Professional wrestling is something I’ve never really understood. Sure, big burly men in tight outfits beating eachother up works for me in a superhero setting, but there’s always been something about the wrestling scene that just didn’t click with me. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s fake but pretending to be real but not really. Maybe it’s all the weird drama wrapped up in a fake/real sports setting. Maybe it’s how they stomp their feet when they punch. Who knows? But there has always been one form of professional wrestling that clicked with me, and that was video games. Perhaps none more so than the incredibly awesome Pro wrestling for the NES.
Pro Wrestling was one of the famous “black box” releases for the NES. It hit store shelves in March of 1987, and was developed internally at Nintendo R&D1 (the same studio that churned out Balloon Fight, Duck Hunt, Excitebike, Kid Icarus, and Metroid, to name a few), and the sole programmer was the legendary Masato Masuda, who went on to create the Fire-Pro series. It was basically a professional wrestling simulator, featuring two dudes in a ring beating the crap out of one another until one could pin the other down for 3 seconds. From a gameplay perspective, it was simple, brilliant fun, not unlike other “black box” NES games. Your characters could grapple, jump off ropes, throw one another out of the ring, and perform super cool special moves. It was all a bit button-mashy, but it really worked for the type of game it was. Coupled with some really catchy music, Pro Wrestling was an absolute joy to play. However, the one thing it didn’t have going for it was an official license. Kids wanting to play as their favorite WWF stars were out of luck for this release. Fortunately, Nintendo made up for it by creating their own cast of characters, which made Pro Wrestling truly shine.
Names like Star Man and The Amazon were favorites, but while a man dressed in all pink with a star on his face and a mystical creature who eats peoples heads were probably the most outlandish, everyone in the roster had something to offer. Be it the Great Panther who was clearly inspired by Hulk Hogan, Kin Korn Karn with his Mongolian Chop, or the mysterious final boss the Great Puma, Pro Wrestling was filled with characters that would fit perfectly in the world of Punch-Out!! And that’s where I start to get confused.
This game was popular. Everyone I knew played it, and we all loved it. It’s a mainstay to this day, and it’s even the source of the phrase “A Winner is You.” It’s rarely, if ever, been referenced in any way, and has never even sniffed a sequel. As far as I know, the characters are wholly owned by Nintendo, they’re well loved, and people still like professional wrestling, especially in video game form. And speaking of which, nobody publishes wrestling games on Ninetndo platforms anymore! So, why have we not seen hyde nor hair of it since its initial release? This game hasn’t even seen a Virtual Console release! It’s simply baffling. A modern reimagining in the same vein as the sublime Punch-Out!! For Wii would be absolutely incredible. The nostalgia is there, and why this IP hasn’t seen the same return over the years as the Punch-Out!! Franchise is beyond me.
Pro Wrestling is a truly mystifying game to be lost in time. Nintendo is sitting on a potential winner here, but without so much as a rumor of a new iteration in the pipeline, it seems that this one may just be a lost cause. Still, the cart isn’t that hard to track down, and if you’re looking for a good time with friends, button mashing rarely gets more fun than this.