Rockstar Games was once set to develop a wrestling game based on ‘hardcore’ wrestling promotion ECW, it’s been revealed.
YouTube channel Hard4Games recently posted a video showcasing an early pre-alpha prototype of Acclaim’s 2000 game ECW Hardcore Revolution.
The video also included an interview with wrestler Tommy Dreamer, who was one of ECW’s top talents and also worked in a number of behind-the-scenes roles at the company.
ECW was at the peak of its popularity at the turn of the millennium, and Dreamer revealed that before doing a deal with Acclaim in 1999 to make an ECW game, it already had an agreement in place with Rockstar to make a game with it instead.
“It was an amazing time in the wrestling industry,” Dreamer recalled. “Video games were key for your success as a wrestling company, and we had a lot of companies bidding for that game. And I’m going to tell you an interesting fact that I have said, but I don’t know if a lot of people realise this.
“There was a fan, who worked for this company, and they were like ‘man, we want this ECW game to be our number two behind this other game, and it’s revolutionary, it’s a perfect fit for ECW.
“And they met [us], they all came to an ECW Arena show and this one guy was such a big fan, and all this stuff was supposed to happen. They [went], ‘we just need our one game to hit, and if that game hits you will be our next game’.
“And we couldn’t wait due to financial reasons, because Acclaim had lost its licence for WWE, so now they offered us money on the back end as opposed to the front end.
“But that other game, that if it hit we were going to take off – that game and that franchise was Grand Theft Auto. And you think about how ECW would have fit that whole genre, and that guy was Kevin Gill, who worked there, he was a big ECW fan.”
Kevin Gill – who was credited as part of Rockstar’s production team on such titles as Smuggler’s Run and Midnight Club: Street Racing – told a similar story earlier this year in a relatively unnoticed interview with Tru Heel Heat Wrestling.
“I actually put together a deal for Rockstar Games to do the ECW video game,” Gill said in the interview. “I had put together a deal with [ECW owner] Paul Heyman, we had a series of meetings, and one weekend I rented a van and brought the whole Rockstar Games team, like a 15-passenger van, and brought everyone down to the ECW Arena in Philly to see it in person.”
Although both Dreamer and Gill’s stories suggest that Rockstar was set to make an ECW game, they both give different reasons for the deal ultimately not going through. While Dreamer claims Rockstar was waiting to see if GTA would be a success, Gill claims it was unsure of ECW’s longevity.
“[ECW]’s financial situation was getting very shaky and at that time, this is 1998, could have been 1999, all the talent was leaving,” Gill recalls. “There were a lot of questions in the [wrestling press] about talent being owed money and those types of things.
“And video games take so many years to develop, and cost so much to develop. It was put to me like, ‘do you think ECW will be around in two and a half or three years when we put out this game?’.”
Gill claims that before a million-dollar deal was done with ECW he was asked by Take-Two founder Ryan Brandt: “If this was your million dollars right now, would you sign this check and send it to [ECW owner] Paul Heyman?”
“And I was like, it breaks my heart to say it, but I can’t,” Gill said.
He added: “The funny thing was, there was a bidding war to get the ECW game, and that stuff happened behind the scenes, so they put out a public call saying ‘we’re open to bidding’.
“We were the top suitor, we made the top offer and we had the signed deal back, but nobody knew publicly at that time. So for ECW, it sucks, they wanted to work with us, we wanted to work with them.”
ECW then signed up to a deal with Acclaim, which had just ended its licensing agreement with (what was then) the WWF. The resulting games, ECW Hardcore Revolution and ECW Anarchy Rulz, were heavily criticised for essentially being reskins of WWF Attitude.
ECW’s final show was in January 2001, after which it collapsed owing nearly $9 million. WWE would then buy ECW’s assets in 2003.