Tag Team Wrestling: Good in the Arcades, Bad on the NES

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started playing Tag Team Wrestling. I knew it was an arcade game, and the NES port had some issues, but I wasn’t expecting it to be this bad. Compared to the other wrestling games I’ve played on the NES, this is one of the worst.

Tag Team Wrestling’s controls are bizarre. The nicest thing I can say about them is how many moves you can perform. Understanding how to do these moves is another story.

It looks good for an early NES game, and it has an interesting place in the history of NES games, being one of the first third-party games in North America. However, the developers working on the port didn’t do enough to make this a good game. It could be fun, but inadequate controls and a tiny roster of wrestlers seriously hamper this game.

TLDR: Hamstrung by Bad Controls and a Tiny Roster of Wrestlers.


Tag Team Wrestling was released in the arcades in 1983 in Japan and 1984 in North America. It was known as The Big Pro Wrestling in Japan. It was developed by Technos and published by Data East.

It was ported to the Famicom and NES in 1986 and was one of the first third-party games released in North America. This was also the first Data East game released on the NES.

I couldn’t find a date for a European release. I’m sure that information is out there somewhere. Europe would typically get the games after Japan and North America, so I would assume that the game would have been released in the arcades in late 84 and on the NES in early 87 if it was released at all.

It was also released on several personal computers. This was standard for several console and arcade games at the time.


There is no story in this game. You wrestle the same two wrestlers over and over until you get bored. You get larger trophies for winning, but that is it. There is no end game, and there is no win condition.

This is common for arcade games. However, you would expect more from a wrestling game than Tag Team Wrestling offers. Other wrestling games on the NES offer more of a story and a more extensive roster than this game has.

Not having a story was acceptable in the arcades and early consoles. It would be nice if there were one there or if there were other teams for you to wrestle against.


I wouldn’t say that I liked the controls in this game. It isn’t very good, and things get repetitive. You face the same opponents every time, and the control scheme is frustrating at best.

In the NES port, they look different and have different names. There are only four characters. Here is a rundown of them:

  • Ricky – Locked on Player One
  • Ultramachine – Locked on Player One
  • Wurly – Locked on Player Two
  • Mascross – Locked on Player Two

That is it as far as the characters go. You only see these four wrestlers in the game. It gets repetitive, and it can be rather dull to play against the same two characters repeatedly.

In the arcade game, Ultramachine and Mascross aren’t available. Instead, you have a clone of Ricky and the sprite that would inspire Strong Mad. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, check out Strong Bad’s Emails.

In the arcade, you select a move from a menu that appears when you lock up with your opponent. To lock up, you have to hit your opponent with the lamest punch I have ever seen in a wrestling game. It is awful.

I’ll try to explain the NES game’s confusing control scheme. Let’s see what the manual says about it:

Number of B button pressesRickyUltramachineWorlyMascross
0Body AttackDrop KickBody SlamBody Slam
1Drop KickBody SlamBody AttackDrop Kick
2Body SlamNeck HangingDrop KickBody Attack
3Back DropFlying HeadbuttBack DropFlying Headbutt
4Flying HeadbuttBack BreakerFlying HeadbuttBack Drop
5Back BreakerBody AttackNeck HangingNeck Hanging
6Neck HangingBack DropBack BreakerBack Breaker
7Sasori GatameBrain BusterWestern LariatEnzuri Giri

Having multiple button presses to do this was infuriating! I couldn’t pull off many moves, even after I learned what I was supposed to do. I can only imagine renting this game without the manual, playing it for a few minutes, and then going outside or grabbing my action figures to come up with a better wrestling game.

You would be wrong if you thought this worked the same outside of the ring. Here is how things are supposed to work outside of the ring:

0-3Body SlamBody SlamBody SlamBody Slam
4-6Back DropBack DropBack DropBack Drop
7Ring PostRing PostRing PostRing Post

Changing up the moves for outside of the ring makes some sense. You don’t have the ring ropes anymore, and this limits what moves your wrestlers can do. It is still based on the same awful control scheme.

Overall, I don’t like the gameplay. You can get used to it, and in the early days of the NES, it would have been fine. However, when you compare it to the other wrestling games on the NES, it isn’t good at all.


It looks all right. This was an early NES game. It looks close to the arcade game!

The wrestlers look okay. They do look different on the NES than in the arcade. In the arcade, your opponents look like Strong Bad and Strong Mad from Homestar Runner because this is the game they were based on. The characters you play look identical in the arcade for the most part.

The moves all look good. The animation is nice for the period, and it is easy to see what moves you’re selecting from the menu. The victory animation is also good, but there are some flashing lights.

It is a fine-looking game for the mid to late 80s. You can fight on the outside of the ring. There isn’t much more to this game from a graphical standpoint.

6.5/10. If you get into the game and learn how to play it, the game is fine. It is lacking the features of the other games on the NES, and the gameplay can be very frustrating. Tag Team Wrestling can be fun, but I recommend getting the arcade game on an emulator instead.


  • It looks okay.
  • It is playable.
  • Decent music.


  • Confusing Controls.
  • Repetitive Gameplay.
  • Characters are hardwired to Player One and Two.


Tag Team Wrestling is an interesting game. It was a product of the mid-80s and would have been a fun arcade game. The NES port isn’t all that great, and some liberties should have been taken when bringing the game to the home consoles.

The developers changed some of the characters, but the menu system should have been changed. It didn’t work that well on the NES.

This game isn’t as bad as M.U.S.C.L.E. There are more moves that you can do if you can figure out the frustrating control scheme. Tag Team Wrestling is a lousy game on the NES, but it is a bad game that gives people a reason to play it.

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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