Sequential Ads – Wrasslin’ (1991)

Sequential Ads

Wrasslin’ (1991)
“I beat the @!#! out of Dad last night!”
The Avalon Hill Game Company – Baltimore, MD
Yanked from: Justice Society of America #1 (April, 1991)

Welcome back to another installment of Sequential Ads, where today we’re going to talk a little bit about a subject near and dear to my heart… professional wrasslin’… er, I mean, wrestling. Before we get into discussing the riveting story of today’s feature, let’s take a look at the game it’s attempting to promote!

Wrasslin’ was published by Avalon Hill Games in 1990, and was designed by Bruce Harper and Tyler Jackson. It’s interesting to consider that an attempt would be made at making a Pro-Wres flavored pen and paper RPG… but, ya know — I suppose it’s not totally outside the realm of probability.

Folks who know me, or have read my work over the years will know that I have a great deal of envy for table-top RPGers, as that meant a) you had friends to play ’em with, and b) you had the ability to sit still long enough to actually get through a round or two. During my childhood and adolescence, I tried getting into things like (A)D&D… or Shadowrun, or Heroes Unlimited — but, I’d get far too distracted… plus, it wasn’t all that fun to play alone, or with a single friend. Hell, I tried getting into the Marvel Overpower card game (Magic: The Gathering was a bit too complex for me, and this was years before Pokemon would become a CCG staple).

So yeah, I always wanted to get into the tabletop pen ‘n paper rpg “culture”.

Enough about my blibbuh-blabbuh – let’s talk about the game. I had to do a fair amount of research on various boardgame and rpg sites to assemble this information and give myself a bit of an education. Let’s start by looking at a less comic-booky ad for the game:

Before we get into it – I just wanna say, I love that the designers/publishers actually made the effort in putting together a “Sequential Ad” format to promote their game in comic books. They certainly didn’t need to — but, they did! Hats off for that!

So, what do we see in this ad? A few things actually… looks like we have pre-made player/character sheets (the copy states that there are 24 in total), which might be an indication that there isn’t much in the way of character creation/customization involved. We see some “Action” cards, including “Moves”, “Voids”, and actions dependent on abilities such as Strength, Agility, Skill, Weight, and Recovery.

The play is described as “quick” and “hilarious”, perhaps a nod to this game being something of a satire? This came out in 1990, which was right around the cusp of a downward trend in the Professional Wrestling landscape in North America. The era of Hulkamania was still sorta-kinda “Running Wild”, but the seams (and fatigue) were definitely starting to show. I like that this is advertised as being a faster-paced and overall quicker sort of endeavor than I’d usually associate with an RPG session. Games (or hands, I suppose) can play out in under ten minutes.

I’d love to go through the entire roster of Wrasslin’ Superstars… as some of ’em are kinda of the FirePro ilk, in that they’re just barely outside the edges of infringement. Take a look at the… err, “Hurt Foundation”:

Howsabout Jake the Fake and Butcher Brother Booty Bruti?

And, who could forget the Hundred Dollar Man?

The roster is broken up with twelve Babyfaces and twelve Heels. Let’s look at the good guys first (you can check out Board Game Geek for all of the character portraits if you’re interested):

The Whammer: Looks like a mix between your generic 1980’s Pro-Wres Russian Heel and George “The Animal” Steele.

The Serpent: Totally not a clean-shaven Jake “The Snake” Roberts.

Hot Cocoa: You’d figure this fella’d be the result of some old-fashioned casual racism (or an allusion to Koko B. Ware)… but, he actually appears to be a Caucasian. He’s got a singlet with what looks to be the old Hawkman logo on his chest. His boot’s got tassels, and he’s sporting quite the soup-strainer. I’ve been digging through newsgroups and review sites trying to see if any of the experts had an opinion on who he might be a reference to… but, am coming up empty! Hell, maybe that Hawkman logo is a reference to the ol’ Birdman?

Brent “The Enforcer” Hurt: Well, duh.

Jamie “The Blacksmith” Kneeshurt: Double-duh.

The Champ: As seen on much of the promotional copy for the game. I’d say he’s almost got to be a reference to Hulk Hogan. Though, if that IS the case… why wouldn’t they have made more of an effort on the resemblance? They don’t look anything alike… other than the fact that Hogan was more or less synonymous with the word “Champ” for much of the decade prior.

The Kimono Lizard: Well, here’s that casual racism! This is most likely a reference to Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.

Ka-Pow: Folks online seem to attribute this one to the Junkyard Dog (and he does look like a Caucasian version of JYD)… however, the nephew of the artist for these cards surfaced on a forum some 14 years back to offer up a correction. Ka-Pow is a “generic jobber” in the vein of a Barry Horowitz. I don’t think there’s much to doubt here, I mean – who’d take the time and effort to lie about having an uncle who drew these cards? What’s to gain, right?

Mr. Brutal, the Mad Hairdresser: This one’s easy…

Flying Phil: Looks kind of like Stan Hansen in the artwork, but the nephew from a couple of entries ago suggests that this is actually a reference to “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. I guess I can see it… if I squint. Though, a high-flying Stan Hansen would be pretty comical to see.

Samson: Looks a lot like how we picture the Biblical Samson… or perhaps a mashup of Samson and Hercules. I dunno. My immediate take is that he’s a Kerry Von Erich stand-in, just from how he’s rendered here. But, the experts are leaning more towards Hercules Hernandez. Good enough for me!

Big Ben: Almost certainly the Ultimate Warrior. He’s got the (non-infringing) facepaint and everything.

Now onto the heels!

Big Daddy Warbucks: Definitely Ted DiBiase.

Mr. Umpire: A scuzzy-looking umpire. Totally not outside the realm of possibilities for 1980’s WWF gimmicks! Folks online assume that he’s a Big Boss Man stand-in due to his moveset… which makes sense.

Tyler “Heartthrob” Johnson: In the art, he’s performing a frog splash… which makes me think this might be a deep(ish) cut to Eddy Guerrero’s old tag team parter, Art “Love Machine” Barr. The internet seems to think this is “Ravishing” Rick Rude… which might make more sense from a notability standpoint… but, I still think it’s Barr.

Ali “The Rabbit” Mohamed: I haven’t the foggiest idea who this is supposed to be. I mean, the obvious guess would be Mohammed Ali… which, I suppose might just be representative of having a boxer taking part in wrestling bouts? A “rabbit” is an illegal punch to the back of the head in boxing… not that Ali was notable for doing that or anything… but, still worth a mention? Maybe?

Baby Face Harpo: Dude’s huge… gonna assume he’s a nod to Andre the Giant.

The Grandmaster: a slimy looking dude with checkerboard trunks. The dude who’s uncle totally drew these cards says that, from his recollection – the Grandmaster was a generic filler character.

The Judge: Bears an odd resemblance to latter year Shawn Michaels. The internet believes that he’s the stand in for “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. Works for me!

Jimbo the Elephant Man: He’s the spitting image of King Kong Bundy.

The Block Buster: Looks like a leaner Iron Sheik… or buffer Gary Hart? The internet blew my mind by suggesting that this is actually Bad News Brown… which, I now can’t un-see.

Manly Mike Adams: Looks a whole lot like the “Macho Man” Randy Savage LJN (in)action figure… going to assume this is him.

The Garbage Man: I’d have never guessed this… but, this one’s a stand-in for Killer Khan

Tricky Dicky: His art features him running on all fours… and he doesn’t actually resemble anybody. The internet seems to think it’s Rick “The Model” Martel. I was kind of hoping it was a reference to Ric Flair, as there’s no other NWA/WCW representation here.

So, there’s our roster… how do we play?

I… haven’t the foggiest! Looks kind of like your basic Collectible Card Game set-up. You have your character, and you have your deck. You attempt to perform moves, and your opponent(s) attempt to counter. This continues until one of the competitors is knocked out. Perhaps I’m oversimplifying it… maybe there’s an incredibly deep and rich type of strategy involved in Wrasslin’? I do know that someone put together a downloadable computer game version of it (which I did not download… and will not link to because, who the hell knows what you might actually wind up with on your system?). From the screenshots I did see, it doesn’t look terribly different from the two or three times I actually tried playing Overpower… so, if you played (and liked?) that… you may also enjoy this?

Anyway… with that bit of “education” out of the way, howsabout we finally take a look at that night we all kicked the stuffin’ outta dad? Here it is again, so’s ya don’t have to scroll up to the top:

Our tale of domestic violence opens with big bro telling his terrified younger bro about how he just beat the ever-loving crap out of their father. I mean, just look at little bro’s face? He looks shocked. After all, dad was their only source of income… what will they do now? Will they lose the house? Will mom have to get a job? Are they going to have to stop playing RPGs and get jobs themselves? This is a pretty big deal.

Big bro elaborates… he slammed dad… broke his back… made him humble… and then dropped him on his head! He says he piledrove him… but the art shows him performing a DDT. Hmm… with a miscall like that, maybe this is the first canon appearance of Michael Cole?

It’s worth noting here that there’s no consistency in the art here. In our very next panel, “little bro” looks to be around nine-feet tall, while “big bro” looks like he might he about five-years old. The furniture also appears to be floating in the background… so, perhaps this entire scene is playing out at the international space station? Oh, and “little bro” was the victim of the DDT.

Little bro asks why Big Bro dropkicked his mom. Is that to say, that these two have different mothers? It’s pretty clear they have the same father, right? I mean, our opening line was “I beat the sh– out of dad!”, not “I beat the sh– out of my dad!” Hmm… the plot thickens.

Little Bro calls out Big Bro for his unsportsmanlike behavior… eye-gouging, hair-pulling… holding (his) mom down so he could thrust his crotch in her face. For real… they call it a “flying headscissors” of course… but, the long and short of it is — mom had a face-full of Big Bro’s crotch.

At this point, we get a shoe-drop moment — well, it’s only a shoe-drop moment due to the inconsistent writing… but, it’s here we learn that these two… might not actually be brothers! “Little Bro” is envious of “Big Bro”, because his parents never wanna play-wrestle. Uh, LB… that’s probably a good thing.

Next we know, the boys are playing a hand of Wrasslin’… after which, LB asserts that BB is “bad”. Not sure if he has the requisite badness to rescue the President from ninjas… but, he can sure engage in some light-hearted and fast-paced domestic battery! BB is all about bein’ “bad”… and says, if LB wants proof… all’s he’s gotta do is “ask dad”. Wait, so DO they have the same father?

Who knows… it’s not important. At least it isn’t until I start writing their continuing adventures via fan-fic. We find out here that dad’s not done… he’s “badly bent” but not broken. Sounds kinky. He’s actually out at the nearest Gift/Game/Hobby store buying his own copy of Wrasslin’ (for $15 USD). Because one copy isn’t near enough for one household.

And well… that’s my attempt at interjecting humor into a Sequential Ad that… probably doesn’t require my 2ยข! I hope you enjoyed (and/or learned something) all the same. I know I did!

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