early 2007  – (I cannot quite remember when), I was going through a portion of the absurdly long “24/7” mode in the latest WWE game when all of a sudden one of the game’s announcers proclaimed that a very special guest would be coming back to the world of wrestling soon.  They said he was a former WWE star who had gone on to star in several successful movies.  He had an “electrifying” presence, knew how to raise eyebrows, and most importantly, often called himself “The Great One” (which was, in fact, the name of the storyline I was playing through).  If you were to ask an average wrestling fan what all of those clues might be pointing to, they would likely say that Dwayne Johnson, better known to WWE viewers as The Rock, would be making a once-in-a-lifetime appearance, an event which would indeed happen in a few years in real life, but which was an outcome nearly unthinkable in a 2007 video game!  Alas, it really was too good to be true, for the guy who pulled up in the limosine in the arena parking lot and greeted my character was not the Rock, but he was a movie star and former wrestling great.  Yes, folks, it was none other than star of They Live and Hell Comes to Frogtown, the self-proclaimed master of kicking behind and chewing bubblegum (while at the same time lamenting the sad lack of bubblegum in the near-vicinity), a truly “bizarro” person if there ever was one, the legendary “Rowdy” Roddy Piper!    The following hours of game play were filled with me becoming friends and eventually rivals with the kilted warrior, all the while leaving me stunned that his virtual likeness and signature Scottish/Canadian accent could become a featured part of a video game a full two decades after his 1980s heyday.  Sure, I wouldn’t have minded the Rock doing the near-impossible and showing up unannounced in a video game, but the “Hot Rod” was just as cool and certainly memorable in his own right.

A time machine could lead you back…to the future in WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011.

This one concerns a feature in a recent WWE game I never even knew about until I read the strategy guide for it, and even then, I have never actually tried it for myself, but if you have a copy of the game, try it out and tell me what you think of it!  It seems that, in the “bizarro world” of this game at least, the tag team of Edge and Christian used to have a time machine (well, they always did say they “reeked of awesomeness,” so why wouldn’t they have one of the most totally awesome scientific achievements ever?)  This video explains how Christian puts the machine back together using an old phone booth, a flux capacitor (because those things surely exist in real life, right?) and a couple of wrestling action figures.  Once he’s got the thing built, he gains the ability to bend space and time and travel back and forth to any point of any storyline in the game.  It’s probably a good thing that this type of technology isn’t available to WWE stars in real life.  Who knows what would happen if someone as powerful as WWE Chairman Vince McMahon gained the power to influence history in any way they saw fit?  No, I think this power should stay out of humanity’s hands for the good of all, even if it would be better to have Mickie James side with her friend Natalya instead of her boyfriend Dolph Ziggler (just one example of many, many choices you can make in the game, by the way).

In WWE ’12, Jacob Cass is, to quote from the Dave the Barbarian theme song, “a hero but a wimp.”

When the WWE video game series dropped the Smackdown vs. Raw name from the box cover, I took that as a signal that a lot of changes were coming, and boy was I right!  The game play received a huge overhaul and the graphics for the wrestlers and arenas looked even nicer than they had ever been before.  Even the story got a big boost as it was greatly expanded and divided into three huge parts.  The first two parts displayed some solid storytelling, but the third part was very disappointing to me.  In this last leg of the journey, you get to create your own version of a character written especially for the game named Jacob Cass, a wrestler who graduates from the WWE NXT show for developing wrestlers and competes on the main branded shows, Raw and SmackDown, for roughly a year of game time.  Along the way, he becomes subject to a surprising number of ambushes and unfair situations, first from fellow rookies and veteran stars who want a piece of his hide before he has even had a chance to step out of the blocks, then from a group of returning stars who want to revive the old WWE competitor World Championship Wrestling (WCW) but have to get rid of Cass first to accomplish their goal. 

Like any good hero, Cass is more than capable of handling these situations, especially since you, the player, have direct control over him and have to win to survive.  The story, however, makes a lot of your efforts seem useless.  Whenever you win a match, the story somehow turns it into something of a loss by adding more guys to the opposition or jumping to a cutscene where Cass is bamboozled by the bad guys and loses the match.  This happens with astonishing regularity and often Cass does not have any friends or allies who could help him to turn the tide, making things feel even more unfair.  I don’t have any complaints about this kind of story because setting up overwhelming odds and finding ways to overcome them are the whole point of wrestling storylines in the first place, but the constant barrage of such obstacles that Cass is confronted with and the amazing lack of defense the main story imbues him with seem just ridiculous to me.  I’m playing a good guy the game doesn’t even trust with saving his own life.  He’s beaten up like a pinata up until the very last cutscene when he finally wins a match fair and square and celebrates with all of his new “friends” in the ring with a new title belt.  This last vingette plays for all of 20 seconds before it cuts away to the developers’ credits.  Definitely not worth the near-month I put into it, but darn it if I didn’t enjoy the game anyway.

There’s plenty of other bizarro moments I could think of in these games, but those three stick out the most in my mind whenever I think of WWE and video games.  Ever had a strange moment happen during a movie or TV show that made you think twice?  Tell me about it in the comments, even if it is a bit too bizzarre for belief.

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