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Item - Race to the Rumble

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

I'm not certain what to make of this book. I think most fans of WWE and other heavyweight wrestling organizations are aware of the sport's kayfabe nature, the fact that the fights are carefully plotted and choreographed like any stage drama, winners and losers predetermined by a team of professional writers paid to create an enjoyable program for the show's audience. Yet Race to the Rumble doesn't acknowledge any of this. As you attempt to break into the lucrative world of WWE wrestling, convincing the venerated Vince McMahon that you're worth taking a chance on to rise through the ranks of his organization as either a hero or a villain, the bouts you engage in are all framed as one hundred percent authentic, with no script informing you of the battles' planned conclusion. This wouldn't confuse me if the book were simply the playing out of a big WWE show, with you playing the part of a star wrestler beside the likes of Chris Jericho, The Miz, and Evan Bourne, but that isn't the case. Race to the Rumble takes the reader behind the scenes of WWE, even presenting decisions pertaining to business sense, brand building, and responsible personal behavior for a professional in the entertainment industry, but without hint that anything you're doing in the wrestling ring is scripted at all. The story is far more than a frenzied fan fantasy of what the WWE world would be like if the shows were real. Tracey West is a good writer, respected in gamebook circles as well as in the arena of children's commercial fiction, and makes the effort to write this book to be engaging, fun, and reward avid WWE cognoscenti for the time they have put into getting to know their wrestling superstars. This story isn't only meant for readers who just want a heavyweight-wrestling fix; the writing appeals to those who expect a good, sound story, so I'm slightly perplexed by the nature of Race to the Rumble, since it completely glosses over the sport's kayfabe elements. But I did still have a good time reading it.

You are an amateur wrestler playing to high-school gyms at the start of Race to the Rumble. Your moves are solid, one day catching the attention of WWE mastermind Vince McMahon's talent agent, who invites you to an audition to try out for McMahon. Your athletic ability impresses the billionaire owner of the organization, leading him to offer you a WWE Superstar contract on the spot...if your brash talk matches your wrestling skill. Your first choice is to deliver the victor's dialogue in the character of a villain or hero, and then you're off to the races to prove you deserve the risk Mr. McMahon is taking on you. Your main goal is to make the field of thirty for the Royal Rumble, an event some of the greatest wrestlers in WWE history have never won. To be selected to compete, you'll have to continue impressing Vince McMahon with your showmanship and physical prowess in the ring. You're a WWE rookie, hardly expected to win every match you're assigned, but you must be memorable to your audience, either as a villain or a good guy. Whipped-up crowds at WWE events want someone they can pull for with all their hearts or boo lustily, and you have to give them one or the other.

I'm not sure if it's surprising or to be expected, but choosing to be a hero in Race to the Rumble is a harder route than if you dig in as a smart-talking upstart villain. Vince McMahon isn't as impressed with your audition monologue, and you're immediately placed on probation, instead of being offered a contract free and clear as happens if you take up villainy. You still have excellent opportunities to shine on the biggest stages WWE offers, including a chance to tag team with The Miz, but you never make it to the Royal Rumble, which was your goal. Plans change and one has to learn to adapt, and there are ways of earning fame and fulfillment without wrestling in the Royal Rumble. Perhaps the most rewarding ending of the hero's path may be if you don the identity of Kid Caveman and stick with it, not shying from the spotlight no matter how ridiculous you look. Revenge can come without the use of one's fists, and be a big financial boon at the same time, so riding this Kid Caveman phenomenon to major success could be your best bet.

If you decide to start out as a villain, cracking wise about the WWE being packed with old fogies whose time has come and gone, you become a national sensation pretty quickly, though you still have to keep a level head if you want to reach the Royal Rumble. Lots of people could knock you from your position of favor with Vince McMahon, intentionally or not. Once you've punched your ticket as one of the thirty who will bid for the Royal Rumble championship, you're really going to have to be on your game making quick decisions. You have to outlast thirty of the sport's biggest stars to grab hold of that championship belt when the fight is through, and the earlier you're selected to enter the ring, the more fatigue will play a role in whether or not you can triumph. Make a single wrong choice once you've made it to the Royal Rumble and you're a goner, though not necessarily to your everlasting shame. You still qualified for the Royal Rumble as a rookie, and that's an accomplishment of which any rising WWE Superstar can be proud. But if you remain a viable contender as the Royal Rumble advances, the field shrinking until the finish line is finally, improbably in sight, so close you feel the championship has to be yours, you'll have to keep your wits and have plenty of luck to go all the way and claim the top prize. Can you win the Royal Rumble as a rookie, defeating WWE legends such as The Big Show, Drew McIntyre, Kofi Kingston, The Miz, Rey Mysterio, and John Cena? I promise you this much: It isn't going to be easy.

I know something about the history of American heavyweight wrestling, but many names in Race to the Rumble were unfamiliar to me. When I came across a new wrestler's name, I searched for videos of him on the internet, and had more fun with that than I anticipated. I especially liked watching The Miz's title bouts, as underhanded as he could be. It was through his videos that I also came to learn about Jerry "The King" Lawler and Michael Cole, who had minor roles in Race to the Rumble. This book is fun and written well, and gameplay is as simple as in other Pick Your Path gamebooks, with decisions coming at about the same rate as in the Scream Shop Pick Your Path series. The internal logical continuity is nearly perfect, though I believe there's one minor error, where you reason through a particular decision in the ring as if you had earlier declined The Miz's overture to add you as his tag team partner, when that only occurs in a different storyline. Other than that little hiccup, the narrative makes clear sense. I would have preferred for there to be fewer decisions depending totally on luck for a positive outcome, but I know real life can be like that, so I have no objective complaints. Whether a WWE fanatic or rank newbie to the biz, a gamebook expert or reader of only linear fiction up to this point, I think you'll have a good time with Race to the Rumble. I know I liked it.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Special Thanks:Thanks to Ken G. for the front and back cover images.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes, Darth Rabbitt, Demian, exaquint, ManxAlleyCat, NEMO

First printing

Series: WWE Pick Your Path no. 1
Item: Race to the Rumble
Author: West, Tracey
Date: January 20, 2011
ISBN: 0448455552 / 9780448455556
Length: 96 pages

Second printing

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