A 1988 video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System that not only was never released, it was never even announced, hit YouTube this week. And in the hands of an expert on the National Wrestling Alliance — the pro rasslin’ circuit that dominated Southern venues and cable networks in the decade — it sheds a lot of light on the history of that wrestling series’ ascent into the WCW.
The game, fascinatingly enough, isn’t called NWA or WCW; it’s UWC Wrestling, which as Paste magazine’s Garrett Martin points out stands for “Universal Wrestling Corporation.” (Disclosure, Garrett teamed up with me on one of my most enjoyable posts ever, determining the alignment of Pro Wrestling’s Fighter Hayabusa.)
That name is important to determining the age of this unreleased ROM. When Ted Turner bought up Jim Crockett Promotions (the Charlotte, North Carolina-based owner of the NWA) in 1988, the original plan was to rename it the UWC. That quickly changed to what everyone else knows it as, WCW, World Championship Wrestling, which had a 13-year run before the WWE bought it out, ending their late 1990s rivalry.
So Martin dates this ROM to 1988, because in 1989 WCW, Japanese developer Nichibitsu and American publisher FCI teamed up for WCW Wrestling — still the only video game to feature the NWA. Even though UWC Wrestling’s lineup screen has no names, Martin does a good job piecing together who they all are: The Road Warriors Animal and Hawk, Sting, Barry Windham, and the unmistakable Ric Flair. Martin contends that Stan Lane, who with Beautiful Bobby Eaton formed the Midnight Express, is in the lineup and Lex Luger was left out; I don’t see how the mugshot, bottom row second from left in the image above, is anyone other than Luger.
Anyway, these guys were regulars of UHF TV on Saturday mornings where I grew up. And living in North Carolina before the Charlotte Hornets, two things put us on the map nationally: NASCAR and the NWA. (Well, there’s also Jesse Helms, but he sucks.) Magnum T.A. wrapping his Porsche around a telephone pole in 1986 was above-the-fold news in both the Winston-Salem Journal and The Charlotte Observer. If, not two years after the Nintendo came out, my best friend Richard had a NWA video game for it, our brains would have melted down.
Martin bros out with all the details about pro wrestling in that time, and the video (from YouTuber Stephan Reese, who said he bought it from a former Nintendo QA tester) shows some robust gameplay in the company of Pro Wrestling. Reese says he will turn over the ROM to the public, and Frank Cifaldi (of the Video Game History Foundation) has reached out about how to do that. So fans of vintage pro wrestling, fans of vintage video games, and fans of both should have an emulator ready for this treat.