Wrestling games might all look the same to outsiders, but to fans of the genre, they are so much more. They are an opportunity to play out your dream Wrestlemania line-up. They are the one place where you can take your favourite underdog and push him or her to the moon. They are a tool to live out your wildest fantasies by creating a character as close as possible to yourself and making them the hero who takes on all challengers.
All of this is to say that wrestling games might be aiming for realism these days, but there is still place for some zaniness to be included, voluntarily or not. Either as pre-planned Easter Eggs or as clever exploits of a game’s engines, there are plenty of way to twist a game until it reveals the underlying craziness of the sport it represents. Some of these features are known to any wrestling fan who has ever had an internet access. Others are more closely guarded, becoming hearsays and legends before being revealed as true by ambitious gamers.
Here you have 25 of these secrets, those that we think are the most well-hidden in the history of wrestling video games. Hidden characters, cheats, Easter eggs, and special moves: we have a little bit of everything to satisfy curious wrestling fans, spanning games from the 16-bits era to the present day. Whether you grew up with Hulk Hogan or John Cena, chances are you will discover something new in this list.
Despite the questionable playability of the titles, Acclaim had a string of hits in the 16-bit era while releasing WWF products under their LJN brand. The culmination of this series was WWF Raw, a game so popular it was released on any machine which could run it. Some platforms received exclusive characters, but only the Sega 32X had a secret character only accessible via code. And that character… was Kwang. The supposed ninja was only Savio Vega under a mask, doing basic chops and kicks.
Kwang's depiction was as lame as the gimmick it represented.
He didn’t even have his own special moves, or his actual ring gear. Instead, he borrowed from other characters in the game. With the 32X being a major failure for Sega, there might be about 67 people in the entire world who played as Kwang, so congratulations to them for being part of an elite club.
WWF No Mercy is often cited as one of the greatest wrestling video games of all-time, which means it had all the features expected from the genre, plus a few innovations. Like most wrestling games, it had characters that needed to be unlocked, some of them being actual superstars like Ken Shamrock, but some of them were pretty dubious. Not only was the Godfather’s valet the most expensive character to unlock (costing a whopping $500,000!), but the farce continued when players had to unlock such rewarding characters as Michael Cole, Jim Ross, and Howard Finkel. These were included as a joke, but the kicker is that all of them would end up wrestling at least one match during the course of their career. If you cannot ever remember Howard Finkel wrestling, simply google “Howard Finkel Tuxedo Match”, and instantly regret listening to me.
Before it became a buzzword in the corporate world, mid-90s Acclaim practiced a little synergy when developing their first 3D wrestling game, WWF War Zone. The game included the main character from another one of their intellectual properties:
Turok the Dinosaur Hunter, finally making his long-awaited wrestling debut.
The Native American might have had a unique look, but his moveset was a complete copy of The Rock’s. His inclusion is far from the weirdest cameo I have ever seen in a wrestling game, and it was nice to finally see the full character, since Turok is usually hidden behind his game’s first-person perspective. Unfortunately, most of those who actually bought the game (like me, for example) had no idea that Turok was even in the game. That is because the Dinosaur Hunter was a GameShark exclusive.
WWE games have a history of including celebrities in their games as actual fighters: Fred Durst had his turn, as did Mike Tyson and Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his Terminator persona, to boot). The weirdest of the bunch, however, is included in the most recent release. WWE 2K18 makes you work a little bit though: this timeless celebrity is hidden within the game’s create-a-wrestler mode. When creating your own character, you might notice that in the cosmetic choices available, there is a very iconic white hairdo, and also a distinctive pair of old-school glasses, and a white jacket with a string tie which might remind you of someone… That’s right!
Colonel Sanders, the KFC founder, is ready for a fight.
You might need to take the time to create him, but he's there. It’s no accident either. KFC and WWE just thought that there was a huge crossover between fans of wrestling and fans of fried chicken.
In every version of the 16-bit hit WWF Raw, there is a referee on screen at all time. His presence means that some moves, such as illegal chokes, are unavailable under his watch. However, it is possible to punch out the referee, or even run into him for one of wrestling’s proudest tradition: the ref bump. While the referee is knocked out, you can cheat your heart out until he regains consciousness. But be careful: if you bump the ref too many times over the course of a single contest, he might simply abandon his post and walk out the match. With the authority gone, the rest of the bout will be fought under what the game calls “Brawl mode”, which just means that the two wrestlers keep fighting until one of the characters runs out of energy.
One of the things that got me the most excited reading previews of WWF War Zone in Nintendo Power magazine was the inclusion of a create-a-wrestler mode. It was one of the first times where a wrestling game allowed you to go crazy and unleash your creativity on the wrestling world. The sequel, WWF Attitude, went even further, allowing the players to assign unique movesets to their creation. The final touch was selecting your character’s voice, which would be heard when taunting the opponent or when grunting in pain. If the custom voices all sound kind of familiar, there is a reason:
Most of the voices were performed by the Road Dogg Jesse James.
One of the stars of the Attitude Era, he was fittingly a wrestler became popular because of his voice more than his wrestling acumen.
By the time 2007 rolled around, wrestling games had been allowing players to roam around the backstage area for a while. Fighting in these different settings made for a nice change of pace, but after a few years, the concept was getting stale. The Smackdown vs Raw series introduced environmental grapples, moves which can be performed to make the characters interact with the scenery. The 2007 edition of Smackdown vs Raw went a step further: if an environmental grapple was blocked while the characters are fighting in either the parking lot or the TV area in the bar, then the Boogeyman (the wrestler, not the monster) will appear to give the wrestlers a good old jump scare. Quite honestly, that’s a good use of The Boogeyman, as he spent most of his time popping up in the background of other wrestlers’ segments instead of doing any actual wrestling.
For anyone who is a bit of a comedy nerd (or for anyone born before 1985), the name “Rodney Dangerfield” is a famous one. The old-school comedian had a bit of a career resurgence in the 90s as an actor in b-level comedies, even though he was well into his 70s by that point. So what’s the connection with wrestling games? ECW Anarchy Rulz, the second game to bear the ECW name, features a brand new, unreleased theme song for New Jack. This theme only appears in the game, and would never be used on television or at any wrestling event. Who contributed vocals to this rare track? None other than the elderly Rodney Dangerfield. And that’s how a legendary comedian, more famous for his role in Caddyshack than for his association with sports entertainment, became a part of wrestling games’ lore.
As the sequel to WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game, WWF In Your House was an arcade-like take on the genre, including fancy attacks such as The Undertaker shooting ghosts from his hands. The game also tried to include “fatalities” for the first time. These special pins were slightly harder to execute than the regular ones, and they resulted in an extra animation playing after you won the match. Most of these secret finishers consisted of heavy objects falling on the defeated wrestler, but one of them particularly stood out. It seems like the developers could not figuring out what made Vader unique, so his fatality is a simple one.
Vader jumps into the air, with his rear end inflating by about 1000%.
Then, he crushes his opponent, body, and soul, on the way down. Thankfully, that move was not a regular part of the real Vader’s repertoire.
Out of all the different versions of WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2009 available, the Wii port has a slight difference which sets it apart from its competitors. Despite Nintendo’s family-friendly image, the Wii version is the only one which allows players to use thumbtacks as a weapon in the Extreme Rules mode. The tacks were introduced to the WWE universe by Mick Foley during the 1998 King of the Ring, and have been reserved for the most important of feuds, ones were the hatred of the individuals is a step above a simple grudge. The video games version are far less impressive, probably owing to the fact that the Wii port of Smackdown vs Raw 2009 was the most underpowered version of all. Still, if you are one of those sickos who enjoy turning human beings into pin cushions, the option is there.
Hulk Hogan is an easy man to pick out of a crowd. He is tall, he has a bleached mustache, and there is the trademark bandanas, which he wears even to court. When he is in the ring, Hogan takes off his bandana (or at least, he used to at the start of his career) to reveal a shiny dome accessorized with a superb mullet, also called a “skullet” for short. For better or worse, it is a part of his identity, which is why his sprite from the NES game WWF King of the Ring appears so weird.
His character was going to have the trademark hairdo, but Hulk complained.
The developers, to appease the Immortal One, fixed his hairline somewhat. Still, it wasn’t good enough for Hogan. Finally, completely out of spite, the development team gave his character a full head of hair, which finally pleased Hogan, but left gamers confused.
The WWE roster changes often and quickly. For the developers, it can be hard to follow the constant adjustments, which is why every game includes a few characters which are slightly out of date with reality. WWF Smackdown 2: Know Your Role is no different, with Big Show and Ken Shamrock being hidden somewhere in the game code, removed from the roster at the last second. The difference is that these two were not completely removed from gameplay. In fact, they will often appear in the game’s Royal Rumble mode. That is because their characters are still accessible by the function responsible for randomly selecting the next Rumble entrant. However, since they are unfinished, their name simply appears as “Unknown”, and their music is set to the game’s default theme. While Big Show would eventually make a comeback, Shamrock was gone for good.
WWE Smackdown vs Raw 2006 is full of environmental finishing manoeuvers, which are match-ending moves which can be performed exclusively in certain areas backstage or near certain parts of the set. The most well hidden one can be performed in the Parking Lot area: when you have a finisher stored, you must grapple your opponent and then drag them to the last door of the nearby limousine. Once there, activate your finisher, and you will stuff your adversary in the back of the car.
A cutscene will show your character jumping into a jeep only to ram it into the limo.
It is an automatic KO, as it should. WWE has a proud history of vehicular destruction, so it would make sense that their game would allow fans to join the ranks of fellow reckless drivers such as Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The Shield, as a group, has acquired a legendary status in the eyes of most wrestling fans. By the time WWE 2K18 was released, the group had been broken up for a few years. However, they reunited on screen only a few weeks removed from the game’s launch. Luckily, the developers included the team’s trademark Triple Powerbomb anyway, although it is a bit convoluted to execute. First, you must select Roman Reigns as your wrestler. Then, you must assign both Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins as his managers. With enough finishers accumulated, you will be able to pull off an OMG moment in the middle of the ring. That is when Ambrose and Rollins both slide into the ring to wreck Reigns’ opponent with the famous finisher. After the facts, they will both get thrown out for interference, but that’s all right. At that point, the match is probably over anyway.
Just like the previously mentioned Smackdown 2, WWF No Mercy also had to deal with sudden roster changes. Though No Mercy’s deleted characters cannot be accessed through conventional means, there is a simple way to figure out who was very close to making the cut. In the create-a-wrestler mode, the game asks you to select a picture to represent your creation on the selection menu. Thought most of the choices are a bit out there (you can select a pumpkin, or an alien, for example), there are some surprises when you get near the bottom of the list. That’s where you will find perfect pictures of some then-current superstars which did not make it to the roster. Most notably, you can find the Mean Street Posse, the Headbangers, Mideon, and Gangrel.
Mosh and Thrasher, The Headbangers, were a somewhat successful tag team in the late 90s and early 2000s who developed a cult following, to the point where they were brought back for a short run on Smackdown Live last year. While Thrasher appears in WWF Wrestlemania 2000, his usual tag team partner had moved on by then and only appears as “Chaz”, a gimmick which had nowhere near the amount of success that his previous one did.
If you are one of those Headbangers nostalgics, you can reunite the team.
First, go into the game’s Edit Mode. Change Chaz’s attire to Thrasher’s, then rename him “MOSH” all in caps. Finally, change his theme and video to the Headbangers’. When you select both characters for a tag team match, they will finally come out together with the proper team name.
Here’s a little trick that I haven’t seen advertised since the days of Nintendo Power, and yet, it’s a classic which works in every AKI-developed wrestling games for the Nintendo 64, with the exception of WCW vs nWo World Tour. If your wrestler has a manager, plug a controller into the 3rd or 4th port of the console.
Hold down “Z” for a few seconds, and you will be controlling the manager!
Being a manager might sound lame, but it’s a very fun way to vary multiplayer games. While going through the games’ respective story mode, one player can control the wrestler while the other one interferes in the match and cheat on their behalf. In wrestling, it’s always more fun to be the bad guy.
In WWE 2K17, the highest rated superstar in the game might not be who you think. Thinking that Brock Lesnar is the most powerful would be a good guess, although it would be wrong. In fact, his manager Paul Heyman has the exact same stats as The Beast, both scoring a rating of 95. Still, there is one man who surpasses them with a 96, and that is none other than The Weasel, Bobby The Brain Heenan. While this may seem like a strangely inflated rating, Heenan is only a manager in the game, so we will never be able to witness his awesome skills as a ring technician in the game. However, it’s worth noting that Heenan did train as a wrestler in real life, and had a fairly successful career in the ring before transitioning to managing.
The first of the Nintendo 64 AKI games, WCW vs nWo World Tour, was the initial North American outing of its award-winning engine. As such, it still had a few kinks to work out, though most of the experience was incredibly smooth. One of the few problems was that it was just too easy to get out of a pin or submission if you knew how, which made multiplayer matches very frustrating.
Two gamers who were aware of the glitch could theoretically never be pinned.
This turned most matches into a submission-only contest. That is because if your opponent has been worn down enough from the strikes and grapples, applying a submission could mean an instant win. So, what was the complicated way to break out of any pin? Simply rotate the joystick quickly enough. Thankfully, that “feature” was removed from the sequels.
Still in WCW vs nWo World Tour, there was another bug which was cancelled by the pin-breaking joystick rotations, but which made going through the game’s fun but repetitive league system a breeze. With this method, it is easy to win a match against the computer in a minute or so, which makes unlocking the secret wrestlers a much faster process. Quickly wear down your opponent with strikes and weak grapples, since weak grapples are rarely countered. After about a minute of this, attempt a pin. If your count gets to one, cancel it by pressing L or R. Do this two more times, always cancelling your own pin at the count of one. Your fourth pin, no matter how weak the move leading to it, will give you a guaranteed three-count. You should be able to unlock the Black Widow and Joe Bruiser in a single afternoon’s work.
One of my favourite parts of WCW/nWo Revenge for Nintendo 64 was the intricate introduction sequence once you turned the console on. A semi truck could be seen driving on an empty road, until Sting appeared out of nowhere to scare the driver. Then the nWo is in their locker room laughing while wrestlers get on screen for a few second to hit their signature moves. If you want to change this introduction somewhat, go into the Edit mode, and change the costumes of any of the characters that can be seen in the cinematic. Their new attire will follow them into the introduction.
Technically, Hulk Hogan could be dressed like La Parka.
Or if you really wanted, Sting could be dressed like a Shogun while threatening a semi truck. You are the director of this movie!
WWE All-Stars was released in 2011, and was a major deviation from the usual WWE games’ formula. It features stars of the era and WWE Legends fighting each other in dream match-ups, complete with the WWE’s production team's legendary hype videos to make it seem like the imaginary feud were real. If you happen to leave your controller unattended for a minute or so in the middle of this excitement, the game will throw some unheard commentary bits to fill in time. First, JR and Jerry Lawler will start complaining that the action is slowing down. After that, they will state simple facts or humorous tidbits about the selected characters. For example, if Dusty Rhodes is on screen, JR will mention that he is the last great southern Heavyweight Champion. Each character comes with his own commentary, so take it easy in your matches to hear them all.
For the longest time, main Raw commentator Michael Cole had a reputation as an annoying broadcaster who actually took away from the product instead of enhancing its enjoyment. Now over twenty years into his career, Cole is… still kind of annoying, but he’s become a lot more tolerable. Still, in WWE 2K17, there is a pretty funny moment which seems to acknowledge Cole’s reputation and break the fourth wall. During the entrances of your character during the game’s career mode, you might hear the following exchange. Cole will say “We would like to thank our friends at 2K for bringing us this match.” The King will quickly answer back:
“Wait, Cole, you have friends?”
For once being in on the joke, Cole will answer “Someone wrote that script for me.” Glad to see that Michael Cole can still have some fun with his early career.
WCW Nitro might have been a bit subpar compared to other wrestling games of its generation, but it made up for its awkward controls by being absolutely loaded with extras. On top of the dozens of unlockable characters (such as a dinosaur or a Christmas-themed wrestler), you also had special sets such as a disco-themed arena, complete with crazy lighting and a mirror ball hanging above the ring. While using that ring, if you try to taunt, you and your opponent will both start doing the YMCA choreography. You know the one. On top of that, there is a way to use this fact to your advantage. If you do this while your opponent is outside the ring, you are basically forcing them to dance and take the count out loss, giving you the easy victory.
Wrestling referees are often knocked out and bumped all over the ring, so it’s no surprise that at one point, some of them would learn some self-defense and take matters into their own hands. In WWE Day of Reckoning for Gamecube, that is exactly what happens.
In this game, the referees are programmed with a little bit of an attitude.
While it is possible to hit the refs, should you strike them a few times too many (say, ten times or so), they will get really angry at you, start fighting back, and eventually give your character the dreaded Stone Cold Stunner. This devastating maneuver is sure to turn the tide in your opponent’s favour, so make sure that your wrestler is not in the middle of an important match-up in the middle of story mode before hitting a ref.