For no good reason, I’ve been thinking about pro wrestling today. I’ve written about it before (https://www.oldschoolgamermagazine.com/wwf-superstars/). I’ve been thinking about some of the legends of the sport: Andre the Giant, Fritz Von Erich, Sylvester Ritter (aka The Junkyard Dog) and, of course, David Arquette.
For retro gamers, there’s another legend of wrestling that can’t be forgotten: Masato Masuda. He was the creator of the Fire Pro Wrestling series who died at the age of 49. At the time of his death, Masuda’s protege Goichi Suda described him like this, “He was one of the greatest creators of video games and he was my direct teacher. Thank you for giving us our favorite Fire Pro-wrestling. You are the god of it.”
The first Fire Pro Wrestling game, Fire Pro Wrestling Combination Tag, was released in 1989 and spawned numerous sequels. However, it wasn’t Masuda’s first foray into the steroid and spandex ballet we know as professional wrestling. He was also the sole designer for the 1986 title, “Pro Wrestling”, which was originally released on the Famicom Disk system before being released on the NES a year later.
Pro Wrestling was not sanctioned by a professional league, so you couldn’t play as any of the famous wrestlers of the day. Instead, you could choose between one of six characters: Fighter Hayabusa from Japan, Giant Panther from the U.S.A., King Slender from the U.S.A., Kin Korn Karn from Korea, The Amazon from Parts Unknown, and Star Man from Mexico? (the question mark included next to the country really made this character). These were the characters in the V.W.A. (Video Wrestling Association). They were based loosely on wrestlers of the day, and each fighter had his own signature moves.
There were two modes of play, a single player and a two player. The two player mode is pretty self explanatory. You battled your friend in a best of three match. There was no championship belt involved, which is probably good. What friendship could have survived it otherwise? The single player mode featured your quest for the V.W.A. Title. You selected your fighter and fought your way to a championship match against King Slender. The only exception was if you had chosen to fight as Slender, then the defending champion was Giant Panther.
On the off chance that you accomplished this Herculean task, you then had to defend your belt against all challengers. This process ended with you battling the great and powerful King Puma, an insanely difficult final boss battle.
The game is now considered a classic, but is remembered almost as much for it’s most amusing fault as it is for its playability. Of course, I’m talking about, “A Winner Is You!” the declaration of victory players received in game. This bit of poor Japanese to English translation has become a popular meme, which is arguably better known than the game that spawned it.
Even if you aren’t a fan of professional wrestling (and if that’s the case, why????) there’s nothing not to love about this game. It’s a shame the world lost Masuda so young, but he will forever and always remain the undisputed world champion of digital wrestling.