This article contains a huge spoiler for one of Saints Row IV’s most funny moments. Don’t read if you don’t want to ruin the experience for yourself!
The developers at Volition are crazy pro wrestling fans. How else do you explain the continuous pro wrestling references in Saints Row: The Third and Saints Row IV? Being a huge wrestling fan myself, I thought it would be interesting to revisit these “wrestling moments” in the series.
First of all, the melee combat. If you do a running melee attack (hold Run and then press your Primary Attack or Melee Attack button), you can perform a wrestling move on your opponents. These attacks are randomly chosen and vary from game to game. In SR3, I remember performing a Jumping Cutter (or RKO as it was made famous by Randy Orton). In SR4, you can perform a Tilt-a-whirl Headscissors and the famous Stone Cold Stunner.
You can also assign taunts to your characters, and there are two very specific pro wrestling taunts that stand out: Ric Flair’s strut walk and John Cena’s “You Can’t See Me!”.
SR3 features two luchador characters: Eddie “Killbane” Pryor and Angel De La Muerte (voiced by none other than… Hulk Hogan). Killbane and Angel are enemies both inside and outside the ring, mimicking the constant rivalries and backstage politics of the pro wrestling world.
Killbane can be seen carrying a steel chair in some cutscenes, and in one particular moment says: “We need to hit them with a Montreal Screwjob!” Wrestling fans will immediately understand the reference: The chair is a very common weapon used in wrestling, and the Montreal Screwjob was a notorious real life incident that happened in 1997.
The protagonist is forced to fight Killbane in a pro wrestling match in one of the main story missions… although the fight itself quickly deviates from real-life, as you suddenly have to use a chainsaw to defend the ring against a horde of interfering lumberjacks. It makes absolutely no sense, but we have been conditioned to accept the game’s insanity by that point.
SR4 takes things up a notch by completely recreating a real-life pro wrestler in the game, right down to his signature attire and voice. I am of course, referring to none other than “Rowdy” Roddy Piper:
Piper appears in one of the late-game missions, inside Keith David’s simulation when the latter gets brainwashed by Zinyak. He attempts to reverse the brainwashing by beating the hell out of David using a wide array of wrestling moves: Clotheslines, Dropkicks, an Atomic Drop, and yes, even his signature finisher, the Sleeper Hold. During the course of the mission, if you allow Piper to do some of the fighting, he has access to the exact same melee attacks as the player. Nothing is more thrilling than seeing Piper deliver an improvised Stunner to an alien baddie.
There are a couple more subtle wrestling references in SR4. In the final cutscene, the protagonist delivers a German Suplex to Zinyak right before beating him to a pulp. In the end credits, two very familiar wrestling names appear in the voice talent list: Rob Van Dam and Christopher Daniels. I know that RVD has acted in some movies before, so seeing him as a voice actor should come as no surprise. But Christopher Daniels??
In a generation where videogames are increasingly concerned with trying to emulate Hollywood (Beyond: Two Souls; The Last of Us), the Saints Row series, very proudly, doesn’t give a damn. It is proud to be a videogame first and foremost. It does not care about realism, cutting-edge technology, or narrative credibility. It just wants the player to be entertained, to laugh at all the jokes and puns, and to have fun.