Marvel at my masterful booking skills! ... Unless you're the poor bastard with the damaged Achilles tendon in this screen shot. Sorry about that, Chief.
Putting yourself into the game has become synonymous with pro wrestling games, and really, sports games at large. To my knowledge, wrestling was the first sport in the genre to allow this in 1993’s WWF King of the Ring for the NES. It’s incredibly basic, but it’s there. But even before that, 1990’s WWF Wrestlemania Challenge allowed you to play as “Yourself.” While you can’t customize him in any way, it’s the first example I know of where a wrestling game gets YOU right into the action! By 1995, even Madden had followed suit. It offered the ability to create a player and it then made you run drills to determine how good he is.
Now that you’ve added your likeness to the game and given yourself the means to layeth the smacketh downeth on all the candy asses in your way, you need to craft yourself an entrance! I’m convinced that this is the single aspect of the game that fans spend the most time with. And, no, there’s no judgment in that statement, although it is a bit autobiographical… As with move-sets, you can make entrances for both CAWS and existing superstars (heh heh heh). And it’s pretty in-depth! You get to select an animation. This could be an existing one from any of the preexisting wrestlers or it could be one of the generic ones (Cowboy, Super Hero, Rapper, etc.). Then you may add optional pyros, screen effects, and lighting, in addition to choosing specific camera angles. Oh, and you do all of these things for each of 4 different areas: Stage, Ramp, Ring In, and Ring. Finally, you pick a movie to display on the Titantron and your entrance music. All for something you’ll probably skip after watching it 3 or 4 times! But it’s an integral and beloved part of players taking hold of the scripts and cameras as they produce their own wrestling programs.
Of course, all of this is just the warm up act to General Manager Mode. This is my favorite aspect of this game. You get to be the GM of either Raw or Smackdown. Pick a brand! Since this game came out during the WWE brand split (if the title of the game somehow managed to elude you…), you start by drafting a roster. Just as in real life (you know, the real “fake” wrestling show), you want the most popular talent possible.
GM Mode really is great fun. It’s not only the highlight of this game, but also the series. Sadly, it’s gone the way of the dodo. It seems that all-too-often with the Yukes made WWE games, we always get one step forward and two steps back. GM Mode was a short-lived, but very welcome addition. The last time we had this mode was in WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2008. While some aspects of it have been incorporated into the current Universe Mode, it’s not quite the same. You don’t have to worry about managing your wrestlers’ health, contracts, finances, etc. You can still book matches at will, but it’s just not the same. Every year, as the current WWE game looms, I look forward to it, but only until I learn what modes I enjoyed last year have been removed. Sadly, far too many players blindly buy the game up each year, ultimately rewarding Yukes for this underhanded practice.
As you can see, what started as a small, simple taste of control and freedom quickly led to progressively more bites at the apple. It was to be expected that we, as players, wanted absolute sovereignty over our digital federations. Wrestling games may have been faster on the draw for allowing player creation, which quickly made its way into football games, but Madden landed the first punch for the running of the entire show with its addition of Franchise Mode in 1998 (Madden NFL ‘99).
Marvel at my masterful booking skills!
So what prestigious title are these two illustrious teams vying for? Well… That hasn’t been decided yet, but that’s what Create a WWE Championship is for! You can create singles and tag team titles. You can alter the building materials and designs to create the ultimate macguffin for your budding new show. For lulz, I’ve literally never created a title and actually named it. I prefer to leave it as DEFAULT Champion. “And if you want this DEFAULT Championship Title Belt, you’ll have to face me in a Hell in a Cell match at Summer Slam!”
What about this game in particular? First, let’s dive in to Create a Wrestler (CAW). Today, this is an absolutely required component to wrestling games today. It’s evolved into quite the behemoth! Gone are the days of only frankensteining together a character from the parts of existing wrestlers. Now we have the tools we need to make all manner of creations! With tons of different garments, each of which has a plethora of skins, you’ll be able to put together the masterpiece you envision.
The game actually keeps the week-to-week ratings for an entire year of shows, graphing both Raw and Smackdown, so you can see both your long and short term progress. Similarly, you can manage your rivalries over a period of time. It’s best when these happen organically, but you can use a heavier hand if you like. And, as with ratings, you get constant feedback as to the popularity of your programming. As weird as it may be, if the fans really want to see The Undertake vs. Lita, give them what they want.
Alright. Wrestlers are rip roaring and ready to fight! But let’s not forget another important aspect of watching WWE’s testosterone fueled soap opera – stables. You could just go with the defaults and dive head first into the action. There’s nothing wrong with that, but since we’re focusing on creativity, why not explore some of the options at your disposal? If you get mopped into a corner, you could always fall back on a stock WWE stable, the Evil Foreigners. Personally, I reconstituted D-Generation X with Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Chris Jericho, Rob Van Dam, and myself, Heart Break Kurt. Naturally, DX needs a rival team with which to feud. Enter Planet Jarret. Remember those guys? Yeah… Nobody else does either. Oh well. That’s what search engines are for (even if Avenue Q says otherwise)! Planet Jarret is kind of a a BFD in my fed. They’ve managed to merge with Planet Stasiak (remember him!?) and Perry Saturn to form Kepler. And if that makes sense to you, then you’re at the right website!
Marvel at my masterful booking skills!
See that column full of meters to the right? Those are there to chart each performer’s fatigue level. You may have just signed John Cena to a lucrative 2 million dollar contract, but if you work him to the bone, he’ll suffer an injury. During the time he’s on the shelf, he’s nothing more than an expensive liability. You must choose whether to keep paying him to not work (which seems to be the model Baltimore, MD has chosen) or let him go. It’s not so cut-and-dry, though. If you release him, your rival GM may scoop him up on the cheap. It’s one of many reasons why longer contracts aren’t necessarily better for every situation. Even if you do everything possible to care for your roster, injuries are inevitable. Please, don’t try this at home!
For each match on the card, you are allowed to play it, watch it, or skip it. While they’re all valid options, your play style will dictate much of how this flows. Since you’re already controlling all the other aspects of the show, you could play every match to insure they go the way you want them to. There’s something to be said for that. It’s also a lot of fun to watch from the Gorilla position and see what happens when the AI takes over. If all you care about is the sim aspect, more power to you. Just skip them and move on. As for me, I usually choose one match to play per show and I watch the rest. I think that provides the perfect level of balance.
But even though you are directly competing with the GM of the other show, it doesn’t mean you can’t cooperate from time to time. Did you just barely miss out on drafting JBL like you wanted? You can always propose a trade. Granted, the CPU is pretty stingy, but the option is there. Never want anything too much. You’ll always end up paying too much for it one way or another.
The simple reality is that you always have a locker room full of potential divas. And, no, I’m not referring to the fed’s term for female competitors. You have to keep each worker on your show pacified. Some of these are fairly obvious. Nobody wants to lose all the time and everybody wants at least some recognition, so be sure to let your human comic book characters show up at least every now and then.
Nearly a decade later, this very game finally offered us the chance of our own to run the show. You get to book the matches. You can decide what goes where. You get to draft your roster. You have to manage the finances. You can assign the stables. You can tweak the balance of faces and heels. Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!
You can send out your tired meatheads to work the crowd. You also get to choose what you want to run during promo segments. The decisions you make here are debatably as important as the actual match booking. You can use these to build stories, mess with the other show, or run ads to help fund your future endeavors.
So, did you enjoy WWE Fastlane 2016? Did you? Huh? Huh? Did you? Huh? If so, you’re one of the few… They may as well have called that WWE Filler 2016. Seriously. Every single match went exactly how you thought it would and the entire event did literally nothing to advance the story (though, admittedly, Shane-O-Mac’s appearance on Raw the next night was an honest surprise). Have you ever thought to yourself, “Who booked this crap? I could do better than this!” I know I have, and I know I’m far from the only one!
Marvel at my masterful booking skills!
Who's this handsome looking fellow?
What a maneuver!
Over time, many players, myself included, demanded more and more creative control over these games. This slowly expanded into such ideas as Create an Entrance, Create a Taunt, Create a Move-Set, Create a Finisher, Create a Pay-Per-View, Create a Stable, Create a Title, and any others I inevitably left out.
Managing fatigue and injuries is a major part of your ultimate success or failure as a GM. Fortunately, you get to book every single match. You can put your fresh guys in the most intense matches. This lets you put your slightly fatigued workers in easier roles, such as managing other wrestlers. If your jobbers are totally exhausted and you don’t want to risk broken ribs or anything like that, you can give them the week off. Or…
Marvel at my masterful booking skills!
But why stop at only the prefabricated Pay–per-views? With Create a WWE PPV, you can put your DEFAULT Championship on the line in any way you want. While this mode is a bit more cookie cutter than the others so far, I’d rather have it than not. You basically just get to name and skin the PPV. You can pick the matches (up to 8) and choose the commentators, but that’s really about it.
Keep in mind that money doesn’t grow on trees. It’s mostly made out of cotton. But you’ll need a lot of it to maintain a roster of high cotton wrestlers. The longer the term you hire talent for, the cheaper they are each week, but keep in mind that you can only have 20 active combatants at once. You also start with the paltry sum of $10,000,000. Chump change, I know. Still, don’t blow it all on the draft. You need cash on hand to actually run your shows. There are also other reasons you may opt for shorter contracts…
Who's this slightly overweight, yet still ravishingly attractive fellow?
Thankfully, Deb from Knoxville, TN donated the perfect antidote to bad booking! She sent us WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2006 for the Playstation 2. Jenni B on Patreon also wanted to see some content based on the WWE. You both have my hearty thanks! This was the game that introduced the short-lived, but massively popular GM Mode, which we will be spending our time with today.
Create a Move-Set is pretty self explanatory. It lets you assign any moves you want to any character, particularly for your CAWS. This lets you assign your favorite moves to your lovingly crafted character, or perhaps even emulate any actual moves you’re capable of performing. Additionally, you can alter the existing superstars’ move-sets! This opens up a world of possibilities in and of itself. You can use it to update wrestlers’ move-sets to better reflect their current iterations. Some guys, such as Chris Jericho, undergo pretty radical changes with each of their runs. This keeps these people up-to-date. Or you can play the game the way I do: amending the move-sets to introduce an element of silliness into the product! Stunt Rider Stretches for everyone!
After each show, you receive the ratings of each separate match. You could play like the real WWE and totally ignore them, shoving whatever crap you want down the throats of your fans. Or if you want to win, you will analyze this data to see what people actually want to see. Popularity is the single most important determining factor, but there’s more than that to consider. Are you in San Antonio, Texas? Then be sure to put Shawn Michaels in the main event (and make sure he wins it!). Playing up your hometown heroes is a great strategy! True, it’s cheap heat, but heat’s heat. You should also pay attention to match types. Kurt Angle can put on quite a show in a submission match, but he wouldn’t be caught dead in a buried alive match. Pun fully intended.