TECMO WORLD WRESTLING / Tecmo / NES
Tecmo World Wrestling is a cut above most 8-bit wrestling games with better-looking sprites, music by the Ninja Gaiden/Tecmo Super Bowl composer, faster and smoother gameplay, and even a ring announcer. However, being the best of the 8-bit wrestling games is a REALLY low bar to hurdle, so the game still isn't all that great overall.
You can select from ten wrestlers, and each are fictional but loosely based on some puro wrassurer from either Japan or America. Each also has a signature finisher that can only be executed when the opponent's health is almost gone. Single-player offers a championship mode somewhat akin to Pro Wrestling, but much more forgiving. You simply take on each of the other wrestlers, then a boss character for the title. Losing doesn't really set you back anything, though, other than a loss on your record. After each match, you can mash the B button in the training room to gain power levels, somewhat similar to Ring King. You keep the power you've gained whether you win or lose, unless you've maxed the power meter out, then a loss will take away one ranking and you'll have to mash it back again at next opportunity.
Unfortunately, this power and no-perma-death system means they basically worked grinding into the game. The first guy you fight does way more damage than you, so you'll probably have to lose to him 2 or 3 times to grind up enough Powar to overcome him, then you'll hit periodic walls like this through the rest of your run where you have to face a guy multiple times just to grind power.
The gameplay style also renders strikes almost completely useless. Strikes only do miniscule damage, and a grapple is initiated automatically whenever characters touch and seems to be won by the person who initiates it as long as they execute a move immediately. So using strikes just leads to the opponent walking right through them taking negligible chip damage then slamming the shit out of you. Though you can go up on turnbuckles, outside the ring and bounce off ropes, matches basically degenerate into each guy trying to slide up on each other from above or below and initiate the grapple.
I guess the announcer is a neat idea and worthy of mention, though only spectators can really appreciate it. The announcer responds to moves quickly and has a constant stream of things to say, but since the action is so fast you don't really have a chance to watch him as you're playing. Too bad as the translation was typical "find a staffer who took English in high school once and give him a Japanese-English dictionary" procedure of the time and he busts out with some hilarious Engrish here and there.
Tecmo World Wrestling executes a lot better than most titles of the time, but it's still too reliant on an irritatingly random grapple system and repetitive matches against the same overpowered dude over and over in the single-player mode. If you were somehow forced onto a desert island with only one 8-bit console wrestling game to play, however, I'd probably take this one.
* Gameplay Video