Let’s go back in WWE history - before Austin 3:16, before Hell in a Cell, before crotch chops and the Attitude Era.
Back then, the WWE (then known as the WWF) went through a period of time known as the “New Generation” Era. It was an awkward, aimless era for the company - Hulk Hogan, Macho Man, and the rest of the old guard from the 80’s were on their way out. With WCW on the rise, the WWF was left in a tough spot.
“What the hell do we do now?”
For about four years, the WWE struggled - and failed - to find a good answer to that question (and when they first signed Steve Austin, they wasted him on an inane “Ringmaster” gimmick). Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, two smaller, technically gifted wrestlers, carried the company through its lean years. Still, there was nothing on the level of Hulkamania.
This was not, however, for lack of trying - the New Generation Era was the era of desperate gimmicks. The WWE took a ‘throw everything at the wall and see what sticks’ approach to their creative process.
Take Mantaur, for example:
Or how about Bastion Booger? His entire gimmick was to be fat and disgusting. They would send him to the ring in the skimpiest singlet they could find, munching on a chicken carcass. The commentators, for the entire match, would just comment on how fat he was.
In 1995, right in the midst of all of this, Midway released WWF WrestleMania. I never got to play the arcade, but later that same year, it was ported to the Super Nintendo. It was retitled WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, and it looked and sounded fantastic.
The wrestlers were digitally rendered - the same technology that was used on the Mortal Kombat characters was used on the WWE Superstars. If you looked closely enough, you could see the sneers and smirks on Razor Ramon’s face.
There was wonderful voice work as well - Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler were clear and recognizable, and they gave the game a refreshing familiarity - like watching an episode of WWF Superstars on a Saturday morning.
The original arcade game allowed you to select one of eight different Superstars. The SNES port, however, only had room for six wrestlers, and so Bam Bam Bigelow and Yokozuna were removed. The remaining wrestlers were Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Doink the Clown, Razor Ramon, and Lex Luger.
Even with this sacrifice, it’s clear that the developers struggled to fit this game on the cartridge. As you progressed through the story mode of the game, you fought in handicap matches - 2v1 and 3v1 - against multiple opponents. In these unavoidable situations, the framerates dropped to hell, and the game lagged, badly. The wrestlers moved in slow, static motion, and it was extremely detrimental to the overall experience. This game was best played as a 1v1 experience - it was the only mode of the game that didn’t lag.
Of all of the wrestlers, The Undertaker was my favorite pick. He could summon ghosts against his opponent, and his uppercut could send an opponent flying into the light fixtures.