Despite a great deal of education and life experience, Gary Heneghan knows that wrestling has probably taught him the most about life – and Extreme Warfare Revenge was one of his best teachers…
University is supposed to be the most enlightening experience of your life. My spell at university was definitely that, but not for the usual reasons like education or alcohol. Instead, I learned lessons not from a professor or fellow students, but from a wrestling booker simulator.
To backtrack, I should explain what booking is. In pro wrestling, the booker oversees the content of the show. They decide who is wrestling, how long for, who wins, as well as the direction of the stories being told. Basically, it’s every nerdy wrestling fan’s dream job and in 2002, I was no different.
I’d got back into WWE via internet coverage and a friend who had access to Sky – after years of making do with terrestrial TV’s limited coverage, this was manna from heaven. As well as watching all the weekly shows and pay-per-views, I was reading online about wrestling, not just about WWE but new companies like Ring of Honor and NWA: Total Nonstop Action.
Reading about wrestling online was how I first heard about Extreme Warfare Revenge (or EWR, as us addicts called it). An online reporter was writing a show report and mentioned off hand that he’d played EWR, had Low Ki win his federation’s title, then got bored.
This blasé account set my imagination racing – I’d always loved management and simulation games, and one that combined wrestling with strategy sounded like a dream. On the bus to uni later that day, I daydreamed about my own federation and vowed to get this game once I got back home.
Extreme Warfare Revenge
The first teaching of Extreme Warfare Revenge came when simply getting it to work. As a lifelong console gamer, I had no idea how to install a PC game, outside the simple “insert disc, pray it works” mentality. EWR had to be downloaded and extracted, which terrified me. What if I was downloading every computer virus in existence onto my PC? What if the government was using this wrestling simulator as a trap to shut down smart-arse wrestling fans?
I managed to get those paranoid thoughts out of my head, but I was stumped by ZIP files. I hadn’t encountered them before; I was confused. Clicking on the files did nothing but exhaust my technical knowledge. I followed the installation guide that came with the game and got myself WinZip – another tense download.
See, WinZip had a little message at the start saying you could use it for 30 days then you had to pay. As a student, my natural aversion to paying for things was instantly triggered. I was worried that the folks behind WinZip would come to my house and demand payment on the 31st day of my WinZip use. Nowadays, I know that these messages were just vague warnings trying to get you to purchase the program but back then, I was legitimately worried.
This experience brought with it a skill that continues to come in handy for downloading Pro Evolution Soccer option files. Whenever I see my complete Premier League kits on PES 2019, I smile and think about WinZip, knowing those early panicky struggles paid off.
After my IT crash course (not aided by my PC’s confusion about the end of its dial-up connection… I had to hide that stupid notification for years after!) it was time to play EWR.
At its core, Extreme Warfare Revenge was a strategy game, and one that required a good deal of thought. I always describe it as “Championship Manager but for wrestling”; like Champ Man games of old, you didn’t see any action – all information was provided by text.
As a booker, you had to navigate a series of drop-down menus to plan out your wrestling shows. You selected the matches and segments you wanted, then tried to select the best combination of wrestlers to feature in them. The goal of EWR was to put on good wrestling shows and get your federation to grow in popularity – and it was also the booker’s job to hire staff and wrestlers. Everyone in the game had stats relating to their role, and you had to assemble the best employees to put on the best show.
A lot of Extreme Warfare Revenge’s gameplay was simply typing and reading – it was a step up from the old e-fed wrestling games, where fans would write about favourite wrestlers and their adventures in a made-up federation. EWR demanded creativity as the booker had to name shows, wrestlers and moves, and pick which wrestlers would feud (fight each other). Once the show was finalised, you read through the report of your show, hoping that the reviewers liked it and that your federation gained popularity.
EWR gave me another challenge as booker on my first go – I had to defeat Pinky and the Brain’s World Domination Wrestling federation by becoming more popular than them. As I read the text explaining the birth of World Domination Wrestling, I started to question my sanity. Maybe the government WAS monitoring me, subjecting me to psychological tests to see how I would react.
I gulped and decided to press on, beginning the first of (far too) many late-night Extreme Warfare Revenge sessions. In a way, EWR was testing my resolve… you needed to be tough to start a wrestling war with a megalomaniacal rodent and his idiotic buddy at 2am.
I’d read that Pinky and the Brain’s World Domination Wrestling had been added to EWR as a challenge for players who played as WWE, which was the easiest option in the game. The stars of the 90s hit cartoon series had a ridiculous amount of money and would sign as many great wrestlers as they could to take you down. You couldn’t play as them, either – you just went up against them.
It was a sample of things to come, most notably EWR‘s sneaky but surreal sense of humour – the game looked like a dull text simulator, but looking at the crazy sponsors, the various backstage staff named after old Everton players, as well as the ramblings of the internet reviewers who rated your shows, EWR was genuinely funny.
Once I got the hang of Extreme Warfare Revenge‘s odd yet realistic game world, I was hooked. My early attempt to defeat Pinky and the Brain failed, due to boredom and incompetence. However, I bounced back, taking control of NWA: TNA (then the second-biggest promotion in America, now known as Impact Wrestling) and taking the fight to the tyrannical WWE.
This is where EWR taught me another lesson – the art of organisation. Back then, when I played a game I’d just go for it, with little thought given to any form of long-term strategy. However, Extreme Warfare Revenge, with its stats and huge roster of wrestlers to work with, couldn’t be beaten like that. I needed a plan and I found myself literally drawing one up.
EWR had you run events like an actual TV show: you needed both matches and promos. You’ve undoubtedly seen a wrestling promo before – it’s the bit where huge men bellow about how much they’re going to hurt each other. I needed the right amount of bellowing and battering to make my show a success; some wrestlers were much better in the ring than they were at promos, and vice versa.
So, I created a huge plan covering eight TV shows, detailing who would talk and who would tussle. I deliberately kept the uncharismatic wrestlers away from microphones and the unathletic wrestlers away from the ring. It worked, too – after two years, my TV show was more popular than RAW and SmackDown!.
I was being broadcast on a much bigger network than the two main WWE shows were, and soon I arranged another huge TV show, ensuring I’d dominate wrestling on television. Eventually, NWA: TNA was the #1 company in the world, as I built my own stars. I signed talented but unheard-of wrestlers and by using them well on TV, they became huge, saving me money as I didn’t have to try and hire WWE wrestlers. It was a long two years of planning, plus a lot of patience, but I got a LOT of satisfaction from becoming more popular than WWE on my own terms. I do love it when a plan comes together…
Extreme Warfare Revenge became a way of life after that initial burst, not least because it kept teaching me more lessons. One Friday night, while my family was out, I’d decided to rebook the WWF in 1990. Basically, my plan was to push Sgt Slaughter, because 1991, Iraq War-era Sgt Slaughter was one of my guilty pleasures. As I put my plans into motion, everything suddenly went black – apart from my PC.
I instantly started to panic – could my terrible booking have caused a massive electrical shutdown? I was worried because the PC was still on – a clear giveaway that everything was my fault. As my mum and sisters got home, I was midway through a panicky explanation and about to apologise for not keeping the WWF title on the Ultimate Warrior, when my Mum simply headed to a previously unseen box on the wall and flicked a switch.
With that, all the lights were back on and everything was back to normal. That was the day I learned about fuse boxes and even now, I think about my dreadful 1990 Royal Rumble plans every time a fuse blows!
I even found other people who liked to play EWR and these were my early, primitive first journeys into online gaming. Granted, using MSN Messenger while playing EWR is worlds away from Xbox Live, but this was the first time I was hooked up to the internet while playing games, interacting with others having a similar experience.
What an experience it was, too – me and two friends were having an all-nighter and I was on a mission. I had previously had a big game with Ring of Honor on the go, when I had decided to leave their job to start my own wrestling company. When half of the roster had been sacked and followed me to my new company, I had an idea. Why not try the same tactic in the 80s mod of EWR and take over WWF? So, I stayed up all night, booking with UWF (the 80s federation where Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and Hacksaw Jim Duggan rose to prominence).
Well, Extreme Warfare Revenge taught me the biggest lesson of all – never count your chickens before they hatch. I signed the best wrestlers available, pretending it was 1986 (EWR used the computer clock for its dates, so I had to deduct 17 years every time I checked the date) and planning world domination. What did EWR do? It had UWF keep all their wrestlers under contract, meaning my new company couldn’t hire all the future stars I’d stored up there. I managed to beg, borrow and steal enough wrestlers for one show, then quit at 5:00am in a rage.
Since that day, I’ve always checked games for minute details, never assuming it will help me or repeat a pattern.
There comes a time when a teacher has no more lessons to teach; no more wisdom to rain down. I knew I’d reached that point when in charge of ECCW, a small Canadian federation. With no money and no major talent on hand, I was struggling, and my frustration turned to stupidity. I had a non-wrestling fan friend around and, to amuse him and take out my frustrations on EWR, I hired the worst wrestler I could and gave him a new name. A new identity. A persona that would turn ECCW into the biggest company in the world.
Penis Man was born, and I decided the best way to make him a star would be to give him a mega push that would shame the most egotistical wrestler.
In wrestling lingo, a push is how much momentum you give a wrestler. If you want a wrestler to become a star, you push them as much as you can, with wins, big interviews, lots of TV time and make them seem as cool as possible. I was taking no chances with Penis Man – he needed the biggest push of all time. Armed with his trusty ‘Cock Block’ finisher, Penis Man began to work through the entire roster… on the same show.
I’d decided that Penis Man would feature in every segment, be it a match or a promo. Kinda like in The Simpsons, where Homer suggests when Poochie isn’t on screen, everyone should be asking “Where’s Poochie?” Except in the ECCW, everyone knew where Penis Man was, because he was in every bit of the show. Opening match? A Penis Man win. Next segment? Penis Man getting married. After that? Penis Man turning heel – becoming a bad guy – by attacking his new bride. Main event? A Penis Man title win followed by an epic victory celebration.
Alas, the ECCW fans weren’t impressed and after me and my friend had laughed our tits off at the adventures of Penis Man, I came to a realisation: I’d outgrown Extreme Warfare Revenge. I needed bigger and better challenges, more detail and a bigger world to conquer. Adam Ryland, the programmer behind EWR, had moved on to a new game: Total Extreme Warfare, later to become Total Extreme Wrestling. This was a much bigger, full-price game and it was a true step into the unknown. I’d resisted before, but now I knew it was time to make the jump…
…but that’s a story for another day.
- It’s free and can be downloaded in minutes
- In-depth, yet simple – a good starting point for any wannabe wrestling bookers
- Can be very addictive if you get into it
- At the end of the day, it’s just a big database
- Outdated – the wrestling landscape is from the early 2000s and editing it all could take a while!
- If you know what you’re doing, you can out-game the game and beat it handily
Extreme Warfare Revenge was a revelation to me when I first played it, and even though the Total Extreme Wrestling series has surpassed it, it’s still a fine game, especially considering it was a freeware release. If you want to try messing around with wrestling companies, then it’s definitely the best place to start.