The War Begins
September 4, 1995 - WCW Monday Nitro debuts
WCW and WWF had been passive rivals for many years. There was the occasional free event scheduled against a pay-per-view or stealing of a big name star but it was a mostly bloodless conflict. The WWF was considered the dominant promotion with the only regular prime-time show of the two, WWF Raw. Anecdotally, it was also the more mainstream promotion. WCW was preferred by fans of "old school" wrestling but causal fans didn't care for it. That all changed when Eric Bischoff convinced Ted Turner to give WCW a prime-time slot on his TNT network that went directly up against WWF Raw. It was a bold opening shot in what would become the greatest era of professional wrestling.
For the next 5.5 years Raw and Nitro would butt heads on a weekly basis. Every week they'd try to find new ways to outdo the other. This was a boon for both promotions who saw their ratings reach new heights. This success spilled over into other areas as well. Pro-wrestling and video games share a common core demographic, it should be no surprise that games were one such beneficiary. As pro-wrestling's popularity soared so did the number of games based on it. Unlike football, baseball, hockey, and basketball there's no seasonal tie-in for pro-wrestling games. Without the confinement of annual releases, companies were free to crank-out as many games as they could.
This article will chronicle all the pro-wrestling video games produced during the Monday Night War. Even nearly a decade later I still remember the Monday Night War well, books and DVDs have helped with that. I got hooked on pro-wrestling around 1986 and watched it religiously until 2003ish. Having kids combined with a strong hatred for John Cena got me out of it for a while. Lately I've started watching again when I can but still don't follow too closely. Anyway, between 1986 and 2003 I witnessed a lot of feuds and story lines but nothing was as great as seeing the two promotions go directly at each other. Competition definitely results in better products, each week they were forced to try putting on a better show than their rival.
The games, on the other hand, are entirely new to me. I didn't get into the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation until the zeros rolled around. From 1996-2000 I went to college full-time while also working full-time. I spent many Monday nights cranking through homework while Raw and Nitro were on in the background, but had no time (or money) for gaming. That means I'm going into this with a clean slate. There are no old favorites I'm blindly clinging on to out of nostalgia. This will be an educational experience for me as much as you.
The first step is tracking down everything that qualifies as a "Monday Night War game". There were a lot of systems available between September 4 1995 and March 26 2001. Looking at an abridged version of the console timeline we can count a total of 23 systems that were sold during this time. We have the end of the 4th generation, most of the 5th generation, and the very beginning of the 6th generation.
The majority of these systems didn't have any Monday Night War games. Quite a few were just barely clinging to life in the fall of 1995 - Sega 32X, Atari Jaguar, Sega CD, Sega Game Gear, Philips CD-i, Atari Jaguar CD, Atari Lynx, Virtual Boy (even though it was still brand new), and the 3DO.
The 16-bit systems were alive but declining. In 1995 the Sega Genesis had a few good years left but new releases we sparse. Some of the best games for the Super Nintendo hit the shelves in late 1995 and 1996, but once the Nintendo 64 was released new development screeched to a halt.
We also have a few systems that never got off the ground - Pippin, game.com, and the Neo Geo Pocket Color. Some would lump the Dreamcast in that category too but not me.
After some trimming we're down to just 6 systems with Monday Night War games. The PlayStation 2 isn't counted in this total but is included on this picture for reasons listed at the very bottom. We have the two dominant 5th generation systems - Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64. The Game Boy and it's first upgrade are represented, although the former just barely. Rounding it out are Sega's final two consoles.
We'll also include PC games on this list because it will offend someone if we don't.
Between all these platforms a whopping 25 Monday Night War games were produced. I'm not gonna lie to you - I haven't played all of these, made it up to 18 though. If I waited to write this until I had then it would never happen. So I'll save the commentary for the ones I've tried and do my best on the others.
Notes: I often see this era pluralized as "The Monday Night Wars". Since this was one continuous period I'm pretty sure "War" in the singular form is the correct choice. It's not like pro-wrestling and proper grammar are best friends so whatever. Just wanted to add this before someone sends a "correction", which they'll probably do anyway.
I originally outlined this article in January 2010 but it took me forever to finish. During that time the TNA promotion attempted to re-ignite the Monday Night War by moving their primary show "Impact!" to go head-to-head with Raw. The also enlisted the services of Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff and attempted a nWo reunion. So far it's been a complete flop for them and it's very understandable why. During the original Monday Night War the suspense and surprise came from wrestlers voluntarily jumping ship. Every week was filled with anticipation while the WWF and WCW tried to outbid each other for talent. What TNA is doing now is a depressing mockery of the original war as much of their talent consists of WWE castoffs. These aren't wrestlers at the prime of their career who TNA sniped from the WWE, these are guys who would be stuck on the indy circuit otherwise. Among them are some of my favorites - like Ric Flair and Rob Van Dam; yet I have little interest in watching them now.
Honorable Mention: WWF Wrestlemania the Arcade Game (Arcade, Sega Genesis, 32X, PlayStation, Saturn, Super Nintendo, PC)
Although Wrestlemania the Arcade Game was released for home systems during this timespan, its original arcade release was prior to the official start of the war. Lex Luger's surprise defection back to WCW was a highlight of the first Nitro. His presence in the game alone makes it obvious this pre-dates the timeline. It also features Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) who is more associated with WCW during the Monday Night War.
Although it makes no attempt to replicate a wrestling match, it's my personal favorite game of the genre. The play is more frantic than the typical wrestling game, somewhat like a fighting game. I played the 32X version a ton when it was new and still fire it up from time to time. It's aged remarkably well, especially compared to other wresting games.
It also holds the distinction of appearing on more platforms than any other game in this article. In 1995 there was a huge selection of systems, any above average game was on two or three. For popular arcade games it wasn't uncommon to see five or more home versions. By 1996 it was back to business as usual, with games only appearing on a maximum of one to three systems.
May 27, 1996 - Scott Hall and Kevin Nash crash Nitro
The Monday Night War kicked into high gear when Scott Hall and Kevin Nash appeared out of nowhere on Nitro. It was executed perfectly by WCW, they intentionally made it as ambiguous as possible. Of course there's no way wrestlers from a rival promotion could actually show up and start causing trouble, but they sure wanted to make you think that's what was happening. This was the beginning of a talent migration from WWF to WCW. With a suddenly limitless pocketbook the defections continued.
Less than two months later the nWo was born and WCW would dominate the ratings for almost two years. The nWo logo would become cultural icon, the only pro-wrestling shirt I recall frequently seeing people wear in public. By the end of October 1996 the nWo was dominating WCW, they were the focus of every episode of Nitro.
Meanwhile the fake Razor Ramon and Diesel were becoming regular fixtures on Raw. It's like they were still stuck somewhere in-between shock and denial, like they couldn't believe how quickly WCW one-upped them. In all the years of WWF programming I've seen this was their low-point.
November/December 1996 - WWF In Your House (PlayStation, Saturn, PC)
Despite falling to second place, the first Monday Night War game was a WWF branded one. One trend you'll see with these games is they lag about six months behind the televised story lines and gimmicks. That's to be expected, the timeline of a game development project can't keep up with something that changes so rapidly at times. Online roster updates were still nearly a decade away from reality (and to the best of my knowledge aren't a feature in any pro-wrestling games yet).
WWF In Your House was based off the engine for Wrestlemania the Arcade Game. If, like me, you enjoyed that style then you'll find this to be a good but not great follow-up. If you hated that style then you'll really loathe this game because it's more over the top than the original. The special moves are more cartoony and the matches don't occur in a standard ring.
The roster was the best the WWF had to offer in late 1996 - British Bulldog, Goldust, Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Hunter Hearst Helmsley (pre "Triple H"), Ahmed Johnson, Shawn Michaels, The Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker, and Vader. The Ultimate Warrior was out of the WWF by the time this game was released, too bad they couldn't yank him from the game too. His 1996 stint with the WWF was rather short (March-July), it's amazing timing that he even managed to get into the game in the first place.
And for anyone who's curious - the PC version plays just fine in FreeDOS running on VirtualBox.
As 1997 rolled around WCW looked like an unstoppable juggernaut. The video game publishers weren't able to capitalize on it immediately though. The flood of WCW/nWo games wouldn't hit the shelves until the WWF began it's rebound.
The Turning Tide
Back in 1996-1997 this whole "the internet" thing was still a little new. Most online discussion was still going on through the now-defunct-for-all-intents-and-purposes Usenet. The pro-wrestling Usenet groups were packed with results, rumors, and ratings every day. Yeah, ratings. Seems like an asinine thing to discuss but they were usually the hottest topic. WCW dominated the ratings every week but the WWF was inching its way back.
October 13, 1997 - Introducing D-Generation X (DX)
This was a noteworthy event in the Monday Night War. The WWF struck gold on a group that had the same appeal the nWo did when it was new. Unlike the nWo, they kept DX reserved to a small number of members with very few changes. I think they learned a lesson from the Four Horsemen faction whose best days were 1986-1989 when they rarely changed members. At this point it seemed like half the WCW roster was in the nWo. It's hard to be an "elite" club if anyone can join. DX felt a lot more like the old Four Horseman and it resonated well with fans.
October 1997 - WCW vs The World (PlayStation)
It's pushing a year and a half since the formation of the nWo, and WCW's subsequent rise, and we're still game-less. Other than the appearance of "Hollywood" Hogan there is no nWo representation in this game. Even his character is likely a re-skin of the "red & yellow" version.
Why? Because WCW vs The World is a port of year-old Japanese title called "Virtual Pro-Wrestling". As such, the roster is heavily skewed toward the Japanese leagues which I doubt the average American gamer or wrestling fan followed. Although several American wrestlers were scattered across the Japanese promotions like Hawk, Steve Williams, and Ken Shamrock.
The WCW roster is highlighted with Sting, Ric Flair, the Steiner Brothers, Eddy Guerrero, and the previously mentioned "Hollywood" Hogan. It's not a bad assortment but is missing a large number of major stars from 1996-1997.
Being the only WCW title for the PlayStation over this holiday season, it would sell enough to earn a "Greatest Hits" repackage in 1998.
November 9, 1997 - Montreal Screwjob
Here's why Vince McMahon is a legendary promoter - he can take an incident that should have been overwhelmingly negative and turn it into a positive. There's no such thing as bad news or mistakes in his world. I wish I could go through life like that. Let's pay another visit to Google's Usenet archive and read some reactions to this incident:
"Micasa has just reported that the aforementioned was a shoot. He also reported that Hart angrily confronted McMahon after the match, and there may be a Hart Foundation boycott of tonight's RAW. If that's true, then Vinnie.... You really screwed up. "
"Nice ploy by Vince, even though if he drove Bret from the WWF, he made a monster mistake..... "
"if he shafted Bret Hart, did Vince also dig his own grave??"
"McMahon is cracking and don't think Turner and Bischoff doesn't see that."
"Yet... if Vince screwed Bret like that... well, then Vince can pretty much kiss WWF goodbye. I see a mass exodus to WCW."
Hindsight is always perfect of course, even I thought this was a mistake on his part. In reality, WCW would never capitalize on the situation. Bret Hart was quickly lost in the sea of ex-WWF stars and was rarely seen in main events. On the flip-side, the WWF used it as an opportunity to push new wrestlers up the chain. It was as though Bret Hart was a burden to them and losing him allowed others to compete for his place, much like an NFL team departing with an aging quarterback.
November 1997 - WCW vs. nWo: World Tour (Nintendo 64)
Alright, finally a WCW game featuring the nWo faction. I forget how large the nWo was at its peak, but in this game there are 9 members (including Eric Bischoff). See my previous comments about what qualifies as an "elite" group. Nonetheless, having this many members to choose from enabled the "WCW vs. nWo" elimination match mode.
This game also featured 20+ wrestlers from international promotions (hence the title). I understand they were given alternate names due to copyright and/or licensing but I'm sure hardcore fans of these promotions can tell who's who.
The graphics in this game were impressive, better looking characters than many games released later. The control was a bit iffy, I never really felt like I was completely in control at any point while playing. Overall it's not a bad game, better than WCW vs The World but not the best one on here.
December 15, 1997 - Bret Hart debuts on Nitro
After a month of waiting the wrestling world finally saw Bret Hart officially on the WCW roster. The honeymoon was short-lived, soon we'd be treated to the bitter version of Bret Hart we know today. I don't think it was gimmick on his part. He seemed legitimately angry with both the fans and promotion. The handling of Bret Hart in WCW was an early warning sign that the organization was growing dysfunctional.
December 28, 1997 - Anti-climatic ending to Starrcade 1997
The next warning sign was the pathetic ending to a match that had been built up for over a year. The nWo had been humiliating the WCW roster for what felt like an eternity. Finally, Sting was returning to the ring to avenge the "good guys" against the nWo. It should have been the high point of the year but instead had a very anti-climatic vibe to it.
January 1998 - WCW Nitro (PlayStation, PC)
I didn't plan for this to be an article where I ripped into how bad these games were. There's more than enough web sites and YouTube channels dedicated to mocking bad games. Unfortunately, there's not a lot of positive things I can say about this one. It's a very clunky game with mediocre graphics. The roster is the lone bright spot, sporting just about everyone you can name from the 1997 version of WCW.
The developers sure had a lot of fun creating this game though. In the spirit of NBA Jam, WCW Nitro featured an array of hidden wrestlers. Many of the these were comical characters, comical even by pro-wrestling standards. It also contained several hidden rings in strange locations. It seemed as though they were backgrounds from the publisher's collection of scrapped game ideas.
Although still dominant in the ratings, the WWF was continuing to gain on WCW. Before the end of 1998 we'd see the rivals return to the their pre-1996 positions.
Revenge of the McMahons
March 30, 1998 - Sean Waltman (Syxx, X-Pac) returns to Raw
The rumor on the internets was that Sean Waltman was fired from WCW as a show of force to Kevin Nash who was a real-life friend. Whether or not that's true I'll leave to the reader to judge. To the average wrestling fan it looked like a defection. One of the first members of the nWo was now part of DX which was still doing everything right. The once edgy nWo was starting to lose its appeal so the folks at WCW attempted to steer the ship back on course...
May 4, 1998 - nWo Wölfpac forms
Was the nWo Wölfpac an attempt to relive the glory days of the early nWo or an attempt to emulate the suddenly-more-popular DX? Maybe the answer is both. In the short term it worked but over the long run it led to brand confusion. Whatever the case, it was a sign that WCW was concerned they were on the verge of losing the precious ratings battle. Their once commanding lead vanished and the promotions were now neck-and-neck.
June 1998 - WWF War Zone (Game Boy)
You can't expect too much from a pro-wrestling game on the Game Boy. It gets by well with only two buttons to work with, there's over a dozen moves available not counting each wrestler's trademark finisher. The roster features 13 stars from the day and they all look fine despite the graphical limitations.
If you're looking for a decent brawler for the Game Boy this is perfectly adequate. Overall it's better than either of the Mortal Kombat ports to appear in black & white.
July 6, 1998 - Goldberg defeats Hogan
WCW briefly struck gold again in the summer of 1998. Oh crud, I just realized I made an awful pun. Anyway, a wrestler named Goldberg came out of nowhere and amassed an incredible winning streak. He barely ever touched a microphone which gave him a mystique that was huge with the crowd. WCW recognized that they needed to capitalize on this popularity and had him defeat "Hollywood" Hogan live on Nitro. Hogan is often criticized for trying to squash younger wrestlers but in this moment he did what was best for the company.
This main event led to huge ratings for Nitro. It was ultimately a short-lived victory, by the end of the year Raw would take the lead and never look back.
August 1998 - Warrior/Hogan in WCW
From day one I thought this was a bad move that reeked of desperation. Desperation to get a cheap ratings pop, desperation to keep Hogan happy by letting him avenge a distant Wrestlemania loss. From a ratings standpoint, I think this backfired. The Hogan vs. Piper feud of 1996 was interesting because "The Hot Rod" had an incredible personality that offset his diminishing ring skills. When the Warrior picked-up the microphone he was more incoherent than ever. I for one always switched the channel when I saw him approach the cameras and I doubt I was alone in that.
July/August 1998 - WWF War Zone (PlayStation, Nintendo 64)
Here's a prime example of a pro-wrestling video game lagging the story lines - Bret Hart is in a WWF game 8 months after his un-amicable departure from the league. Yes of course, development probably started around the summer of 1997 so this is not surprising. I doubt anyone at the WWF thought to call Acclaim to get him pulled before it was released. He is missing from the previously mentioned Game Boy version though, possibly due to a shorter development cycle.
Anyway, this is a good game all around. The graphics look very nice, the PlayStation version even features some full-motion video scenes. The character models are each unique and mimic the actual wrestlers' in-ring styles.
This is the first game in this article to feature a full create-a-wrestler mode. This was a perfect way to compensate for missing wrestlers or other roster changes.
October 26, 1998 - Last time Nitro defeats Raw in ratings
WWF and WCW traded positions a few times in 1998 with October 26 being the last ratings victory for Nitro, ever. The night included a replay of the previous night's Halloween Havoc PPV main event - Goldberg vs. Diamond Dallas Page. An overrun of the event caused many viewers to miss the ending. Despite reliving the previous night's loss, it was a good night for Mr. Page who defeated Bret Hart for the U.S. title live.
WCW ratings didn't plummet at this point, it was more of a slow bleed. Although still very high by cable standards, they began an irreversible downhill course.
October/November 1998 WCW/nWo Revenge (Nintendo 64)
Just as WCW ratings began to decline, the quality of their games peaked. WCW/nWo Revenge appears to have been based on the engine for WCW vs. nWo: World Tour. The graphical style and controls are similar but improved. Like WCW vs. nWo: World Tour, it included international wrestlers with fake names.
Unlike previous games, this one managed to have a fairly current roster. The nWo split happened less than six months prior but it was already reflected in WCW/nWo Revenge. It also featured the Raven's Flock faction which disbanded about a month before the release date so that can't be considered a flaw. Ric Flair is missing from the game for a similar reason, he reappeared on WCW only weeks before this game hit the shelves. Overall though the entire roster is spectacular with over 40 WCW/nWo wrestlers in all.
The presentation style of WCW/nWo Revenge was amazing, it was like watching a live WCW event on TV (albeit with more polygons). The camera followed the action closely and jumped to something of a cinematic view at the right moments. It also had grand ring entrances like those on TV and multiple arenas based on the various WCW PPVs.
So far the pace of wrestling games has been relatively steady. That, my friends, was about to change as the new millennium approached. WCW might have been declining but combined Raw & Nitro ratings were still huge. By themselves they were the two most watched cable programs, together it wasn't even close. It took some time for the game publishers to catch-up, but when they did there was no stopping the deluge of games.
WCW Jumps the Shark
December 27, 1998 - Starrcade 1998 - Another anti-climatic ending
For the second year in a row WCW's cornerstone PPV had an unsatisfying ending for the fans. Kevin Nash ended Goldberg's winning streak with the assistance of a stun gun. It also contained what had to be the low-point of Ric Flair's career, losing a match to Eric Bischoff. I haven't tuned into TNA lately so maybe it's gone even lower. Bret Hart wasn't on the card and was again relegated to a run-in role that night. Leaving Bret Hart off the card made room for blockbuster matches like Norman Smiley vs. Prince Iaukea though.
Meanwhile over on Raw things were kicking into high gear. DX, Mick Foley, Steve Austin, and The Rock were all huge hits with the audience. The WWF's ability to develop new talent vs. WCW's reliance on a small group of established stars was a huge factor in WWF winning the war.
January 1999 - WCW/nWo Thunder (PlayStation)
As if things weren't bad enough for WCW they had another mediocre game for the PlayStation published to kick-off the year. WCW/nWo Thunder was built off the engine for WCW Nitro and suffers most of the same problems.
Like WCW Nitro, one bright spot for WCW/nWo Thunder was the roster - 32 wrestlers were available from the start with another 32 available to be unlocked. Another nice upgrade was the addition of entrance music.
Even with those new items, this game felt like more like an "annual roster update" than a new title.
January 4, 1999 - "that'll sure put some butts in the seats"
For those unfamiliar with the phrase "jumping the shark", it was coined by a radio personality John Hein as "It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on...it's all downhill. ". That's exactly what happened to WCW Nitro on January 4, 1999.
It started with WCW trying to spoil the result of the pre-recorded WWF Raw main event where Mick Foley won his first world title. It was done in a mocking manner, oblivious to the popularity of Mick Foley among core pro-wrestling fans who watched in droves. To further insult wrestling fans, they highlighted Nitro with the "Fingerpoke of Doom" where Kevin Nash handed "Hollywood" Hogan the WCW title he had just recently won.
This began the trivialization of the WCW world title, a slide it would never really recover from. The title would change hands 10 more times in 1999 before hitting rock-bottom in 2000 when David Arquette won the belt. January 4, 1999 was the point of no return for WCW.
One humorous consequence of "Hollywood" Hogan reuniting with Hall & Nash was the formation of the "nWo b-team". The leftover remnants of the "black & white" nWo faction became a mockery of the original group. The now defunct ScoopThis.com used to run a regular feature about their fictional adventures that was hilarious.
February 1999 - WCW Nitro (Nintendo 64)
To make matters worse, WCW Nitro was ported over Nintendo 64 not long after this shark jumping. Whether or not this was an upgrade over the PlayStation version is debatable.
The roster was larger but in the conversion to cartridge format it lost all the multi-media found on the PlayStation. So it's a trade-off, personally I can do without the extra visuals so I slightly prefer this version.
March 15, 1999 - Paul "Big Show" Wight debuts on Raw
WCW starting winning the Monday Night War by stealing talent from the WWF. Now it was time for Vince McMahon to turn the tables by signing starts who were unhappy with their role in WCW. The first major defection was Paul Wight who dropped "The Giant" moniker in favor of "The Big Show". He was immediately thrust into major story lines there which likely convinced others that it was safe to jump.
August 9, 1999 - Chris Jericho debuts on Raw
The next star to defect was Chris Jericho. He was never going to be a main eventer in WCW and made a very wise move. Had he stuck with WCW he likely would have suffered the same fate that befell the majority of the WCW roster after being acquired by the WWF. His move symbolized the frustration many of the younger WCW wrestlers felt, a frustration that would spill-over in four months.
June 1999 - WWF Attitude (Game Boy Color)
Alright, the first pro-wrestling game to grace the Game Boy Color. Like WWF War Zone, this little game does pretty well for the hardware limitations. The roster has 20 wrestlers (including hidden ones) which is a nice step-up from WWF War Zone. The controls are simple and overall it's a decent enough brawler.
August 1999 - WWF Attitude (PlayStation, Nintendo 64)
Coming from the same publishers this appears to be an upgrade of WWF War Zone. The graphical style and controls are similar but not identical.
The roster has 30 wrestlers with another 11 hidden (although Al Snow's mannequin head was one of them). The recent additions of Chris Jericho and Paul Wight are absent of course. Luckily WWF Attitude has a full create-a-wrestler mode to make up for it.
September 1999 - WCW Mayhem (PlayStation, Nintendo 64)
Compared to WCW/nWo Thunder and WCW Nitro this is an improvement in the WCW line of games. The control is still sub-par but the roster is impressive, just over 50 in all. It also has a create-a-wrestler mode and a variety of match types.
I personally didn't care for the graphics on this game and thought some of the previous games looked much better. The character models all looked blocky with rough edges. Although according to the reviews I scanned I'm apparently in the minority on this opinion.
One nifty feature was something called "PPV mode" where you could reproduce future PPV events by entering a password given out on TV. This actually lasted up until Spring Stampede 2000. If I had an infinite amount of free time I'd attempt to crack this password system.
October 5, 1999 - Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara jump to WCW
The creative duo of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara were frequently credited as the masterminds behind the WWF "attitude era" and the development of starts like Steve Austin and The Rock. Their genius can be debated, one thing that's not debatable to me is how they needed a powerful force like Vince McMahon to keep them in check. At the end of the day, nothing happened in the WWF without his direction. Left unchecked, Russo & Ferrara led WCW into a state of general chaos. Story lines starting changing every 30 seconds, often to cater to the aforementioned Usenet groups and other internet communities. It took them under three weeks to find a story line where they could vacate the world title and hold a tournament to crown a new champion (keep this in the back of your mind for later).
Yeah Raw had some bad story lines around this time too. Triple H feuding against his future brother-in-law was one of them. Overall though, the quality of WWF programming remained constant after their departure.
I'm not some anti-Russo guy over here. Under the umbrella of Vince McMahon he played a significant role in the WWF's return to prominence. Without check and balances he went too far too fast and had the opposite impact on WCW.
November 1999 - WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (Nintendo 64)
Wrestlemania 2000 appears to be based off the engine for WCW/nWo Revenge. The play mechanics are similar but the presentation is a bit different. It includes a basic story mode and several new match types not seen in WCW/nWo Revenge.
This is another game with a huge roster, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 if you count each of Mick Foley's alter egos as an individual wrestler. It also has a create-a-wrestler mode which became a standard feature by now.
The only place where I think this game comes up short is in the graphics department. It has this Virtua Fighter look that I just don't care for. Regardless, this is one of the best Monday Night War games you'll find.
November 1999 - WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (Game Boy Color)
Wrestlemania 2000 is another relatively simple brawler featuring WWF stars. It looks much better than the previous WWF game for the Game Boy Color and the action is faster. It doesn't try too hard to mimic a wrestling match which is a good thing for something on this platform.
There are 16 wrestlers available in the roster if you include Vince McMahon. Overall, I'd have to say this is the best portable Monday Night War game available.
November 1999 - WWF Attitude (Dreamcast)
There's not a lot I can say about this because I haven't personally played it. From everything I've read it's identical to the PlayStation/Nintendo 64 version but with upgraded graphics to reflect the Dreamcast's horsepower. It was early in the Dreamcast's life-cycle so a totally original pro-wrestling game would have to wait a while.
January 31, 2000 - Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn, and Malenko defect to WWF
Through some confusing series of events, Vince Russo was briefly fired/suspended by WCW leaving Kevin Sullivan in charge. This didn't sit well with several wrestlers on the WCW roster leading to the next big team switch.
Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, and Dean Malenko were all granted unconditional releases from WCW and appeared on Raw almost immediately. Chris Benoit was the only one receiving main event status having just been crowned the WCW champion. The others were in the same position as Chris Jericho before he left, perpetually stuck in the middle of the roster with no chance for advancement. Although Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko suffered the same fate in the WWF, Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero rose to the top of the ranks.
March 2000 - WWF SmackDown! (PlayStation)
The quality of WWF games continued to improve over time. WWF War Zone wasn't a bad game but this was better, definitely worth the upgrade for WWF fans. The graphics and sound both evolved considerably from previous installments.
In terms of extra features - it mixed the create-a-wrestler and career modes to allow players to recreate the experience of pursing a pro-wrestling career from the beginning (minus the grainy backyard videos).
April 10, 2000 - Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo return to WCW
WCW's third major shakeup in six months saw both Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo return. They were both now in charge but really neither were in charge. In the last year of WCW's existence television executive Brad Siegel was the boss. He wasn't a wrestling guy though so he was wise enough to entrust creative control to people who were. However, at the end of the day he was going to run WCW like it was just any other program on the network. These corporate influences would play in major role in the eventual cancellation of WCW programming.
The first order of business for the new duo was to start over from scratch. I can't say for sure what the logic behind this was. Maybe the corporate influence was pushing for immediate results, maybe they thought they'd be canned again shortly and felt the need to act fast. They immediately vacated all the championships (a reoccurring theme for Mr. Russo) and held a tournament for the world title which was ultimately won by Jeff Jarrett. The title would change hands constantly from here on out. I'm counting 15 changes from now until the end of the year, but it's really easy to lose track with all the vacancies and wacky plot twists.
April 2000 - WCW Mayhem (Game Boy Color)
"WCW Mayhem" was a perfect description for the on-screen product at the time. Around this time David Arquette was briefly the world champion. You can't entirely fault Bischoff and Russo for that either, I suspect it was a top-down decision from Time Warner to help promote their film "Ready to Rumble".
Whatever the case, WCW was in complete disarray. Looking back it's hard to believe it took nearly another year for them to collapse.
Oh yeah, so the game... it's alright. The action is good but the characters look downright goofy. It's the only WCW game of the Monday Night War era you're getting on the Game Boy Color so it's that or nothing.
August 2000 - WWF Royal Rumble (Dreamcast)
This was an arcade port like WWF Wrestlemania the Arcade Game so it was more focused on action than trying to recreate the pro-wrestling experience. Basically it's a button-mashing brawler featuring WWF personalities.
I scanned a few reviews for this game and found that by and large people didn't care for it. Frequently cited is the small roster and being confined to only two game modes. So I guess I'm in the minority that prefer the arcade style pro-wrestling games.
Otherwise, August 2000 was a great time for the WWF. The tag team division was burning hotter than ever with the Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz vs Edge & Christian vs DX feud. I can't think of a better era for tag team wrestling except for possibly the late-80s/early-90s NWA/WCW division.
Honorable Mention: ECW games
ECW was not officially part of the Monday Night War because their programming was confined to odd hours on local stations. Out here in Chicago I had to set my VCR to tape it every week because it was on at something like 1:00 AM on Saturday when I was in no shape to be watching TV. During the Monday Night War era ECW became something of a free training ground for the two major promotions. Anyone with serious potential earned a bidding war between WWF and WCW for their services. It got to the point that even guys like Mikey Whipwreck were pursued.
This talent drain was a huge factor in ECW's eventual collapse. They were unable to produce new talent as quickly as WCW and WWF could snatch them up, leaving their roster packed with D-listers at best. It's a shame because they put on the most entertaining matches of the time by far.
February 2000 - ECW Hardcore Revolution (Dreamcast, Nintendo 64, PlayStation, Game Boy Color)
My opinion on this game is heavily biased and therefore not accurate. It's one of the weaker pro-wrestling games produced in this era but being the first ECW game gives it a ton of nostalgic value.
Late summer/fall 2000 - ECW Anarchy Rulz (Dreamcast, PlayStation)
This was also not a great game but did feature several new modes and match types not found in ECW Hardcore Revolution. The talent drain was becoming apparent as this game had a smaller roster than the one before it.
September 25, 2000 - Raw moves from the USA Network to TNN
The executives running The Nashville Network (now Spike TV) woke up one morning and decided their network needed to target a different demographic. They starting by signing ECW but before long they set their sights on the big leagues and convinced the WWF to switch stations. The WWF was probably fearful of losing a little bit of their audience so they headlined the night with The Rock vs. Chris Benoit. Meanwhile, the same night on WCW Vince Russo won the world title. It was blown chance for WCW to pick-up the few fans who didn't know about the move or didn't get TNN. Rather than put on an A+ show they opted for another wacky swerve.
WWF was in cruise control from here on out. In WCW Sting, Scott Hall, and Hulk Hogan decided to go AWOL. Bret Hart retired after battling the after-effects of a major concussion. WCW attempted to build around new headliners but time was running out on them.
November 2000 - WWF SmackDown! 2: Know Your Role (PlayStation)
Just in time for the holiday season was a sequel to a game released in the same calendar year. EA Sports would be in heaven if they could figure out a way to release Madden Football more than once a year.
In this upgrade they added Hell in Cell, casket, table, and ladder matches. The also expanded on create-a-wrestler and story line features.
The roster features 53 wrestlers with another 13 hidden. Again the disclaimer that several of the hidden wrestlers are alter egos of Mick Foley.
November 2000 - WWF No Mercy (Nintendo 64)
WWF No Mercy is another progression from the engine started in WCW/nWo Revenge and carried on to WWF Wrestlemania 2000. The graphics were cleaned up considerably from WWF Wrestlemania 2000, the characters look very detailed and less blocky.
The career mode was expanded to include story lines straight out of recent WWF programming.
Again the roster was huge, over 60 wrestlers available including the late Andre the Giant as a hidden character.
November/December 2000 - WCW Backstage Assault (PlayStation, Nintendo 64)
The quality of WCW games bottomed-out at the same time as the ratings. This is my least-favorite of all the games in this article which sounds contrary since I talked about preferring titles like WWF Wrestlemania the Arcade Game over traditional pro-wrestling games. The difference being that the play control in WCW Backstage Assault is dreadful. It's like Battle Arena Toshinden on Special K.
There's no ring in this game, just slow brawls in various locations that pro-wrestling cameramen occasionally find themselves. Once the novelty factor wears off I can't see anyone legitimately enjoying this game.
March 26, 2001 - Final episode of WCW Monday Nitro
Watching the final episode of Nitro was surreal. Rumors had been flying around the usual internet hot-spots about the impeding sale of WCW. At one point a group that included Jason Hervey was alleged to be in the running. Being killed off by Vince McMahon doesn't sound like such a bad fate in comparison.
The news broke hours before the show aired and there was no way I was going to miss it. It was sad to see it over, really truly over. I never once thought for a second that Vince McMahon bought WCW for any reason other than to acquire the tape library. It was somewhat relieving to see the once great promotion that fell so far put out of its misery.
Had the Monday Night War continued we naturally would have seen many more games. One of which was WCW Mayhem 2 for the Sony PlayStation 2. The WWF/WWE would go on to have many releases on the PlayStation 2 and every major console since.
Winners of the Monday Night War
The WWF won the Monday Night War, a scorched-earth victory featuring a near complete humiliation of the WCW roster and brand. As for the systems, there are a couple ways to measure who won. Let's start with the "most games" category:
1) Sony PlayStation - 10
2) Nintendo 64 - 9
3) Game Boy Color - 3
4-tie) Sega Dreamcast and PC- 2
5-tie) Sega Saturn and Game Boy - 1
So the PlayStation wins out on the quantity department. In terms of quality, I'm giving nod to the Nintendo 64 and specifically the WCW/nWo Revenge->WWF Wrestlemania 2000->WWF No Mercy line which all used the same engine developed by Aki Corporation.
Now for the hard question - out of this mountain of games which was really the best?
My vote goes to WCW/nWo Revenge for the Nintendo 64. I think the majority of readers will find WWF No Mercy to be their personal favorite if they tried them all. I agree that it's a technically stronger game. The control was improved in WWF Wrestlemania 2000 and WWF No Mercy but it's still good enough in WCW/nWo Revenge to make it a strong game.
The presentation style helped push this over the edge for me, the entrances and camera angles especially. It had a look that I just plain preferred to all the others.
Another big consideration is the nostalgia factor (it always is for me). WCW/nWo Revenge is set at a time when WCW was at its absolute best. If you want to remember the Monday Night War at its peak, then this is the best game to fire up.
If after reading this you suddenly feel motivated to go and collect all these games, here's a handy little checklist in spreadsheet form:
"The Death of WCW" by R. D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez was the main inspiration and reference for this article. It is rather opinionated and some may disagree with their assessment but it's still an enteraining read.
Other sources consulted:MobyGames - WCW Wrestling games