WWF is a sport packed with intense physical violence and vicious insults (and that's just the crowd). So why is the game so bloody weedy?
Wrestling sure has come a long way since those Saturday afternoon shows of the 70s and 80s when such blobs of land as Big Daddy ('ray!) and Giant Haystacks (boo!) ruled the ring. For some reason I used to believe in it all in those days - I can remember the thrill of seeing Kendo Nagasaki unmasked - which is hard to credit now. Maybe we were all just more innocent back then.
Nowadays, wrestling has an unabashed emphasis on the act. It's more soap opera than sport, with the players embroiled in battles much like the cast of 'Enders or Brooky. And it's all American - grappling in the UK was all but postponed indefinitely many years ago due to lack of interest.
There are two main wrestling bodies in the US - World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. The WCW can be seen on (very) early morning English telly and is for tinkers, whereas the WWF resides on the lofty heights of satellite television and appeals to more middle-class tastes.
What it doesn't appeal to is me (at all), but that's beside the point. For the benefit of myself, and any other blinkered souls in the same boat, I thought I'd find out a bit about the WWF. Here are my findings (and don't worry, if you think I'm going on a bit, there's a point to all this, trust me).
What Wrestling Federation?
Every WWF performance seems to concern four major players - Good Wrestlers, Bad Wrestlers, Managers and Commentators - and all of them get actively involved in the proceedings. What a pity only eight of the dozens of colourful wrestling characters available get to perform in the Amiga version of the game - and only three of those are open to control by the player.
Every wrestler in WWF has a distinguishing look, name, special move and catchphrase - and even a tune to suit their theme - though you won't come across many of them here. The Good guys featured in Ocean's WrestleMania are the slack-jowled British Bulldog (who hails from Leeds no less) and the over-made-up Ultimate Warrior, who looks like a Kiss fan to me. Hulk Hogan, however, is the best wrestler in the world and everyone loves him, bless his slappy scalp, Hulk (or Hulkster as he's often known) always tears his shirt off. But what's this? The Hulk's likely to retire in light of his successful transference of his acting talent from the canvas to the silver screen? WWF won't be the same again.
The Bad contenders are Mr Perfect (who's also retiring apparently), The Warlord, Million Dollar Man, The Mountie and Sergeant Slaughter. So what's the goss?
Well, Ted Dibiaci - aka Million Dollar Man - used to have a bodyguard called Virgil whom he continually humiliated... until Virgin snapped and scrapped with him and won. The Million Dollar Man is managed by Sensational Cheri, who removes the wads of cash stuffed into the loser's mouth by the Man.
Sergeant Slaughter's actually Good at the moment, although in real life (and for the purposes of the game) he used to be Very Bad. Did you know he burned the American flag on stage during the Iraqi war? I ask you, what's the world of wrestling coming to? Sergeant Slaughter used to have two (Bad) cohorts who sadly don't appear in Ocean's WWF WrestleMania: General Adrian and Colonel Mustafa. Both of them, like their boss, wore military uniforms, but with those boots with the curly-up toes.
The Mountie dresses as you'd expect, but what you might not guess is that he also wields an electric cattle prod. He often trades words with the Big Boss Man (Good), who doesn't appear here but comes from Cop County, Georgia and wears the uniform to prove it. Big Boss Man's 'thing' is to handcuff losers to the ropes. The two 'law enforcers' recently settled their differences once and for all in the Jailhouse Match - the loser spending a night in jail. The Mountie lost.
The Absent Friends Of WWF
But what of the other entertainers not present in Wrestlemania? Some of the more savoury ones who should have made it but didn't include the Undertaker (Bad) whose repertoire includes the Tombstone (the opponent is dropped head-first onto the canvas) and putting losers into bodybags. His theme tune is the funeral march.
IRS (Bad) - aka Irwin R. Shyster - might have been a good choice too. He reckons that everyone in the WWF is a tax cheat so he's out to make sure they pay - his losers are served with tax demands.
Greg 'The Hammer' Valentine doesn't wield a hammer - but he does shout "It's hammer time!". The very large Andre The Giant is now retired. (His bulk featured in Bob Reiner's film The Princess Bride).
The most evil man in WWF has to be Jake 'The Snake' Roberts (Bad). Jake's trademark is a snake in a bag which is released to wave in the face of the loser. (He used to have a snake called Damien, but that got sat on by a fat wrestler called Earthquake (Bad) and is no more). It transpired that Jake was actually in collusion with the Undertaker all along. Earthquake is now part of a duo with Tornado (nee Tugboat) called the Natural Disasters.
And there are plenty more...
Those Commentators In Full
Most of them are former wrestlers, such as Gorilla Monsoon, Rowdy, Roddy Pipe (he played the lead role in John Carpenter's flick They Live!) and part-timer MachoMan. Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan used to manage Mr Perfect and The Barbarian before he took up commentating. Now Bob's back with Rick Flare - aka Nature Boy - who was recently promoted from the WCW and purports to be the real world champion following three months of intense build up. Rick's all sparkly teeth and cape and a blonde Playdo Fuzzy Pumper moulded hair-do.
The WWF comprises many special events, such as Wrestlemania (the main tournament), Summerslam (which is much the same as Wrestlemania), Survivor Series (teams of Good take on teams of Bad), Royal Rumble (an event for individuals which always ends up with everyone in the ring at the same time) and UK Rampage (they come over here and do it all for us).
There are four main titles to hold. The most important is the World Championship (which Hulk recently regained from the Undertaker having held it for many years beforehand). Then there's the Intercontiental Championship (which Mr Perfect lost to Bret 'The Hitman' Heart). The Million Dollar Belt and The TagTeam Championship, currently held by the Legion Of Doom.
So What's The Point Exactly, Gary?
The point is this - with the WWF licence there's such a wide range of colourful, larger-than-life characters and events available to choose from that it's almost criminal how little they've done with it. As you will now have guessed from the title, Ocean's WWF WrestleMania concerns only one of these many variations on the wrestling theme. In fact, the most exciting thing about the whole package is the video cassette you'll find floating around in the box. This is only fifteen minutes long, and consists of (by and large) very brief highlights of WWF days gone by, so it gives you some indication as to the level of thrills generated by the actual game that it should prove to be the highlight of the whole pack!
There's a pitiful attempt at pre-match patter (more should have been made of this), mucho disk-swapping, but precious little to do. But, try as I might, I can't derive any enjoyment from performing limited joystick movements from an inflexible selection. A typical bout tends to consist of tedious grappling and frustrating attempts at finding the correct position required to pin your opponent to the floor.
The wrestlers loom large on the screen, scure, but their movements are poor and they seem to float around the ring as they murmur "Uh" and "Ooh". The crowd - on the few occasions they make themselves known - sound like a high-speed jet. (At least the canvas slapping sound carries some weight.)
That it fails as a pure simulation of traditional wrestling (which it does with great aplomb) isn't as much of a problem in my book as that it so clearly misses the whole larger-than-life point of the WWF. When it comes to creating a loud and proud rucking romp you couldn't wish for a healthier source of raw material, but WWF WrestleMania fails to make the grade on any worthwhile level. It's simply not fun - or funny - and that's what the Real Thing's all about. The biggest surprise is that WWF WrestleMania lacks any of the event's camp OTT splendour (when a match begins or comes to an end, there's little or no celebration, for instance).
There should be more pace. More poncing about. More posing. More pomp. Basically, more of what you watch WWF for.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: I'm sorry to say there aren't many. It's aesthetically quite average really. Still, there is a video cassette to watch in the box.
Downers: There are plenty, but the biggest failings are the complete absence of WWF's sparkle and the sorry lack of any fluid, stimulating grappling action either.
An unexciting simulation of what is widely considered a thrilling event. There's disappointment in store for grapple fans and WWF watchers alike. Come back Big Daddy, all is forgiven.