2022 has been a successful year for wrestling games. 2K’s WWE 2K22 released to positive feedback and garnered strong sales, while THQ’s upcoming AEW Fight Forever has created much excitement for all wrestling fans. It’s a major contrast to two years ago when WWE 2K21 joined the list of cancelled wrestling games after the incredibly poor performance of 2K20. This was a big deal for the 20-year-old annual series. Of course, it’s not the only wrestling game that has been scrapped.
Over the past few decades, there have been numerous wrestling titles abandoned for a variety of reasons. Smaller developers, aiming to offer fans something different than the popular SmackDown vs Raw series, had ambitions that were just not able to come to fruition. Let’s take a look at what could’ve been by listing 10 cancelled wrestling games.
WWE Titans: Parts Unknown
Next Level Games, before partnering with Nintendo, had hopes of taking THQ’s wrestling franchise in a very different direction. WWE Titans: Part Unknown is an unreleased PS2 fighting game featuring exaggerated versions of wrestlers and a variety of cinematic stages. Rey Mysterio with a crucifix staff fighting a crazed Kurt Angle on top of a winter castle? It was planned. The developers seemed to have taken inspiration from Tekken, which is always a good choice.
There are no screenshots or footage of Parts Unknown, so gameplay details are very minimal. Concept art does exist which hints that environments were intended to be destructible. This would have been a huge inclusion for a PS2 title, especially considering Tekken waited until 2009’s sixth entry to introduce breakable stages. Super moves may have also been planned since characters would have had cartoonish appearances. THQ pulled the plug before development began, but the idea would be revisited later on with another cancelled wrestling game.
TNA Impact! 2
It took a while, but in 2008 TNA finally dipped into the virtual world with Midway Games’ TNA Impact! It garnered a mixed reception but there seemed to be potential for the future and it was visually superb. The game sold enough to get a sequel but it ultimately became another victim of cancelled wrestling games. Samoa Joe announced that it was in development and would include new and enhanced gameplay features. A build existed but it has never been seen to this day.
Unfortunately Midway struggled financially despite the success of TNA Impact! The company went through bankruptcy and was bought by Warner Bros in 2009, although the TNA license was not included. Eventually, SouthPeak Games acquired it but would only release TNA Impact! Cross the Line for handheld platforms. The original game’s sequel looks to be lost forever as an unreleased wrestling game. It’s unknown if Impact Wrestling will ever delve back into gaming.
WWF No Mercy (Game Boy Color)
The Nintendo 64 version of this title is considered by many to be the greatest game of all time in its genre. Some fans may not know that WWF No Mercy was also intended to be released for Game Boy Color. Unfortunately, its development history was troubled. It switched from AKI, the N64 team, to Natsume who worked on WWF WrestleMania 2000. After missing its holiday 2000 deadline with nothing revealed to the public, No Mercy had its place on the cancelled wrestling games list.
Both versions of the game were planned to utilise the N64’s Transfer Pak accessory. An unused GBC Championship Mode path, hidden in the code, reveals that players would be able to transfer their created wrestler from handheld to console upon completion. A Create A Wrestler mode would’ve actually been a new addition. While gameplay details don’t exist, it’s assumed that this version would have just been a reskin of Natsume’s previous entry. Perhaps its demise was for the best.
WCW Mayhem 2
Also known as WCW 2000, this sequel was set to be a big response to the failure of WCW Backstage Assault. EA even hired AKI as developers according to rumours. There’s more information on this title than other cancelled wrestling games here thanks to a cover feature in PlayStation Magazine. It was set to release on PS2 and utilise new technology that allowed for wrestlers to be facial scanned. Incredibly, this is something that wouldn’t be seen until 2014 with WWE 2K15.
Fingers can be pointed at Vince McMahon’s purchase of WCW for why this game got canned. WWE’s deal with THQ meant they had no interest in continuing anything with EA. Judging from the PSM article, WCW Mayhem 2 would have featured gameplay similar to Backstage Assault which is certainly interesting. EA would move onto developing Def Jam Vendetta with AKI which garnered impressive reviews upon its 2004 release.
Out of all the cancelled wrestling games on this list, WWE Brawl was easily the closest that came to release. From 2009 to 2012, THQ continued to embark on their big plan to expand the WWE videogame franchise. They were already in the process of combating their SmackDown vs Raw series with the arcade-style WWE All-Stars. This was intended to be a platform fighter featuring exciting multiplayer, exaggerated wrestling personas, destructible environments and even an original story. It could be seen as WWE Titans: Parts Unknown reborn.
There is plenty of gameplay footage, screenshots and concept art of Blue Tongue Entertainment’s project, showcasing the WWE superstars’ appearances and fighting styles. Triple H was a powerful monarch while The Miz was a Hollywood mogul, not dissimilar to Mortal Kombat‘s Johnny Cage. A great WWE.com article really shows how ambitious of a title this was. There were plans to expand the WWE Brawl name further, but suddenly the game was cancelled in 2012. Multiple reasons were given but it remains a bizarre and disappointing decision. Hopefully, this concept will eventually see the light of day.
In 2019, YouTuber Stephan Reese (aka Archon1981) uploaded a video of a NES wrestling game that had never been heard of. UWC was developed by Thinking Rabbit and intended to be released in the late 1980s. A review cartridge, which Reese obtained from a former Nintendo employee, was sent to Nintendo from publishers SETA but it’s unknown why they didn’t approve it. The game’s ROM has since been uploaded online for people to download for free.
The above footage shows that the gameplay is, expectedly, basic. What catches the eye though is the inclusion of WCW stars such as Ric Flair, Sting and The Road Warriors. Universal Wrestling Corporation is actually the name used by Ted Turner Broadcasting for the company before they quickly switched to World Championship Wrestling. This very well would’ve been the first ever WCW videogame. After 30 years, it’s nice to see UWC finally revealed to the public as a piece of history.
WWE SmackDown vs Raw Online
THQ sought to dip into the growing online market in the late 2000s with WWE SmackDown vs Raw Online, later renamed to WWE Online, for PC. Oddly, the game would’ve solely targeted the South Korean market upon its release. Numerous features from the main series were set to be included, such as most of the creation modes. A new 3D Paint Tool would have even allowed players to import image files for their creative pleasures.
A hub would have been present where players could connect with and challenge each other. Trading items, from wrestlers to clothing, would also have been an option. Of course, microtransactions were to be present to partner with a points system where superstars and abilities could be bought. In 2011, THQ added yet another title to their growing list of cancelled wrestling games as they re-evaluated their plans. To this day, this is a genre that struggles when it comes to online gameplay.
Before THQ and Yuke’s joined forces with WWE, they almost developed a WCW game together exclusively for PlayStation. This was originally titled WCW/nWo Revenge which ended up being AKI’s Nintendo 64 game. It was reported that development of WCW/nWo Live was based off NJPW’s Toukon Retsuden 3, with screenshots even surfacing as proof. Customisation would have been a major feature of this game and providing players with realism was also a primary goal.
During development, THQ decided to bring their relationship with WCW to an end. They were given a deadline of late 1998, but failed to meet it and instead condemned WCW/nWo Live to the cancelled wrestling games pile. The publisher, with Yuke’s in tow, would later sign with WWE and the rest is history. Funnily enough, WWF SmackDown uses the Toukon Retsuden 3 engine. This gives us a good idea of what this game could’ve been.
Super Mario Spikers
Making their second appearance is Next Level Games. After developing two Mario Strikers titles, they set their sights on making a volleyball and wrestling hybrid. Clearly, there were ambitions from WWE Titans: Part Unknown that they still wanted to see come to fruition. This game was worked on for the Wii during 2006 and 2007, but went completely unannounced before leaking in 2014. Luckily, concept art and test footage has been found. They show wrestling attires for Mario and a variety of planned stages. The latter would have each had their own environmental gimmicks.
Super Mario Spikers had Nintendo sweating when it came to its rather aggressive gameplay. The combat system included special moves in the form of wrestling maneuvers. Yes, there’s footage of Yoshi performing a piledriver. This, unfortunately, is a reason why the project failed to be green-lit by Nintendo as it clashed with their ideals. It’s understandable, yet a huge shame. Volleyball and wrestling is an interesting combination that potentially would have worked well. I just know Luigi can bust out a great 619.
This is an intriguing entry because it may not even officially be a cancelled wrestling game. WWF Backlash was thought to have been in the works as a sequel to the critically acclaimed WWF No Mercy. It’s been said that new features would have included the Hell in a Cell match, more multi-person matches and possibly a huge roster after WWF bought WCW and ECW. Apparently, it was 30% complete before being cancelled. The reason is that THQ wanted to start developing for the sixth generation of consoles.
People have claimed that a 2001 GamePro issue showed off a screenshot of WWF Backlash, where Undertaker and Kurt Angle were fighting on top of Hell in a Cell. This has never been seen, though. Another alleged screenshot has been debunked as an image from a No Mercy mod. It’s been pointed out that none of the game’s information has ever been verified. Two years ago, it was confirmed by a former THQ producer that the project never existed and that themselves and AKI were already going their separate ways. Whoever started this long rumour just wants another No Mercy style game. I can sympathise.
Which cancelled wrestling game do you wish saw the light of day? Let us know in the comments below!