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You got wrestling in my video games

This keeps happening. We need to talk about it

Patrick Gill (he/him) has been making serious and unserious videos for Polygon since 2016. He also co-hosts & produces Polygon’s weekly livestreams on Twitch.

When I was 10 years old, I got a copy of WCW/NWO Revenge for my N64. I didn’t watch wrestling, but the game was fun. I popped into the editor, put a dude in flesh colored trunks and renamed him NAKEDMAN. Friends would come over and tell me who their favorite guys were and I’d nod politely. My dad and I would turn off pinfalls, DQs, time limits, and count-outs and just beat the heck out of each other with bats and chairs until our avatars were exhausted and covered in blood.

I wouldn’t come back to wrestling for another 15 years. I was bored at work, and I wondered, “What ever happened to that Scott Hall guy, from the game?” Several deep, sad Wikipedia holes later, my curiosity was satisfied, but there were some unforeseen consequences. I accidentally started caring about wrestling. A lot.

I watched wrestling, new and old. I went to live shows in stadiums and Elks’ Lodges. I read some books. I made friends. I bookmarked a wrestling subreddit. Yikes. I gave myself a very bad case of Wrestling Brain, and it was fun.

One of the side effects of Wrestling Brain is that you start to see wrestling everywhere. Sometimes you’re just projecting a thing you understand onto a thing you’re trying to understand. Other times, the connections are real. It’s like when you finally put a name to an actor’s face and suddenly you see them cropping up in movies where you never noticed them before.

leon kennedy of the resident evil franches performs a belly-to-belly suplex on a zombie enemy
Leon Kennedy drops a zombie on its head

One of the places where those connections are really strong is in video games. Over the last 25 years, games have borrowed wrestling moves and archetypes with reckless abandon, regardless of whether or not the game has anything to do with wrestling. Leon Kennedy has, canonically, never set foot in the squared circle, but he delights in suplexing zombies. When Avalanche Studios adapted Mad Max to video games, it gave him a repertoire of lariats, dropkicks, and neck-endangering drivers that would make Kobashi blush. I hopped into Assassin’s Creed Valhalla expecting a wrestling-free experience, but about 15 minutes later, my lady was getting Randy Savage Elbow Dropped by a husky viking in a brawling minigame.

Mad Max german suplexes a painted war boy
War Boy Suplex

I wanted to know more about how the two mediums I love got so cozy together, so I made a video about it. Check it out up top!

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