You have to wonder where the term “wrestling” originates. Presumably it’s the verb “to wrest” something off someone else – in the case of this sport, their arm, or possibly a leg. Of course this isn’t real wrestling of the Greco-Roman variety. It’s showbiz theatre; wrestling where an elbow slam to the head misses by a good two clean feet, though the ring takes a pretty nasty pounding.
Wrestling has, of course, moved on since the days of Shirley Crabtree and the impossibly hefty Giant Haystacks. It’s all WWF (oops, not any more) and Hulk Hogan these days. Indeed, Legends of Wrestling presents a veritable who’s-who of the recent modern stars, all of whom are more than colourful characters.
There are three basic modes of play in this game; exhibition, tournament and career. Exhibition matches are one-off bouts which can be one-on-one or some sort of multiple tag match where everyone ends up in the ring and somewhere along the line the referee gets smashed over the head with a plastic chair.
If you jump out of the ring you can pick up these chairs or handy bits of two-by-four to dole out a beating and supplement your standard wrestling moves, though each character does have a fair repertoire of unique throws and holds. The controls are commendably intuitive. One button is used to punch, one to launch simple throws, one for more complex grapples and a fourth counter-move button.
Timing a press of the latter correctly results in you dodging your oncoming opponent’s attack and swiftly responding with a lightning kick to the nether regions or some other unthinkable retribution. The only slightly tricky element of the control system is that the positioning of your wrestler really affects the outcome of various throws, holds and pins. But this too becomes pretty intuitive after a short while.
The tournament mode allows you to play knock-out competitions against up to three friends or the computer but the career mode is the mainstay of the game, in which you travel the US trying to win bouts and eventually belts, building your status as a wrestler until you get a shot at the world title.
An extra nuance of the career circuit is that there’s a crowd meter which measures how excited and “pumped up” your following is. Boring fighters who use the same moves over and over have their progress punished by yawning fans. Finally, it’s also possible to create your own wrestler, customising his moves, skills and appearance to a great degree. Overall, it’s a reasonably impressive option set.
Graphically and sonically matters are more average. While the animations are decent and the wrestlers fairly realistic, they somehow don’t look quite right. The camera angles can also flip into some strange positions at times, but not too often so that’s only a minor annoyance.