Have you ever watched a wrestling promotion and thought you could do better? Or have you ever wished you were athletic enough to compete in a match or even win a world championship? Many dreamers out there wish they could be successful in the professional wrestling industry, but for most, it ends up being only a pipedream. Enter: Fantasy Wrestling!
You can create a wrestler through fantasy wrestling or choose from existing wrestlers to see just how good you can do. People can play the role of a Vince McMahon or Tony Khan, deciding wins and losses, and it’s a great way to live a dream without having to bump between the ropes!
History of Fantasy Wrestling
One might assume that the earliest form of fantasy wrestling got its start with wrestling figures in various bedrooms worldwide. Fantasy wrestling truly began in the mid-to-late ’80s through a play-by-mail format before the Internet changed how we communicated.
“Fantasy Wrestling” itself is a term representing the genre of role-playing and statistics-based games set in the world of professional wrestling.
Several variants of fantasy wrestling exist which may be differentiated by the way they are conveyed (i.e., through websites, message boards, e-mail, postal mail, face-to-face, etc.), the method in which the storyline is determined (via role-play, “angles,” strategy- or statistics-based systems, etc.), and how the roster is composed (are characters created by the players, are real wrestlers “imported” into the game, etc.).
Fantasy wrestling’s roots lie in the play-by-mail wrestling games often featured in professional wrestling magazines that became prominent in the mid-to-late 1980s during one of professional wrestling’s boom periods.
By the late 1980s, fantasy wrestling games began to appear on the Internet.
In the early 1990s, online services like Prodigy, AOL, and Compuserve allowed players to use e-mail and bulletin boards to trade information and post role-plays more easily.
As technology progressed and the Internet evolved, fantasy wrestling enthusiasts took advantage, using websites and newsgroups to connect and build broader communities for gameplay.
As the web matured, so did sites devoted to the hobby. The various federations, which had been exclusively text-based, or nearly so, began to integrate images of created wrestlers, animated videos, audio shows, and vlogs.
Currently, fantasy wrestling continues to evolve. Traditionally, most role-plays (or “promos” as they’re referred to in the hobby) revolve around more traditional pro wrestling topics, focused on trash-talking an opponent and hyping an upcoming match. Extensive storylines also exist while longer-form role-play has continued to gain popularity, resulting in detailed stories and arcs.
However, role-play is not the only form of fantasy wrestling currently available.
There are also federations based on angles and booking. Some sites allow you and an opponent to alternate between different parts of the match until a moderator decides who wins.
Another niche is match-writing federations. As one of the more challenging types of fantasy wrestling, match-writing feds require you to write your match against your opponents, and the winner’s match is seen as canon.
Stat or dice-based federations continue to thrive, as well, sometimes deliberately harkening back to the earlier days of the hobby.
Some players have created social media accounts now to live out the lives of their characters in ways a typical role-play could not show.
In 2004, World Wrestling Entertainment began its own fantasy wrestling game focused on selecting WWE Superstars as part of a team and receiving points based on their involvement in WWE television shows.
WWE singled out “real wrestling” e-feds who used the names and likenesses of WWE superstars and began sending them cease-and-desist letters. WWE later disbanded its fantasy wrestling game.
Between 2005 and 2006, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling also operated their own fantasy wrestling game. The game ran from the promotion’s message boards and was based on real wrestlers. It never gained notoriety and was removed along with the message boards from the promotion’s website in late 2006.
In June 2011, TNA relaunched their fantasy wrestling game as a part of their Impact Wrestling campaign.
I am an old-timer when it comes to fantasy wrestling. I started in 1993 at the age of 13 when I saw an ad for the IWA (Imaginary Wrestling Association) in one of the wrestling magazines that I was reading. I signed up and never looked back.
I spent a lot of time (and money) on the IWA until getting the Internet, when it became prevalent in the later ’90s. There, I found e-feds online te-mail e-mail.
I went from fed to fed with wrestlers that I created, improving my writing along the way, until finding the community I am still with today.
Throughout my time, I have done everything the hobby of fantasy wrestling has to offer: booked, written matches, role-played, recruited, helped others, and have, I admit, gotten into it with others. I have seen some of the best times in competitive feds while also witnessing some of the strangest situations occur, which nearly brought down feds I was a part of or running.
The purpose of this article is to hopefully make people understand what it takes to participate in playing this game. It is not easy. I will cover running a fantasy wrestling federation, booking, match writing, and how to get involved. These components are necessary for having a successful e-fed, no matter what style or federation you join!
Part 1: Running a Fantasy Wrestling E-Fed
We are all guilty of playing armchair quarterback and have questioned decisions by the booker of whatever wrestling promotion we have watched. With fantasy wrestling, you can make those decisions yourself!
Before going any further, however, we must get something out of the way about this hobby: you are not getting paid to do it.
It takes a lot of free time to run a successful fantasy wrestling fed. You need numerous resources to succeed (and some may even cost you money).
Let’s break down what it takes to run a successful e-fed:
Firstly, you need people! When recruiting members for your fantasy wrestling e-fed, social media and online groups are key ways to advertise to try and get members.
It is common for an e-fed to be around a few months to a year if you’re fortunate. The community I am with has been around since the late ’90s. That appears to be a long time, but we have had nine different e-feds during that span. The two current ones we have running have been around with no interruption for both 16 and 17 years, respectively.
In general, it is common to see e-fed owners start a fed, put momentum into it to get a few shows going, and then see it fade away for various reasons shortly after.
One of the worst things an e-fed owner can go through is recruiting a member that seems like they are going to work. You put a lot of time into the new member to give them everything they will need to succeed. You introduce the member and their wrestler. Perhaps you get other successful members to mentor the new member. You think the fed has grown with this great new addition and then? Nothing. No role-plays from the member.
Perhaps the member does post a few times and then disappears for good. This sort of scenario happens more than I can count.
With my experiences, you are fortunate if you can get one or two good long-term members for every hundred people you recruit.
Does that take the excitement out of running your fed? Sure, a little bit. But it’s all part of the process.
There are so many feds out there that the ones with loyal members keeping the feds going are truly fortunate.
Just like in wrestling, people who play this game are passionate, so you will have members quit when their wrestler does not win when they feel they should have. Even members who I have been playing fantasy wrestling since the ’90s need some explanations on booking decisions because I do not want these people to leave. I have worked hard to get them, work with them, and get their wrestlers involved in storylines. Why would I want them to go?
You not only are a fed-head when you run your fed, but you also are like a therapist, building members up when they feel down. Remember, this is all on your time as well. You are not being paid for it.
2. Finding a platform
Next, you will need a place to run your fed.
Websites seem most common, however the feds I’m a part of use Google Groups. They are a free e-mail posting site that lets members e-mail in their role-plays and the admins e-mail out the written shows.
Other fantasy wrestling players use online message boards. Some people use social media groups. Others do it all on YouTube with video role-plays and shows. Some run it all through wrestling video games.
There are numerous platforms you can use to run your fed. You need to find the right one for you, and once you do, you’ll need time to make time to help get your members to know and understand how to engage with whatever platform you choose.
3. Putting together a management team
Fantasy wrestling feds can only operate with a team of dedicated people on the same page.
I would be unable to book the two feds I run without the following people around me:
- A show producer who offers significant help. He sends out all shows, writes a lot of matches, and runs wrestlers.
- A member who keeps track of all the championship history.
- A member who helps me creatively and writes matches.
- A couple of members who write matches for both feds.
We are in a lot of trouble if any one of these people ends up leaving as they are all vital parts of the team.
I have been around enough to work with various people and management teams over the years. We are one of the lucky communities to survive. Many feds perish due to team members not being on the same page.
I spent all of 2020 teaching a new member how to book one of the two feds in my community. I spent time with him a week to a week getting him ready while running an involved ownership change storyline in the fed. He took over in 2021 and lasted until summer.
He saw how hard it was, was disappointed with activity levels and member engagement, and other commitments in life got in the way. In the end, he had to step back from the community. All of that work to set him up got us about half a year of him running the fed.
Reasons like this are why many fantasy wrestling feds have such a short shelf life, so it’s important to surround yourself with a team that knows and will happily do their roles for you.
Many feds go inactive when the fed-heads do not put in the time necessary to make them go. Late shows turn into no-shows. Members get discouraged. You have to put hours into this game in order for it to work.
In the past, I have written twenty-page matches on my phone while getting my walking steps in. You do what you need to do to make your fed survive if you genuinely want it to succeed.
Part 2: Booking
You have found members, selected a platform, have a solid management team around you, and have budgeted time to make your fed work. Now comes the booking!
Everyone wants to book. Why? Because everyone has an opinion.
“This wrestler should win because the member is my best friend! Forget the other wrestler did better work!”
What about the one who writes (or does video promos) at the highest level of quality and always feels they should win? You want to have a long reign for a champion but need to change the belt because another member has done enough to earn it. You have a member that’s actively contributing– what rewards will you use for them to be an active part of your fed?
Booking is a lot more work than one realizes. I am blessed to have people who have been in my community for decades. A member’s average time in my community is eight years or more. It is the reason my two feds have essentially survived.
The recruitment process can be brutal (remember, much more supply than demand), so we have the same members running multiple wrestlers.
It is not uncommon for more involved members to run three, four, or more wrestlers per fed. And although you might have great wrestlers in your fed, as the booker, you need to decide which members’ wrestlers should have a belt.
What about the members that only have time for one wrestler? How will a member who runs only one wrestler feel if I give three belts to a member with multiple wrestlers while the member with one wrestler doesn’t have a belt?
How long can I have a wrestler lose before needing to give them a win?
What about highly competitive members that may dislike each other?
What about a member that wants to keep their wrestlers away from the wrestlers of another member?
I had a member quit over losing the world championship in one of my feds even though his character had a solid four-month reign with it. He did not like losing to the wrestler of another member that was not expected to win even though that member sent in excellent role-plays.
I rarely outright fire a member over complaining. Who exactly am I going to get to replace that member? It is not like dedicated members are growing on trees. Sometimes I book and pray the member who handles the losing wrestler will not quit.
These are all predicaments one finds themself in when running a fed!
I book based on role-playing and storyline. I only require one role-play every week in my two feds (I rotate the feds weekly for shows). I let multiple wrestlers be in one role-play if it helps the member.
I try to be open and honest with my members. Members who are great writers know they will lose to members who do not write as well at times. Would you play in a fed that you could never win in? There has to be a balance.
I want every member to know that their wrestler will succeed long-term with some form of gold if they stay dedicated. It can take a while sometimes, but the payoff will be there.
Members see their wrestlers lose more than win. It’s just a reality of what we do. You will never feel fully satisfied with the booking. If you do, you are doing it wrong. If you want to run a fed, just be prepared to have to explain decisions you make if you want the members to stay and for your fed to thrive.
But when things run smoothly, there’s truly no greater feeling.
Part 3: Match Writing
We do what is called highlight matches for the weekly shows. This usually involves no entrances and a summary of how the match went. We save our entirely written matches for pay-per-view shows.
A PPV show can sometimes run over a hundred pages long! I have seen a few of them go over two hundred. We try to produce quality matches people want to have their wrestlers participate in and read.
How you present your cards’ matches is as important as the platform you use to run your fed on.
Some feds are completely video-related, where they will use a video game to show the matches on YouTube, for example. Other feds will use a simulator to write the matches. The simulator might do it all, or the fed-head/match writers may add commentary to the simulator results. Our matches are written longhand by e-mail. There is no right or wrong way to produce matches.
No matter what way you choose, it will take time (and possibly money as well if you need to purchase a simulator to use).
The drawback with having detailed longhand matches is that feds have only so many writers. In my case, this means I do not schedule as many one-on-one matches. I work with many fatal four ways, triple threats, battle royals, and multiple other types of matches, as it is easier to schedule multi-wrestler matches with a limited number of writers. It’s never good to put too much on a writer. Plus, there is an attention span when reading a card (more on this in part four below).
Whatever way you choose to get matches out, it needs to have enough meat on the bone. The members need to feel like their wrestlers were featured prominently like a real wrestler would in AEW, WWE, etc. You have finite resources with matches (match writers, wrestler involvement, time, etc.), so how you choose to feature your matches will all depend on your league’s needs.
Part 4: Participating in a Fantasy Wrestling Federation
Your fantasy wrestling fed is only as good as the amount of participation you get. Getting a member to role-play is only half the battle.
Remember the ’80s G.I. Joe gimmick about knowing being half the battle? (No? I am ancient!) Want to know the other half? In the case of fantasy wrestling, it’s: pay attention.
Often, you’ll find members who will only read their opponents’ role-plays and read matches their wrestlers are in. I have people also sometimes ask me what happened elsewhere. I get it. With time constraints, it’s hard to keep up with it all, and while this sort of thing can be a bother for some fantasy wrestling players, I now just make a joke out of it. We had one member who never paid attention to anything, but she did role-play. Some of her role-play was so out there that it was just fun to read to see what she came up with.
Nowadays, our members are pretty good about this and seem to have a general idea of what is going on. That is all one can honestly ask for when running a fed.
You cannot force members to read or watch everything. People are busy! But it helps to read the entire show and not just your matches.
The two world champions I have in both of my feds have longer reigns. I want members to feel like the world champs are quality level (they are) and will be hard to beat (they will). It helps people keep engaged in the matches.
I try to be creative and exciting to keep members paying attention and role-playing. For example, we ran a 78-match pay-per-view this year, which was considered an all-day buy-in event featuring both feds. It took me four days to book and assign matches. I think my members liked and appreciated it, and the match writers worked very hard on it. I used my resources to be different and unique. You need to take risks and devote time if you want your members to give your fed their time/interest.
The individual that produces the shows calls his involvement a labor of love. It is. I do not do this for money (never made a dime on it), glory (we are a small community of people), or to make it big. I do it for my mental health because life can stink at times, and there need to be hobbies that keep people going.
Fantasy wrestling is one of those hobbies that allows my creative side a chance to show. Try it if you never have before!
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- 8 Tales from a Former WCW and Turner Corporate Employee
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