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Review: Total Extreme Wrestling 2005

April 4, 2012

I suppose, given the nature of the beast, that I can’t legitimately talk about a professional wrestling simulator without talking about professional wrestling itself.

American professional wrestling has its roots in the traveling carnival system. Early on, it was more of a show of athletic competition but as time progressed, the carnival promoters started adding fictional backgrounds, costumes, and stories to the shows. And then around the start of World War I, it came out that these matches weren’t entirely about the athletic competition anymore.

Combined with the retirement of Frank Gotch, a legend of his day (for perspective, think of it as if The Undertaker or Hulk Hogan stopped having anything to do with wrestling), this revelation sent professional wrestling into a tailspin that it wouldn’t fully recover from until the invention of television. This was the birth of modern professional wrestling.

I’m going to talk a fair bit about my perception of wrestling, so if you’re just interested in the game, you can go ahead and skip the next three paragraphs. And now, I’d like to take a moment to address two common beliefs about pro wrestling. It’s widely said that wrestling is fake. And this is really something of a half-truth. Yes, pretty much every time you see a wrestler talking, it’s going to be something that was scripted (unless they’re inhumanly good at ad-libbing). And a lot of the matches are going to be scripted too. In fact, some matches are more scripted and rehearsed than others (especially in the cases of newer wrestlers, or especially complex or dangerous moves).

But a lot of that is by necessity. Wrestling, even at its most scripted, can still be incredibly dangerous, and if it weren’t for scripted matches no one would last more than a year. There’s a lot you have to worry about, but concussion is the biggie. I hate to even bring it up, but concussions played a part in Chris Benoit’s murder-suicide. One neurologist said that he had the brain of an eighty-five year old Alzheimer’s patient.

And the other thing that’s commonly said of wrestling is that it’s low-class entertainment for the uneducated masses, the Roman Colosseum for the modern age. Well, I’m not going to lie. Wrestling can get awfully violent. And yes, the violence does draw people. But it’s not the only thing that draws people. Some do watch just to see the sheer violence of it. But different people watch for different reasons. Some will watch just to see their favorite wrestler. Others may watch for the storylines or the comedy acts. And others still will watch just to see their favorite techniques in action.

Well, now that I’ve built a wall of text, it’s about time I talk about Grey Dog Software’s Total Extreme Wrestling 2005. First of all, I should mention that it’s freeware, so expect my review to skew positive because the only thing I paid to get this is attention. Total Extreme Wrestling 2005, and indeed, the whole Total Extreme Wrestling series, puts you as the head booker/possible owner of a wrestling promotion, and it’s up to you to decide what kind of show to put on, who gets what matches, et cetera, et cetera.

Thrilling, right?

I kid, I kid. While it might not have much in the way of visuals, this game is robust as shit. As shipped, it comes with its own wrestling world, similar to our own but not identical. For instance, none of the wrestlers or promotions you know and love exist in this world. Instead of the WWE and iMPACT, weekly ratings battles are fought by the Supreme Wrestling Federation and Total Championship Wrestling. It’s very hard to describe exactly how wide the scope of this game is, because it’s not just a game, it also has an editor to let you create whatever wrestling fantasy you desire. But if you want to, say, take over iMPACT, because you’re sick of watching them screw up and you think you could do better, you can create a whole new database featuring real life wrestlers and promotions oh wait you don’t have to because a bunch of people already have plus a whole bunch of “What If?” scenarios, including the failure of WrestleMania and a Ric Flair buyout of the WCW.

The game is fun, but it isn’t without its flaws. The load times are ungodly (PROTIP: Don’t click on the window while it loads, it will freeze on you), the show reports only detail the matches and not the angles, which is like a movie script having screen directions but no dialogue, and it does take a little while to figure out what everything does. But for all of that, it’s still fun knowing that I turned Bully Ray back into a face by having him rescue Dudley from a post-match beatdown. And all for free.

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