Hey folks, it’s time again to get impossibly nerdy and talk wrestling and video games all at once. As I mentioned in the debut Game vs. Reality article, wrestling games were once locked into covering a specific, narrow chunks of whatever promotion they had managed to license — a game that came out around Christmas might, if you were lucky, be based on the characters and storylines from the first three-to-six months of that year.
So, rather than simply reviewing old wrestling titles, I’m going back, comparing the wrestling game to the specific time period it was covering, and declaring an ultimate and definitive winner. The soul-wrenching decisions continue…
Before we begin, make sure to hit those share buttons! This feature did some good business last week — let’s keep it up!
ECW Hardcore Revolution (N64, PSX & Dreamcast)
The 32/64-bit era of video games just happened to perfectly coincide with one of the most exciting and eventful eras in wrestling history. When the N64 debuted in 1996, the NWO had just debuted and WCW was on top of the world, and by the time Nintendo released their next console in 2001, WCW was dead. WCW and WWF’s struggles were mirrored in their video games — early in the N64/Playstation era, WCW’s games were being produced by the rock solid tag-team of THQ and developer AKI Corporation, while WWF’s games were in the sticky hands of infamous video game scumwads Acclaim. As WWFs fortunes began to rise and WCW’s plummeted, WWF allied with THQ, WCW formed a misbegotten stable with EA, and Acclaim, well, they decided to form a Heath Slater and Titus O’Neil-esque team with ECW.
Now, back when WWF was still with Acclaim, I insisted their games were better than WCW’s. I couldn’t really tell you why — I wasn’t even a WWF guy in the late-90s. I think I mostly just did it because my brother insisted on the superiority of games like WCW vs. NWO: World Tour and WCW/NWO Revenge. Of course he was right, and I’m a big dummy, but some of you folks already knew that.
If anybody links my brother to this article, I’ll kill them.
So, when Acclaim rebounded from their break-up with WWF with an eager-to-please ECW, I was right there in their corner, cheering this new union on. I wasn’t completely blind though — even back in 2000 I had some serious misgivings about ECW Hardcore Revolution, and after playing it up more recently I have some serious misgivings about my early 2000s mental state. How did I manage to play this for more than 15-minutes?
The Acclaim games never lacked in options for the minutia-obsessed brain, packing in tons of match types, modes and a create-a-wrestler that gave you more control over your wrestler’s physical appearance than the AKI games. Unfortunately, once you hit the ring Acclaim’s games were as pleasurable as hot oatmeal burps. The characters paradoxically seemed to have no weight or substance, and yet moved like they had a concrete dump in their pants. Rather than using the simple grappling system of the AKI games, Acclaim’s games used a fighting game, “pound every button on the controller twice to do a bodyslam” approach, that essentially turned their wrestling games into the world’s clunkiest version of Mortal Kombat. ECW Hardcore Revolution did nothing to spruce up the core Acclaim wrestling engine — if anything, it descended further into disarray, with a lot of the wrestlers’ movesets only vaguely resembling their real-life counterparts.
Thankfully 90% of the guys in ECW just had a DDT for a finisher.
Also, it was OH MY GOD obvious ECW Hardcore Revolution was just a WWF game with a shabby new coat of paint. For instance, despite the fact that ECW mostly took place in a handful of bingo halls and warehouses in and amongst Philadelphia, Hardcore Revolution’s career mode had you travelling the country, taking on Joe Journeyman and Hank Ham and Egger from the great Atlantic Ocean to the wide Pacific shore. They even created a fourth championship for career mode called the Acclaim Belt because ECW only had three titles, but the career mode in Acclaim’s WWF games had four titles to chase. The game was ripe with this kind of zero effort sh*t.
On the plus side, I did trade this game in for Wrestlemania 2000, so you could say it initiated a pretty hardcore revolution in the quality of wrestling cartridges in my N64.
ECW (September – October, 1999)
It’s hard to tell for sure since everything about the game is so shambolic, but ECW Hardcore Revolution seems to roughly cover September and October of 1999. For evidence one need only look toward The Dudleys and Sandman, some of ECW’s biggest, most marketable names who are, nonetheless, not in the game. The Dudley’s left ECW near the end of August so Acclaim must have started assembling Hardcore Revolution’s roster after then, and Sandman returned in early November, so you’re left with a very narrow two-month timeframe.
Believe it or not, Sandman failed to make a go of it in WCW.
Narrow as it was, it was still an important piece of ECW history. ECW on TNN had just debuted in August, bringing ECW out of the world of Internet discussion and tape trading and into the harsh light of the mainstream for the first time. Unfortunately just as ECW was getting its big break, it was falling apart at the seams — as alluded to every second time Paul Heyman’s on WWE TV, them checks were a-bouncin’ and every even remotely promising talent was being snatched up by WWF and WCW. Within less than six-months friggin’ Aldo Montoya was champion, and the writing was on the wall.
But hey, in September/October not quite everyone had jumped ship yet and the promotion was still pumping out a lot of great matches, despite the fact that Heyman was running on fumes as a booker. Taz was still the human suplex-machine and rounding out the last great ECW title reign in the belt’s history in September (well, unless you count that legendary WWECW Chavo Guerrero run) and by late September Mike Awesome would win the title, setting off his storied (and horrifying in hindsight) title feud with Masato Tanaka. RVD was still a fixture and we totally weren’t tired of guys holding chairs in front of their own faces so Rob could spin-kick them yet. A whole host of talented guys like Jerry Lynn, Tajiri, Lance Storm, Rhino and Super Crazy were also tearing it up in pointless, yet exciting matches on the undercard.
“Man, can’t wait to go to WWF, put on a shirt and track pants and start eatin’ me some sammiches.”
I’d kept up with ECW somewhat. I’d read results, watched the occasional tape and squinted at postage-stamp sized Internet videos, but this was the first time I could sit on my couch and watch ECW on TV on a weekly basis like a proper promotion, and for a brief snippet of time, it felt like the most vibrant thing in the world. That vibrancy was as fleeting as money in Paul Heyman’s bank account (heeey-oh!) but I still remember the period with fondness.
And Your Winner Is…
ECW Hardcore Revolution was the product of two companies on the decline, but despite the fact that both ECW and Acclaim are long-since dead, one is definitely better remembered than the other. 1999 ECW was a company going down fighting and doing everything it could to entertain its fans. Early-2000s Acclaim was a company about to release BMX XXX. Don’t let anybody tell you all failures are created equal.
The Undisputed Unified Champion (This Week): ECW (September – October, 1999)
Feel free to share your own memories of late-period ECW, or Acclaim’s wrestling games (come on, we all played them) below!