It's real to me
As I watched the Ultimate Warrior give a brief speech this past Monday night on Raw, I felt incredibly happy to see that man in the ring again. It had been far too long since Warrior and WWE got along, and with that tumultuous past now behind them, the two could finally come together and give the legions of wrestling fans around the world some new memories to add to the old ones.
That was the plan, at least. Two days later, I, along with the rest of the world, am standing in shock as this seemingly indestructible man has passed on, no longer among us. One of my all-time favorites, second only to The Undertaker, was never coming back after JUST making his triumphant return. Of course, thanks to the video games we play every day, The Ultimate Warrior can and will live on, because as Warrior said himself two nights ago: I am The Ultimate Warrior. You are the Ultimate Warrior fans, and the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever. Though many take issue with his offscreen personality, his legacy in the ring is undeniably legendary. So, to pay tribute to one of wrestlings greatest participants, lets check out the video game history of the Warrior.
WWF Superstars (Arcade, May 1989)
The first time any of us got the chance to harness the power of the Warrior was in this 1989 arcade game, the precursor to the much more well-known WWE Wrestlefest. The game played basically the same way, but little did we know how much better things would get in just two years. Still, this was a wrestling video game, one of the first of its kind, and it allowed us to play as Ultimate Warrior among other names, so it should be acknowledged.
I personally didnt get to appreciate Superstars when it first launched, as I was 2 years old and barely able to hold a controller, but now I get what makes it so influential. Theres the obvious fact that without it, thered be no Wrestlefest, but more importantly it showed the world that WWF wrestling games could be fun and successful if done correctly. My first wrestling experience would come a year later
WWF Wrestlemania Challenge (NES, November 1990)
For a wrestling fan in the NES days, this was the second chance we got at taking the ring. The first game, simply called Wrestlemania, only sported six characters and a strange 2D-but-not-quite style. It wasnt the greatest, but Rare (yes, that Rare) made up for it the next year with Wrestlemania Challenge. The game sported more wrestlers, more modes, and more fun to be had.
Heres why I love this game: I was a three-year-old kid who just learned how to play video games. When Id had my fill of Super Mario Bros. and Wheel of Fortune Family Edition, my parents gave me a wrestling game, marrying my two biggest loves. I popped it in, blew on it a few times to get it working, then turned it on and saw all of my favorites at my control. Then I picked Ultimate Warrior, and I got to hear this awesome remix of his theme song. It didnt get any better than that for me.
WWF Superstars (Game Boy, April 1991)
That is, until I got the chance to take the wrestling mayhem with me wherever I went! Look, WWF Superstars is pretty low on the totem pole of wrestling games. It features five wrestlers who fight the same (outside of a few minor differences), and completing the game literally means winning four matches. However, the ability to bring the game with me, no matter how limited it was, was revolutionary to an impressionable 4 year old.
Id been watching wrestling for a while, and my parents had even taken me to a live event or two at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The first time I saw Warrior in person, I was hooked; I had to own everything with his face on it. Bedsheets, Wrestling Buddies, even this game, as bare-bones as it was, found a place on my shelf. The spirit of the Warrior flowed through me, even at that tender age. Its a shame I didnt have any ring ropes to shake.
WWF Wrestlefest (Arcade, June 1991)
Now were talking! No previous wrestling game (or future title, for a little while) could hold a candle to the awesomeness of Wrestlefest. The game checked every box: big names, great action, and a difficulty that wasnt impossible, but certainly challenged all who played. Im now 27, the games been out 23 years of my life, and Ive yet to watch the end credits to this day.
Every time I put quarters in that machine, Id press start, select the Ultimate Warrior and Big Boss Man, and beat the ever-living crap out of anyone, human or A.I., that stood in my wayuntil the Legion of Doom beat me. I was that annoying little kid who had no business beating the high school kids who played for hours. But I totally did every single timethanks to the Ultimate Warrior, of course.
WWF Super Wrestlemania (Sega Genesis, February 12, 1992)
Super Wrestlemania put me in a difficult spot. The move to the 16-bit era meant that Id have to choose between two different versions of the same game, but developer LJN made the choice even more difficult. They made Undertaker exclusive to the Super NES and the Ultimate Warrior exclusive to the Genesis. How the heck was I supposed to choose between the two?
Either way, the game itself isnt much to write home about. Every wrestler is exactly the same outside of appearance (and signature moves added only to the Genesis version), and each connected punch or kick sounds like someone is punching a piece of meat hanging in a butcher shop fridge. However, it was more advanced wrestling, and five-year-old me didnt care about its shortcomings. Though initially I chose Super NES, eventually I grabbed the Genesis version too just for the Ultimate Warrior. I couldnt leave my second favorite behind!
WWF In Your House (PlayStation, October 31, 1996)
Acclaim, the company behind the NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat console ports, briefly scored a contract to make WWF video games in the mid-90s. Instead of trying to create a faithful simulation, it went balls-to-the-wall and turned the WWF into a world of oversized limbs, projectile attacks, and in true Mortal Kombat fashion, fatalities. They werent called Fatalities, they were known as Super Pins, but theres no denying they were death moves.
WWF In Your House, the second of the two games, would be the last Ultimate Warrior video game appearance for some time, and he fit into this bizarre interpretation perfectly. He shot lightning bolts out of his hands, used insane combos, and even electrocuted opponents to pieces upon victory with his Super Pin. If Warrior was going to go out, Im glad he went out with a bang like thiseven if the game was really weird.
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling (PS2/Cube/Xbox, June 22, 2004)
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling was a fantastic idea in theory: Take all the biggest names ever to grace the ring, from every time period and promotion, and throw them into one big game where we can make our dream matches comes true. The idea didnt flesh out as well as wed all hoped, but it was a chance to once again harness the power of the Ultimate Warrior against some of the greatest wrestlers ever, and you better believe I took a shot at it.
Showdown was the third game in the Legends of Wrestling series, but it was the first to bring in the Warrior, so I finally paid attention. Even with one of my favorite all-time wrestlers at my control, the game wasnt nearly good enough to justify staying with it. Seeing Warrior in a game again was great, but it wasnt the same as before. I didnt know when Id get my chance again, or if I ever would at all.
WWE Legends of Wrestlemania (360/PS3, March 24, 2009)
For the first time in 13 years, the Warrior was returning to the digital WWE ring in Legends of Wrestlemania. This game modified the WWE franchises game engine, seemingly to make it easier for players who werent familiar with the core game and just came for the familiar faces. Unfortunately, the game turned into a series of quick-time events, and not the return to wrestling glory that much of the cast, including Warrior deserved.
I enjoyed Legends of Wrestlemania, sure, but all it did was make me pine for those legends in my normal wrestling game. The Warrior was especially a big tease, considering we wouldnt see him again for two more years in a video game (and three more until he finally appeared in THQ's main game). However, just seeing Warrior in a WWE game after thirteen years of nothing was a good sign. Perhaps Id get my Warrior back after all.
WWE All-Stars (360/PS3, March 29, 2011)
Even in a world as competitive and cutthroat as professional wrestling, sometimes you just have to let loose once in a while. WWE All-Stars did just that, seemingly jumping into the imaginations of young wrestling fans throughout time, mining them for ideas, then creating WWE All-Stars. Wrestlers from then and now came together in an over-the-top, arcade-style brawler that doesnt take itself as seriously as the core WWE franchise, and its a ton of fun because of it. Of course, no All-Stars game would be complete without the Warrior, and he appeared on the cover, front and center.
I was obviously one of those people whose imaginations were mined, because playing WWE All-Stars is like watching how I personally remember watching wrestling back in the day. These men were larger than life, performing moves that looked like they could touch the ceiling and that land with such force that they shook the Earth. All-Stars was the game of my dreams.
Abobo's Big Adventure (PC, January 11, 2012)
While its only a cameo, Warrior does make an appearance in this freeware love letter to the times of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Level 6 is a homage to Pro Wrestling where Abobo fights The Amazon, and his victory summons Hulk Hogan, Undertaker, Roddy Piper, and Warrior to the ring to perform their finishing moves on the defeated merman. Abobo knew who his friends were.
If youre going to make a game paying respect to the late '80s and early '90s, theres no way you can leave out the professional wrestling scene. If youre going to include it, you HAVE to include The Ultimate Warrior. Its federal law, look it up. The creators of this big adventure are law-abiding citizens, obviously, and the Warrior got to make a well-deserved cameo.
WWE 2K14 (360/PS3, October 29, 2013)
I couldnt believe this little tidbit when I first heard it, but its totally true: WWE 2K14 was the FIRST time The Ultimate Warrior was included on the playable roster of the core WWE simulation franchise. One of the all-time greats, a LEGEND, passed over until it was almost too late. I can only guess how many people pre-ordered the game, downloaded the Warrior, and instantly made him champion. I sure as hell did.
Less than a year ago, in July 2013, I stood in the same room as the Warrior, covering his inclusion in WWE 2K14 for this site at a 2K press event in New York City. I was in awe of him, even without the classic crazy hair and face paint, and hung on his every word. I thought I was lucky then to be meeting a childhood hero, but now, in hindsight, accepting that gig was one of the best decisions Ive ever made.