For better or for worse, the questionable ‘sport’ of professional wrestling has been around a long time, and was especially big in the mid-to-late 1980s. So it’s not suprising that wrestling carts found their way to the different 8-bit systems and the Master System was no exception. In fact both the SMS and NES would receive carts each sporting the somewhat-generic ‘Pro Wrestling’ title within months of each other but Nintendo’s cart is more fondly remembered while the Sega version is anything but, and with good reason. First of all the packaging features what is probably the biggest ‘WTF’ images of all the early Sega box art: a headless wrestler holding (his?) head in a headlock? It makes you wonder what Sega was smoking when it came to marketing their early titles.
Here the action focuses exclusively on tag team competiton where you pick a team and try to defeat an opposing duo in the ring. You and a second player are given a choice of four teams to control; on the left side we have the ‘bad guy’ teams of the Mad Soldiers and Great Maskmen, and on the right are the ‘good guy’ teams of the Orient Express and the Crush Brothers. Thing is the action is limited to good guys vs. bad guys, meaning you can’t have the Soldiers against the Maskmen and so on. Once the four of you hit the ring you and your partner must work together to try to pound your opponents enough to empty his stamina meter before you can pin them for a three count or force a submission. However the action for the most part involves you knocking your opponent down with enough punches and kicks then sending them into the ropes and busting out one of your wrestler’s special attacks (which are helpfully identified on the screen). Each wrestler also has a technique you can use by holding down one of the buttons while standing next to a down foe. If you’re close enough to your corner you can tag your partner to get the fresh man in the ring while the other rests and regains his energy. Interestingly enough the bad guy teams can go out and bring a chair in the ring to use as a weapon, while the good guy teams can climb to the top rope and use a high-flying maneuver. The two active men can even head out to the floor to duke it out but you have a 20 count to get back in or you’ll be counted out.
Unfortunately it won’t take long to see just how boring and repetitive this game actually is. First of all there’s little actual grappling or even strategy in this wrestling cart; you just punch or kick, knockdown, whip and special move over and over with almost no variation, which makes the action come down to not much more than basic button mashing. Plus there’s only two modes of play with no options to vary things up, not even any options for singles competition. In the one-player mode your team is out to win the championships of three leagues (Mexican, Pacific and World) but in each tier you face the same team 10 times to win the belts of that level. Not only do you have to beat them 10 times in a row but each round only lasts three minutes and if time runs out, you lose even if you have more energy than the other side. At least the game is nice enough to offer continues should you lose. Once you win that championship you face the next team 10 more times for the next title and so it goes until you win 30 straight rounds for all three belts or until you get tired of facing the same team over and over which is more likely. The slightly-better two player mode just has you and your opponent controlling a team for a quick one-fall match and that’s it.
The visuals and audio don’t really score any points either. All the characters have a cutesy-deformed look as well as some goofy animation when moving around or performing moves, and there’s not much else to see other than the ring, the referee (who’s constantly dancing around or something during the match) and the static crowd. There’s only one background tune that plays during the action and it gets tiresome after a short time while the sound effects are dinky and muffled. When you cover your opponent for the pin you hear the referee count the fall but his words are barely coherent.
So Sega’s Pro Wrestling fails to entertain as a wrestling title or as a cartridge in general. The game fails as a one-player contest due to all the repetition and the two player mode doesn’t add much life to it. Those who were raised on modern wrestling games will be bored in no time, while even fans of classic grappling carts will be hard pressed to stick-around. Throw this one out of the ring.