Santa Claus grapples in WCW Nitro

Inland Productions produced two WCW Wrestling video games for the PlayStation, and I have documented quite well how a single change can completely flip the gameplay of WCW/NWO Thunder. While WCW Nitro isn’t quite as feature rich as its sequel, the gameplay is a little more strait-laced. More importantly for December, though, WCW Nitro is the version that lets you unlock Santa Claus … er, Santa Claws.


When WCW Nitro hit the PlayStation back in 1998, people were probably expecting to get a specialized version of WCW/NWO: World Tour – the game that put the AKI style of wrestling titles on the map in the United States. People often like to forget the PlayStation did in fact have a simulation-style WCW Wrestling game – WCW Vs. The World – which was released when AKI was under the name of The Man Breeze.

WCW Vs. The World lacked the impact later AKI titles would have, but it still seemed to get some magazine attention when it released and both WCW Vs. The World and WCW Nitro would eventually reach Greatest Hits status and PlayStation reprints. Fun D.J. Tatsujin fact: WCW Vs. The World was the first video game I ever purchased with money earned from an employment paycheck.

What was actually delivered with WCW Nitro was a bit of an arcade derivative of the WCW Wrestling product. It was fast, it was simple, and it was chaotic. Maybe it wasn’t what I wanted when this game released, but, when we already had access to WCW Vs. The World and WCW/NWO: World Tour, it was a bite-sized game that filled in the time between new AKI entries.

I can appreciate WCW Nitro and WCW/NWO Thunder more these days, and what is impressive is the number of secrets Inland Productions tucked into the games. By beating the main game mode with a default wrestler – which were the major star power draws of the time for WCW – you would then unlock access to wrestlers typically seen lower on an event card (schedule). You were incentivized to replay the game with a variety of wrestlers, and it got to a point where you would start unlocking all of these crazy characters.

It started with WCW likenesses that included commentators and interviewers and referees, and WCW Nitro even has a “Hulkster” unlock that presents Hulk Hogan in his trademark red and yellow colors as opposed to his “Hollywood” presentation at the time the NWO faction was at its peak. You could also unlock representations of some of the developers of the game and then it went into the territory of unlocking a T-Rex, a bear, a bumble bee and a living anime character (Annie Mae).

This full cast includes Santa, going under the gimmick of “Santa Claws.” He seems to have the special move set of Diamond Dallas Page, taking the Diamond Cutter as his finishing maneuver.

For Christmas two years ago, we took a look at Robert Garcia in The Art of Fighting 3. The Art of Fighting 3 has a feature that gives a character extra attack power when the Neo-Geo MVS’s calendar matched the birthday of that character. Robert Garcia happens to have a Dec. 25 birthday, so I featured Robert in a video that shows how much damage his simple juggle combo does under these conditions.

This year’s feature includes a reel that shows off a number of moves Santa Claws can perform in WCW Nitro for PlayStation:

Furthermore, I also have a featured playthrough of the game on the hard difficulty. When you play the tournament mode as a secret character in WCW Nitro, you are only able to face three opponents, but I think that is enough to get the gist of how the game plays out against a difficult CPU.

The AI gets quite aggressive on the hard difficulty, but Santa has a signature move that transitions from the pile driver (triangle circle for pile driver, but then a second circle transitions this into the signature slam). This allows him to get a quick grapple and then turn into a move that does decent damage.

Trying to do moves that require more inputs usually backfires against the hard difficulty CPU, it very easily breaks the 10-count punches in the corner, and it is more likely to kick out of pins at little to no health remaining. I wouldn’t say beating this difficulty is super tough, but it doesn’t let you toy around with a variety of moves.

There’s RNG involved too, such as hoping there are no run-ins that put you in a 2-vs-1 situation, and you’ll see I got the turbo speed stage for the final match.

WCW Nitro doesn’t have the test of strength move featured in WCW/NWO Thunder, but it does have one trick players can try to use against the CPU. There is a universal command to mount an opponent who has been whipped into the turnbuckle (back, circle), and this delivers a series of 10 punches (forward, square, square to start the mount, and then square repeatedly to continue the series of punches).

Against most of the easy and normal difficulty CPU wrestlers, the opponent doesn’t seem to break these punches. So, if you can get a consistent rhythm going, you can stop the series of punches at eight or nine and then go back to the mount repeatedly. On the hard difficulty, the CPU breaks your punches up at two or so. If you are fast enough, you can still activate the remount, but it becomes a more cumbersome process.

In the end, WCW Nitro was always a far better two-player game. Its fast and chaotic gameplay makes for really intense two-player matchups, and we would play this one quite often over a short time frame when it released in 1998. The game is very, very generous in letting you kick out of a pin when you have virtually no energy left, and this would create tests of endurance in our two-player feuds.

Again, maybe it wasn’t what we wanted it to be at the time it released. Still, for a variety of reasons, I’m glad we ended up getting WCW Nitro and WCW/NWO Thunder on the PlayStation.

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Categories: GemuBaka Feature, GemuBaka Random


Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka ( For business only: gemubaka at gmail


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