Earlier this month THQ invited GamingNexus (as well as a number of other online and print publications) to come to Houston, Texas and cover a multi-day event called the WWE Superstar Challenge. It was a three-day event full of interviews with wrestlers, stories about the good old days, a Hall of Fame induction ceremony, alcohol and, of course, the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania. It was a wild time that I was glad to be a part of. There's just one thing: I don't like wrestling.
Contrary to everybody else attending THQ's little shindig, I am not one of those obsessed WWE fans who knows all of the superstars and dreams about meeting their favorite legend. In fact, I barely knew anybody's name. The last time I seriously watched wrestling is when I was a youngster, hanging out with friends who were bitten by the WWE bug (apparently I got the shot of vaccine early in life). Since then I've caught one or two of the events, but nothing that would help me feel at ease going into the lion's den.
What I learned from this fantastic trip was that no matter where I was, the wrestling fans always had my back. If I didn't know a particular back-story or feud, a helpful WWE fan was there to clue me in. When I didn't realize that "Stone Cold" Steve Austin had retired, there was a helpful fan who told me the whole story about how he turned his back on the "sport" and rode off into the sunset. I found that the WWE fans were among the friendliest group of deranged uber-fans I have ever met. It was even friendlier than the devout members that go to the Christian Game Developers Conference or the estrogen-filled room at the Women in Games seminar.
But that's not the only thing I learned. While having a good time watching hours of wrestling, arguing with WWE fans and interviewing some of the hottest talent in the organization, I learned a lot about myself and wrestling in general. To help guide you through my whirlwind weekend, I have decided to point out nine other things I learneed while attending THQ's WWE Superstar Challenge.
Only One Company Has Ever Made Wrestling Games
When I arrived at the beautiful Westin Galleria hotel (five hours late, thanks to hurricane-force winds and flight delays) the first thing I noticed was the THQ gift bag. There I found two different tee-shirts (one celebrating the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania, the other advertising The Legends of WrestleMania video game) and a 350 page hardbound book called the WWE Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to World Wrestling Entertainment. As somebody with a failing knowledge of professional wrestling, I found this encyclopedia to be the single most useful study guide imaginable. It was full of amazing stories about over-the-top characters, an entire guide to the matches of previous WrestleMania events and even went into excruciating detail about all of the different wrestling shows throughout the ages.
This encyclopedia is where I learned the sorted history of the Iron Sheik, the tragic tales of the Von Erich family and just how buff Buddy Rogers used to be. It's also where I learned that only one company has ever made official WWF/WWE games. That company is THQ, the makers of many of the most recent wrestling releases. Despite mentioning other wrestling games in the two-page write up about video games, the WWE Encyclopedia only featured games made by THQ. Heck, the video game section is conveniently in the "T" section, for THQ. This section has pictures of Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth, WrestleMania X8 and even WWE Crush Hour (the ill-conceived kart racing game). Yet no pictures of WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game? No actual mention of video games from other publishers? That doesn't sound very definitive to me.
Shad Gaspard Loves Ms. Pac-Man
So here in front of me is an enormous mountain of a man, he's the type of over-the-top macho man you might see in one of those Predator-style action films. It's only natural to expect this hulking dude to eat, sleep and breathe hardcore first-person shooters and extremely violent Grand Theft Auto-style sandbox games. But no, Shad of Cryme Tyme had a favorite video game lass ... and her name was Ms. Pac-Man?
The truth is, how can you blame him? This student-developed pseudo-sequel betters the original Pac-Man in every way. It offers variable speeds, fun cinemas and, best of all, more than one level to master. Unfortunately this game doesn't get the credit it deserves. But not Shad, he took his time to express his undying love for this 28 year old masterpiece. He could have rattled on endlessly about all of frags he has in Halo or how he can't get enough Call of Duty, but he broke stereotype and genuinely shocked me. No, he did more than shock me, he impressed me. And that's just what I needed at the start of this exciting weekend.
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