Create-a-wrestler (CAW) is the name commonly given to a game mode in professional wrestling video games that allows modification of a base model and other related characteristics to create a unique character. The WWE series of games refers to these creations as superstars, and so the mode may also be identified as Create-a-Superstar (CAS).
Some early wrestling games featured rudimentary editing systems; one of the first of these was released for the NES and Game Boy in 1993. In it, a player could edit the attributes of a generic character and give them a name, but could not modify the character's appearance or moveset. The first notable create-a-wrestler mode was introduced in the 1993 game titled Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3, in 1994's Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special and the 1996 game Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, all released only in Japan for the Super Famicom. These games allowed up to 80 created wrestlers to be stored and used in the game, using combinations of the graphics for the existing wrestlers, and a completely customized moveset.
In the 1998 Nintendo 64 title WCW/nWo Revenge (a port of the Japanese title Virtual Pro Wrestling), each character had 4 different outfits that could be individually recolored or have clothing and attire altered. Similar to the Fire Pro Wrestling series, this was due to the fact that in order to avoid copyright issues, the game featured a number of characters who were based on real-life wrestlers around the world, but with fake names and altered costumes. The game allowed the player to edit the name and profile information as well, to effectively have 4 different wrestlers sharing a common moveset.
1998 also saw the release of WWF War Zone for the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation. It was essentially the first game to allow the player to create an original wrestler from scratch. It was followed up by 1999's WWF Attitude, and in 2000 two ECW games utilizing the same engine, ECW Hardcore Revolution and ECW Anarchy Rulz. The mode would soon become standard to wrestling games and a significant part in rating the quality of a given title. The next game to use the VPW engine was WWF WrestleMania 2000, for the N64, which retained the gameplay of the series while adding a full-featured but cumbersome CAW mode. One of the most popular wrestling games for the N64 was its sequel, WWF No Mercy, which was widely praised for its extensive CAW mode; one of the biggest improvements was sorting the costume pieces into categories, instead of the nondescript numbering of WM2K. ROM versions of the game are still hacked by gamers for the benefit of adding new graphic maps to create wrestlers not featured in the game. Games criticized for their mundane create-a-wrestler modes include WCW Mayhem, TNA iMPACT!, and Legends of Wrestling, which dubs it Create-a-Legend.
Newer games have allowed players to not only manipulate a character's physical appearance, moveset, personality type, strength attributes, and theme music but also create elaborate ring entrances. In the Smackdown! vs. RAW series for the Playstation 2 and Xbox 360, created wrestlers can choose to use the entire entrance of an existing wrestler, or mix and match parts to make an advanced entrance. In addition, the Xbox 360 version of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 allows the player to use music stored on the hard drive for custom entrance themes, a feature first utilized in WWE Raw 2 for the original Xbox. WWE Day of Reckoning, for the Nintendo Gamecube, focuses specifically on having the player create a wrestler to play through its story mode. Its sequel, WWE Day of Reckoning 2, continues where the created character's story left off; however, players can not transfer their characters from the predecessor and must recreate them from the ground up.
CAW modes are comparable to create-a-player modes in sports games, in that they allow roster updates. The CAW modes are more extensive, however, because a player is not limited to a specific style of dress. The freedom to create real-life wrestlers from other wrestling promotions and inactive or retired wrestlers, as well as Characters from other Videogames, Fictional, and Celebrity Characters, is at least part of the draw of CAW-making.
CAWS have become so popular that many people over the internet have created CAW feds, similar to fantasy football pools. They create CAWS and use them as if they were in an actual wrestling company, often having regular shows resembling WWE Raw and WWE SmackDown and occasionally Pay-Per-View type shows called "Click-Per-Views". Characters used in CAW feds can vary from real people, (such as celebrities, actual wrestlers and television characters) to video game characters, to an original roster of characters created entirely by the players. The video website YouTube is a huge website of CAW Shows, as well as Google video & Blip.tv. These are sometimes serious shows while others offer spoofs or comical accounts of professional wrestling.