Rey Mysterio watches his video game character flip around the ring and all he can do is shake his masked head in disbelief. "I hear about people playing the game all the time from fans while I'm on the road," he tells me backstage at the recent Bragging Rights pay-per-view as we checked out a copy of "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010." "I even hear from other celebrities and other athletes that we meet, how they might not have time to watch our show every week, but they actually keep up on the characters by playing the video game."
And the way Rey flips around the ring for real, he's the closest thing WWE has to a human video game. Just one of the many reasons the high-flyer is also one of the most played characters in the "Smackdown" series.
"I actually like to play against my son, but my problem is, he's too good at the game, laughs Rey. "He's always beating me up."
But Rey's character isn't the only one who takes a beating. Throughout the day various wrestlers walked into THQ's exclusive gaming lounge to challenge me to fights that ranged from Inferno Matches to Hell in a Cell to TLC. In one day, I set Ted DiBiase on fire, chucked MVP off a cage, and kicked the All-American American right in the chops. Well, at least virtually.
Funniest part of the afternoon came in a battle against Smackdown's newest heel, Drew McIntyre. The kid might not be in the game this year, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have game as we slugged it out in match after match. He was playing as DiBiase and I was playing as Cody Rhodes as we took the Legacy teammates through a grueling Inferno match. After DiBiase caught on fire, I saw the real DiBiase in the hall and told him what happened. He walked right into the lounge, tapped McIntyre on the shoulder and was like, "Man, what are you doing to me in here."
McIntyre, who has actually been creating himself in wrestling video games since "WWF War Zone," is already looking forward to "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2011," a game where his character might finally appear without need for creation. "I still remember when I thought 'War Zone' was the greatest game ever, the way I could create myself in the game. But seeing the new 'Smackdown' and finally getting a chance to play, it's amazing. Even if my guy did just catch on fire.
"When my brother and I play wrestling games like this, we don't just hit all the buttons and beat each other up. We actually always try to put on good matches. We might be the only ones out there who try to add psychology to video game wrestling, but that's just always how we played."
As for the psychology behind some of these real wrestlers, I pulled a few aside throughout the day to ask them one simple question: If you could write your own storyline in "WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2010," what would it be? The results? About as crazy and diverse as you'd expect from a cast of characters that includes a king, a man in a mask, and a guy who wears fur to the ring. Here are their responses, along with a few of my favorite answers to the same question in earlier interviews collected through the game's development process: