Tristan Archer Interview

by Daniel Johnson

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Photo Courtesy of Tristan Archer

Interviewer’s Note: Tristan Archer is a French wrestler who has been performing since 2009. Archer was trained by Lance Storm and began his career in Canada having just one match in front of a paying crowd before heading back to France to hone his craft. Archer has worked for a variety of promotions in France including the International Catch Wrestling Alliance (ICWA), N’Catch and Europe Catch Tour Association (ECTA). Titles this man has held include the ICWA French Championship, N’Catch Major Championship and the ECTA Championship. Archer has also had additional training after working with Storm from Jesse Hernandez and Joey Ryan. Archer has also worked beyond France and throughout the world with appearances for the Empire Wrestling Federation (EWF) in California, Pro Wrestling Showdown (PWS) in the Netherlands and Irish Whip Wrestling (IWW) in Northern Ireland among others. This interview was completed on August 23, 2014. In this interview Archer and I focus on the topic of wrestling in France.

Daniel Johnson: My first question is, and correct me if I’m wrong, but you were born in France in 1985. Was wrestling popular where you lived growing up? How did you first get into it?
Tristan Archer: Wrestling was popular until around 1995. From that date, no more wrestling at all on any channel at all in France. My father is a big fan of wrestling so everytime he was in front of the TV for it, I was too.

Daniel Johnson: What are your earliest memories of being a wrestling fan?
Tristan Archer: My first memory was the entrance of The Undertaker! Scary at this time!

Daniel Johnson: I was wondering if seeing who your father enjoyed made you enjoy similar wrestlers?
Tristan Archer: Not really, we never really liked the same kind of wrestler. He’s really more into the old school.

Daniel Johnson: When did you know you wanted to make the leap from being a fan to becoming a pro wrestler?
Tristan Archer: Since I was 10! But unfortunatly for me, there’s no wrestling school in France so I had to finish my studies and work for a year until I saved enough money for Lance Storm’s class.

Daniel Johnson: Was Lance your very first trainer? Also, what was a normal day of training like?
Tristan Archer: Yes he was. This man is incredible. He taught me everything I needed to know about wrestling. I have a lot of respect for the man, the wrestler and the teacher. We trained everyday, around three hours a day. A lot of bumps, drills, promos, etc. Then in the afternoon two hours or more in the gym!

Daniel Johnson: Aside from Lance I believe you also trained with Jesse Hernandez and Joey Ryan. What were these experiences like?
Tristan Archer: Jesse Hernandez is more about lucha so completely different, but I really enjoyed it. Joey Ryan helped me to strengthen my basics.

Daniel Johnson: Getting more into your career, for people who have never watched a Tristan Archer match how would you describe yourself as a performer in a few words?
Tristan Archer: It will be one word: All-rounder. I like to adapt my style to the opponent. I can be technical, high flying, comedic, striking, etc.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, I was curious since you first trained with Storm when did you have your first match in front of a paying crowd? Was it in Canada or France? Also, what do you remember about this match?
Tristan Archer: My first match was in Canada for Prairie Wrestling Alliance (PWA) just a few days before getting back home. It was a rumble match and I will always remenber Johnny Devine told me after the match that I had a very good performance for my first time I stepping in the ring.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, did you have any other matches in Canada or was that the only one?
Tristan Archer: No, the only one.

Daniel Johnson: What was it like wrestling in front of a crowd in France for the first time? Was it any different than from wrestling in Canada?
Tristan Archer: The first show was very stressful, but it went well! It was really amazing to hear a French crowd cheering for me! The difference is quite big. People in France come to a show just to have fun, in Canada they come because they love wrestling.

Daniel Johnson: This is a broad question, but is there anything that makes French wrestling fans unique from wrestling fans elsewhere. If so then what is it?
Tristan Archer: Nothing special really. A real wrestling fan is kind of the same between different countries.

Daniel Johnson: Getting into the French wrestling scene how many promotions have you worked for so far based in France?
Tristan Archer: So many, at one point there were around 30 differents promotions in France. Most of them closed, but I think I worked for all of them except Wrestling Star.

Daniel Johnson: Who are some of your favorite French opponents to work with? Also, are there any wrestlers who are big names in France that outsiders may be less familiar with? If so who are they?
Tristan Archer: My favorite opponents are Peter Fisher, Damien Barone and Jack Spayne! There are not really big names in France except maybe Peter Fisher and Lucas Di Leo who wrestle as The French Flavor across Europe, and Booster who has traveled a lot too.

Daniel Johnson: Are there any places online you would suggest readers can go to learn more about French wrestling and stay current with the industry?
Tristan Archer: Not really, it’s a very weak point here in France, no one does that kind of work.

Daniel Johnson: What wrestling airs on French television? Is it pretty much just WWE or do other programs air as well?
Tristan Archer: WWE of course. TNA too, but that’s all!

Daniel Johnson: Are there any fans of non-American foreign wrestling in France? What about some of the bigger independent promotions around the world? Do they have a fan base in France?
Tristan Archer: Yes of course, there are a lot of WWE fans, but also some indie fans. They follow a lot of different promotions like Pro Wrestling Guerrilla (PWG), Ring of Honor (ROH), Westside Xtreme Wrestling (WXW) and of course those fans follow non-American wrestlers.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, getting more into your recent career you debuted back in 2009. How has wrestling changed since then for you?
Tristan Archer: Less promotions and less wrestlers in France, but a better quality.

Daniel Johnson: Speaking of quality promotions what is your favorite promotion in France to work for currently if you had to pick one. What makes this promotion stand out? If you can’t pick just one then what are a few?
Tristan Archer: Honestly, I can’t pick one. The promotions which have survived over the years made it because they put good stuff on the line!

Daniel Johnson: One promotion you have worked for a lot is N’Catch based in Tourcoing, France. How did you get involved with this promotion?
Tristan Archer: This promotion closed two years ago. The first time I was contacted by this promotion was just after my first show. The promoter was there as a speaker and really liked my work so he offered me a booking for the second show of the promotion. Since then, I was booked on every single show and after a year and a half I beat the champion to become the last N’Catch Major Champion.

Daniel Johnson: You wrestled Alexei Petrovitch in that match. Anything in particular stand out about that particular match for you? What was it like to be a company’s final champion?
Tristan Archer: It was during Paris Manga, it’s a huge event with a big crowd, the reaction when I won the title was amazing. I would prefer to have more matches as a champion.

Daniel Johnson: Speaking of titles what are the most important championships you have held. Was the N’Catch title the most important championship you have held? If not then what was?
Tristan Archer: The most important is the ICWA French Championship! It was held by some very big names here in France and also in Europe. I also hold the ECTA Championship which is very good for me, if you check the roster you will see how good it is.

Daniel Johnson: What do you consider to be some of the best matches you’ve had for each title? What made those matches stand out for you?
Tristan Archer: For N’Catch I will pick up two matches: One against Jon Gresham and the other one against Tommy End. Those two matchs taught me so much stuff. Tommy and Jon are really amazing. For ECTA: Against Robin Lekime. The match was really intense and brutal. For ICWA: Against Peter Fisher because he’s my favorite French oppenent.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, speaking of Jonathan Gresham and Tommy End I know both can work great catch style matches. Catch seems to be very popular in France. Why do you think this is and how do you feel about catch wrestling in general?
Tristan Archer: I really like it too. I think it’s something different and it can make the difference in a show if it used properly. I remember having a 15 minute match with Jonathan and it was all about catch wrestling.

Daniel Johnson: Looking to the future are there any French wrestlers you have yet to work with that you would like to? If so then who?
Tristan Archer: I would like to have more matches with Tyson Furia and Damien Barone.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, going beyond France and Canada what other countries have you worked in so far? Also, are there any memories you have of working outside of France that stick out to you in particular?
Tristan Archer: I’ve worked in California, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Ireland and Germany so far.

Daniel Johnson: Wow, I had no idea you worked in California. Where did you work in California and how many matches did you have there?
Tristan Archer: I don’t know about the matches, I should say around 12. I worked for Mach One Wrestling (M1W) and EWF.

Daniel Johnson: Speaking of working different countries and promotions are there any other places you have yet to work for that you would like to in the near future? If so then where?
Tristan Archer: Japan would be amazing.

Daniel Johnson: Awesome, any particular Japanese promotions stand out to you? Are you a NJPW, AJPW or NOAH guy?
Tristan Archer: NJPW or ZERO 1.

Daniel Johnson: Cool, I like to end interviews with five non-wrestling related questions followed by a few more short wrestling questions. First, what is your favorite movie to come out in the last year?
Tristan Archer: Guardians of the Galaxy.

Daniel Johnson: Similarly, what do you enjoy watching on television these days?
Tristan Archer: Supernatural, The Walking Dead and The Originals.

Daniel Johnson: Have you tried any food for the first time this year? If so what has been your favorite?
Tristan Archer: Nothing new, but I love sushi.

Daniel Johnson: What do you think is the best song to come out in the last year?
Tristan Archer: I don’t know sorry! Did “Mirrors” [by Justin Timberlake] come out this year?

Daniel Johnson: I think a little further back, but that’s okay. Anyway, what is the last book you read and would you recommend it?
Tristan Archer: The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War—Part One and yes I would recommend it!

Daniel Johnson: Getting back to wrestling are there any French wrestlers you have yet to mention you think wrestling fans should check out? If so then who are they?
Tristan Archer: A few names: Lucas Di Leo, Blue Falcon, Marc Sebire.

Daniel Johnson: What do you think the weirdest part about being a wrestler in France is?
Tristan Archer: Nothing weird about being a wrestler in France.

Daniel Johnson: No problem, who is one wrestler 25 or younger that you think readers should know about?
Tristan Archer: Damien Barone and Tyson Furia.

Daniel Johnson: I’m always interested in hearing ribs and road stories. Do you have any that you could share?
Tristan Archer: Nothing special sorry.

Daniel Johnson: That’s alright. My last question is, is there anything you would like to add?
Tristan Archer: Thank you for this interview, and if any of your readers see me at a show, come and say hello!

Check out Tristan Archer in action! In this match Archer puts his N’Catch Major Championship on the line against Jonathan Gresham:

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25 and Under: Jasmin at UCW

by Daniel Johnson

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Jasmin vs. Arella Angel

Jasmin is a 19 year-old wrestler coming out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada who began her career in January 2013 working for Canadian based Squared Circle Wrestling (SCW) and the Pure Wrestling Association (PWA). Since then Jasmin has already crossed into the American border to work for a number of promotions including Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW), New England Championship Wrestling (NECW) and Ultimate Championship Wrestling (UCW). At UCW she let her heel side show in this match with Arella Angel.

This match doesn’t last long before a woman interferes and pulls Angel down by the hair. The video quality on this clip isn’t great, but I’m thinking it’s Alexis Nicole. Anyway, Angel’s attacker keeps coming back inside the ring to fight right in front of the referee. Apparently this is legal in the province of Ontario. In between this, Jasmin performs some moves great at generating heat such as pulling Angel up by the arms while Jasmin is standing on her hair. The ending is a little botched and awkward as Angel hits a rolling version of the Rocker dropper. Well, I’m sure Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty botched that move themselves plenty of times back in their partying days as The Rockers so it’s tough to give Angel crap about it.

Jasmin has gone on to have a worthwhile 2014. She held the PWA Elite Women’s Championship until January and in Classic Championship Wrestling (CCW) she held the CCW Ladies Championship up until May.

The full match can be seen right here:

UCW isn’t currently promoting any upcoming shows, but a UCW show just took place this past Saturday. To check out a poster for that event click here.

I have not been able to find full results for this UCW show. If you have them or know where to find them drop me a line here.

For more in the 25 and Under series showcasing some dastardly women click here and here.

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25 and Under: “The Pumpkin Queen” Sage Sin at SBW

by Daniel Johnson

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“The Pumpkin Queen” Sage Sin vs. New York Knockout Nikki

 Santino Bros. Wrestling (SBW) has been a great place to enjoy young talent from California and the state’s surrounding areas since SBW opened up shop in 2008. So it makes sense that the 1992 born “The Pumpkin Queen”  Sage Sin would want to hone her craft in this company while making the rounds in southern California’s indie scene. At the March 7, 2014 SBW Showcase she took on veteran New York Knockout Nikki in a match where Nikki had over a decade more experience than her opponent.

This is far from a squash match, but by the end of it New York Knockout Nikki slaughters Sin like Nikki Bella slaughters the dramatic arts. Nikki starts off by going for Sin’s legs. After this Nikki insults her by picking apart her nickname and calling her a pumpkin head rather than “The Pumpkin Queen.” If Nikki really wanted to put her down though she should have called her Pumpkinhead II or even gone with a full throttle putdown and called her Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings. God that movie sucked!

At any rate while Sin doesn’t get much offense in she is pretty good at selling. Also, Nikki is quite funny when she slams the referee by calling him out over his slow counting. At one point she looks at him in mock seriousness and says, “You know what comes after two?”

For the finish Nikki takes a page out of TAKA Michonku’s playbook and hits her young opponent with the finisher of the former WWF Light Heavyweight Champion.

The full match can be seen right here:

The next SBW Showcase will take place on September 26 in Bell Gardens, California. Click here for more information.

For the full results of the March 7, 2014 SBW Showcase click here.

For more in the 25 and Under series highlighting California based talent click here and here.

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Old School Flashback: “Playboy” Johnnie Lee Takes On a Man Twice His Size

by Daniel Johnson

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“Playboy” Johnnie Lee vs. Eric Von Blitzcreig

The contrast in size between “Playboy” Johnnie Lee and Eric Von Blitzcreig is immediately noticeable in this Pro Wrestling International (PWI) presentation. Lee is clearly not over the 200 lbs mark while commentator Dallas James at one point says that Blitzcreig has to be 400 lbs.

Regardless of their sizes Lee doesn’t give Eric Von Blitzcreig (spelled in the onscreen graphics as Eric Von Blitzcreek) an inch. Although Blitzcreig starts off by shoving Lee in a corner, Lee pulls the same schtick and gets the big man to back up. Lee eventually gets Blitzcreig down and lands a leg drop before clamping on a headlock. The big “German” doesn’t stay down and punishes Lee with some shoulders in one corner of the ring before hitting a King Kong Bundy avalanche in another.

The mistake Blitzcreig makes is when he sends Lee down he also goes down with him. Since Blitzcreig has considerably more weight on him he can’t just bounce back up like Bam Bam Bigelow in his prime so Lee is already knocking him silly with strikes while the bulky dude is on his knees. Lee caps this one off for the PWI TV crowd with a couple of running elbows for good measure.

A little known fact about Blitzcreig is that a few years later he lost 200 lbs, changed the spelling of his name, put on a mask and was one of the best damn cruiserweights WCW ever saw.

The full match can be seen right here:

For more in the Old School Flashback series featuring some big bad PWI dudes click here and here.

 

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Hawkeye’s Hangout: NXT Takeover—Fatal 4 Way Preview

by Kyle Childers

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It’s that time again kids, that special time when WWE puts on it’s favorite Ring of Honor shirt and dips it’s fingers in Cheeto dust to pretend to be indie for the night, it’s NXT Takeover: Fatal 4 Way. This is only the third live NXT special since the WWE Network launched way back in February but already they have a reputation as must see shows for fans. I’m no exception so let’s take a look at this show top to bottom, including some potentially fantastic matches and the debut of KENTA.

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Mojo Rawley vs. Bull Dempsey

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Guess who’s not hyped for this match? This guy! Alright, so here’s the deal, these guys were partners but then they decided to beat on each other instead. That’s really it. The most exciting thing about this match is the presence of your favorite chubby Taz impersonator and mine, Bull Dempsey. I guess Bull has to win this one unless they want to have the most one-sided feud on the program be this one.

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Enzo Amore vs. Sylvester Lefort in a hair vs. hair match

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Why is this not a goddamn tag team match? Enzo has Colin Cassady, Lefort has Marcus Louis and tag matches are awesome. But no, we’ve got this stip match instead. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge Lefort fan. He gives me serious Test vibes and Test is the poster boy of wasted potential. That being said, Syl wins this one. Why? Because he’s the face and faces never, ever ever ever lose hair vs. hair matches and this angle gives me no reason to think this goes any other way.

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KENTA Debuts

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This isn’t a match but I want to talk about it for a second. While everyone has spent weeks throwing out ideas for KENTA’s debut, I don’t think I saw the idea of an in-ring segment on a live event thrown out there and…I really like it. It makes this guy seem like the big deal that he should be. His list of great matches, professional accomplishments and technical innovations is rivaled by few and treating him like just another dude would be an injustice to WWE, KENTA and the fans. Why Ric Flair though? Can’t we trot out another legend? Maybe someone that doesn’t show up to ramble often, sometimes drunk? I consider Ric Flair one of the absolute finest performers of all time. I get drunk and impersonate him and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. But enough is enough and it’s time for a change of legends. Regardless, barring major botches, this segment should be entirely harmless and ought to make KENTA look huge.

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The Ascension (c) vs. Kalisto and Sin Cara for the WWE NXT Tag Team Championship

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I swear guys, I really like NXT. It’s the only non-Total Divas WWE program I have to watch “live” every week with volume on. I feel like I need to say that to break up the negativity of these previews and predictions. Now that, that’s out of the way, I’m really not a fan of The Ascension. Maybe it’s because they remind me of a standard extra medium indie tag team, maybe it’s because they have the theatrics of The Undertaker’s half as talented sons, or maybe it’s because they’ve been my WWE 2K14 universe NXT Tag Team champions for 122 weeks. It could be all of those things. I don’t know, what I do know is that they’re finally about to lose the tag team titles for real. It’s going to be main roster time for Konnor and Viktor soon enough and with NXT’s booking team finally allowing The Ascension to show some weakness on house shows, expect this to carry over to TV as these guys are phased out of Full Sail University.

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Charlotte (c) vs. Bayley for the WWE NXT Women’s Championship

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Charlotte is getting good you guys. Like really good. While not exactly the caliber of Emma or Paige, Charlotte and Bayley are two of the strongest performers on NXT’s now dwindling diva roster. Bayley’s character is often portayed as the victim of the heels’ heelery and it’s not time for her (s)hero moment. Charlotte is the stronger choice to continue as champion from purely a booking perspective.

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Adrian Neville (c) vs. Sami Zayn vs. Tyler Breeze vs. Tyson Kidd for the WWE NXT Championship

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Can we put Neville back in a tag team? Can we give him a mouthpiece? Something? Anything? Don’t get me wrong, the man is an outstanding performer in the ring but his mic work is sub-porn levels. If he’s not main roster bound immediately, they need something to keep the man busy because NXT Champion isn’t it.

This match is actually the most interesting from a booking perspective because of the different ways it could go. Does Zayn get rewarded for being a solid worker that’s managed to get over enough to have a pretty solid chant in his favor during his lone WWE Monday Night Raw appearance? Do we get the end of Tyson Kidd’s twisted path of redemption where the guy looking to reinvent himself finds the gold belt at the end of his warped and bitter rainbow? Or does the arrogant top heel, the walking avatar of the #Selfie generation gain the ultimate status symbol? All roads are logical but I think Breeze wins this time, if only because the top end of the NXT card is face heavy and Breeze has incredible momentum.

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Photo Credits:

Photo 1: onlineworldofwrestling.com

Photos 2-6: en.wikipedia.org

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25 and Under: Travis Toxic and William Brady at NCW

by Daniel Johnson

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Travis Toxic vs. William Brady

William Brady and Travis Toxic, two of the young lions out of the Montreal, Quebec, Canada based Northern Championship Wrestling (NCW), took each other on at NCW Fin de Session in June 2013.

Although Brady and Toxic are still under 25 years-old they did not go into their encounter inexperienced. Brady has been wrestling since 2004. He has spent most of his career in NCW and is the curent holder of the NCW Inter-Cities Championship being in his second reign with the title. Brady has also worked outside of this promotion a little including wrestling for arguably the most insane Montreal promotion, BATTLEWAR. Likewise despite being a few years younger and spending a lot of his time in NCW, Toxic has worked f a few other promotions including BATTLEWAR,  C4 Wrestling and North Shore Pro Wrestling (NSPW).

The background to this match is that originally Travis Toxic’s former partner, Surfer Mitch was supposed to wrestle William Brady. However because Mitch could not compete and Toxic is a standup guy, Toxic filled in for him. Making this match more difficult for Toxic though was Brady’s rotund and demonic looking manager Rickter “Oz” McGoth. Toxic is a high flying wrestler and the crowd eats his stuff up so before he does anything a “Toxic” chant gets going. Toxic goes onto hit some pretty nifty moves in this one including a running swanton off the apron, a 619 that looks a heck of a lot more organic than when Rey Mysterio, Jr. performs that move and a rolling fireman’s carry slam from the second rope. Meanwhile Brady is a less flashy wrestler who uses a simple ace crusher for his finisher.

The full match can be seen right here:

The next NCW show will be NCW Mesures De Guerre 2014 on September 20 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Click here for more information (site is in French).

For the full results of NCW Fin de Session click here.

To see some more Canadian talent in the 25 and Under series click here and here.

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Wrestling Game StArcade: WWF War Zone

by Alex Knapp

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WWF War Zone
Year: 1998
System: PlayStation and Nintendo 64
Developer: Acclaim
Publisher: Acclaim

When WWF War Zone came out, the World Wrestling Federation hadn’t released a video game in over a year. They had just spent the last two years getting their asses kicked by WCW, and with the dire financial situation the company was going through at the time, they obviously had bigger things to worry about. But by mid-1998, the WWF was on the rebound. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had caught on fire with the fans and penetrated the mainstream, the company had fully rebranded itself with its new “Attitude,” and while its new content was controversial and polarizing, it was fueling fresh new interest in the product.

Now that the WWF had gotten its mojo back in terms of onscreen product, wrestling fans were eager to see how the WWF would usher in the Attitude Era on the video game console. As it turned out, though, the beginning of a new era for WWF video games was…well, mixed.

War Zone came out very close to the THQ/AKI WCW games: WCW vs. nWo World Tour and WCW/nWo Revenge, and the comparisons and contrasts between those games and Acclaim’s title were inevitable. Whereas AKI brought a no-nonsense, straightforward wrestling experienced that began and ended with what players could do in the ring, War Zone instead comes off with a lot of personality and style. The intro kicks off with the edgy, Raw is War-like presentation the WWF had introduced a while ago, promising an immersive WWF experience. On top of that, some of the WWF’s biggest stars of the early Attitude Era are featured, including Steve Austin, The Undertaker, Kane and…Bret Hart?

Yeah…this is about the time that you notice something’s a little off about the game: The roster is already outdated. In a WWF game released quite a few months after Montreal, Bret Hart is in it, along with The British BulldogHHH goes from one moment being presented as the snooty Connecticut blueblood he was in the New Generation Era, to the D-Generation X rebel he was in the Attitude Era. Vince McMahon is on the (surprisingly decent) in-game commentary alongside Jim Ross, despite the fact that he had long moved on to becoming the Mr. McMahon heel character and embroiled in his feud with Stone Cold.

Even though WWF War Zone is a game released in 1998, this game actually captures the WWF of 1997. That might not sound like too big of a deal, but the truth is, it actually does change quite a bit. Despite only being a year’s difference, the WWF product of 1997 and 1998 were significantly distinct from each other. In the former, the company was still struggling to find a new direction, and was going through a gradual transition from the family-friendly New Generation to the raunchy Attitude Era. But by the time this game actually came out, there was no ambiguity; WWF had gone Attitude all the way, the New Generation’s two top stars, Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels, were gone from the WWF ring, and everyone recognized that DX consisted of HHH, X-Pac, Chyna and The New Age Outlaws.

It seems that War Zone had been spending a long time in development before it was released, because it clearly was not able to keep up with the rapid changes the WWF was experiencing at the time. Right off the bat, this is a stumbling point for the game; the onscreen product it represented had long since moved on, and a game with a yesterday’s-news roster is set to face an uphill battle to impress the wrestling gaming community.

But let’s be fair and look at the actual gameplay. Does that make up for its initial stumble? Well…that’s subjective. As opposed to the AKI games’ accessible, “Press one button to get the move you want” gameplay, War Zone sticks to the way that wrestling and fighting games had been doing things for years in the 1990s: Button combinations. If you want to move beyond simple punches, kicks, and restholds, you need to, for example, press left, left and then B + Up Triangle to execute an advanced move like a chokeslam.

Lots of people today ridicule this system as overly complicated, but I’m going to be fair here: It’s not as hard as some people say. You can check the pause menu to learn how to do the moves, so once you get used to it, you’ll be able to figure out how to execute the cooler wrestling moves without too much difficulty. The game even gives you the opportunity to practice and get used to the individual wrestlers’ move sets, via a training mode. But then again, you have to look at the big picture: I’m taking several seconds to press a bunch of buttons to get my wrestler to begin a stiff, awkward animation of giving the other guy a huracanrana. In contrast, I can play World Tour, where doing a huracanrana takes one second and is animated to actually look like it’s being carried out by a real human being. Furthermore, the game suffered from a bad oversight: Finishing moves, while available, do not have their combos displayed on the move menu, requiring the player to learn how to execute finishers by looking them up from outside sources. Acclaim would at least rectify this problem in its future wrestling games, but they should’ve done that from the beginning.

The fighting style of War Zone isn’t necessarily bad, but at a time when a much smoother, more innovative alternative had already become established, it’s hard to be impressed by Acclaim’s conservative approach. And really, that’s one of the most perplexing themes of War Zone: In some ways, it’s pretty progressive, but at the same time, it always has one foot in the stale, needlessly complicated old ways of making a wrestling game. It has smooth graphics for its time, in-game commentary better than that of many SmackDown games, wrestlers giving voiceovers (and, in the PlayStation version, recorded promos), and a fairly decent selection of match types, including cage match, hardcore, Royal Rumble and gauntlet matches. It offers a pretty creative way to encourage players to engage in a more multifaceted offense and wrestle a more exciting match, via a crowd support system where wrestlers gain momentum by using a variety of exciting moves, and start losing the crowd’s support when they engage in repetitive strikes or other attacks. On top of that, it was actually one of the first games to have a fairly extensive create-a-wrestler system, giving gamers the first experience of what would become an essential component of wrestling games.

But then, you have the awkward, clunky in-ring animation. You have the now-cliched life bar system, limiting how non-linear and unpredictable matches could be. You have the bothersome button combos. It’s almost fitting that the game has an outdated roster: The problem with War Zone is that it hasn’t yet fully broken through the cusp and kept up with the changes being experienced in both wrestling itself and in wrestling games. At a time when both were changing very rapidly to adapt to the new tastes of its fans, Acclaim isn’t keeping up, and remains stuck in the mid-1990s.

I wouldn’t necessarily call WWF War Zone a bad game. By itself, it has quite a bit to offer, and I have a lot of fond memories of playing it. But it hasn’t aged well. The innovations it offered in terms of style and presentation have long become standard, and the gameplay pales in comparison to its contemporaries. There isn’t much reason to go back to it, other than nostalgia. Ironically, at a time when the WWF had been newly revitalized and become fresh and exciting again with the onset of the Attitude Era, its first game of that era is passe, and would quickly be left behind by the rest of wrestling gaming.

Rating: 3 stars

Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org

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25 and Under: Sonne Wrestles Rick “The Prick” Dominick at WDK in 2011

by Daniel Johnson

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Sonne vs. Rick “The Prick” Dominick

A couple of things Wrestling.dk (WDK) out of Denmark have going for it are how young while at the same time experienced some of its workers are. Case in point: Sonne and Rick “The Price” Dominick, who wrestled each other at the WDK Fredericia Feriesjov July 15, 2011 show in Fredericia, Denmark.

Sonne has been wrestling for nearly six years now despite being 25 years-old. He debuted for Xtreme Intense Championship Wrestling (XICW) out of Michigan in the United States in September 2008. A pretty unusual place for any teenage Danish wrestlers to debut. I mean just look at those three words, “teenage Danish wrestlers.” There honestly is not that many of those since Denmark is a country of under 6,000,000 people. The few that are around mostly debut in Denmark or some other Nordic country anyway. At any rate Sonne has stuck with it. In 2011, he not only wrestled Dominick, but also won the European Cruiserweight Title Qualification Tournament jointly held by Danish Pro Wrestling (DPW) and the Union Of European Wrestling Alliances (UEWA).

Aside from having an incredible nickname that is slime, a crime and a rhyme, Rick “The Dick” Dominick debuted at an even younger age than Sonne. This currently 25 year-old first wrestled way back in 2005. Since Dominick debuted he has mostly stayed in Denmark, but has worked in Germany as well. In 2013 Dominick won the WDK Championship, which he held for a remarkable 274 days. 2014 has undoubtedly been the best year in his career since he not only regained the WDK Championship after losing it, but also won the DPW Tag Team Championship (with former WWE talent Tatanka no less) and the WDK Light Heavyweight Championship.

Enough history let’s look at the match. Despite being a “prick” Dominick helps setup the fixed camera to record this match. He still is kind of a “prick” though remember so the angle is not so good and a bunch of the action is cut off. After stalling for a while Dominick eye pokes Sonne, which Sonne reacts to with the greatest overselling since Shawn Michaels super kicked Brock Lesnar. Back inside Sonne gets some moves in such as a headlock take down and some very Jerry Lawler-esque punches. In the end though Dominick plants him on the mat with a Samoan drop variation.

The full match can be seen right here:

I have no idea when the next WDK show takes place. However, if you do drop me a line here.

For the full results of the WDK Fredericia Feriesjov July 15, 2011 show click here.

For more in the 25 and Under series featuring some dastardly heels click here and here.

 

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Old School Flashback: “Big” Rig Rollins Keeps Trucking

by Daniel Johnson

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“Big” Rig Rollins vs. Thee Professor

On paper Thee Professor sounds like he should be a prissy manager, but the folks at Pro Wrestling International (PWI) in Indianapolis, Indiana took one look at this Raven’s Flock reject looking dude and gave him that name. Then they put him in the ring with “Big” Rig Rollins.

Before the match, Laura Angelique introduces the bout calling “Big” Rig Rollins, “America’s favorite trucker.” Now, I don’t know about you, but my favorite trucker has always been Bill out of Cookeville, Tennessee. Than again my ranking of America’s truckers has always been a source of controversy.

The in-ring action is pretty bare bones, but to spice things up Professor grabs a scrap off the apron and starts choking Rollins. Professor then laments, “How come I got to wrestle fat guys around here all the time?” A fair question and one that Rollins answers with a clothesline that finishes off Thee Professor. Time for this skinny sap to go back to grading papers on 1990’s grunge.

After the match Bobo Brazil, Jr. comes out and Rollins gives him a warning. Rollins and Brazil were faces then, but Brazil had been teaming with Austin James. James’ older brother in The James Boys, Dallas James was essentially the biggest bastard to ever step foot in PWI. So Rollins cautions Brazil to be careful of Austin and Brazil agrees to do so. Well, that’s just dandy. Not particularly interesting, but dandy nonetheless.

A quick note about Rollins. He may not have been the greatest in-ring performer of all time. However, if he didn’t stop at truck stops all around America and spread his seed we never would have one of WWE’s brightest stars today. Fact.

The full match can be seen right here:

For more Old School Flashback action featuring some brief, but brutal action click here and here.

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25 and Under: AJ Auinger in EWA

by Daniel Johnson

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AJ Auinger vs. “Sexy” Peter White

AJ Auinger is a 21 year-old Austrian wrestler who has been performing since 2011. His in-ring style leans toward the technical side even though his typical finisher is a variation of the ace crusher. One promotion Auinger has worked for is the European Wrestling Association. At the April 27, 2013 EWA on Tour show, Auinger wrestled fellow Austrian and at the time 13 year veteran, “Sexy” Peter White on the card’s solid penultimate match.

Auinger starts the match with two armdrags and a dropkick that send White retreating. Auinger shows repeatedly throughout this performance that he was probably very much inspired by AJ Styles due to some of his move set as well as his ability to mix technical wrestling with some high flying spots. Also, the name of course. Meanwhile White was probably inspired by mid-1990s Shawn Michaels. Why? Well, he makes an ass out of himself. Literally. Yes, White pulls off the accidentally on purpose spot of having his trunks go way down in back so he can moon the crowd.

As the match winds down Auinger hits a big back bodydrop, but then gets pancaked on the mat. White arrogantly covers Auinger refusing to even hook his leg so the young man kicks out. White then delivers Carlito’s old backcracker to end this clip he was proud enough to post on his official website.

The full match can be seen right here:

The next EWA show will be EWA on Tour on November 22 in Vienna, Austria. Click here for tickets (site is in German).

For the full results of the EWA on Tour April 27, 2013 show click here.

For more in the 25 and Under series featuring some great talent from throughout Europe click here and here.

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