THE MAIN EVENT / Konami / Arcade
Konami finally got into the ring with this 1988 entry, but unfortunately it isn't really a significant improvement over the clunky rasslin' games of the mid-80s other than having nicer animation and tag partners that can run in and interfere.
It's the usual roster of thinly veiled versions of real wrestlers they couldn't afford to license. The twist here is that it's mandatory tag team action and you get to pick your own team, then face random combinations of the other characters. One strange twist on this twist is that if you lose, the game shows a victory screen for the other team ... but then you go right back into the match with the same energy level you had at the end of the last match, and this continues until one of your characters gets pinned with zero energy.
The game goes with four-player action, but scrunches all those sticks into the cabinet with just one attack button for each player. I actually kinda like that strikes come out on the slow side and have to be deployed strategically, but grappling is as arbitrary and annoying as it is in any of these old rassu games, and in this one the computer is up your ass like white on rice right from the first bell giving you little chance to get used to the nuances of the gameplay.
I was surprised to read that WWF actually finally took legal action against one of these games for the ripped-off rosters and that it was widely taken out of circulation and it's now tough to find a working cabinet. I visited a lot of arcades in the northeastern states in the late 80s and early 90s and it seemed like the overly loud "The MAIN EVENT! Ding ding!" was present in most of them. It's apparently available on the Xbox 360 through Game Room now, though.
The good news about this one is, the engine eventually got refined into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and then The Simpsons. At this point, though, it was pretty unbearable to play.
* Gameplay Video