Fantasy wrestling is an umbrella term representing the genre of role-playing and statistics-based games which are set in the world of professional wrestling. Several variants of Fantasy Wrestling exist segregated by the way they are transmitted (through websites, message boards, e-mail, postal mail, or face-to-face), the method in which the storyline is determined, via roleplay, "angles", strategy- or statistics-based systems, etc.) and how the roster is composed (characters created by the players).
Fantasy wrestling's roots lie in the play-by-mail wrestling games often featured in professional wrestling magazines that became prominent in the mid-to-late 1980s during one of professional wrestling's boom periods. By the late 1980s, e-mail wrestling games had started to appear on the Internet. In the early 1990s, the advent of national bulletin board services like Prodigy, AOL, and Compuserve allowed players to use e-mail and bulletin boards to more easily trade information and post roleplays. As technology progressed and the internet evolved, fantasy wrestling enthusiasts took advantage, using websites and newsgroups to connect and build broader communities for gameplay.
History and progression
Early versions of the game began in the 1980s using play-by-mail formats. A player ("handler") often controlled his wrestler’s success by creating a move and then e-mailing it to an adjudicator. Based on the moves and any strategies applied the adjudicator would then decide the outcome. Play-by-mail leagues often included a 'pay to play' model where handlers paid a fee per match and/or 'strategy' applied.
Internet email play
In the late 1980s, e-wrestling got started on the Internet, played by email and often advertised via Usenet, including rec.games.pbm and rec.games.frp. The early games followed the model of a simplified role-playing game with "combat systems" of varying complexity, resolved by the Federation Head, or "Fedhead." The role-playing aspect was significant and the fast turn-around of email allowed for collaboration in the creation of "promos" and the formation of tag-teams and "stables" made up of multiple players. The term e-wrestling was coined about this time, probably by Ray Duffy, since there were enough federations active to require a collective noun.
Online bulletin boards
Fantasy wrestling underwent a paradigm shift in the early 1990s as the game moved from play-by-mail to nationwide message boards based on PRODIGY, AOL and Compuserve. Originally connected to message boards focused on professional and amateur wrestling, fantasy wrestling's popularity caused specific subforums to be created on PRODIGY's Wrestling BB and AOL's Grandstand. The change in available access and speed from mail to online boards created significant changes in the game. Roleplay became a significant part of the hobby. Instead of simply choosing moves, handlers could now voice their wrestlers through roleplay, creating "promos" against opponents. Many stat-based systems found ways to integrate roleplay as a factor into determining match winners. Eventually, roleplay became the primary factor for many leagues.
As fantasy wrestling moved from individual ISPs to the World Wide Web, beginning in 1994, roleplay became a larger factor in the operation of leagues and determining results, eclipsing the stat-based system.
The first websites featuring fantasy wrestling began to pop up as the World Wide Web started to develop. Early examples include "The Wild World of e-Wrestling," which was devoted to the Internet based games. and “FW Central,” a site devoted to the PRODIGY-based fantasy wrestling community based on PRODIGY. These sites offered new places for players to interact and expand the hobby, providing online news and resources.
As the web matured, so did sites devoted to the hobby. By 1998, sites like DTAW, FWLNet/IWO-Online, EMWC, NWC and FantasyWrestling.com (now FWrestling.com) had shifted users from AOL, PRODIGY and other services to the Web proper. The formerly text-based hobby began to integrate Poser images of created wrestlers, animated videos, audio shows and vlogs.
Fantasy wrestling continues to evolve. Traditionally, most roleplays (referred to as "promos") revolved around more traditional pro-wrestling topics, focused on trash talking an opponent and hyping an upcoming match. In recent years, roleplay has melded with creative writing, including more detailed stories and progression. One of the largest by far is EAWrestling.com, with diverse characters and many active members.
However, Roleplay is not the only form of fantasy wrestling currently available. There are also federations based around angles and booking, there are turn-based sites that allow you and an opponent to alternate between different parts of the match until a moderator decides who wins. Another niche is match-writing federations. Seen as one of the more challenging types, match-writing federations require you to write your match against your opponents and the winner's match is seen as canon.
Many have created social media accounts now to live out the lives of their characters in ways a normal roleplay could not show.
One perfect example of an e-fed is EAW, also known as Elite Answers Wrestling. It was first established in 2006, and it continues to grow in such an exponential and productive rate. Wrestlers such as Colt Cabana and John Cena went to promote the e-fed on their Twitter accounts, which led to a massive boom, having almost over 90 active roleplayers.
Websites continue to proliferate, and some feds have migrated to various social media platforms.
Pro wrestling companies in fantasy wrestling
In 2004, World Wrestling Entertainment began its own fantasy wrestling game focused on selecting WWE Superstars as part of a team and receiving points based on their involvement on the WWE television shows. WWE singled out "real wrestling" E-Feds who used the names and likenesses of WWE Superstars and began sending them cease-and-desist letters. WWE later disbanded its fantasy wrestling game.
Between 2005 and 2006, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling also operated their own fantasy wrestling game. The game operated from the promotion's message boards and was based on real wrestlers. The game never gained notoriety and was removed along with the message boards from the promotion's website in late 2006. In June 2011, TNA relaunched their fantasy wrestling game as a part of their Impact Wrestling campaign.
- "The Best and Worst of 1994 and Predictions for '95 (extract)". The Internet Magazine. 1994. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- There is a Usenet posting dating to Nov. 1990 advertising for a play by email wrestling league. http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.pbm/browse_thread/thread/858e739be2a9be36/7f8dd468379b5506?lnk=gst&q=wrestling#7f8dd468379b5506%7C retrieved 6 Feb. 2013
- "The Web Magazine" (print), October/November 1996, reviews, p. 68
- "Where Did FW Come From?(extract)". FWrestling.com. 1998. Retrieved 2009-12-09.