As a kid, I never read much of the choose-your-own-adventures books. I did read an old Superman one once, which was really good and in retrospect is intriguing for including so many ways that Superman can get taken out in one book. It’s just that those books tended to be just a little too depressing. You don’t just receive bad luck in a lot of those books… you enact nightmare material that I was too young to endure. Where I currently work, I had flipped through several of them and even now I find the stuff questionable. I saw one book where a decision led to the main character getting hit with a car so hard that they needed to check the dental records to see who he was. Jesus…
Then I saw this book: Race to the Rumble: Pick Your Path #1 by Tracey West. It’s a WWE choose-your-own-adventure book and it’s Royal Rumble-based. I kind of had to pick it up and read through it out of principle.
Rey Mysterio actually has very little to do with this book. Same with Edge who appears on the back cover.
The book is nearly 100 pages and exists as being both fun and lacking. Lacking in the sense that there’s no real path divergence in the stories. Instead of branching off into different scenarios, we’re only given two storylines. Each decision, with one exception, gives you one choice that will continue the story or end it in one page. That’ll at least make this write-up easier on me. What is there is at least good stuff. West has a decent grasp on the WWE and really does come up with some good booking ideas for a gimmicky book like this. There are times when I’ve read what’s happened and thought, “I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”
So let’s get into the story. It all begins with you, a nameless and indistinct indy wrestler winning a match against Blockhead in a high school gym. A talent scout from the WWE comes to you and offers you a tryout. You remember news that WWE’s announced a tournament of sorts that’s allowing newly-recruited guys to earn a spot in the Royal Rumble. This sounds awesome and gives you the drive needed to beat another nameless hopeful in your tryout match in front of Vince McMahon himself. Vince thinks your ringwork is impressive, but wants to hear you cut a promo on the spot.
This is where we get our first choice. You can either play a good guy or bad guy. For now, let’s go face and cover the rest later. You give a generic, “What this means to me,” speech and Vince kind of shrugs at it. You’re a good athlete, but you have a month to prove yourself and grow a personality. Off you go to your first match where you’re opening a show against Drew McIntyre. Backstage, Drew takes offense to the idea that you were signed by Vince himself, since he’s Vince’s Chosen One. You get absolutely destroyed in your debut match and the fans call you a loser.
Here’s where we get the one and only side-plot of the choose-your-own story. Chris Jericho meets you backstage and comes up with a gimmick idea that comes off as lame, but he’s a veteran, so maybe you should listen to him. The gimmick is Kid Caveman, where you’d wear a loincloth and carry a big dinosaur bone as a club. Should you listen to his advice? Let’s see what happens with that…
So you get your ridiculous new gear and when you announce yourself as Kid Caveman to the crowd, they don’t know what to make of you. You’re in a rematch against McIntyre, who this book has a total hard-on for, and he laughs his ass off before beating you down in less than two minutes. The crowd continues to call you a loser and you find Jericho laughing even harder than McIntyre, saying that you fell for his hazing prank. This gets you pissed and you have two choices: Attack Jericho stick it to him by making the gimmick work.
Attacking Jericho backfires badly as he’s more than capable of dealing with you. Then management hears about you starting fights backstage and fires you. Sucks for you!
The other option has you tell Jericho that you’re going to get Kid Caveman over. He scoffs at it, but you put all your energy into the gimmick. With such lines as, “I took down a woolly mammoth for dinner yesterday. And he was bigger – and hairier – than you!” and, “Beating you is so easy, even a caveman can do it!” you go full on CHIKARA and win the crowd over with your wacky antics. Unfortunately, while I would love to read the continuing adventures of Kid Caveman, there is no further option in this path.
Vince meets with you and says that he wasn’t sure about you at first, but Kid Caveman has legs. He knows that this crazy shit sells in Japan, so he’s extending your contract and sending you to train in Japan for a while. You become a major celebrity there and the Japanese treat you like the French treat Jerry Lewis. Then Jericho texts you a message that he’s impressed.
Damn it, I wish that was a real gimmick. Give it to Tyler Reks. He’d make it work.
So let’s go back to Jericho giving you advice. You say no and Kofi Kingston tells you that you made the right choice, since Jericho’s just trying to mess with you. In your rematch with McIntyre, he still wipes the floor with you, but you get in a couple shots and gain a little bit of respect from the crowd. Your next match is against Jack Swagger, who ends up jobbing to you. You start earning a “giant killer” nickname and Vince digs your efforts enough to extend your contract.
Then the Miz comes up to you with the idea of being his tag partner. He has a score to settle with champions John Morrison and R-Truth and needs someone to have his back. That would be a big step in your career, but it also means not being able to compete for a spot in the Rumble. So do you become the Miz’s partner or tell him to piss off?
Telling him to piss off turns out to be a big mistake. As a singles wrestler, the veteran members of the locker room take exception to your “giant killer” persona and squash you again and again. You’re passed over for the Royal Rumble and told better luck next year. So this means that in a book about the Royal Rumble, it’s impossible to be in the Royal Rumble match AND be a face. The hell?
You accept Miz’s offer, though you have to ask the obvious question. You’re a face and Miz is a heel. How can you be a team and make sense? Miz explains that the team dynamic will be “good cop/bad cop”. He’ll wear black and you’ll wear white. Yin and yang. It’s a cool idea, even if Miz is acting like a top-notch douche about it all. It’s another gimmick I wouldn’t mind seeing in the real WWE, myself. They did that with Matt Hardy and MVP, but screwed it up with the way they handled it in the end. Anyway, back to the book.
You and the Miz train together for a while and enter a tournament for the #1 contender spot. Your first opponents are MVP and Mark Henry. Miz starts the match out and tags you in to momentarily escape Mark Henry. You go for a dive into the ring that misses and Mark Henry has you where he wants you. Miz calls for a tag. Do you tag?
This is a pretty obvious choice. Not tagging leads to you to climbing the top rope and being caught by Henry. He delivers the World’s Strongest Slam, pins you and Miz is angry and disappointed that you didn’t listen to him.
Now if you DO tag him in, he proceeds to get his revenge on Mark Henry with a bunch of punches and finishes him off with a clothesline off the second rope. That’s pretty anti-climactic, but it gets you the win. Miz gives you some advice in the locker room to always listen to him and so far it’s been working out.
Your next match is against CM Punk and Luke Gallows. Punk accidentally knocks out the ref and he and Gallows team up on the Miz. Miz told you earlier not to be a hero, but he is getting his ass kicked pretty hard. Hm… should you save him or not? After all, Miz told you not to come in and you can get disqualified if the ref sees you in there.
By not coming into the ring, the Straight Edge Society double-teams the stuffing out of Miz and the ref wakes up in time for Punk to pin the Miz. Miz chews you out for being too green and tells you that you’re no longer partners. Sounds appropriate.
If you do come to rescue him, you’re able to counter Gallows and escape the ring before the ref sees you. The ref chews out Gallows while Miz breaks out of Punk’s hold, gets the advantage and pins him. Miz shows you some respect and you go to the back to find out who the other finalists are. It’s the Hart Dynasty, who soon after confront you backstage. Lots of barbs are traded back and forth and when they make fun of your age, Miz sticks up for you and suggests that the tournament finals should be under TLC rules. Wait, is that really such a good idea?
Agreeing to it lands you in one hell of a grueling match on the next week’s show. All four of you get totally wrecked, but you have to remember that the Hart Dynasty has Natalya there and that gives them a major advantage. After Tyson Kidd throws you off a ladder and into a pile of chairs and the ref gets knocked out somehow, Natalya is able to climb up the ladder, steal the briefcase and give it to Kidd, so it looks like he got it when the ref wakes up. You lose the match, but Miz is proud of the way you handled yourself. He wants to keep you as a partner and suggests that the two of you can take on whoever wins the title match at the Rumble.
This means that it’s a better idea to talk Miz out of the TLC concept. The Hart Dynasty talk tough, but you can tell that they’re a bit relieved. When you explain to the Miz that you aren’t experienced enough for such a match, he understands and says that he got carried away. He just hates those damn Harts. You get him in the zone by telling him to save it for the ring.
When it’s time for the match, you and Miz have new contrasting theme costumes. He wears black tights with a red pitchfork logo and you wear white tights with a gold angel wings logo. That’s cool, but this paragraph confuses me.
By now you’ve got your good cop/bad cop routine perfectly set. The Miz breaks the rules, and you try to stick to them. When Tyson Kidd pins your arms behind your back, The Miz sneaks up behind him and pulls him away from you when the ref isn’t looking. When Natalya distracts the ref so that Kidd and Smith can double-team The Miz, you clothesline her from behind.
That… that last part doesn’t sound especially heroic.
David Hart Smith gets you in the Sharpshooter, you tag Miz and he takes out Smith. You guys win and go to the Rumble to face the champions, Morrison and R-Truth. This is when things go off the rails. Keep in mind, it’s JOHN MORRISON and R-TRUTH. Two guys who have been a tag team before and even fought Miz and Big Show as Wrestlemania one year. Now, then. Read the next three paragraphs and see if you notice something a little off.
When Morrison and R-Truth come out, you see The Miz’s face turn to stone. He’s got a lot of history with both of them. You remember the first time he approached you to ask you to be his partner. This is what it’s all about: revenge.
After the announcer spells out the terms of the match, the bell rings. The Miz starts out first, as usual, and he’s facing Morrison.
Morrison is on fire, going after The Miz with a series of roundhouse kicks. The Miz jumps over them, finally taking charge and grabbing Morrison’s left leg in midair, twisting it behind his back. In pain, Morrison reaches out and tags MVP.
Morrison tagged in MVP. This isn’t a single typo. From here on out, MVP has magically taken R-Truth’s place and neither the author nor editor notice a thing. Oh… I can so pull out the race card on this one. I just like that MVP was in a tournament to compete for what appears to be a title he already has!
More grappling is had, including you taking on “M-Truth” and AGAIN the ref gets knocked out. Tracey West is starting to lean a little too closely to Vince Russo right here. Morrison gets Miz with a Flash Kick and you know that Miz needs your help. With the ref knocked out do you grab a chair or leave Miz on his own?
I’d figure it would make sense to grab the chair. You paste Morrison with it and then give the MVP/R-Truth hybrid the same business. The crowd hates you for it. Miz hits the Mizard of Oz (wait, is that still even a thing?), gets the pin and you’re champions! Yay! Except that you’ve completely ruined your team dynamic and your team has gone full heel. This kills your heat completely. The two of you lose the titles within a month and you decide to go your separate ways. That sucks.
So don’t pick up the stupid chair. Fine! Morrison annihilates Miz and beats him with the Moonlight Drive. You apologize, but Miz is glad you didn’t get the chair. Being the heel is his job. The two of you stick together and become a long-lasting tag team and within a couple months, you even have a cool t-shirt! That’s pretty much it!
Both of those last scenarios are dead on. Either the WWE is going to job you out and give you a push later or they’ll hotshot the title to you and THEN bury you.
That’s it for the face side of the book. Let’s go ALLLLLL the way back to Vince McMahon and the tryout. When you’re giving your promo, what happens when you try to come off as a cocky heel? You give an over-the-top monologue about how you don’t know if you’re watching a wrestling show or an antique show based on all the old, out-of-touch wrestlers you’re always seeing. You end it with, “It’s time for something fresh!” and Vince absolutely loves it. He christens you with the name Johnny Fresh and gladly gives you a WWE contract. He gets on the phone for a second and finds out that Evan Bourne is injured, so he makes you his replacement.
Your first opponent is Tyler Reks, who is still a face here, playing the role of a surfer dude. The two of you briefly greet each other backstage and then you’re each announced to the ring. It’s right here that we get the one inaccuracy that’s less believable than R-Truth magically transforming into MVP.
The crowd doesn’t know what to make of you. They’ve never seen you before, after all. When Tyler Reks comes out, they go crazy.
HAHA! No. No they don’t.
In a really amusing bit, you, Johnny Fresh, steal the microphone from Reks and proceed to make a fool out of him by calling him old and out of touch despite him being a pretty young guy. He angrily gets his hands on you and tries a flapjack, but screws up his footing and gives you the opening to roll him up for a pin. Some fans take to you well and you are congratulated by some of the guys backstage. Another new wrestler by the name of IT suggests going out to party with the others. Should you stay out late and party?
Doing so causes you to oversleep and miss your first day of training. You get chewed out big time and are fired immediately. D’oh! So the answer is NO. No, you do not want to party.
By getting some sleep, you’re ripe for training. Your trainer Barry seems to take a shining to you and you get the news that you’ll be able to compete for a spot in the Rumble. Your finisher is the Frog Splash, but Barry thinks that by being Johnny Fresh, you should freshen up the move. Ergo, you start using a Corkscrew Frog Splash.
Your next match is against “Long Island Iced Z” Zack Ryder. Ryder gets to appear in this book. That rules. He has the advantage for most of the match, but you’re able to take him down with a clothesline. Should you go for the Corkscrew Frog Splash?
You really aren’t ready for it. Doing so will cause you to mess up the landing. Not only will Zack pin you, but you’ll end up on the shelf for months due to an ankle injury. Looks like you’re going to miss the Royal Rumble, chump!
Okay, so no high-flying. You instead put Ryder in a leg submission and he taps. Now that I think about it, Tracey West’s matches are for the most part REALLY short. There really is a Vince Russo parallel in there. Now that you’ve beaten Ryder, you breeze through the tournament and earn your spot in the Rumble. In the meantime, all your wins help get you over.
It’s the night of the Rumble and you’re in the locker room, waiting to discover when you’re set to come out. Sucks to be you because you drew #1! Everyone gives you a big laugh, but you take a deep breath and get out there. So who’s your first victim?
“WEEEEEELLLLL! It’s the BIG SHOOOOOW!”
Shit. It’s okay, though, because the book gives you the easiest choice yet. Do you attack Big Show or avoid being pounded into hamburger?
If you run straight for him, you’re eliminated so fast you make the record books. Instead, let’s try just doing backflips and other acrobatics to steer clear from Big Show’s fists. He finally catches you by the ankles and prepares to toss you, but then Mark Henry comes out at #3. You catch your breath until Cody Rhodes comes out. You’re able to match him in ring skills and hold the advantage. When Evan Bourne comes out, you wonder should you eliminate Cody or take on Bourne?
By going after Bourne, you’re able to eliminate him fairly easily, but the next guy out is Ted Dibiase Jr. He and Cody realign themselves and double-team you. That means you’re done for.
So instead of that, go after Cody. You shove him into Big Show, pissing off the giant. He throws Cody out of the ring and Dibiase comes out to find his buddy half-dead. You point at Evan and say that he did it. That leaves you without an opponent and some time to rest. The buzzer sounds, but you don’t see anyone. Instead, you find Hornswoggle grabbing your leg. Apparently, he’s #7. You pick him up and easily heave him out. Somehow, this Hornswoggle situation lasted at least 3 minutes because now Goldust and R-Truth (or is it MVP?) are duking it out while Bourne and Dibiase are eliminated.
You help R-Truth eliminate Goldust. Are you going to break out the Corkscrew Frog Splash or play it safe?
Playing it safe means being out-grappled by Truth and being eliminated. So go for the high-flying stuff instead. Which is weird because you have to do a lot of non-high-flying stuff to set him up anyway. You end up hitting the Corkscrew Frog Splash and that allows you to toss out the immobile R-Truth. While all this has been going on, Kane, Khali and the Miz have each entered. There’s some weird time distortion going down, I tell you. The ring gets cleared to the point that it’s only you, Miz and Khali. Miz wants to team up against Khali. Do you team up with the Miz?
With the team-up option, Miz figures that the two of you should climb to the top rope. The same corner. At the same time. Like an idiot, you agree to this. Miz then shoves you and you get your revenge by dragging him with you. On commentary, Jerry Lawler wonders what the hell is wrong with you two.
By refusing, there’s this weird part where it says that Miz might have it in for you for refusing to be his tag team partner. So it’s referencing the other timeline because there hasn’t been a single mention of Miz trying to start up a tag team here. Alternate reality-based feuds is something new, I suppose.
Khali swats you away like a fly and focuses on Miz until finally catching him and throwing him out. Before he can go after you, Dolph Ziggler comes out and the two go at it. You rest up until Santino runs out. You two fight back and forth until the theme song you dread the most starts blaring.
Not only is Cena coming to the ring, but he appears to have it in for you! Hey, easy decision time. Go after Cena with an aerial attack or slide out of the ring?
The aerial attack will end with you getting caught and Attitude Adjustment’d over the top rope. At least you’ll be put over as a guy with guts, but you want to win. You slide out and the crowd boos you. Cena tosses Santino and fights Khali.
Cena gets Khali in a sleeperhold, weakening him. But before the giant can fall, Cena pounds him with a powerslam. The impact of the attack sends Khali falling backward over the top rope.
Did the powerslam cause Khali to bounce like rubber? I’m not sure… You know what? I bet it was meant to be a shoulderblock and West put the wrong move in there. So Khali falls out of the ring and lands on the ref (ANOTHER ref bump!), meaning there’s nobody bugging you to get back in the ring other than the fans. You take a breather while Matt Hardy, Sheamus and Kofi Kingston each come out. Should you go back in the ring or screw over Matt Hardy?
Trying to pull Matt out of the ring doesn’t work out because with the ref knocked out, he can easily just slide back in and exact his revenge, ultimately eliminating you. Being bested by Matt Hardy of all people is the worst of all humiliations, so let’s shy away from that. Getting back into the ring, you face the next entrant, Tyson Kidd. Your fight is pretty even and then Chris Masters comes out. He wants a piece of Kidd and shoves you aside. With Masters’ back to you, do you do a side kick or a half-nelson slam?
This part is also a bit off because Tracey West forgets who you’re aiming for. If you try for a side kick, it acts like you’re going after Tyson Kidd from behind. He sees it in the corner of his eye, uses your momentum and pushes you out of the ring. The slam option at least has you going after Masters. You save Kidd and the two of you team up to heave Masters out of the ring. You and Kidd go back to brawling.
In the meantime, Edge, William Regal, Christian and Caylen Croft have entered the ring. You and Kofi are able to eliminate Matt Hardy and Sheamus. Now you’re wondering who’s the best guy in the ring to go after. Another easy decision: William Regal or Caylen Croft?
Regal will destroy you without a second thought, so go after the guy whose inclusion into this book is kind of surprising. During the fight with Croft, you’re able to shove him off and he accidentally gets hit with Kofi’s Trouble in Paradise kick. You perform the Corkscrew Frog Splash and easily throw his limp body out of the ring. To add to the good news, Edge and Cena have eliminated each other and Regal is out.
Other guys have entered, such as book cover model Rey Mysterio, Yoshi Tatsu, Drew McIntyre and Ezekiel Jackson. Between the latter two, do you mix it up with McIntyre or Jackson?
I would say that I’d rather NOT face the guy with muscles in his shoulders the size of bowling balls, but this book does seem to believe that Drew McIntyre is the bee’s knees. Going for him gets you rewarded with a spike piledriver and a trip to the locker room. At least Cena gives you props on the way back.
Against Ezekiel Jackson, you get beaten up as well, but at least you’re able to slip out from under the ring to buy yourself some time. He yells at you to get back in there, which is all the opening McIntyre needs to throw Jackson out. Jackson chases you around the ring until you reenter and the ref tells him to get out of there. While this is happening, Edge sneaks back into the ring and eliminates Christian while Christian is eliminating McIntyre. It says that he’s mad that Christian eliminated him earlier even though it clearly stated that it was Cena. Oh, well.
Jack Swagger and Chris Jericho each come to the ring with Jericho as #30! Yeah, I counted and there are indeed 30 guys in this Rumble. At least that’s consistent. That leaves the final batch of guys as you, Kofi, Mysterio, Swagger and Jericho. What happened to Yoshi Tatsu? It’s never said.
The energy inside the ring completely changes. Everyone knows what’s at stake – the ultimate prize. The winner of the Royal Rumble will see his reputation skyrocket and earn bragging rights for the rest of his career.
Huh. I just noticed that at no point does this book even mention Wrestlemania.
Jericho gets you in the Walls of Jericho. Swagger tries to attack him, but it’s countered and Jericho tosses him out of the ring. Mysterio climbs to the top rope and Kofi shoves him out. You and Kofi then team up on Jericho and get him out of the ring. That leaves you and Kofi Kingston. At least with the Wrestlemania embargo, it means you don’t have to do that annoying, “point at the Wrestlemania sign while your opponent does the same thing” spot. Instead, you’re just thinking back to how you were in a high school gym, wrestling Blockhead a few weeks ago and now you’re one of the last two guys in the Rumble.
Kofi goes after you and you’re able to shove him off and kick him in the chest. You have him stunned. Do you go for a high-flying assault or a power grapple?
You would think the aerial thing would be for the best, but when you get to the top, someone grabs you by the shoulder. It turns out that Hornswoggle had set up a ladder and climbed up and YOU DIDN’T NOTICE ANY OF THIS! He gets his revenge by pulling you out and you end up crashing into the floor. Hornswoggle runs off and you figure that being second place isn’t the worst fate.
Let’s go with that power grapple. You bodyslam Kofi, pick him back up and shove him into the ropes so hard that he flips over the top rope and falls to the outside. You did it! You won the Royal Rumble at #1! Confetti and stuff happens and zero mention of there being a guaranteed Wrestlemania match!
By winning at #1, you enter the pantheon of names such as Shawn Michaels and Chris Ben… wait, forget that last part.
The book is a pretty amusing novelty, and of course, it’s for kids so what the hell am I doing reading it anyway? It is fun to see guys who otherwise wouldn’t be mentioned anywhere else get their day in the sun, like Zack Ryder and Yoshi Tatsu while guys like Randy Orton and Triple H aren’t even namedropped. The whole WWE/choose-your-own-adventure idea has tons of potential, but the weird writing mishaps and the lack of any real choices outside of “continue or lose” need to be worked out.
There’s a second Pick Your Path book based on Night of Champions with Triple H on the cover. I’d read it, but I really don’t feel like carrying Triple H’s bags in text form.