Fighting games have a long tradition of rewarding players with secret unlockable fighters. Whether they appear as black silhouettes on the “choose a fighter” screen, have to be unlocked with a code, or more recently must be purchased through DLC, having unlockable fighters keeps the player coming back for more. Wrestling games are no exception to this precedent set by the, shall we say, less niche members of the fighting game genre.
Now, we have all had a blast using the good old “create-a-wrestler” feature found in most wrestling games. After all, how else are we supposed to see the long-awaited battle between Goku and Superman in a Hell in a Cell Match for the Intercontinental Title? It seems more often than not; game developers want to join in on our fun and manage to sneak in some interesting additions to their rosters. As fun as it is to sit there for hours on end getting the jaw-line dimensions perfect for your created Micky Mouse wrestler and sticking him with The Rock’s moveset, sometimes the game will simply outdo you in terms of randomness.
So, you think you know wrestling? Even better, you think you know wrestling games? Well stick around and see just how “off the card” some of these games went selecting their final rosters. Hell, you may even break out the old N64 just to try out some of the wrestlers you didn’t even know were playable.
15 Godfather's Ho: WWF Wrestlemania 2000
With the change to a PG rating, the WWE (once the WWF) has certainly changed some of their company policy when referring to women. Nothing perhaps embodies that change more than the character “The Godfather.” His gimmick was, well... he was a pimp, really, no ifs ands or "butts" about it. As a pimp, The Godfather would strut down to the ring flanked by five or six beautiful women he and everyone else referred to simply as “the hoes.” In fact, The Godfather’s entrance music began by him eagerly shouting “Get on the HOOOOOO train.” Oh, how times change. Regardless, someone at THQ thought it would be worth it to program one of the Godfather’s nameless hoes as a wrestler. Better yet, you had to use a Gameshark to access her. This wasn’t even her only appearance, as she also could be unlocked in WWF No Mercy. I suppose this one was a shout-out to all the curious, sexually budding teenagers out there… or something.
14 The Terminator: WWE 2K16
Triple H has always been known for his wildly elaborate WrestleMania entrances and at WrestleMania 31 he carried on the tradition. He emerged from the center of the stage clad in futuristic cybernetic armor, accompanied by two terminators on either side of him. Now, I’ve been a wrestling fan for quite some time, and I was actually at this WrestleMania, but it still confused the hell out of me. Later, they announced that Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger would be an unlockable character in the up-and-coming WWE 2k16. Suddenly, all the cross promotional marketing pieces fell into place and my confusion was replaced with an accepting nod. After all, I watched Robocop interfere in a match in WCW once. Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger came programmed with his own custom entrance, mimicking those of Terminator 1 and 2, and WWE provided the Terminator’s theme as well.
13 "Yourself": WWF WrestleMania Challenge
In a game in which you could control and battle with the likes of The Macho Man Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, and the Ultimate Warrior, the lead developer at Rare decided, “I think you should be in the game.” Naturally, I assume he or she was in a boardroom full of people, but also simultaneously staring into a full-length mirror. So, per the boss’s orders, they programmed in the 9th and final wrestler simply titled “yourself.” He was a generic sprite, who had a generic move set and generic music. If two players selected “yourself” rather than spawning an introspective paradox the game simply shifted the color scheme of one of the “yourself” models and added different opening music. Players were also given the option to play themselves against every other wrestler on the roster to eventually become champion.
12 Joe Bruiser: WCW Vs nWo World Tour
If you ask any long-time wrestling game fan, they’ll tell you that WCW vs nWo World Tour revolutionized the grappling system in wrestling games. What they probably won’t tell you is, “Yeah dude, I always used to pick Joe Bruiser, he was a lot of fun.” Not only was Joe Bruiser not fun, he was not real. There was no wrestler by the name of Joe Bruiser. Joe Bruiser was a parody, perhaps an homage to Muhammad Ali. He was an African American boxer who could not grapple, and his only methods of attack were punches, kicks, and knees and a shoulder block. Does that sound boring? Believe it or not, it was worse than it sounds. I don’t think anyone in the right mind plays wrestling games for their dazzling striking mechanics.
11 THQ Staff: WCW/nWo Thunder
So now, we can assume that the same boss that said the game needed “yourself” in it got a new job over at THQ and decided to be more articulate in his vision for the game. He decreed that a large chunk of his publishing team should be playable in this game. After all, who wouldn’t want to live out the dream match of Dimond Dallas Page vs. “Dudeman,” which was sure to be epic? As if the choice couldn’t get more puzzling, they also gave each of the developers included in the game their own snappy wrestling nickname. These included but were not limited to, Chickenboy, 5 O Clock Tony, Zoomie, Sleep Dep Ed, Wrestling Matt, Reanimator, Cobra, and my personal favorite, Uncle Monkey. Would you believe me if I told you that this was not the weirdest addition made to this game? Keep reading and I promise you it gets better.
10 Red And Green: WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2010
I’m sorry to disappoint any Pokémon fans that may be reading this list, but sadly the classic protagonist and antagonist of the original Japanese Pokémon games do not appear in the squared circle. No, sadly, WWE SmackDown vs. Raw decided to go a much simpler route when they put their very own Red and Green into their game. Each character appears as a blank humanoid form colored in completely as, you guessed it, Red or Green. The colorful characters were unlockable and could be used in any of the game modes offered, but it still begs the question, “why?” The mystery takes a deeper twist when you realize what you have to do to unlock the dummies. The player must reverse Batista’s attacks while playing as Randy Orton in his third week of his “Road to WrestleMania" mode. If that makes sense to you, frankly I’m impressed.
9 Jim Ross: WWF WrestleMania 2000
Ok, we were really going off the rails there for a bit. At least this next entry to our list was a real-life employee of the WWF/E. Jim Ross is a beloved commentator who helped make some of WWF/E’s most intense, impactful, and emotional moments come to life with his enthusiastic calls. There is no doubt that he is considered by many to be the greatest wrestling commentator of all time. Though his contributions to the business cannot be questioned, his place in this game can be. At the time, WWF was thriving, soaring off the back of the famed “Attitude Era” of the 90s. Its roster was jam packed with incredible talent: the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertaker, The Rock, Mick Foley, and Triple H, just to name a few. So, who in their right minds would want to play as Jim Ross?
8 Aki Man: WCW/nWo Revenge
The legend of the Aki Man is something that has kept wrestling fans awake at night for nearly 20 years. What was this strange creature doing in this game? We know that “Aki” was taken from the Aki Corporation, one of the developers of the game. This also makes sense that the Aki Man has an alternate costume where he becomes the “THQ Man.” This would lead some to believe he was a throwaway promotional character for the developer and publishers but others are not so sure. It was apparent that WCW/nWo Revenge featured several Japanese wrestlers of the time, but had to heavily alter them to make it pass copyright laws. Could the Aki Man have been such an addition? If so, who exactly was he? The world may never know.
7 Vince Russo: WCW Backstage Assault
For those of you who are not familiar with Vince Russo, he was a "booker", or a storyline writer, for both WCW and WWF. He had a tendency to say "bro" way to often, and was responsible for some of the most corny and ridiculous things to ever come out of sports entertainment. This included having David Arquette win the WCW Championship and making a character known as "The Fat Chick Thriller", "That 70s Guy" Mike Awesome (he had his good moments too, believe it or not). Perhaps it was an odd sort of therapeutic gesture EA gave to the fans, allowing them to literally backstage assault Mr. Russo. Given how poorly the game played and was reviewed, however, it may have just been another cog in Vince Russo’s mad storyline machine.
6 Tony: WWE SmackDown Vs. Raw 2009
The best explanation I have found as to why Tony is an unlockable character in this game is that he is John Cena’s friend. He comes out to John Cena’s music, he has John Cena’s mannerisms and entrance, and he even has John Cena’s move set. When he comes to the ring, he is announced as “Anthony” despite being labeled as Tony literally everywhere else in the game. So essentially, Tony is a reskinned model of John Cena’s character; but who exactly is this American Marine? Apparently, he is, in fact, John Cena’s friend who had a small spot during a WWE Tribute to the Troops show. Clearly, this moment was so iconic amongst wrestling fans droves of them were demanding he be a playable character! Tony appears in John Cena’s Road to WrestleMania mode and wrestles in army fatigues.
5 Andy Kaufman: Legends Of Wrestling
I always found Legends of Wrestling to be a slightly unsettling game as a kid. I don’t know what it was about it. Maybe that most of the roster was deceased and there was little to no voice lines in the game? It felt like playing an infinite wrestling tour through some unspecified purgatory all set to a Trapt CD. Despite that, it was actually a pretty fun game and had an epic roster. One addition, however, was slightly surprising. Andy Kaufman was a comedian that had a fourth wall breaking feud with Jerry “The King” Lawler. Kaufman was most famous for his feuds with various women throughout wrestling. His gimmick was essentially being a woman beater, and he received piles and piles of hate mail daily. Nevertheless, the self-proclaimed “Inter-Gender Champion of the World” made his way into the game.
4 "The Wackies": WCW/nWo Thunder
Perhaps the most bizarre addition to this list is the “Wackies.” Truth be told, each one of these "wrestlers" featured in this vexing game could have made up the entirety of this list but what fun would that be? The “Wackies” as they were called included: Arge and Varge (a two headed deformed cyclops), Mantis (a giant praying mantis), Adam (a giant red ant), Tiffany Pane (a humanoid piece of stained glass), Claude Rains (a disembodied fedora), and Snuff the skeleton. I think the most tragic thing about this is just how bad this game really is. Could you imagine if this happened to also be one of the best classic wrestling titles ever made with this once in a lifetime roster? Instead, only a select few know of the epic rivalry between Mantis and Chickenboy.
3 Turok: WWF Warzone
Turok is a badass dinosaur hunting killing machine, but could he handle being put through a table? Yes, yes, he probably could. Still, WWF Warzone’s developers, Iguana West, decided that Turok would make a good addition to the squared circle. This was a little shameless self-promotion as Turok was also an Iguana title. At first, Turok was just a rumor that many gamers spent hours trying to confirm. All it took was a trusty Gameshark to unlock the dino-hunter and bring some carnage to the ring. They decided that The Rock’s move set would best suit him, and they gave him a generic create-a-wrestler theme. Though Turok was available on the PlayStation and N64 versions via a Gameshark, he did not appear in the Game Boy version of the game.
2 Head: WWF Attitude
Al Snow had the impressive task of getting a mannequin dummy’s head popular with the crowd. The head, named “Head,” became Al Snow’s signature prop/weapon which prompted him to scream to the crowd often “What does everybody want?” People would emphatically shout back “HEAD!” and giggle at the double entendre. Adding “Head” in as a useable weapon just wasn’t enough for the developers so they took it a bit further. Head became a playable character; it (she?) was literally a disembodied floating head, with arms and legs to match. As you can imagine this was truly the stuff of nightmares. It was as if they just made the torso of a female wrestler invisible. Truly, Iguana was ahead of the curve.
1 Fred Durst: WWF SmackDown! Just Bring It
Now I know you'll be loving this sh*t right here. Fred Durst is right here. When he got unlocked, you threw the controller in the air cause you didn’t care, and we didn’t care. The WWF/E had a short partnership with Mr. Durst and his extreme and radical band Limp Bizkit. The Undertaker, who at the time had a minor character shift from being an undead wizard to an American biker, had begun using Limp Bizkit’s classic “Rollin” as his entrance theme. Now, I don’t know if part of the deal was the addition of Fred Durst to the game, but I do know he came to the ring in a low-rider whilst performing a strange dance on the hood of the car. If only they had included Kid Rock in the game as well, then we would have been in for a real treat!