1994 was not what you would call a good year to be a wrestling fan. Hulk Hogan had gone over to WCW, but the NWO didn’t exist yet, so he basically brought the same tired schtick with him. Ric Flair was getting older, the World Wrestling Federation was still recovering from a steroid distribution trial that forced them to rethink their entire booking process, and the upstart ECW was not yet E-C-DUB! E-C-DUB!

Um...I don't think that's how you're supposed to hold a chair...
Um…I don’t think that’s how you’re supposed to hold a chair…

All that meant that fans were basically left with terrible gimmicks like Adam Bomb (from Three Mile Island, no less!), goofy storylines like the Lex Express (Lex Luger riding around America in a star-spangled bus), and terrible matches like Jerry Lawler and a team of midgets against Doink the Clown and another team of midgets. You’d think it’d be borderline impossible to comb through that wreckage and make a good game out of it, but LJN of of all people managed to, giving us WWF Raw in 1994.

Raw is the last of the LJN WWF trifecta, and as such, is the best of the three. It’s fundamentally similar to Royal Rumble, especially in terms of gameplay, but there’s a few new wrinkles and such to keep it somewhat fresh. First of all, the roster has been extensively overhauled from Royal Rumble; gone are such names as Ric Flair, Macho Man Randy Savage, and Mr. Perfect, replaced with luminaries as Bam Bam Bigelow, Owen Hart, and yes, Luna Vachon for whatever reason. The roster’s still relatively small at 12 characters, but given the era, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone else at the time you’d want to use. Some favorites also return from Royal Rumble, like Bret Hart and the Undertaker. Also, each wrestler has stats in different categories, so smaller wrestlers move faster than their larger counterparts, but don’t do as mch damage with their attacks.

One of the few positives of 1994: Recreating the Bret-Owen feud.
One of the few positives of 1994: Recreating the Bret-Owen feud.

Pretty much all the game modes made it to Raw, although the Triple Tag Team match has been upgraded to the Survivor Series, a 4-on-4 elimination-style tag match. Much like the original 6-man tag match, you can cycle through your available partners with Select, allowing you to keep a tired teammate out of harm’s way to recover. The classic singles and traditional tag matches are available, as well as the 12-man (or person, in this case) Royal Rumble match.

New to Raw, though, are Bedlam matches, a 2-on-2 match, similar to tag team, but with all four wrestoers in the ring at the same time, and the RAW ENDURANCE MATCH (which sounds a lot cooler if you read it in Vince McMahon’s voice), in which two teams of six square off in one-on-one matches, if you pin your opponent, the next member of their team immediately takes their place without giving you a breather. In a neat little touch, in team matches, you can pass on adding new members at anytime, so you could say, give an unskilled opponent a 4-on-2 advantage in a Survivor Series match.

Gameplay is largely unchanged from Royal Rumble. It’s still a button masher, but at least this time there’s a little bit of variety in the movesets. Some guys do back body drops instead of hiptosses, big boots to the face instead of clotheslines, and some guys even do screwdrivers instead of vertical suplexes. You can whip your opponent into the top turnbuckles, run and crash into him, and even do the classic spot where you climb on him and punch him ten times while the game even counts along, complete with a satisfying faceplant, Greg “The Hammer” Valentine style afterwards. Finishers are still there (although in this game, CPU wrestlers NEVER actually use them for whatever reason), and require you to drive your opponent’s energy to the red, and yes, a bit of wrestling knowledge might be needed, because if you don’t know what the Sharpshooter actually IS, you probably won’t know how to set it up. And speaking of the Sharpshooter, this time, if you empty your opponent’s health bar entirely and then apply it, your opponent will actually submit. Very cool. Not only that, but the bigger wrestlers have a special pin where they sit on their fallen foe triumphantly instead of going for a more conventional cover.

(insert fart joke here)
(insert fart joke here)

Also new this time around is the inclusion of Mega Moves, which require an elaborate button combo to be performed, but allow you to perform superhuman attacks like Bam Bam Bigelow’s torpedo headbutt that launches him all the way across the ring or Owen Hart turning into a human tornado. However, the coolest of these has to be Doink the Clown’s, where he scrunches the opponent into a ball and kicks them out of the ring like a football (he even makes the “it’s good” signal afterwards). Eye gouges and chokes are still illegal and have to be done without a referee’s presence, but you can still floor the ref if you want, and awesomely enough, if you drop him enough times, he will literally say “fuck it” and bail on the match altogether, effectively turning the match into a Brawl. The folding chairs from Royal Rumble are back, but you can now also poke at your opponent with them before slamming it over their head. There’s also a bucket that can be dropped and re-used, and you can whip your opponent into the ring bell and make a sweet clanging noise.

Presentation here is improved a bit from Rumble. The game’s intro does a fairly decent job of recreating the original Monday Night Raw intro, given the Super Nintendo’s limitations, the wrestler select screen has a weird VCR motif, where cycling through your choices rewinds and fast-forwards, and the pictures of each wrestler do a good job of making them look heroic or evil. Each wrestler’s theme music plays over their spot, although quite frankly, a lot of them are pretty lousy, and not because of the Super Nintendo’s hardware; Diesel’s theme is literally truck engine noises and a truck horn. That’s it. Before each match, you’ll see Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler at the commentary table running down the match type and the wrestlers, and afterwards, the winner’s logo appears on a video board from Raw’s early days. Some moves got a bit of a facelift, too. Now, when you bust out an atomic drop, you’ll hold your adversary up for a few seconds, giving the impression that it’s going to hurt just that much more, and you actually hook the leg when you go for pins.

Y'see kids, Shawn Michaels used to look a LOT different.
Y’see kids, Shawn Michaels used to look a LOT different.

However, I do need to make mention of one thing that will stick out to you very quickly if you pop this game in. There is a LOT of grunting. There’s more grunting going on here than at a women’s tennis match with a ’70s porn movie playing in the background. You’ll either have to learn to tune it out or play with the game on mute, because there’s no other way around it, and literally every attack is met with at least one, if not more “ugghs” or “ahhs”. Aside from that, the in-game sounds are passable; slams sound properly meaty and the crowd pops big for finishers and Mega Moves. You’ll even see Vince and The King wildly gesticulating at ringside, to add a bit of realism.

I’m still amazed LJN managed to make a good game, let alone a good wrestling game, and I’m downright dumbfounded they managed to take a good wrestling game and improve on it without managing to screw something up, but the proof’s in the pudding. Yeah, putting in Luna Vachon was a strange choice, and it’s still predominantly a button-masher, but this was still a rough time for the company and the button-mashing worked in the last game, so I can’t fault them too hard for things like that. Again, there’s no story mode or any kind of backstage antics going on, but for some arcade-style wrestling action, Raw certainly delivers. Oh, and one last thing: CarlMarksGuy, if you’re reading this, this game is potentially chock-full of source material for you.


The Good

Probably the best Super Nintendo wrestling game NOT named Fire Pro.

The Bad

Realistically, only 11 wrestlers you’d care to choose from, movesets still overlap a bit too much, and still a frantic button-masher.


Our Score
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10 thoughts on “WWF Raw

  1. Woo, shout-out!

    I clicked on this thinking it was the PRECURSOR to the 16-bit Royal Rumble, but I guess I was thinking of Super Wrestlemania — anyway, the first SNES one with the look of RR.

    But reading this, it totally sounds like this game was a huge step up, much bigger than Super Wrestlemania to Royal Rumble (that just added 2 features, albeit good ones – unique finishing moves & cool Royal Rumble mode).

    But with this and its 4-6+ new features — mixing up movesets a little, the “big man/small man” gameplay differences (though I hope they didn’t implement those differences like the booking teams always did…), more ring-area-specific moves, etc. I might need to buy a copy of this game (or, to use the unfortunate parlance from the era, I might need to “get RAW”).

    PS: I would have totally anti-marked-out at “Mullet + Lenon Glasses” Shawn Michaels, if I hadn’t been prepared by his very-similar photo in RR

    1. One thing I meant to say in the review proper: when I was playing through this again, I realized that almost half the roster is dead, Razor Ramon’s a full-on alcoholic, Bret’s career nosedived, Lex Luger had a stroke, Diesel’s regarded as one of the biggest assholes in the industry, and 1-2-3 Kid went on to make perhaps the most terrifying porno ever. Out of these 12 people, only Undertaker and Shawn Michaels (although he used to be a raging douche) managed to keep themselves intact over the last two decades. That was kind of a downer.

      1. Actually it’s not as bad as you say: Scott Hall (Razor Ramon) is fine by now. He went to DDP (just like Jake Roberts) and from all reports, is sober and pretty happy. He looked really good in the last pictures (nWo reunion and such) that showd up a couple weeks ago.
        Lex Luger had a spinal stroke, but has somewhat recovered. I saw him last on Kayfabe Commentaries’ WWF Timeline 1993 and he looked pretty good all things and seems to live a happy life. As for the rest of the Roster: Undertaker and Shawn Michaels are fine, so is Sean Waltman (123 Kid) who is active on the indies and in 2011-2012 had some good matches at Chikara. He even laughs about the One Night in Chyna debacle (as seen on Kayfabe Commentaries You Shoot with him that was really good.
        Doink in 1994 was played by Ray Apollo, who is also fine (retired in late 2010),
        Bret’s career didn’t nosedive. His idiotic decision was to compete in (hardcore) matches while having a concussion (after Goldbergs kick), he was then forced to retire and suffered a stroke a couple years later. Before that he just wasn’t interested anymore, he half-assed his way through WCW very obviously.
        Kevin Nash is also doing fine. Might be an asshole, but who outside of a few people like Ricky Steamboat or Catcus Jack isn’t one in the wrestling business?
        From this roster there are only 3 dead people: Bam Bam Bigelow (overdosed), Luna Vachon (comitted suicide) and Owen Hart, compared to older wrestling games that’s actually not that “bad”.

        Also i have to comment on some stuff from the review:
        1994 was actually a pretty good year for WCW and WWF. Think about 1993: WCW going back into the 70’s thanks to Verne Gagne: Top Rope Moves are illegal, throwing your opponent over the rope is a Disqualification, retarded storylines like Vader’s White Castle of Fear and the “Cactus Jack lost his memory and now thinks he’s a sailor”, while WWF had one of the worst Wrestlemanias ever (IX) and struggled to get a replacement for Hogan.
        1994 in comparison had:
        WWF had a great streak of PPVs from Royal Rumble to Summerslam 1994: Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart in two awesome matches (Wrestlemania and Summerslam), Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels in a legendary ladder match. They even had some good women wrestling on the show with Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano.
        WCW had also a great first half, with a good SuperBrawl IV event and the great Spring Stampede (a 30 minute classic between Flair and Sting, a good Steve Austin – Muta match, a great Street Fight between the Nasty Boys and Cactus Jack/Max Payne and a good match beetween Steven Regal and Brian Pillman) and some really good Saturday episodes and good feuds. Later they started a good Steve Austin – Ricky Steamboat feud that sadly ended prematurely when Steamboat had to retire and Sting vs. Vader finally without any stupid stipulations or videos.
        Compare this again to 1995:
        WWF still struggling to find a true Main Event Babyface (Diesel was a failure), trying to get Mabel into the Main Event. Horrible PPVs (Wrestlemania XI, King of the Ring, Survivor Series) and the best things were rehashed ideas (Shawn Michaels – Razor Ramon Ladder match again)
        WCW in 1995 was a mess too: Hogan vs. the Dungeon of Doom, the laughable Uncensored PPV and the chaotic World War 3, wrestlers like Steve Austin and Cactus Jack leaving. Idiotic booking all around
        1994 was the bright spot between bad years.
        ECW in 1994 was also good. Yeah, it had none of those “can’t wrestle but we sure can jump around and take weapon shots” stuff but instead you had great wrestling (Chris Benoit vs. 2 Cold Scorpio was a highlight in late 1994 ECW) though they actually got even better in 1995 when Steve Austin, Brian Pillman (for a very short timed, teamed with Shane Douglas) Cactus Jack, Rey Mysterio and the Steiner Bros. showed up. ECW in 1995 was the highlight in a otherwise really bad year of US Wrestling (and thank god for Japan or otherwise 1995 would be a real catastrophe for wrestling)

        As for the game itself: I somewhat prefer Royal Rumble because of the Roster, but otherwise this is another solid wrestling game. It surely is miles ahead of WCW SuperBrawl Wrestling and is still somewhat fun in multiplayer.
        But if i had to play a wrestling game from 1994 today, i would chose Super Fire ProWrestling Special which has a ton more wrestler, way better gameplay (no button mashing) and probably the most infamous story mode every thanks to Suda51.

    1. My Saturday mornings as a kid generally consisted of waking up, watching Ren and Stimpy, watching Saturday morning wrestling, and then playing this for an hour.

          1. Oh god — yeah, Ren & Stimpy have at least 4 SNES games…more SNES games than almost any other tv/movie franchise (off the top of my head — Godzilla = 1 or 2, Simpsons = 2 (3 if you count Crusty’s fun house), TMNT = 2, Power Ranges = 3…well, 4 if you count the racing one, friggin MICKY MOUSE is only in 2 or 3 I believe).

            This either means Ren & Stimpy were bigger than EVERYTHING between 1990 and 1996 (not entirely true), or their merchandisers cared even less about game quality than The Simpsons, Godzilla and Looney Toons. And if you’ve played any Simpsons, Godzilla or Looney Toons SNES game, that should be enough to scare you off.

            I love bad games, but even I haven’t touched the Ren & Stimpy SNES canon. I get the impression that they’re all 1/8th-baked platformers, virtually unplayable, and full of 2 or 3 different quotes from the cartoon which are played over and over again at maximum volume to try to conceal their shame.

          2. CarlMarksGuy has it right. I saved my allowance to buy the Gameboy Ren & Stimpy game (Space Cadet Adventures). It had all the hallmarks of a lazy tie-in: unrelated enemies, music that consisted of a few looped bars of the theme song, and monotonous recycling of show content without a greater purpose. I hated it so much I threw it in a box at the bottom of the closet so I wouldn’t have to look at it again. I learned to only rent THQ platformers.

            Veediots was at least competent with more variety in the game mechanics and levels. I don’t know how to explain it, but THQ platformers always seemed rubbery to me and it was no exception. It might have been the loose controls and weak animation and sound effects that made everything feel weightless.

            Look up the NES Rocky and Bullwinkle game on Youtube to see THQ’s licensed platformer formula at its most primitive and laughable. Be warned: the music will stick in your head for all the wrong reasons.

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