It's been a while since I've reviewed a wrestling game for the C64 and there's probably a good reason for that. I love this classic home computer as much as anyone else but you never hear anyone utter the phrase "Hey, did you ever play that awesome wrestling game for the Commodore?" See my point? That -- paired with the generic title slapped on this game -- doesn't give me high hopes for it, but I wanted to check it out nonetheless. Maybe this is a hidden gem in the C64 library of games. I'd bet against it, but these old wrestling games for home computers usually at least have some charm and personality to them even if they aren't very fun to play. I figured that alone was enough reason to give this one a fair shot at impressing me.
Championship Wrestling was developed and released by Epyx to the home computer market in 1986. Epyx was only around as a company for a little over 10 years but they were very prolific and are noteworthy for releasing at least a few good games. Jumpman is considered a classic platformer by many and I personally enjoy what I refer to as Epyx's "Games" series, featuring Summer Games, Winter Games, and my personal favorite, California Games.
When this game starts (after that iconic C64 load screen ends) we're "treated" with a theme song that's pretty hard on the ears. When the first notes hit you; it's almost like a punch to the face. You have to blame the Commodore 64 and it's notoriously abrasive audio quality for that, though. I feel like the developers did what they could here and it would sound much better otherwise.
Now we move on to the wrestler select screen. This is where these old computer wrestling games usually shine - the personalities of the different wrestlers on the roster. There's never much "steak" in these games so they have to go for the "sizzle" as much as possible. Championship Wrestling is no different. All these guys seem unique from one another and are all interesting characters.
This game was originally intended to be a licensed WWF game at the time but for one reason or another, the license fell through. You can see this evidenced most by the first wrestler on the roster, K.C. Colossus, who looks pretty much exactly like Hulk Hogan. The resemblance is uncanny even down to the yellow ring gear but minus the "skullet". All he's missing is a do-rag and t-shirt to rip his way out of.
The other seven wrestlers that fill up the roster are also quite colorful. There's Berzerker (which was an actual WWF superstar but this game predates John Nord playing that character so it's merely coincidence here), Purple Hays (not Mark Lewin from Florida Championship Wrestling, I assume), and Col. Rooski because this was the 80s -- so you had to throw in at least one character with the obligatory, stereotypical Russian communist gimmick.
Filling out the roster is Howling Manslayer (a wrestler with a Native American gimmick), masked wrestler Zanto Klaw (is that a play on Santa Claus or is it just me?), Zeke Weasel (who obviously must have been the Hillbilly Jim character during the game's early development), and Prince Vicious who uses the old "cross-dressing gimmick" similar to "Adorable" Adrian Adonis or "Exotic" Adrian Street. The Prince's theme song is a poor rendition of "Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairies" from The Nutcracker. I thought that was an amusing touch.
Now, we get to the actual matches. Like most 80s home computer wrestling games, there's only one game mode here to play -- the "chase the championship" mode where you pick a wrestler and then take on the remaining roster one at a time until you capture the belt. There isn't even a tag match option but again; that's to be expected for the time and the platforms this game was released on. No big deal.
Pre-match, you see animated close-ups of the faces of both opponents in the upcoming match and they trade one-liners with each other as their respective theme songs play. Another nice touch even if all music on the C64 is grating to listen to.
Once the matches start, the graphics look really good. Well, as far as C64 games go, anyways. The wrestler's move-sets are limited (as to be expected) but all of the animations for the various moves are really smooth. Also, the wrestler's move-sets are at least unique from one another and they all have their own "in-ring style," so to speak, so that makes it at least somewhat fun to try out all the wrestlers on the roster to see which best suits your style of play.
The crowd also lets their opinions be known by holding up various signs saying things like, "Get A Job", "Boo!", "Crunch", and even "Kill!" Sort of a bloodthirsty crowd, I suppose. The cool thing about these signs is, unlike other wrestling games of the era, the crowd isn't just statically standing there, holding signs. They're actually animated to hold them up and then bring them back down and afterward, repeating the process with alternating signs that display their enjoyment or disdain for whatever is happening in the ring.
I didn't think I'd end up enjoying this game as much as I did. To be honest, back in the day, I was more of a console game player and I think consoles always had better and more polished pro wrestling games compared to their home computer counterparts. As I mentioned earlier in the review, though, these old computer games did have personality and flare and this one has even more than most which makes it a game you should definitely check out! It's worth at least a playthrough or two just for the experience of having played it.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!