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10 past wrestling game features that would have helped AEW Fight Forever defeat mediocrity

AEW: Fight Forever can learn from the past and evolve a shaky debut into championship-worthy sequels.

AEW Fight Forever
Image: THQ Nordic

All Elite Wrestling hoped for a high-flying debut video game. The recent AEW: Fight Forever missed the target — largely due to the clunky gameplay generally expected of new fighting games and plenty of missing staples.

Some wrestlers require the help of savvy veterans to get better. Fortunately, there is no shortage of successful wrestling games from the past several decades.

Many of those have great features available for AEW to learn from to make their future games better.

Future iterations should include a free-roaming story mode.

AEW Fight Forever
Image: THQ Nordic

Smackdown: Shut Your Mouth allowed players to roam everywhere, from boiler rooms to bars, in search of new friends and foes. The sandbox style immerses gamers into a world that feels molded by fun choices.

AEW: Fight Forever’s point-and-click menu system, on the other hand, reeks of staleness. Storylines feel forced. This series could also learn from the recent fighting game Street Fighter 6 and its open-world "World Tour" mode.

Like other sports and wrestling games, they should have a GM Mode

Smackdown vs Raw
Image: 2K Games

All Elite Wrestling President Tony Khan writes major storylines and books, as well as many of the outcomes, while actively managing talent and being AEW’s public leader. His motivation remains simple: live out a boyhood fantasy of being the boss of body slammers.

The GM Mode of Smackdown! Vs. Raw 2006 turned that dream into a virtual reality for those who don’t have enough money to fill every wrestling ring in the world. Fans and critics hailed the mode’s return in WWE 2K22. AEW’s presentation caters to hardcore wrestling fans who’d love the opportunity to “run the show”.

Where are all the multiplayer tournaments?

WWF Attitude King of the Ring
Image: Acclaim Entertainment

Where fighting games go, tournaments should always follow.

AEW held numerous tournaments that played a large role in shaping the company’s early history. In fact, every competitor’s win/loss record factors into every championship contender ranking.

Within AEW: Fight Forever, a tournament mode doesn’t exist or even get mentioned within the storyline. This puzzling omission cheapens the video game’s authenticity to the real show.

Having bragging rights over buddies at parties too is a large part of the DNA of wrestling games.

As with free-roam, wrestling games should allow backstage fighting

Bubba Ray Dudly with a garbage can
Image: 2K Games

Most fans watch wrestling for the wackiness. WCW: Backstage Assault encouraged throwing everything including the kitchen sink at opponents. WWE’s Smackdown! vs. Raw series escalated chaos into attempted homicides.

The real AEW’s booking favors backstage attacks as a way to build tension between performers. Allowing fights to occur outside the ring doubles the fun for players. For those who’d rather strike the garbage man with the can, rather than peacefully roll it to the curb, there would be something for everyone.

AEW: Fight Forever could stand to add outside Legends

Classic WWF wrestling
Image: Acclaim Entertainment

The only legend in AEW: Fight Forever to never be a roster member is Owen Hart AEW holds an annual tournament in his honor.

WWE negotiates exclusive contracts to secure exclusive rights with many icons. However, there are countless legends that are able to appear anywhere.

Independent contractor status behooves AEW to bring some of these names into future games. For instance, the promotion built a strong connection with New Japan Pro Wrestling.

Furthermore, AEW embraces the gory style of wrestling that WWE shields its performers from. These factors position AEW to easily snag more past superstars for a much stronger, more-recognizable roster.

Doing so appeals to older fans that likely feel left out currently.

It's 2023. We should be able to customize the Submission system in a wrestling game.

Submission system
Image: THQ Nordic

WWE Day of Reckoning 2 unveiled an innovative submission system where players could choose four different options for a hold’s effect. Taunt submissions halted the sufferer’s momentum.

Rest holds recharged the applicant’s stamina. Draining submissions applied the opposite effect on the opponent. Regular submissions damaged opponents to set up the finishing blow.

The system mimicked the psychology of real-life matches. Nobody adopted this robust mechanic from the GameCube-exclusive cult classic. So, it is free for AEW’s taking, allowing many to enjoy it for the very first time.

Let special guest referees ruin matches!

Kevin Nash and Jeff Hardy
Image: THQ Nordic

Nothing tests a wrestling fan more than seeing your wrestler's known friend be the ref or a bout between two pals. The joy of help and pain, when a supposed friend issues a fast three-count on a pin against you, lasts for years.

Guest referees are so common in wrestling that it should just be part of any game based on it. AEW could make many new memories with this twist on standard matches.

AEW should have a Gauntlet Mode

Booker T
Image: THQ Nordic

You’d think a game titled AEW: Fight Forever would love the idea of wrestling endlessly. However, there are no marathon/gauntlet matches in this game.

Several entries of the Smackdown! series branded survival matches with infinite opponents as “Slobber Knocker Mode”. And, as you can assume, they were always a blast to play.

WWE Smackdown!: Here Comes the Pain marketed gauntlets as a main feature. Most critics and fans debate between that game and WWF No Mercy being the best wrestling game ever created. AEW should take notes.

A staple missing from AEW Fight Forever: Cage Matches

WWF Wrestlefest
Image: Technōs Japan

Every longtime wrestling fan feels the thrill of a cage match preventing the bad guy from getting out of a fair fight!

Cages started torturing virtual villains in 1991’s WWF WrestleFest. Wrestling’s steel standby has appeared in almost every major wrestling game ever since.

Perhaps due to tricky game coding, AEW: Fight Forever bucked tradition by not making the match type an option at all. AEW shouldn’t slam the steel door shut on a cage match mode next time.

Complete Entrance Animations

Wrestling entrances
Image: 2K Games

First impressions matter just as much in the virtual world as they do in real life. AEW: Fight Forever developer Yuke’s developed decent animations for partial entrances.

However, the abrupt cuts on the stage heighten the clunky, unfinished feel of this game. Fully fleshed entrances polish the presentation and shouldn’t be seen as “too extra” in 2023.

Final Thoughts

In fairness, AEW: Fight Forever leans its full weight into arcadey fun. Most problems owe themselves to this game being a debut.

But, with several decades of content to learn from, the game has a long way to go. Implementing successful features of the past would spice up future helpings of alternative wrestling action!

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