WCW’s NES Game is a Hidden Gem

Did you know there was a WCW game on the NES? You probably knew about it, but this was my first time playing it.

WCW was the more reality-based wrestling promotion in the 80s and early 90s, for the most part. They did have some cartoon characters, but they weren’t taken all that seriously. The WWF was a kid-friendly promotion with a bunch of comic book characters brought to life.

This was the only WCW game for the NES. The WWF would have four NES games and be well ahead of WCW in licensing wrestlers for video games. Let’s check out the game and see how good it is.

TLDR: One of the Best Wrestling Games on the NES.


WCW Wrestling was released in North America in 1990. A version of the game was released in Japan a year earlier, in 1989.

The game released in North America is a reskin of Super Star Pro Wrestling. This game’s roster is cobbled together from All Japan Pro Wrestling and New Japan Pro Wrestling. The WCW Wrestling game’s roster is from WCW and NWA wrestlers.

This means the WCW wrestlers were based on the AJPW and NJPW wrestlers. Here is a breakdown of who is based on who:

  • Lex Luger is based on Antonio Inoki
  • Ric Flair is based on Giant Baba
  • Mike Rotunda is based on Jumbo Tsuruta
  • Kevin Sullivan is based on Genichro Tenryu
  • Sting is based on Riki Choshu
  • Rick Steiner is based on Akira Maeda
  • Ricky Steamboat is based on Bruiser Brody (Which surprised the hell out of me!)
  • Road Warrior Hawk is based on Stan Hansen (Even though he is in both games)
  • Michael P.S. Hayes is based on Road Warrior Hawk
  • Steve Williams is based on Big Van Vader
  • Eddie Gilbert is based on Abdullah the Butcher (Which again surprised the hell out of me)
  • Road Warrior Animal was unchanged from the Famicom Game. This raises the question of why they changed Hawk.
  • The WCW Master is based on Andre the Giant’s character “Giant Machine.”

Finding out about this made me want to see what the Famicom version of the game looks like. I’m sure it plays the same, but I would like to do a side-by-side comparison.


There is no story mode in this game. This isn’t a huge issue. Most games at this time wouldn’t have a story to them, or they would have it in the manual.

This was still the era of arcade ports, and the wrestling games would act more as arcade games. You would pick a character and wrestler and play against the rest of the roster. It was simple, but it is what you would expect at the time.

What is nice about this is that you can make up a story with your friends. There is no championship mode, so that you could make up a story for your friends. You had to use your imagination to come up with a reason for why these wrestlers are fighting each other.


The gameplay can be extremely cheap. The computer can lock you in place and beat you down quickly. While the moves are easy to perform, setting them up can take a lot of work. Let’s talk about the game modes first.

You have four modes. Two single-player games and two two-player games. Here is a list of the modes:

  • One-on-one with a five-minute time limit and one fall
  • Tag match with a ten-minute time limit and one fall
  • Two-player one-on-one with a fifteen-minute time limit and best of three falls
  • Two-player tag match with a thirty-minute time limit and best of three falls

The tag team matches play out as a round-robin tournament. It is a cool way of doing things. You play each of the other teams cobbled together from the roster. This feels strange to me, but given the roster’s size, it makes some sense. Let’s go over the roster, and I’ll explain what I mean.

There are twelve wrestlers in this game. This is a significant improvement over WWF Wrestlemania. Here is the roster of wrestlers in this game:

  • Rick Flair
  • Lex Luger
  • Mike Rotunda
  • Kevin Sullivan
  • Sting
  • Ric Stiner
  • Ricky Steamboat
  • Hawk Warrior (Road Warrior Hawk)
  • Animal Warrior (Road Warrior Animal)
  • Steve Williams (Dr. Death)
  • Eddie Gilbert
  • Michael Hayes

From what I can see, only two tag teams are on the roster, and I don’t think one was working together at the time. The Road Warriors are here, and I remember Sting and Luger being a tag team in the mid-90s.

I think Mike Rotunda and Ric Steiner were a team around this time, but I’m not all that familiar with this period of WCW. Scott Steiner seemed to be with the company around the time this game was being made, but he was left off the roster.

That leaves us with one team I know existed and one that might not have been working together. This is why it makes some sense that the computer would randomly make teams out of the roster.

There is a Boss character at the end of the single-player mode. This character is a masked man named the WCW Master. Given my limited knowledge of WCW, I can only assume this is either the Black Scorpion or the Master from the Dungeon of Doom.

All wrestlers have the same four basic moves tied to the directional pad and B button. The “Favorite” moves are tied to the directional pad and the A button.

Here are the basic moves and the directions they’re tied to:

  • Up + B is a body slam
  • Right + B is a hammer throw to the right
  • Left + B is a hammer throw to the left
  • Down + B is a headbutt

You can select four “Favorite” moves from a list of eight that you want your character to perform. This is a cool addition. Each wrestler does have a few unique moves on their list. Here is a list of the moves:

  • Cobra Twist
  • Cranium Kick
  • Atomic Drop
  • Back Drop
  • Boston Crab
  • Pile Driver
  • Brain Buster
  • Bulldogging Head Lock
  • Double Arm Suplex (sic)
  • Neck Breaker Drop
  • Head Chop
  • Military Press Slam

The different moves are easy to pull off. They’re done from a grapple position, and each move is hardwired to the directional buttons. Once you lock up in a grapple, push one of the directional buttons to perform one of your character’s moves.

Finishing moves are in the game and can only be performed when a wrestler has low health. These moves can only be done in the middle of the ring, and I only saw one of these moves done. You need to push both the A and B buttons simultaneously to do a finisher.

You have basic strikes for controls. The kick has a longer range, and the punch is worthless. The hitboxes for these strikes feel like they’re a little off.

You can toss wrestlers out of the ring. When this happens, the perspective changes to a view of the ringside area. There isn’t too much to say here except for the crowd occasionally throwing a weapon for the wrestlers to use. I only saw a wrench being used, but there could be other weapons. I’m unsure why someone would bring a wrench to a wrestling match, but here we are.

There is a password save system which was a standard addition to NES games. I didn’t take advantage of this.

Despite the difficulty, this is one of the better wrestling games on the NES. I think it is better than WWF Wrestlemania and Steelcage Challenge. The gameplay is excellent, and if you take your time, it is a fun game to learn.


I like the look of the game. The character portraits were good, the in-game sprites are good by NES standards, and the animation for the moves was good. However, there is a ridiculous amount of intentional stuttering in the game.

The character portraits look good for the most part. They sometimes look like cartoon versions of the wrestlers, while others are more realistic. It is a little odd.

The animations for the moves all look great! It is comparable to Pro Wrestling in many ways. However, each character is given tights for some reason.

The tights might be a holdover from the Famicom version of the game. It does seem odd to have Rick Flair and Lex Luger wearing tights.

Overall, the graphics are great! The game has a lot of intentional stuttering, but that can be overlooked because the gameplay is solid.

8/10. This is a better game than WWF Wrestlemania. The roster is deeper, and you can perform more wrestling moves. Overall, it is a better game that I could return to and enjoy more than the original WWF Wrestlemania.


  • Pick-up and Play
  • Big Roster for the time
  • Customizable moves


  • Steep learning curve
  • No story mode
  • Stuttering graphics


WCW Wrestling was a surprising game to play. I missed out on it back in the 90s, and it is something that I think would have been fun to play. It is much better than WWF Wrestlemania and Steel Cage Challenge.

Having little knowledge of WCW from the 80s and early-90s, this was like finding something new. I know who many of the wrestlers on this roster are, but I know them from the late-90s era of WCW and WWF.

To me, this is a hidden gem. I didn’t know it existed until I started collecting video games again in the mid-2010s. Playing the game with my friends in the 90s would have been nice.

Published by Paul Werkema

Hi! I'm here to share my hobbies with all of you. I love video games and books, so I write about the books that cover video games or are novels about video games.

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