In this edition of “Revisiting Wrestling Video Games,” the sixth generation of consoles concludes with the original Xbox. This was Microsoft’s first foray into the gaming market, as we will discuss in detail later, and it provided experiences that competed directly with the ones offered by Sony and Nintendo. Much like the PlayStation 2 and GameCube, the Xbox offered a number of wrestling games for fans to enjoy. Let’s dive deeper into the console itself.
Released in 2001 in North America and 2002 in subsequent regions, the Xbox made a solid first impression. Keep in mind that, since the mid-90s, no major American company was manufacturing video game consoles. Once Atari was out of the console race, no other company tried their hand until Microsoft. The latter brand became synonymous with computers and software, so the transition into the gaming market wasn’t terribly surprising. While the Xbox may not have won the sixth console generation, it put up a formidable fight, especially given it was Microsoft’s first gaming platform.
During its lifetime, the Xbox sold over 24 million units. It had a solid launch, supported by the introduction of the “Halo” series with “Halo: Combat Evolved.” This series would be to Microsoft what “The Legend of Zelda” or “Super Mario” is to Nintendo. The Xbox failed to see momentum in Japan, though it was incredibly popular with American audiences. This success was largely due to the software that came out for the Xbox. Of course, this brings us to the discussion of wrestling video games. If you’re planning on dusting off your old Xbox or may be eying a used console online, here are a few of the most memorable wrestling titles to pop in.
Showdown: Legends of Wrestling
It’s important to note that despite the popularity of the Xbox in North America, there were very few original wrestling video games released for the platform. That said, it benefited from titles that found their way onto other systems, specifically the PlayStation 2. One such example was the “Legends of Wrestling” series, from Acclaim. This featured names from yesteryear, recreated with exaggerated, muscular proportions, ranging from Hulk Hogan to Bret Hart to Terry Funk.
In terms of critical reception, the first two “Legends of Wrestling” games were average at best. The titles weren’t necessarily terrible, but they didn’t quite excite to the level fans expected. While “Showdown: Legends of Wrestling,” the third entry, may not have set the world on fire, it provided a loaded experience. Released in 2004,” Showdown: Legends of Wrestling” featured one of the most stacked rosters of any wrestling video game up until then. It also boasted multiple few real-life locations, including the Tokyo Dome and Wembley Stadium.
The matches also features solid presentation. Said presentation was bolstered by commentary from Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. In terms of gameplay, “Showdown: Legends of Wrestling” is a bit rough around the edges. Don’t be surprised to see your strikes or grapples fail to register from time to time. For those that are itching for a wrestling game on the Xbox, you can do much worse.
Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood
Developed by Paradox Development and published by Eidos Interactive, “Backyard Wrestling: Don’t Try This at Home” was as gritty as wrestling video games became. Instead of rings, fighters would compete in unique locations ranging from parking lots to strip clubs. It also played less like a traditional wrestling game and more like a fighter in a similar vein as “Soul Calibur” or “Tekken.” While it wasn’t terribly well-received, it carved a unique niche for itself.
Enter the sequel, “Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood,” which released on the Xbox in addition to the PS2. The soundtrack was packed, with The Insane Clown Posse, the figureheads of the series, being accompanied by such names as Andrew W.K. and Fall Out Boy. Its roster also features many names in hardcore wrestling, ranging from John Zandig to The Sandman to New Jack. To see these wrestlers compete in locations such as the ones mentioned earlier is an experience, to say the least.
It’s important to note that “Backyard Wrestling 2: There Goes the Neighborhood” is an acquired taste. This isn’t exactly a pretty game, nor is it one that controls the best. However, it should satiate a wrestling fan’s hunger for violence and mayhem, provided the game’s hiccups can be overcome. Give this game a try if you can get your hands on it, but don’t spend too much.
WWE RAW 2 for the Xbox
When it comes to Microsoft-exclusive series of wrestling video games, look no further than “RAW.” The first game in the series, “WWF RAW,” was developed by Anchor and published by THQ before being released in 2002. The gameplay was run-of-the-mill for its time, complete with strikes and grapples. With that said, its content was paltry, even for its time. The lack of distinct match types and arenas resulted in the first game in this series feeling samey.
The following year, Anchor and THQ came back stronger. Enter “WWE RAW 2.” The aforementioned lack of content was clearly understood by the developers because there was much more meat to the bones with this game. From the season mode to the creation suite, “WWE RAW 2” gave players more of a reason to stick around than the previous entry. Speaking of creation, with the Xbox’s disk drive, players could rip their own music to be used for entrance themes. This would become commonplace with wrestling video games on the PlayStation 3 as well. However, this is a story for another time.
Out of all the games on this list, “WWE RAW 2” provides the best experience on the original Xbox. It’s as close to a traditional wrestling video game as one would expect. It also offers sufficient content and solid gameplay. These features are fondly remembered by those that have played Xbox during its time. If you could only play one game on this list, make it “WWE RAW 2.”
These are the wrestling video games on the Xbox that stand out to this day. Compared to the PlayStation 2 and even the GameCube, Microsoft’s platform had perhaps the most limited options for wrestling fans. However, the “RAW” series is, at the very least, worth a look. Next time, we will shift our focus back to handhelds, as we take a look at a few wrestling titles on the Nintendo DS family of systems.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world.