Friday(ish) Q&A: N64 Wrestling Games; Pac-12 Media Days Storylines

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With the bustle of Pac-12 media days, Friday Q&A took a backseat. And yet, we persist! This is the best week of questions since Q&A’s inception, so a hearty thank you is owed to you fine readers of The Open Man.

Keep them coming, and hopefully my As live up to the standard of your Qs.

6. WCW Mayhem

EA got in on the wrestling bonanza in 1999 with its first title, WCW Mayhem. Then dominating the sports console space, EA seemed a perfect fit to produce an excellent wrestling title.

Well, it’s 1999 WCW we’re talking, so you already know how this story goes.

5. All of the Acclaim-produced games

Before shuttering in 2004, Acclaim Entertainment was noteworthy for two things:
1. Producing the home ports of Midway arcade hits like NBA Jam and Mortal Kombat

2. Pumping out a ton of wrestling video games during the height of wrestling’s popularity.

I played WWF War Zone and WWF Attitude for the PSX repeatedly in 1998 and 1999; mostly because War Zone was the first really solid wrestling simulation. Attitude added more characters and a fairly in-depth Create-A-Wrestler function.

Both were better adapted for PSX than for N64, however.

ECW took over the Acclaim license after the WWF moved to Jakks Pacific, and there were two titles released almost indiscernible from their predecessors.

4. WWF WrestleMania 2000

Jakks Pacific released two outstanding titles for WCW that were absolute game-changers. So, when the WWF brokered a deal with the game producer at the height of Attitude Era popularity, it was a game-changer-for-a-game-changer.

It took a second title for the partnership to truly reach its potential. WrestleMania 2000 is a great game, no question, but feels relatively bare bones when compared to predecessor WCW/NWO Revenge and successor WWF No Mercy.

3. WCW/NWO World Tour

The one that effectively launched the wrestling video game sim genre, WCW/NWO World Tour holds a special place in my heart. I low-key love the fictional characters that were thinly veiled versions of international and independent talent of the era like Blackheart (Tarzan Goto), Hannibal (Hayabusa) and Powder Keg (Terry Gordy).

Future releases from Jakks Pacific perfected what WCW/NWO World Tour first introduced, but those were mere refinements from what was already a classic game.

2. WCW/NWO Revenge

WCW/NWO Revenge is close to perfection: Fun, easy to play and loaded with characters. Just about the entire 1998 WCW roster is represented — and given how bloated WCW’s rosters were from the launch of the NWO until the company’s demise, that’s saying something.

1. WWF No Mercy

I’m on record declaring this as one of my three favorite N64 games. Frankly, No Mercy ranks among my absolute favorite videos games on any console, from any generation, and is my A-1 among wrestling titles.

Everything about No Mercy is perfect. The gameplay and controls are simple without ruining the degree of difficulty; the game modes are abundant and all worth playing; the roster is ridiculously deep; and the Create-A-Wrestler function is the best ever produced.

Allow me to preface my response with two notes: First, I’m much less enamored with Mike Leach soundbites than most. The questions that lead him into tangents oftentimes strike me as forced, and Leach is happy to oblige because he doesn’t want to discuss football with the media.

Second, the best quotes often come from either breakout session or when the podium sessions thin out. Such was the case for my two favorite quotes from this year’s event.

Stanford’s Harrison Phillips, when asked why he enjoyed football, joked: “People get arrested for the things I do on the field.”

The second quote came from Arizona State’s Jojo Wicker when I asked him to describe Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham in one sentence. You can hear his reply on a Patreon-exclusive. Yes, I’m plugging in a Q&A, but Wicker’s quote is very much worth it.

When it comes to under-the-radar storylines, those are always my personal favorite. The buzz for Stanford was remarkably restrained compared to last July — more comparable to 2015. The Cardinal flourish when overlooked, and David Shaw seemed to exude a kind of quiet confidence in this team. Washington may have a more difficult road to repeat than expected.

This year’s G1 Climax is the first I have followed live from the start. I hesitate to describe it as life-changing, but…

To say the G1 has exceeded my expectations would be a vast understatement. This has been the most fun I have had following wrestling since pre-Invasion WWF in 2001 — and even that period of my wrestling fandom failed to produce the consistent stream of quality coming out of this G1.

Every show is guaranteed to produce at least one 4-star match. Some nights have led to multiple bouts I would score 4.5 stars or better. Paring this field down to my favorites is no easy feat, but I feel relatively confident this Top 10 accurately reflects my sentiment:

1. Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega

2. Kota Ibushi vs. Zack Sabre Jr.

3. Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin

4. Tetsuya Naito vs. Kota Ibushi

5. Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii

6. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Yuji Nagata

7. Kota Ibushi vs. Tomohiro Ishii

8. EVIL vs. Juice Robinson

9. SANADA vs. EVIL

10. Tetsuya Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI

Some context on my overall thoughts: Though I only have the one Zack Sabre Jr. match ranked, he’s looked like an absolute star beginning from the jump. His Night 1 win over Tanahashi absolutely considers Top 10 billing.

Minoru Suzuki is omitted, though his bouts with Juice Robinson, SANADA and especially Kenny Omega have all been tremendous showcases for his hateable tactics.

Yuji Nagata apparently bathed in the Fountain of Youth before embarking on his final G1. The YOSHI-HASHI and Tanahashi matches were my two favorite singles Nagata matches in…jeez, maybe a decade?

San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny is the rare breakout candidate to have already performed at an elite level. I mean, really: In what context can a running back coming off a season of 1,018 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns and a staggering 7.5-yard per carry average be considered a potential breakout?

Well, Penny fits that context. Sharing carries with the NCAA’s all-time career leader in rushing yards will do that.

Now that he has the spotlight all to himself at San Diego State, I expect Penny’s positioned to join Marshall Faulk, Ronnie Hillman and Donnel Pumphrey in the suddenly impressive pantheon of Aztec running backs.

While the immediate question with him no longer supplementing an All-America caliber performer like Pumphrey asks if he can produce at a clip even approaching his 2016 standard, the answer is that Penny doesn’t necessarily need to in order to be a star.

Penny’s a consummate every-down back, both in size at 5-foot-11/220 pounds, and in rushing style. He may not chip off nearly 8 yards per carry, but he’ll see a dramatic uptick from his 136-carry workload. I’m setting the benchmark at 2,000 yards for the season.

Absolutely. The defending Big Ten West champs return eight starters on offense and seven from a tremendous defense. With 15 total starters back in the fold, only Iowa is more experienced among the Badgers’ divisional brethren.

While I’m high on Iowa — perhaps higher than the vast majority of college football punditry — I give Wisconsin the leg up with that matchup falling in Camp Randall.

In fact, each of Wisconsin’s most high-profile conference games are at home, and in back-to-back weeks: Iowa rolls in on Nov. 11, followed by Michigan Nov. 18. Meanwhile, Michigan’s the sole Big Ten East heavyweight on the regular-season slate — and the Wolverines are universally regarded as third among their division.

A perfect regular season isn’t unrealistic. Neither is catching Ohio State or Penn State, if it’s one of those two winning the East, in a championship game.

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Friday Q&A at The Open Man accepts questions via Twitter direct message or email (kyle@theopenman.com), anonymous or otherwise. This week’s stellar sessions wraps with an anonymous entry:

Who would you cast in the Netflix depiction of the Trump White House?

A dramatized version of any actual presidential administration is difficult to pull off, hence the most celebrated depictions — Veep in the comedy world, and West Wing for a more serious approach — being fictionalized.

Compare the acclaim of those programs to the less-than-stellar responses to That’s My Bush! and W.

The degree of difficulty jumps considerably when your source material is engaged in antics that transcend parody or sensationalizing on the daily. Seriously, the thought of a President turning a Boys Scout Jamboree into a vitriolic campaign speech would seem too absurd for fiction — and it’s one of the less ridiculous moments of the administration’s past week.

The best approach for a TV or film depiction is pure surrealism. Crank the parody to a level reality cannot possibly reach. For example, Tim Heidecker as Donald Jr. sells alien technology from Area 51 to separatists from Azerbaijan and uses the money to advertise a rancid cologne fragrance on the outfield wall at Yankee Stadium.

Brian Cox’s Steve Bannon gets into a bourbon-fueled fist fight he badly loses to Mike Tyson (played by Iron Mike, of course). Joseph Gordon-Leavitt as Jared Kushner finds himself stranded in the mountains of Afghanistan with only the contents of his Louis Vuitton suitcase.

Communication director Anthony Scaramucci, portrayed by Andrew Dice Clay, debuts midseason and immediately adds a new level of energy and insanity.

As for the President…I wouldn’t cast the role. There are no shortage of capable impersonators, and many are in love with Alec Baldwin’s portrayal. I’m not a fan, personally, but that’s not the sole motivation of eschewing the role.

I always got a kick out of Doonesbury’s use of macguffins to depict public figures. A story depicted either from a first-person perspective, or with an inanimate representation of a key character, only adds to the surrealism of my vision.