If there’s one thing I loved fondly about the old Smackdown vs Raw games it was spending hours upon hours playing their interactive GM mode. Now I know the WWE 2K series has implemented a GM mode in its most recent installment but there’s just something about playing SVR 06 or SVR 07 (we don’t talk about SVR 08’s GM mode) that brings me back to a happy place. Being able to book my controlled show at will, putting the belts on the guys I wanted and setting up angles, feuds and segments to run on my shows… truly encapsulated the role of a ‘booker’.
And so, I was quite delighted recently when I stumbled upon an online service that allowed me to cover most of my fondest memories of GM mode in the form of Journey of Wrestling. When you first visit the site it doesn’t seem like much given the very basic layout but upon further interaction it really is an easy-to-understand and entertaining alternative to the GM modes of the past. As a wrestling fan I love to ponder the thought of what-ifs and fantasy matchups/booking ideas in history. Concepts like WCW staying afloat and living through to today, continuing to book ROH if it hadn’t sold to Tony Khan, more mainstream stars jumping ship to TNA in their heyday, so on and so forth. Lo and behold, Journey of Wrestling has over 40,000 users with many of these fantasy ideas explored in their available scenarios list or maybe you just want to bring your own created fantasy promotion to life… Journey of Wrestling is still the platform for you.
The functions of booking on Journey of Wrestling are pretty straightforward, yet holding their own fair share of unique detail and graphics. As it is just a booking simulator, there is no option to play actual matches or segments like in a WWE GM mode but it still checks off a ton of boxes in terms of entertainment. Bear in mind, there are two ways to access Journey of Wrestling: the free-to-use version and the paid version. In the free version of the game, you are given a limited number of creative points that allow you to manage your company (including adding roster members, trades, etc) as well as booking matches/segments. Roster spots are also capped at a capacity of 40, although this number could be higher based on the assigned number in a created scenario. Random injuries, retirements, and talent unhappiness/requests are some of the other hurdles that arise in the free JOW version. This is a lot more reminiscent of GM modes in SVR as they present a fair bit of challenge and ask for the player to be strategic about their choices and actions.
However, I was also fortunate enough to run a free trial version of the paid game which unlocked all of the game’s features and capabilities. This provided me with the absolute freedom to run the game however I pleased and the ability to nix things that were ruining my desired outcomes. For example, Sting kept trying to retire in my post-2001-WCW universe as he was getting older but we all know the Icon stays active way longer than that so I overturned retirements outright. This paid version is the quintessential option if you’re looking to carry out your wrestling fantasies to an exact flow of events. It’s also enjoyable knowing I don’t have to be stingy with my creative points as they can become unlimited in the paid version.
Before I knew it, I was playing this game for hours at home, which turned to playing it while on the bus and even on my breaks at work. I would be standing around during my shift thinking, “Hmm… I wonder if Christopher Daniels was in WCW and he had a faction… who should be in it?” Enter the Coven, my created post-2001 WCW faction consisting of Christopher Daniels, Crowbar, Julio Dinero, the late Daffney and the Sinister Minister. Or how about the Catch Crew? My revived ROH faction consists of Josh Barnett, Wheeler Yuta, Tracy Williams, Brock Anderson and Allie Katch. Do you see what I mean? This game had my brain going with ideas. Wherever I went, I had the freedom to put my fantasy booking ideas to paper, or I guess to phone/browser.
Though I enjoyed the free version a fair bit before trying my hand at the paid version’s free trial I truly got lost in the fun of playing Journey of Wrestling at its fullest capacity and for a one-time payment of $ 20 CAD you can unlock Journey of Wrestling paid to play at your heart’s desire with a maximum saved data slot of 5 entries. It may not be the exact magic of Smackdown vs Raw GM mode reborn but it’s pretty damn close.