You might think pro wrestling is a joke, but nothing in this world is as perfect for over the top videogame combat as wrestling moves. Even non-fans can get excited when Mike Haggar pastes an Andore brother into the Metro City pavement with a leaping piledriver. Why? It’s about suspension of disbelief. Videogames don’t need kayfabe, that magical force in wrestling helping fans accept a former UFC champion at peak physical condition needing to pull out all the stops against a grizzled, 50 year-old biker who only wrestles once a year (and also has supernatural powers).
In a videogame, the creators are in control of reality. A crazy wrestling move no longer requires the recipient to be both a willing participant and assistant. Why have a set of boring, practical-looking grappling moves when you can powerbomb a giant robot?
Cool videogame wrestling moves are not documented well enough. So, here’s a list of the ten best spots you can find in games not about the art of wrestling itself. And sorry we don’t have screenshots of every move in action. You try tracking all that down. The criteria is wide open: some of these are just plain silly, while others are so outlandish and/or brutal that seeing them in person makes you want to either cringe or mark out, depending on whether or not you know what “marking out” even means.
Rocksteady’s version of the Caped Crusader is not a good person. He may seem docile when Kevin Conroy phones his dialogue in, but in practice he’s a savage predator. He toys with his victims, provoking them from atop Arkham Asylum’s gargoyle collection before either stringing them up or breaking every bone in their body.
If you’re hiding in a floor vent but decide to stop caring about being sneaky, you can use a noisy takedown. Batman leaps up, hook his arm around his prey’s neck and yanks him back down with all his body weight, right on top of the dude’s head. It’s a DDT so vicious, Jake “The Snake” Roberts would wince.
Sure, the LEGO games are pretty much the same thing over and over, but they did start to get a little more fleshed out after a while. For example, while combat never gets more complicated than mashing the attack button, we did get a bigger variety of animations. When I first played LEGO Batman 2 I got a real kick out of seeing Robin of all people hoist an enemy up by his torso, hold him straight up in the air (hence the “vertical” part) and slam him into an explosion of LEGO gore. I shudder to think of what would happen if Rocksteady got wind of this.
Series newcomer Nero has a funky blue hand he calls the Devil Bringer, which added a whole new gimmick to the Devil May Cry style. But while the Devil Bringer does bring with it some pretty Smokin’ Sick Style grappling, Nero has another little trick up his sleeve. The best part: it has very little practical use and is there simply to look awesome and show off if you can work it into a combo.
Get a running start, then contort your fingers enough to press the taunt button without losing Nero’s adorable little speed boost. Homeboy sails through the air with the most anime-ass dropkick in videogame history.
The piledriver is a legendary staple of the arcade beat ‘em up, ever since Mike Haggar and Final Fight. Being able to not only grab a dude, but leap into the air and deliver some squared circle-style justice was a game-changer. The videogame piledriver would eventually evolve into the iconic spinning piledriver, a move so physically impossible several million Street Fighter II matches later, it still isn’t stale.
Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder took it to the next level. Up to four players could simultaneously latch onto an enemy and take that sucker for the most comically lethal ride ever. It would even work on bosses! How Death Adder never made it outside arcades is a tragic mystery.
There’s this cheeseball moment in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man during which Peter Parker falls through the roof of a building, landing in what seems to be an old, abandoned lucha wrestling ring. A poster on the wall inspires Peter to create his costume.
Beenox takes this lucha inspiration to the next step by incorporating lucha-style wrestling moves into the superhero’s combat wheelhouse. Spider-Man, with the proportional strength of a spider, using the full strength of his legs to throw a person by their neck is just mean.
Speaking of lucha, Hawlucha is a new creature introduced in the 3DS’ new generation of Pokemon. It’s a bird with the proportions of a barrel-chested man, with markings resembling a luchador mask. Why not?
Before Pokemon Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire, Hawlucha had an exclusive move called Flying Press, which counts as both a flying and a fighting type attack. In Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire, the move is also usable by a special Pikachu known as Pikachu Libre, which is probably the coolest Pikachu gimmick of all time.
Everyone knows this one. Sabin’s “blitz” command has different results based on which directions you input, almost like using a special move in a fighting game. One of the attacks you can get is a suplex, which in SNES land means Sabin grabs an enemy, leaps up off-screen and slams back down for some sick damage.
This can be used on bosses, famously including the Doom Train, literally an evil train. Sabin straight-up takes the entire huge, evil train sprite and suplexes it into submission. Of course if you don’t defeat it, Sabin’s form is so perfect Doom Train lands back on its tracks and keeps going, full steam.
I’ll admit, I don’t know much about football. That said, I’m pretty sure you can’t just leap back up after sacking a dude and drop your beefy, pro-athlete leg down on his chest. Unless you’re playing NFL Blitz, in which case channeling the Hulkster to add insult to injury (as well as some more injury) is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
After the age of the arcade brawler came to an end, the TMNT license didn’t do so well. But while most of the games aren’t much good anymore, they’ve certainly been pretty creative. Take Activision’s Out of the Shadows, for instance. It’s an awkward Batman: Arkham clone, but with strange, almost fighting game-style super moves.
Each Turtle’s moveset is unique and does a good job reflecting their personality. Raphael’s hot-headed nature sees him tossing the whole ninjitsu thing in the garbage in favor of a slew of flashy, high-impact wrestling stuff, including a massive, crowd-clearing jackknife powerbomb.
Fun fact: that move is the finisher of Kevin Nash, who played Super Shredder in the second TMNT movie!
Capcom’s latest B-grade action/horror romp has its issues, but it has this slick sense of mobility you don’t see often in shooters. Part of what makes it so fun to just screw around with your options is the Mercenaries mode, which Capcom went all-out with.
Every character has one or more cool wrestling techniques, all of which are guaranteed to end with something’s head exploding. You can drop a ‘bow, bust out a running bulldog or even swing around a zombie and nail the lumbering jabroni with a damn tornado DDT. Why even bother with guns?
Lucas White pretends to play and write about videogames in-between much more adult activities, such as chasing a toddler around his apartment and spending several hours a week getting mad at professional wrestling. You can find him on Twitter @HokutoNoRucas or his regular gigs at Technology Tell’s Gaming Network and Shonen Jump.