The WWE franchise has been a staple of 2K Games’ sports catalogue since they acquired the rights in 2012. Going back further, THQ first began publishing the wrestling franchise way back at the turn of the century. However, a recent development has confirmed that, for the first time in 20 years, we won’t be getting a new WWE game.
In a call with Polygon, WWE interim chief financial officer Frank Riddick revealed that WWE 2K21 is not on the cards. Whilst Riddick didn’t detail exactly why, a 2K spokesperson has since told Polygon more information will follow this Monday.
WWE 2K21 cancelation is not surprising
All things considered; it doesn’t take a genius to link the dots together. Simply put, WWE 2K20 was a completer failure of a video game. It currently sits at a shocking 43 on Metacritic with some critics such as Shacknews’ Chris Jarrard giving it just a 3/10.
Unsurprisingly, this had a direct impact on the wrestling games underwhelming sales. Although 2K aren’t overly keen to provide exact figures, it’s clear the publisher isn’t happy. Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick acknowledged that WWEK 2K20 failed to meet expectations, both in terms of sales and quality.
To rub salt in the wound, there has even been suggestions that 2K Games hasn’t future proofed their titles. According to content creator Justin Leeper, it’s very possible that WWE 2K22 likely won’t make its way to PS5 or Xbox Series X. Instead, fans may have to settle on what will by then be a last-gen version of the game.
When all things are considered, 2K Games skipping a year might not be a bad thing. WWE 2K20 wasn’t good enough and it’s doubtful a year of development would be enough to change that. By taking a step back and reevaluating the state of the series, maybe things can improve long-term.
WWE 2K17 is out in the wilds and, despite featuring the largest roster in the series to date, there are still plenty of wrestlers from the company’s past and present that are sorely missing. There are big names that have fans baffled at their exclusion like Roddy Rodney Piper and Dave Batista and new faces that the developers couldn’t realistically have been expected to include in their development schedule like Bobby Roode and TJ Perkins. However, there are also plenty of athletes from the company’s history that deserve a spot on the roster despite many overlooking them for various reasons. While they may have fallen into obscurity, developed a bad reputation, or burned their fair share of bridges, these ten wrestlers should still receive their share of the virtual spotlight. (Note: For the sake of simplicity, WWE will only be referred to as WWE in this list even for wrestlers that worked for the company while it was called WWF or WWWF.)
8. Santino Marella
Although Santino Marella was played for laughs for most of his WWE career, he did have an interesting run as Intercontinental Champion with the goal of breaking the Honky Tonk Man’s record (hey, there’s another big name that’s missing). He may not have surpassed the Elvis impersonator’s reign in the end, but his angle did elevate the title and restore the audience’s interest in the belt. I repeat, the heavily-accented, monobrowed, cobra-sock-wearing Santino Marella elevated the second-most prestigious title in WWE history. Anyone who can do that with a comedy character deserves some props.
The idea of a wrestling vampire is something that can easily go wrong (see Kevin Thorn), but Gangrel nailed it perfectly. If him rising out of circle of fire and spitting a mist of blood isn’t in your top ten favorite ring entrances, then the problem is with you. While the man himself hasn’t appeared in a game since WWE 2K13, 2K and Yukes have never been shy about including his intro animation for the creative suite. He also had a recent cameo on an episode of WWE Network’s The Edge and Christian Show, so there certainly isn’t any bad blood between him and the company. It’s well past time for the mastermind of the Brood to descend on the WWE games once again.
It’s amazing to think of how long Funaki has worked with WWE despite everything the company has put him through. He entered the company as a member of the Kai En Tai stable, which is most famous for its feud with wrestling porn star Val Venus and their manager threatening to “choppy choppy (his) pee pee”. Not off to a good start. After most of the Kai En Tai team left WWE, Funaki and his remaining stablemate, Taka Michinoku, were given the new gimmick of being badly dubbed over like they were in an old Godzilla movie. Then came Kung Fu Naki which pretty much speaks for itself. In spite of all that absurdity, he still came back to the company to help put over NXT superstar Hideo Itami and is still working with them to this day as a member of the Japanese commentary team. Forget 2K17, give that man a world title run.
5. The Nasty Boys
Before the Hardy Boyz or the Dudley Boyz, the Nasty Boys Brian Knobbs and Jerry Sags were the original hardcore tag-team of the WWE. While they may look more like the kind of goons that the Ninja Turtles would fight by today’s standards, their black attire and hard-hitting style was revolutionary in their heyday. Granted, their mohawk-mullet hairstyles made them look like pre-mutation Rocksteady and Bebop and one of their moves involved shoving their opponent’s face into their armpits, but they were still OH, MY GOD, THEY REALLY WERE NINJA TURTLE VILLAINS!
Umaga was one of the more iffy personas WWE had in terms of cultural sensitivity. Still, his legacy is not one that deserves to be forgotten. He was a major player in the Battle of the Billionaires storyline, although his rival, Bobby Lashley, is now with TNA and isn’t going to appear in anything WWE-related anytime soon. He’s also a member of the prestigious Anoa’i wrestling family, along with Roman Reigns, The Rock, Yokozuna (who’s also sorely missing from the game), Rikishi, Naomi, and the Usos. In fact, the Usos’ facepaint designs are a tribute to their late uncle. A two-time Intercontinental Champion and long-time rival of Triple H, John Cena, and Jeff Hardy, Umaga warrants a spot in 2K17.
Many bemoan Sable as being the beginning of the end for women’s wrestling. She got over less for her skills in the ring or on the mic and much more for her looks and she is often blamed for sparking the objectification of female wrestlers that we are still trying to bury to this day. Just don’t complain too loudly because she’s now married to Brock Lesnar and that kind of talk is liable to get you turned inside out. Joking aside, Sable is a big part of WWE’s history, bringing a great deal of attention to the brand, and deserves more recognition for it. With her husband being the cover star of 2K17, now would’ve been the perfect time to reunite the beauty and the beast incarnate in the ring for the ultimate intergender tagteam.
2. Nikolai Volkoff
While he may not be as big a name as other major heels of his time like Ted DiBiase and the Iron Sheik (again, how are they not playable?), Nikolai Volkoff holds his own place in WWE history. As the man who set the standard for the evil Russian archetype that WWE still likes to pull out to this day, Volkoff had plenty of legendary feuds with the likes of Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund, and Hulk Hogan Curtis Axel. He also enjoyed a face-turn that captured the audience’s attention just as much as his villainous days that concluded with a reversal of roles as he fought against Sgt. Slaughter (fourth verse, same as the first) at the 1990 Survivor Series. Volkoff is undoubtedly an icon of the company and warrants a spot in the game.
1. Wade Barrett
It’s weird to me that Bad News Barrett has been dropped from the playable roster in the first place. Yes, he was released from the company earlier this year, but that was a matter of him being a glass cannon and suffering too many injuries too frequently. It’s not like he burned any bridges or left the company on bad terms like Ryback and Damien Sandow did on their way out and he’s even said that he’d be willing to come back after he’s had some time off. Cody Rhodes outright quit, but he’s still on good enough terms with WWE to hold a spot in the game, so why leave out Wade? The King of the Nexus and the Corre definitely deserves to be on 2K17‘s roster and he is easily one of the biggest omissions.
Have any other wrestlers deserving of a spot in WWE 2K17 that noone else seems to be talking about? Be they bizarre, underrated, or outright controversial, who merits a place in the game and should be at the top of 2K’s list when building next year’s roster? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.