This is the final entry, so make sure you’ve read the whole set! Part 1, 2, 3.
I’m once again in my hotel room, racking my brain for a final sample. The freedom of “write anything” can be suffocating in a sense. I first think about doing some kind of Jackass-style rib war between Kofi Kingston and Dolph Ziggler, who were known to be buddies who seemed to exhibit more personality off-camera than on. But I couldn’t really make that work in a way that showed my ability.
So I instead took Brodus Clay, a large and talented newer Superstar, and tried to do a little character development. This isn’t as long a sample as the others, and maybe isn’t much of a grand finale, but I’m proud of how I took a noticeable shift – less big men in wrestling – and used it to build a bitter monster.
Now, I can wax poetic all day about why I wasn’t hired. Did I make a mistake focusing on talent WWE wasn’t interested in pushing, like Brodus and Ryder? Did I botch the “not as good as you think” test that Stephanie set up for me in our interview? Or was there just someone a little bit better who got the job? I’ll never know. I requested but didn’t receive feedback, and that was almost 10 years ago.
Thanks for everyone who joined me on this look back. Writing and wrestling have been 2 of my lifelong passions. I was blessed to get to not just write for 4 WWE games, but create a whole story-based mode for 3 of them. Hoping to have another chance to do something similar in the future!
May 30, 2011: I’m at WWE Headquarters, flown out from LA at WWE’s expense. I’ve met with head writers, some other staff, and even chatted with Triple H. I’m in my best suit. I now meet with Stephanie McMahon, the head honcho of the division. Despite feeling I and my samples are not as great as I’m perceived to think they are, she gives me additional assignments – pushing back my return trip the next day and necessitating them loan me a company laptop.
She wants me to write a resolution to the Raw Anonymous GM story – infamous for its lack of forethought. Basically, a laptop (not the one they loaned me, but wouldn’t that be ironic) doles out authoritative demands to the brand, as read by Michael Cole. It was garbage. Not only that, but it apparently didn’t have a solid resolution. When the “heel” is a piece of electronic equipment, you’d hope the one behind it can get some sort of comeuppance. Stephanie also gives me freedom to choose anything for a second additional sample, but that’s for part 4. All this is to be completed overnight.
In the space of a long, sleepless and often naked night (take that, suit!), I try to make chicken salad. I use this wayward angle to build a star who people are dying to see get a chance: Zack Ryder. He had used YouTube and other social media in a very savvy way, becoming super popular despite rarely getting much of a push from WWE Creative.
Here’s my attempt to tie up a horrible story and bring an already-bright Superstar into the main-event spotlight! Woo woo woo, you’ll soon know it!
If you didn’t notice the #2 in the title, you may want to start here first. And after this, check out part 3 and part 4!
While Big Show vs. The Corre was about a few big visuals, I wanted this sample to be more about clever promos. I felt I explored a possibility – claiming Edge is racist against Latinos – that WWE had never touched on nor most fans had considered. I also viewed it as a bit of an excuse to bring Edge and Christian back together as a team. I was able to do that in SVR 2011’s Road to WrestleMania, and I think the results were enjoyed by all. But due to length issues, I didn’t script anything specific for E&C, as I wanted to focus on building the rivalry.
While I’ve never shared the actual scripts I wrote for Road to WrestleMania mode, these samples were definitely inspired by RTWM scripts. They’re kind of between the outlines, which I’d send to WWE for approval, and the actual scripts, which would include everything (and were also approved by WWE).
As most who know me well enough to find themselves here, I was a former wrestler and former Narrative Director on 3 WWE games – creating and shepherding Road to WrestleMania mode. As fewer people know, a year after quitting THQ (as in 2011), I was deep in the process of being recruited to join WWE’s actual Creative team. If you want a bit of info, I talked about it in this YouTube video, as a part of my kind of oral memoirs I called Justin’s Leep to the Past.
I live in Japan now. And foolishly, on my 2 trips back to the US, I neglected to return with my hard drive which contains all my writing. So I thought my samples from that process were stuck there – if they existed at all – along with my THQ WWE game scripts. I was wrong.
After a chat with Twitter pal @xharperco, I decided to look deep in my email box. And I found them! I thought about doing a video somehow, or a long Twitter thread, but this just seems the best method of sharing them.
As they’re all pretty long, I’m going to split them up. So this is the first of two samples that got me all the way to a face-to-face interview with Stephanie McMahon at WWE Headquarters. I’ll then post the 2 additional samples one at a time.
In a rare instance of me being single, back in early 2018, I decided to play the field and see what was out there. Old (aka younger) me would have settled for the first decent girl who showed interest, but I resolved to be picky. It was almost like research: noting things I liked and things I didn’t like about the girls I’d go out with.
Then I met this remarkable girl, in honestly an unremarkable way. The “Hollywood” story we sometimes tell is about I saw this hottie playing a rhythm game at a Shinjuku arcade and asked her to teach me the game (Maimai, which we play to this day).
I won’t bury the lede: I got married in 2018. This is my second marriage. I didn’t think I’d do this again. But I saw this beautiful, joyful woman playing some weird washing-machine-looking arcade game and I had to talk to her. That turned into a 7-hour date. A week later, I asked her to be my girlfriend. A week later, I dipped to the US – my first trip back since moving to Japan March 2016. I hung out with Dan and Kristen and my folks, and even had a political argument with my uncle. Emptied my storage unit (meaning I took out about 10% and left the rest for the employees to pick through) and drove my worldlies across country to my parental’s – bringing select items back home to Tokyo.
Yeah, that’s all fitting in the SUV I rented…
Anyway, this summer Tomoko moved in with me. This proved even more life-changing than anticipated. I embraced her clean lifestyle, as well as kept closer to her schedule (early-ish to bed, early to rise). I want to spend as much time with her as possible – maybe give her a good start to her day. And any chores I do aren’t a “chore” because I was doing them for her.
We got engaged Halloween night (romanticreepy, right?!), and decided to forgo the long engagement to make things official on December 8 – our 8-month dating anniversary. A photo wedding and an LA honeymoon await us in 2019. Continue reading →
Most of the world is aware of Japanese idols by now, right? Those bubbly, talented performers that take the stage by the dozens to sing, dance, and look cute for our enjoyment are practically synonymous with Japan.
But like every cultural phenomenon, there is an alternative, underground movement. Called chika idol (地下アイドル, literally “underground idol”), these girls often veer into the wild, the weird, and the absurd. Also the extremely entertaining. Continue reading →
Indie games get to play with concepts in a way that large-budget commercial games wouldn’t dare. We’re fortunate to live in a time where a small group of devs can take a niche genre and turn it on its head – or even turn gaming as a whole upside down. Frog Fractions comes to mind.
With that in mind, I wanted to review Doki Doki Literature Club, a game my friend Ryan recommended for me. I had only heard a little about it previously. I’m going to try to appease and respect both those who have played it and those who haven’t with this review. Continue reading →
2017 was quite a big year for me. I know politically and whatnot, it kind of sucked for a lot of people. But personally it was on the positive – especially when weighed against how I was coming in.
So, let’s go back to 2016 for a bit. I had been told by USJ they weren’t going to offer me a second year-long contract. This came after I did everything in my power to kick ass at my job. I was late only one time (by <5 minutes), never missed a show, never called in sick. I delivered a quality show within the time frame asked, and stuck to script and other guidelines. So I was floored when they said I was done. Continue reading →
Video games have always been a passion of mine. I was a game journalist for 8 years, from 1999 to 2007. Then I went on to make a few WWE video games at THQ. I’ve owned a lot of consoles and literally thousands of games. Back in November of 2009, I compiled a Top 100 Games list.
Years later, I still play games constantly and keep up with the industry. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to do another list. After all, the PS3/360 generation was one of the best, and the current gen is no slouch either. To spice things up a bit, I decided to lift my rule only allowing one title per franchise. But I still need to have played a lot of any game that makes my list, which means there are some so-called shoo-ins that I couldn’t add.
Comment with your own Top 10, or harass me about something you feel deserved a spot. Or get mad at me for starting with number 100 instead of number 1. I will happily (and respectfully) engage. And maybe let me know if you’d like to see me put some capacity of it into a video.
Note: I scoured the Internet for these screenshots. The majority came from MobyGames.com, a great resources for information on any and all video games.
100. Dig Dug
1983, TI-99/4a by Namco
Previous Rank: 67
Let’s start out my list with an obscure port of a classic. Like most in its era, Dig Dug levels featured a single screen. But you were free to explore every inch of that screen, provided you could pop the baddies before they killed you. The cat-and-mouse gameplay is very satisfying with both sides having vulnerabilities. I played this a ton on my TI computer as a kid, chasing the Guinness Book high score. Continue reading →