Retro Video Game of the moment: The Main Event (1988)

With WrestleMania upon us, it only seemed right to take on a pro wrestling theme with the latest post in this series. I’ve played a ton of wrestling games, both in the arcades and on consoles, but none more memorable than The Main Event!

Released in 1988 by well known video game publisher Konami (makers of Castlevania, Metal Gear, Contra and Dance Dance Revolution, among several other titles), The Main Event was known in Japan as Ringu no Ouja (translation: “King of the Ring”). It was a one-to-four-player arcade game where players selected from a roster of wrestlers to compete in a two-on-two tag team match. What made the game interesting, other than it being a pro wrestling match of course, were the wrestlers you could choose from. Incidentally, this is what got this game in trouble as well…

The Main Event‘s wrestlers were split into weight classes: Cruiserweights were fast agile high flyers, Heavyweights were the big heavy powerful bruisers and Balanced wrestlers could use some moves from each of the other two classes.

The roster was one that was quite varied, but also verrrrry familiar if you looked at it carefully:

The Main Event character select screen. Image via

In order of appearance above, you could choose from:

  • El Condor – a masked cruiserweight high-flyer who very much resembled Mexican superstar and 2012 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Mil Mascaras
  • Conan The Great – a balanced wrestler who was the spitting image of Hulk Hogan, only with white hair and mustache and white ring attire!
  • The Maui Mauler – a cruiserweight who was similar to wrestler Haku
  • Kamikaze Ken – another cruiserweight who was very much Ricky Steamboat!
  • San Antonio Smasher – a cruiserweight who looked like Koko B. Ware.
  • Saturn Six – a heavyweight with facepaint and spiked ring attire, a look taken from the tag team Demolition, who adopted it from the NWA’s Road Warriors before them.
  • Bigfoot Joe – a heavyweight who was King Kong Bundy with orange hair
  • Alan The Empire – a heavyweight who was a red-haired, red-bearded Andre the Giant!

As you might imagine, this did not go over well with the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) at the time. Once copyright infringement allegations came out that year, the game was all but removed from circulation. The WWF was not only infringed based on the looks of the wrestlers, but they also at the time had ownership of the rights to use the phrase “The Main Event”.

Gameplay was pretty simple. Each player had a joystick and two buttons… a “Tag” button to tag your partner in or out of the match and an “Action” button which flashed whenever you could perform an attack, grapple, submission or pin attempt. That there was one single “Action” button for everything made the game quite a challenge, as you had to be in the right place at the right time to get certain moves out.

Wrestling moves were pretty standard, you had your punches and kicks, chops and headbutts. There were simple grapple moves like headlocks and body slams, and more complex wrestling maneuvers like the dropkick, atomic drop, brainbuster or backbreaker. You could do aerial moves off the top rope like a flying elbow or knee drop or a body press and each wrestler had a signature move specific to them, like the camel clutch, boston crab or the figure four leglock. There were also steel chairs, biting and choking and lots of running commentary by an extremely excited announcer who called the action.

The Main Event's arcade control panel
Pay close attention to that Action button!

What made the game most memorable to pre-teen Classick was how heated the gameplay got among us kids, particularly during four player action. One use of the Action button was if your wrestler was pinned, you could break out of the pin before the three-count by rapidly and repeatedly pressing the action button. Given how big the button was, it was really easy to just tap it with your finger over and over, but one time one of our friends tried to use his hands to repeatedly knife-edge chop the Action button….

well, I’ll let my best friend Steve tell the rest:

They had that 4 [player] hand masher over past Richie’s. Shoot we slammed them buttons so hard we should’ve ended up with wine or diamonds other than callouses. I forget who was the one who pissed off the Puerto [Ricans] by breaking the button that time. Was it [name redacted]? nah…lol! and I do remember e’vyyone wanted to be the ‘Hulk Hogan’ archetype.

Yup, not only did this kid smash the Action button, thus ruining the game and angering a group of random Puerto Ricans, but he also cut his hand on the now shattered plastic casing of the Action button! Blood everywhere!! I don’t have photos, so don’t ask, just imagine the side of someone’s hand lacerated and pouring crimson red fluid all over an arcade game console!!!

And that is why I’ll never forget “The Main Event“. It was the first and only arcade game to make someone bleed!

Conan The Great with a big boot to The Maui Mauler. Image via

Links for more info

Wikipedia entry (

Games dbase (

Arcade Museum (

You too can be a champion, if you've got what it takes! image via




Classick Material is a big fan of 80s arcade games. He once spent a solid three hours playing Star Wars Trilogy pinball because of a large supply of quarters and nothing else to do. When he’s not showcasing the internet’s endless supply of geek hoodies, he co-hosts the Cold Slither Podcast show.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. wrestlefest,wwf no mercy, wcw vs nwo revenge just to name a few…

    1. All great games, but none of them made someone bleed, which honestly was the most shocking thing I ever saw happen in the arcades. Other than the one time a loose pit bull came running in interrupting a sick Ninja Gaiden run, but that’s another story, another time.

      1. The Mad Kiwi says:

        Played the hell out of this back in the day with my bro at Wizards arcade in Christchurch, NZ. Especially fun when we had the arcade booked out for a sports club event and loaded up with never-ending maximum energy. We would intentionally all wait out the 10s ring out count and have a huge 4p free for all until we’d had enough. Good times.

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