By now, we’ve started season two of Tales from the Tower on Twitch. We’re playing World Wide Wrestling, a game about being a professional wrestler. We’ve had a blast getting together costumes and creating the back stories for this little world. I’ve personally spent a lot of time on YouTube watching old matches and promos for research. While it’s been a lot of fun, I’ve also learned some things.
Wrestling has some great villains.
For a genre that is generally lacking in subtlety, this is an area where it hits it in spades. A good wrestling villain is more than just a bad guy. They play on themes. They are the embodiment of an idea, not just a lone person. There is usually a dishonesty to them, something that is in contrast to the stiff upper lipped hero. A good villain doesn’t win by skill and strength alone. They win by any means necessary.
It seems the standard RPG trope when it come to villains is a big bad that is incredibly tough. Pile on the hit points and special abilities because when the party finally fights the them, you want that combat to be memorable. Wrestling shows us a different way, however. The villain doesn’t have to be better than the party, they just have to cheat more.
The wrestling villain wins when the ref turns their back. They win because of outside help. The bad guys don’t run head long into battle, often times running away from it instead. There is a great match between Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage (aside from some of the traditionally problematic wrestling elements when it comes to gender) that illustrates this. Macho Man spends a lot of the match running away form Hulk on the outside of the ring, pausing only to take cheap shots when he can. He throws other people in front of him. It’s full of dirty tricks designed to make the audience say “Hulk could totally take him in a fair fight!”
That is the point, though. It’s not fair. As long as the Heel is involved, it never will be.
Macho Man is a great bad guy in this fight, and its not because he is portrayed as invincible or tougher than his adversary. Just the opposite, really. He’s great because he’s conniving and he doesn’t fight fair.
During season one of The Isles of Samsarras, my major antagonist, Jegkir the Drow, held the PCs at bay for a long time simply by taking a hostage that was dear to them. If the party had met him in a fair confrontation, the desert sands would be wet with Drow blood. He knew that so he did what the PCs, being good characters, would not do.
The drama of wrestling is over the top. There is loud yelling, unbelievable characters, and simple overused tropes. It’s also a beautiful thing that works for a reason. I suggest you watch some. You might just learn something you can use in your games.