Back in the day, professional wrestlers lived like rock stars. Andre the Giant was known to drink kegs of beer during a night out on the town. “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair tells stories about buying fur coats with “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes and limousine-ridin and jet-flyin’ with the legendary Four Horsemen. And if the walls at the hotels frequented by the ECW locker room in the 90s could speak, they would probably regale you with raucous tales of epic proportions. But these days, it seems like the warriors of the ring have gravitated towards a new form of post-match entertainment: video games.
Thanks to the YouTube channel Up Up Down Down, the WWE Universe can see what host Xavier Woods of The New Day and a number of other WWE Superstars like Tyler Breeze, Sasha Banks, The Usos, and others are playing on a weekly basis. Although, the world of gaming doesn’t just collide with professional wrestling in WWE. This seems to be a trend in basically every locker room around the world, including Ring of Honor.
During a recent stop in Philadelphia earlier this month ahead of their Death Before Dishonor pay-per-view in Las Vegas this weekend, we had the opportunity to sit down with ROH World Heavyweight Champion Jay Lethal and the always exciting tag team known as the Motor City Machine Guns to talk about video game culture in the world of professional wrestling. First, Alex Shelley, Chris Sabin, and Lethal discussed the stigma that existed among the older generation of wrestlers towards the younger guys playing games in their spare time.
Shelley: Maybe ten years ago, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to get scoffed at by the older wrestlers. Specifically, I remember this guy named Simon Diamond chewing out AJ Styles for being a grown man that plays video games. I think as that generation has been moved along in life and our generation is in their 30s and 40s, it’s pretty obvious that video games are part of the culture period. You just can’t get away from them.
Sabin: I think that has a lot to do with our generation growing up side by side with the evolution of video games and technology in general. Nowadays there are so many handheld devices that you could bring along on the road a lot easier. They even have those briefcases where you can put your Xbox One or your PS4 inside the briefcase, which has a flatscreen tv in the back. I don’t have one myself, but I’ve seen them. They look really cool and they’re convenient for travel if you want to bring your actual console on the road with you.
Shelley: As far as Japan goes, far more people of the older generation do play video games there. I’ve got a lot of guys that I’ve worked with in their 40s who have a 3DS or PSP. But i feel like the handheld console over there is pretty dominant too. You look at the difference in culture and we’ve got 60, 70, or 80 inch TVs over here. For something like that to exist over there just isn’t feasible given the square footage you live in.
Lethal: I do hear a lot of video game talk around the locker room, especially coming from guys like ACH. He brings his DS all the time and I do too. Also, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s a great way to spend some free time. Honestly, if you look at it, it’s better than doing something else that could potentially get you in trouble.
Hailing from Elizabeth, New Jersey, Lethal grew up playing video games like ‘Duck Hunt’ and ‘Double Dragon’ with his brother and his mom. They frequented arcades together until wrestling took over his life, so it was fitting that we met at Barcade in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia to relive those times by playing ‘Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out’, ‘Frogger’, ‘Tron’, and of course ‘Double Dragon’. While he reacquainted himself with these classics, we started by talking about wrestling games:
ScienceFiction.com: What were some of your favorite wrestling games?
Jay Lethal: ‘WWF Royal Rumble’. I remember I got ‘Royal Rumble’ for Christmas. My favorite was Razor Ramon. Bret Hart was another favorite.
SF: If I’m not mistaken, you were featured in the ‘TNA Impact!’ video game. What was that like seeing yourself in a medium that you’ve come to love?
JL: It was awesome. We did motion capture for the game. AJ Styles, me, Samoa Joe… Unfortunately, the game didn’t pan out as well as we would’ve hoped, but one of the coolest parts was that to get one of the achievements, you had to play against me or Samoa Joe. I remember they created a special gamer tag so we could play against people.
SF: Oh like actually you guys?
JL: Yeah, they had to play against us and beat us.
SF: Has there been any action on a ROH game?
JL: No, there hasn’t. But if it does happen, I hope it would be like ‘WWF No Mercy’. You always hear that from the wrestlers. All the guys who were fans of wrestling games growing up always say that ‘No Mercy’ was the greatest game ever. I had a Game Shark where I could make the arena look the the ECW Arena, so I made all the ECW guys and made my own PPVs. I still have it! I have a spare room that I’m not using, so I made it into a video game room. I have all my old systems hooked up in there.
SF: Have you had the opportunity to challenge [2016 New Japan Pro Wrestling G1 Climax winner and avid video game fanatic] Kenny Omega yet?
JL: No, no. I don’t think I would either. I like video games, but I’m not good tough to enter any kind of contest. I’ve never been good at ‘Halo’ or other first person shooters.
SF: Is there anyone else that you’ve shared a locker room with at that level?
JL: [Current NXT Champion] Samoa Joe. He’s the best overall gamer I know. Good at almost every game. AJ Styles [who faces John Cena this Sunday at WWE Summerslam] is very good when it comes to sports games, but Joe would be on the top of my list. [ROH referee] Todd Sinclair is a big achievement junkie. He’s not really good at games, but he’s great at getting achievements. He’s on a roll where he gets maybe one or two achievements a day. I think he’s up to day 600 something.
SF: Since you’re such a Nintendo fan, have you been playing ‘Pokemon GO’?
JL: I haven’t. I actually refuse to download it because I didn’t want to get addicted to it. And for someone like myself who constantly travels, I could see it getting very addicting.
SF: If by some strange occurrence, you had to defend your ROH World Heavyweight Championship by playing your opponent in a video game, what game do you think you would have the biggest advantage in?
JL: Definitely ‘WCW/NWO Revenge’. I was pretty good at ‘No Mercy’, but I was really good at ‘Revenge’. Me and my brother would always pick the Dancing Fools. I’d be Disco Inferno and he’d be Alex Wright.
SF: Has there ever been an instance where you’ve taken a move from a video game and incorporated it into your arsenal in the ring?
JL: That’s a great question. I would say yes. I’m obviously a big fan of the Diamond Cutter and every CAW I made had the Diamond Cutter. [But] I don’t think that there was a particular move that I saw in a game that I didn’t see anywhere else. Although my move, The Lethal Injection, which is the handspring into the cutter, did make it into the latest WWE game.
SF: If you had the ability to do it, are there any moves from fighting games that you would incorporate into your repertoire?
JL: 100%. The move that comes to mind immediately is Zangief’s spinning piledriver. I can’t get the height for something like that, but if I could, that would be my finisher instantly. That move was a thing of beauty.
SF: So what are you currently playing right now?
JL: I just bought ‘Overwatch’ even though I said that I don’t really like first person shooters. It did look pretty good to me. I’m one of the biggest fan of the ‘Fable’ series, so I’m waiting for the new one to come out. One of my favorite games is ‘Red Dead Redemption’ and that was just recently made backwards compatible. I also downloaded the newest ‘Hitman’ game. That was the last game that I played before I left the house. I’m a big fan of that series. I even saw the movie, but I didn’t like it that much.
SF: What about your all time favorite game?
JL: ‘Fable’ is up there, but I think it would be ‘Mass Effect’. That game really hooked me. I hadn’t been hooked like that by a game for a long time until ‘Witcher 3’ came out. [Although] I haven’t downloaded the expansions for ‘Witcher 3’ yet. I’ll get around to it, but I remember having to get all the ‘Mass Effect’ games. They were so cool. With that said, the only game I waited in line for was ‘No Mercy’. There was a video game store new my house and they had a big release for ‘No Mercy’.
SF: Do you have any gear inspired by your favorite video games?
JL: Unfortunately no I don’t. If I had to pick a game to make gear of, I’m a big fan of ‘Assassin’s Creed’. There’s a lot of cool outfits in ‘Mortal Kombat’ too.
From there, we talked about our mutual love of Raiden from ‘Mortal Kombat’, ‘Dragonball Z’, and the ‘WWF Smackdown’ video game series. Lethal also shared that he gravitates towards games where you can make choices that affect your character’s inclination for good or evil. However, business really picked up when a challenge was thrown down for ‘Daytona USA’. And in the main event of the afternoon (which adhered to the Code of Honor, the act of shaking hands before and after a match in Ring of Honor intended to promote sportsmanship, respect and honor), ScienceFiction.com Head Writer Ben Silverio defeated ROH World Heavyweight Champion Jay Lethal. Some might even say that Ben deserves a title match after The Bullet Club’s Adam Cole gets his shot at Death Before Dishonor XIV, but we’ll see how that goes. Until then, head to ROHwrestling.com to get more information about this weekend’s ROH events and stay tuned right here for the second half of our coverage featuring the Motor City Machine Guns coming soon.
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Photo Credit: Jorge Pina Jr. of 1981 Black Box Photography & Carlin Rieger