Join me in welcoming Chris from At the Buzzer and his recollections of Saturday Night Slam Masters. They nicely fill a void here since I’ve never played a wrestling video game. In fact, my wrestling-related memories don’t extend much beyond WWF and Sunday mornings in the 80s. See, professional wrestling was on before a delightful block of Godzilla and/or kung fu movies and after an equally delightful bunch of Three Stooges shorts. Yeah, all that plus church were pretty much how Sundays went in our house. Yep…Sundays. Boy, that was boring. But not to worry! Chris’s article will allay your boredom — read on and share in his story.
One of the primary focuses here on Recollections of Play is a trip down nostalgia lane to video games played in one’s youth. I played a lot of classics back then, like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI, but there were also some lesser-known games like Brawl Brothers of which I’m not so proud.
So here’s my dirty little secret about my childhood that I don’t talk about much: I’ve kinda liked professional wrestling for a long time.
A few years after my parents got divorced, my dad started watching more wrestling because my step-mom was a pretty big fan. It just so happened that this period of time coincided with the Monday Night Wars, when WCW’s Monday Night Nitro went head-to-head with WWF’s Monday Night RAW in what many call the golden age of wrestling. I’m pretty confident that my mom would neither have watched nor approved of this at the time, considering how much gratuitous violence and sex appeal there was. But I haven’t turned into a serial killer yet, so we’re going to assume it was fine.
That meant I grew up in the heydey of The Rock and Stone Cold, of Sting and the nWo. It also meant that I was looking for a video game to replicate all the cool stuff I saw on TV. The SNES’s offerings were pretty bad — WWF Royal Rumble was probably the only title that didn’t absolutely suck. (Once the N64 came out, there were some strong games like WWF Attitude and WCW/nWo World Tour, but that didn’t help when I was younger.)
Enter Saturday Night Slam Masters.
Saturday Night Slam Masters was a hybrid wrestling/fighting game released on the SNES and Genesis in 1993. It played like a wrestling game for the most part, with buttons for grab, attack, jump and pin, but the characters had health bars that looked like a lot of Capcom’s other titles at the time. As a character’s health started to run out, he was more likely to be unable to break out of a pin — and if you drained that health into the red completely, your opponent couldn’t kick out at all. All of this was mixed with familiar wrestling mechanics like bouncing off the ropes or climbing the turnbuckle into a combination that worked perfectly. The soundtrack was great, the characters even had their own entrances, and the gameplay was smoooooth as silk.
Unlike some of the licensed wrestling titles at the time, SNSM didn’t have any big-name superstars. Instead, the roster was filled with made-up caricatures like the luchador El Stingray or the kabuki-wearing Great Oni. Oh, and…
MIKE HAGGAR WAS IN THE GAME.
Yes, it’s true. In Final Fight, Haggar was listed as a former professional wrestler turned mayor, and Saturday Night Slam Masters is essentially the story of his younger days before he started murdering thugs on the streets of Metro City.
(Side note: I know, it says “former” mayor up there. That’s because when the game was localized from Japan, the translators screwed up — in the original version of SNSM, it’s made clear that this comes before his time as mayor. But Capcom’s not exactly great at keeping timelines straight in their fighting games. At least now we know that Haggar’s nickname is “Macho” and that he likes pounding punks and long walks on the beach.)
Anyway, the game was fun. Each wrestler was unique and had his own set of regular and special attacks, some of which mirrored moves in real life. Titanic Tim used the torture rack as a submission move. Scorpion had an evenflow DDT. Haggar had his traditional (and awesome) stuff like the lariat and the spinning piledriver. Best of all, you can play in either singles or tag team matches, meaning that my dad and I could take on the computer in co-op mode. I do love me some co-op.
Saturday Night Slam masters was the perfect outlet for me as a kid — it was all the fun of wrestling without having to set up mattresses and tables in my backyard or killing myself doing elbow drops from the roof. And for that, I was thankful.