Beat-‘em-ups have been a staple of the video game industry for decades, and pro wrestling has carved out its own niche within this broader genre, with tons of titles focusing on ring-based battles between the biggest stars of the sport.
With a lot of history to draw upon, game developers in the era of online multiplayer have come up with all sorts of head-turning, unforgettable characters to populate their competitive titles. From entirely fictional characters to those inspired by real-life wrestlers, let’s go through just a few iconic contenders from the world of digital brawlers.
Zangief – Street Fighter franchise
Built like a bear and with the strength to match, Zangief has been a staple of the Street Fighter universe since the early 90s and continues to feature in more recent releases, allowing players to slip into his signature red boots and duke it out against rivals over the internet.
There’s nothing particularly realistic about the speed, power or special abilities of this burly Russian, but he does have a few moderately authentic wrestling moves in his locker.
More likely to be found spouting praise for his home country than coming out with gambling terms and casino slang like some of his more westernized rivals, Zangief still holds a place in the heart of plenty of Street Fighter aficionados.
King – Tekken franchise
If Street Fighter is a little left of field, then Tekken is on a totally different planet when it comes to the characters it includes. It’s also very distinct in terms of its control style and complexity, allowing it to forge its own path as a competitive fighting title.
King is a great example of this; a masked warrior who in the early games seemed to have the actual cheetah’s head grafted onto a human body due to the graphical limitations of the PS1. Taking inspiration from real-life pro wrestlers Satoru Sayama and Fray Tormenta, King continues to be a hit with players today, most recently appearing in Tekken 7.
The Terminator – WWE 2K16
The WWE series of games has had its ups and downs over the years, and more recently it hasn’t been a particular critical success. Even so, it’s still selling well, and developers have tried various tricks to inject enthusiasm back into the player base.
With the release of the 2016 version of the game, one of the cross-over inclusions came in the form of The Terminator. That’s right; the killer cyborg from the silver screen, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in an endless stream of films.
A moveset that matches his superhuman abilities means that The Terminator is an unorthodox yet intimidating opponent, and one that’s unlikely to reappear in any other fighting games any time soon.
Mike Haggar – Final Fight
1989’s Final Fight was this muscle-bound mayor’s first appearance, but since then he’s migrated over to the Street Fighter series, as well as cropping up in several Marvel vs. Capcom releases.
What sets Haggar apart, aside from his sheer bulk, is that the style of wrestling is based on folk techniques developed in bonnie Scotland. This demonstrates not only that wrestling has been around for a long time, but that it has cropped up independently in lots of regions and cultures around the world.
Tina Armstrong – Dead or Alive franchise
She may be the only female wrestling character to appear in this list, but Tina Armstrong certainly makes an impact. She’s as powerful as she is beautiful, and has a pedigree in the art of wrestling given that her father, Bass, is also a playable character in the various Dead or Alive titles that have appeared over the decades.
Tina is so iconic that she was even included in the roster of characters when Dead or Alive was adapted as a movie, with actress Jamie Pressly playing her!