Hi everyone! With the impending release of Slammed! On the 28th (fingers crossed!) I thought it would be a good time to do a sort of pre-release post. I intend to post something new here everyday (and answer any questions too), stuff like character bios and the like, to give you a glimpse at the characters you can meet in the game, but I also want to use it as a way of introducing the world of professional wrestling to those who may be unfamiliar with it.
You can play and enjoy Slammed! without any knowledge of pro wrestling, but if you’d like to know more about that world before playing Slammed! (or before deciding if it’s worth buying), then for today’s post, I’ve compiled a simple primer:
*What is professional wrestling?
Pro wrestling has been compared to many things – theater, MMA, soap opera, superhero comics, improv – but for me, what pro wrestling does is create an alternate universe. (It’s no coincidence that the WWE, the paramount pro wrestling promotion in the history of the industry, refers to its fanbase as the “WWE Universe.”) In this universe, men and women (who are often easily identifiable as good guys or bad guys) contend for various championships, and settle personal grievances, through a series of matches that come in many forms.
Those matches lie at the heart of my enjoyment of pro wrestling. While the outcomes of the matches (who wins and who loses, the way the match ends) is pre-determined, what goes on within the matches themselves can be entirely improvised by the wrestlers themselves on the fly, taking into account time constraints, unexpected injuries, or the way the crowd is reacting. (Hence it’s usually not correct to say that the matches are scripted, only the outcomes.) The best matches are both showcases of real athletic talent, as well as a means of telling a portion of the ongoing story of each wrestler. In my eyes, it is the paramount importance placed on the advancement of that story, more than the pre-determined finishes, that sets pro wrestling apart from other forms of athletic competition.
In Slammed! you’ll participate both in matches with pre-determined outcomes, and “shoots” or real fights, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, where you and your opponent are really out to get each other.
*How does pro wrestling tell a story?
Pro wrestling tells stories on many levels. The very best wrestlers can tell a story during the match itself, through the use of facial expressions, the way they react to blows (called “selling”, since you are try to get the crowd to “buy” the fact that you’re in pain), or how viciously they execute a move. (One recent wrestling match had the bad guy – or “heel” – and the good guy – the “face” – switch roles by the end of the match, almost solely through the growing malice behind the attacks of the heel.)
Much of the buildup to important matches – those that will take place on the pay-per-view shows, for instance – happens outside the ring. To make you want to watch a match between two wrestlers, conflict must be created between them. This is done in a wide variety of ways, usually with an emphasis on backstage segments (interviews with the wrestlers, or scenes of wrestlers interacting amongst themselves, or segments with wrestlers “on location”), or through what are called “promos”, where a wrestler picks up a microphone and directly addresses either the crowd or another wrestler/character. In recent years, promotions have also used social media and “leaks” to both official and unofficial news sites to advance storylines, often in an effort to keep fans guessing with regard to what is real, and what is “kayfabe.”
In Slammed! you’ll have opportunities to cut promos and engage (or react to) backstage segments. You’ll also be the frequent topic of posts on The Suplex Observer, the premiere unofficial wrestling news site, and those posts will reflect your actions/character.
*What is kayfabe?
I mentioned that pro wrestling creates an alternate universe – “kayfabe” is acting in a way that is consistent with that universe. Roleplayers would refer to this as staying “in character.” A wrestler who “keeps kayfabe” will not be seen publicly having drinks with a rival that supposedly stole her real-life boyfriend. Keeping kayfabe can also be applied to promotions, in terms of how well they can keep their secrets (such as the planned finishes to matches). In many cases, kayfabe comes down to how well you can convince the fans that something is real, when it isn’t.
In the old days, kayfabe was taken about as seriously as omerta (the Mafia code of silence). In the Internet Era, most promotions now allow – and sometimes encourage – wrestlers to show a break between their public and private personas.
In Slammed! you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether to keep or break kayfabe, and those early choices will affect the kind of angles (“storylines”) you can choose to be involved in later on.
*How is the world of Slammed! different?
The pro wrestling world as I depict it in Slammed! isn’t identical to the “real” wrestling industry as it stands today. This is both for storyline reasons, and because kayfabe makes it hard to really know the inner workings of the industry, without firsthand knowledge that I lack.
The major differences are:
(1) In Slammed!, in response to the emergence of MMA, the Global Wrestling Alliance (the dominant promotion in the game) has begun integrating official “shoot” fights in their programs. Some are announced in advance, but others are not. There are also “quasi-shoots”, where a match is turned into a shoot mid-way, then sometimes switched back to a regular match for the finish. All of this is done to leave fans constantly speculating about which matches were real, and which weren’t.
(2) In Slammed!, women’s wrestling has a prestige that is practically at par with men’s wrestling. Mixed matches involving both men and women are also common. I do reflect real world prejudice in the game, however, especially the “tradition” that only men can compete for the GWA World Championship. As a player, however, you may be able to change that…
(3) In Slammed!, the fact that the reigning World Champion is homosexual has shattered barriers and made the industry as a whole more accepting (at least, on the surface) toward wrestlers of any sexual orientation. I’m not saying that the current wrestling industry isn’t – there are conflicting reports about backstage attitudes – but I can’t think of many positive images of homosexual men and women that have been presented in pro wrestling, where one of the most frequent exhortations to battle is “Be a Man!”