The WWE just got off making a truckload of money from a TV deal with FOX and their very questionable show in Saudi Arabia. NJPW wants to expand globally and has already set the seeds in motion with the opening of its Los Angeles dojo (headed by none other than Katsuyori Shibata). TNA, after years upon years of mediocrity, seems to have found its niche in Canada of all places and RoH, arguably the most popular indie, was purchased by Sinclair Broadcasting Corp. a few years back. Wrestling is more mainstream than ever since the Monday Night Wars, and... there’s a massive dearth of pro wrestling video games.
Companies have noticed that wrestling fans and gamers are often one and the same, or at the very least there’s enough crossover between the two that partnerships should be common. Out of all of these, New Japan Pro-Wrestling has pounced on the video game bandwagon like Minoru Suzuki pouncing on a young lion.
First is their partnership with Namco for Tekken 7 - A whole set of t-shirts for every character in the game ranging from CHAOS, Bullet Club and the traditional NJPW lion logo as well as NJPW player plates. Then, you can give King an outfit designed for Kazuchika Okada, arguably the top star of the organization, which changes his Rage Art to the Rainmaker lariat, Okada’s finisher. Then, a year later, they drop additional T-shirts, including a re-fictionalization of the Bullet Club Heihachi shirt, the Kenny Omega x Bryan Fury shirt and a second outfit, this time for Lars, based on Hiroshi Tanahashi which changes his rage art to a string of blows followed by an electrified Slingblade, one of Tanahashi’s trademark moves (unfortunately, the High Fly Flow was likely too difficult to implement properly in the game).
Prior to that, there’s that little collaboration for Yakuza 6's Clan Creator minigame where NJPW lent 6 of their wrestlers (the aforementioned Okada and Tanahashi, with Hiroyuki Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Tetsuya Naito and Toru Yano) for facial capture and voices. Yet, the collaboration does not stop there - In order to perpetuate the minigame in the far-flung past of 2006, Kiwami 2 features NJPW’s past legends. Masahiro Chono, Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami, Keiji Mutoh and Genichiro Tenryu are all there and will be opposing Majima Construction’s efforts to... do something. I haven’t kept up with it to try and be surprised with that part of the game.
As far as that company’s concerned, it’s still not over - It’s partnering up with Spike Chunsoft for an expansion to Fire Pro World and a story mode based entirely out of their organization as well as their top title - the IWGP Heavyweight championship. And just because they can’t seem to be able to stop the collaboration with various video game activities, CEO will promote a NJPW show on US shores in Florida, titled CEO x NJPW. It’s not the first time that Alex Jebailey uses wrestling themed promotion for his event - from featuring the ring and introductions for top 8, to a literal cage match event and even getting involved in some ring action when Kenny Omega outright kicked Jebailey’s ego out of his skull with a superkick. (Don’t worry Jebailey fans, it came back)
Even at E3, this isn’t glossed over - Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks will be taking on The New Day in Street Fighter 5 to, well, promote the game. Last time Kenny took on Austin Creed, it didn’t end well for the trombone toting fellow, but maybe the backup will help?
Still, NJPW doing all these things doesn’t make for a trend, and I was about to agree until I saw something I never expected on twitter.
Couple that with Square-Enix (who are no stranger to wrestling games, by the by) partnering up with the WWE last year for Wrestlemania to promote their newest expansion for FFXIV, and we’ve seen more crossovers between the two worlds than anything.
Yet, wrestling games are few and far between. Other than the aforementioned Fire Pro Wrestling World, there’s the WWE2K(year) game every year, and that’s it. Where in the past, unlicensed wrestling games(or in the case of Fire Pro, filing off the licenses and calling it a day) were present and have often led to some very interesting games such as Saturday Night Slammasters. Even bizarre licensed games like Def Jam: Fight For New York were still greatly appreciated by people.
Now? The risk seems too great, and yet the opportunity for a game to occupy that space has never been greater. Fire Pro is always going to be niche due to its overreliance on simulation gameplay, and the WWE games will never change their focus from trying to simulate the WWE. A game which would have faster-paced gameplay and interesting visuals could end up being a sleeper hit. I recall there being a few indie games in development including a CHIKARA based one but nothing new was ever released about them.
How about you? Any fond memories of video game graps? Of wrestling making its way into something you did not expect it to?