The best there ever will be?
The WWE 2K17 release date of 11 October is fast approaching – and it promises to pack in a host of your wrestling favourites, past and present.
New faces this year include Bayley, Asuka, AJ Styles, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Shinsuke Nakamura, American Alpha, and Becky Lynch – plus the Dudley Boyz are back. Over the coming pages I'll profile every wrestler, male or female, confirmed for that release date, plus those coming to DLC when it's announced.
For ease of use, the list runs in alphabetical order. For the most part tag teams (as well as father-son pairing Mr Perfect & Curtis Axel, and women's legends Lita & Trish Stratus) are listed as their group names: The New Day, Edge & Christian, Breezango, etc.
[last updated on September 12]
The 38-year-old veteran has appeared in wrestling games before, such as 2008 Midway effort TNA Impact. But spending more than a decade with WWE’s biggest rival naturally means he’s yet to appear in the Smackdown/2K series. That changes this year, with Styles already a massive deal: at Backlash in September, Styles defeated Dean Ambrose to win the WWE World Championship.
Alberto Del Rio
Del Rio was a series regular for many years, and has already appeared on this generation of consoles by way of WWE 2K15 – but his brief departure for Lucha Underground saw him left off last year’s roster. We’ll likely also get a theme and entrance for the League Of Nations stable, which saw Del Rio team with Sheamus, Rusev and (the now departed) Bad News Barrett for no discernible reason other than they’re all ‘foreigners’. Nice one, WWE.
With former stablemates Blake and Murphy made available for WWE 2K16 as DLC, Bliss completes the set in its successor – as we predicted after spotting her on the NXT Edition box. Triple H has singled her out as one the company’s hottest prospects (not in that way), and there’s an air of a young Trish Stratus in the way she carries herself during interviews and around the ring. She was called up from NXT to Smackdown in July.
It's now eight years since Fox debuted on Smackdown as the wedding planner for Edge and Vickie Guerrero's big day – a big day which went awry after Fox shared a big smooch with the Rated R Superstar. Most fans remember that more than they do Fox's brief Divas Championship reign in 2010, which lasted all of 56 days.
The lady known as Madusa in WCW was persona non grata in WWE for two decades after dumping the latter company’s title belt in a dustbin live on air, but reconciled last year in order to take a WWE Hall Of Fame spot. DLC for WWE 2K16, this is her first on-disc appearance.
If you were ever a fan of the supremely athletic ‘World’s Greatest Tag Team’ pairing of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin, say hello to their natural successors. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan’s collective ring style incorporates Olympic-style throws and slams, mat-based excellence, and the odd genuinely funny comic moment. They were called up to Smackdown in July.
Andre The Giant
23 years after the Alp-sized Frenchman's passing, Andre remains one of the most famous names in wrestling. At 7ft tall and 520lbs, he's the biggest superstar in this year's game, and the one with the shortest WWE Championship reign – he 'sold' the belt to Million Dollar Man Ted DiBaise 108 seconds after winning it from Hulk Hogan in 1988.
Apollo Crews (DLC)
Like Shinsuke Nakamura and Nia Jax, the man once known as Uhaa Nation initially comes as an NXT Edition exclusive, but you can expect him to be released as standalone DLC in due course. He had a quiet start to his main roster career after a post-WrestleMania call up, but should prove one of Smackdown's best assets after being drafted to that brand in July.
Initially booked as a combination of Legion Of Doom and Demolition, no amount of facepaint could cover for Konnor and Viktor's in-ring sloppiness – and so for the last year they've languished in Defeatsville. A link-up with the now-departed Stardust as Cosmic Wasteland was a dismal failure, and it'll be a surprise if they're still contracted to the company by the time WWE 2K18 gets a release date.
The E’s star female signing of 2015. The former Kana spent 11 years dominating the Japanese wrestling scene before being tempted to the States as a member of NXT. Despite not being part of the main roster as yet, many consider her the female Brock Lesnar – and being left out of 2K17 would have triggered considerable fan backlash.
Bam Bam Bigelow
Along with Vader, the beast from Asbury Park, NY is among the most athletic big men ever to step into a WWE ring – and his early ‘90s run included memorable bouts against the likes of Bret Hart and NFL player Lawrence Taylor. Sadly, WWE 2K17 is the only way to see him once more step through the ropes – Bigelow passed away from a drugs overdose in 2007.
Former NFL lineman Tom Pestock made an immediate impact on his main roster debut at WrestleMania 32, emerging victorious from the annual Andre The Giant battle royal. But he's made little impact since – a seemingly interminable feud with Dolph Ziggler only serving to make fans care about neither. Perhaps WWE 2K17, and a switch to Smackdown, will see his 'lone wolf' character reinvigorated.
There was no spot for Bayley during the WWE Draft, but she finally received a long-overdue main roster call-up the night after Summerslam, in August. GR+ successfully predicted Bayley's inclusion after seeing WWE 2K17's NXT Edition - it'd have been super misleading to place a wrestler on the packaging of a product, then leave them out of the game itself.
Incredibly, the flame-haired Dubliner worked as an Aer Lingus flight attendant for two-and-a-half years after retiring from wrestling in 2006. A WWE tryout tempted her back into the ring in 2013, and she’s since prospered alongside Banks and Charlotte, first on NXT and then – from last summer onwards – as a member of the main roster. In September, she became the first WWE Smackdown Women's Champion.
Big Boss Man
If you ever take a trip down to Cobb County, Georgia, you’d better read the signs – respect the law and order. Not our advice, but that of the Boss Man’s legendary (in WWE term’s) theme song, frustratingly omitted from last year’s game. Let’s hope 2K has learned its lesson and makes the necessary fix.
Sadly, the 'please retire' chants which accompany every slow Show snooze-a-thon aren't likely to find their way into 2K16 – derogatory catcalls are an area where WWE isn't seeking believability. And to be fair, his power-packed move set makes him way more fun to play as in-game than he is to watch in real life.
Blake & Murphy
With an NXT tag title run already long-forgotten, and manager Alexa Bliss promoted to the main roster in July, immediate prospects for this pair don't look overly exciting - particularly as they're now trying to make it in singles competition. At least a second consecutive WWE 2K17 appearance is now confirmed, after Blake was spotted on the box of the NXT Edition.
Irwin R Schyster's baby boy has been treading water for some time now, reduced to comedy jobber status as a member of the Social Outcasts. A link-up with real-life older sibling Bray Wyatt would instantly revitalise him, but WWE clearly isn't interested in such a natural tandem. No matter: put them together in the game instead.
These days entrenched as a member of the WWE commentary team, T nonetheless remains active on the company's virtual roster despite not having had a match since WrestleMania 28 – more than four years ago. This will be his 27th video game appearance, dating back to PS1's WCW Nitro in 1997.
The fourth member of the Wyatt Family was afforded the rarest of privileges during the summer of 2015: a call-up to the main roster without ever appearing on NXT. He’s immobile like a decaying redwood and hasn’t had a single memorable match, but WWE sees something in him that fans don’t – and after departing Bray Wyatt's troupe he's now enjoying a mega push on Raw.
Eater of worlds, new face of fear, and king of the rambling nonsensical promo, Bo Dallas's real-life big bro has spent the year racking up victories while never really getting the fans to care much about his results – which is pretty much what I wrote ahead of his appearance in WWE 2K16. His is a character which could really do with some serious refreshment.
No, that isn’t a typo: the tag team of Tyler Breeze and Fandango really are lumbered with that preposterous name. Despite the monstrous monicker, they’re well suited as a tandem, and deserve better than the ‘perennial jobber’ status they currently occupy on Smackdown. 2K17’s Universe mode facilitates that improved push.
Bret 'Hitman' Hart
The Hitman was bafflingly lift off the WWE 2K15 roster, but 2K corrected their error last year - and WWE 2K17 sees Bret once more included alongside tag partner Jim 'The Anvil' Neidhart. The family connections continue with niece Natalya and her husband Tyson Kidd both included, despite the latter suffering a career-threatening neck injury.
A second consecutive 2K appearance for Steve Austin's sometime tag buddy. After their Hollywood Blondes tandem split, Pillman went on to become one of the '90s dirtiest heels, and took part in one of the most controversial angles ever when he pulled a gun on his former partner. An undetected heart condition led to him passing away in October 1997, aged just 35.
Mrs Daniel Bryan effectively retired at WrestleMania 32, after a ten-ladies women's match – although WWE has never officially said as much onscreen. That means the younger Bella twin (by 16 minutes) is still recognised as part of the official roster, even if she's not affiliated to a specific show. With Bryan now general manager of Smackdown, that may change imminently.
Shockingly, its 13 years since Davey Boy Smith – and yes, that is his real middle name – marched off to the great squared circle in the sky. Yet he remains one of the most famous Brit grapplers ever, and his inclusion here enables fans to relive perhaps the greatest Intercontinental Title bout of all time: the titanic tilt with brother-in-law Bret Hart at Summerslam 1992.
Altogether now: der-dum, dum, dum dum dum, der-dum, dum, dum dum dum. Fresh off hammering Mark Hunt at UFC 200, Lesnar will be the cover star for WWE 2K17 – setting up a long-awaiting return match with WrestleMania 20 opponent Goldberg. Other possible dream bouts include weapon-heavy contests against long-time NXT champ Samoa Joe and Daniel Bryan, who retired in February 2016 before he'd had chance to ever wrestle 'The Beast'.
Few teams split long-standing grap fans like these Kiwi hall of famers. Luke and Butch’s early ‘90s antics saw them licking rival competitors and generally doing anything other than actual wrestling, hence their history as polarising figures. In 2K17, they’re upgraded from DLC to on-disc roster.
After being drafted to Smackdown in July, fans showed zero interest in this former NXT prospect – so she was quickly turned heel, by way of a vicious attack on Nikki Bella. Long-term, her best shot at success remains a reunion with former running buddies Enzo & Cass; something you can make happen in WWE 2K17, even if it never occurs for real.
Universe mode priority for every discerning WWE viewer: putting the WWE Championship on this most under-utilised of squared circle talents. The Swiss grappler has put on numerous great matches over the years, yet company bosses refuse to give him the big one. In-game, you can – and should – rectify that.
Ric Flair’s baby girl was expected to appear in WWE 2K16, after her shirt was spotted on members of the crowd in preview videos. Yet on the game’s release, the shirt – and Charlotte – had mysteriously disappeared, leading some fans to speculate that WWE, or 2K, or both, had deliberately held her back for a year in order to debut alongside the other ‘Four Horsewomen’ (Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Sasha Banks). No such naughtiness this year, thankfully.
The Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla chooses to wrestle on a part-time basis these days, splitting his schedule between WWE shows and his band, Fozzy. Even so he scored a shock win over AJ Styles at WrestleMania, and shared hilarious exchanges with the soil-the-bed funny Enzo Amore on Raw over the summer. A Christmas departure is inevitable, but he's in WWE 2K17 for the full year.
Another new addition to this year’s roster. Dana broke through in NXT as Emma’s even more dastardly sidekick, and the pair looked to be in for some sustained TV time after being called up to Raw together – only for Emma to suffer a serious back injury. These days the inconsistent Brooke can be found seconding Charlotte, usually with change-the-channel results.
No superstar has won over the WWE fanbase in recent years like Daniel Bryan – so his retirement through injury in February 2016, after a series of concussions, was a bitter blow. It smashed all hope of future feuds with Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura and Sami Zayn, but his WWE 2K17 inclusion means these ring-based wars can take place in some form.
With his Prime Time Players tandem disbanded, Young was paired with the forever crazy Bob Backlund, who's aim is apparently to 'make Darren Young great again'. As former partner Titus O'Neil has repeatedly pointed out, he was never great in the first place – and both look set to flounder outside of their more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts tag team.
His appearance here caps a memorable year for Ambrose: he won the Money In The Bank briefcase in June and cashed it in on the same night, capturing the WWE Championship from former Shield team-mate Seth Rollins. I played WWE 2K17 as the Lunatic Fringe over Summerslam weekend, the results from which you can read in our 11 things we learned feature.
Diamond Dallas Page
DDP had, by some margin, the worst-modelled hair in both WWE 2K15 and 2K16, so let's hope co-developer Yuke's have put time into fixing that – particularly with this year's game featuring the Nitro arena in which DDP rose to fame. If so, a legend-vs-legend-killer feud with Randy Orton surely beckons, pitting Page's Diamond Cutter against the near-identical RKO.
Named after a truck and (not coincidentally) built like one, Kevin Nash popped up as DLC in WWE 2K16 – and now makes the on-disc roster, back in the gimmick which propelled him to superstardom. Shawn Michaels is inevitably in too, enabling you to recreate the tandem that scored two WWE World Tag Team Championships.
This summer’s WWE Draft was especially kind to the Show Off. After 18 months spent in mid-card hell - and the most tedious feud of the year, versus Baron Corbin - it catapulted him into a Summerslam main event against Dean Ambrose for the WWE Championship. Natural next feuds on Smackdown would appear to include Bray Wyatt and AJ Styles.
Despite being one the most celebrated tandems in WWE history, Bubba Ray and D-Von haven’t appeared in any of its games since 2005’s Smackdown vs Raw. Like AJ Styles, that’s simply down to them wrestling for rivals TNA in the decade since. The pairing returned to their long-term home late in 2015, and in a hint at what’s to come their entrance was already part of WWE 2K16’s DLC – albeit assigned to a different team (Booker T and Stevie Ray, AKA Harlem Heat).
The charismatic Southerner sadly passed away in June 2015, been not before he'd played a major part in NXT’s grap revolution. His presence here enables you to form a family trio that’d be difficult to surpass: legend Dusty, plus talented offspring Goldust (Dustin Rhodes) and Stardust (Cody Rhodes).
Edge & Christian
Like Daniel Bryan, Edge's career was brought to a premature halt through injury, but he can still be spotted on the WWE Network fronting The Edge And Christian Show That Totally Reeks Of Awesomeness. Also like Bryan, his WWE 2K17 character model appears to feature his old, bountiful locks rather than the neatly trimmed cut he currently sports. At least Christian's model is a contemporary one.
Zack Ryder's other (many would say better) half abandoned her dancing gimmick in 2015, returning to NXT to reinvent herself as a nefarious heel – with more-than-watchable results. Recalled to the main roster ahead of WrestleMania 32, she looked set for a strong 2016, only to suffer a ruptured disc in May. Still, at 27 the Aussie is young enough to have many future g'days.
Things are getting properly old school with this one. Hall of Famer Larry Zbyszko turns 65 this December, and hasn't had a WWE (or WWF, as it was known during his heyday) match since defeating Dominic DeNucci on December 8, 1980. But he was included as WCW-based DLC in WWE 2K16, and this year everyone gets to sample what will almost certainly be an identical character model. Ditto for tag partner Arn Anderson.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass
While many acts – namely Baron Corbin, Apollo Crews, and The Vaudevillains – struggled after April 2016 call-ups from NXT, Enzo & Cass have prospered. Along with American Alpha they should dominate your tag division, even if things don't play out that way in real (choreographed) life. For now, WWE seems well behind this most unconventional of pairs, and deservedly so.
Multiple attempts to split the ginger-chinned fistpounder away from Bray Wyatt have reached dead ends, so Rowan enters 2K17 doing what he does capably (but no better): taking losses for his mentor. Maybe time for a shave and a combover? Get to work in that creation suite…
Miss All Red Everything is WWE's pet project in the women's division, much to the annoyance of hardcore fans who (correctly) insist she can't wrestle. And in fairness, the company has done a brilliant job of heeling her up over the summer – with the flame-haired vixen crying off matches due to a pretend hamstring injury and being 'stuck in traffic'.
The demonic Irishman was confirmed for the roster in early August, just as GR+ said he would be after the announcement of his statue being packaged with the NXT Edition. The former NXT champion was drafted to Raw in July and catapulted straight into a Summerslam main event against Seth Rollins, where he won the new Universal Championship - only to relinquish the title one night later due to injury.
How times change. Two years The Bizarre One was a fixture on WWE TV alongside brother Cody, together one of the company’s freshest duos in years. Now li'l bro is out of WWE (although still in the game, as Stardust), while Goldie flounders in a painfully unfunny ‘comedy’ tandem with R-Truth.
The former 3MB member was on hilarious form throughout the summer, after being ignored in the WWE Draft. His efforts to earn a contract on Raw or Smackdown saw him double-crossed by former friend Jinder Mahal and speared by Rhyno – but it all came good when he teamed with the latter at Backlash to win the WWE Smackdown Tag Titles, and earn a roster spot in the process.
Not even 14 glorious years in Japan were sufficient to fast-track Kenta Kobayashi to WWEs main roster; like most other new signings, he was first dispatched to developmental territory NXT and given an unfamiliar name. A persistent shoulder injury has kept him there since his videogame debut in WWE 2K16, but his main roster call-up is surely months, if not weeks, away.
Next year marks the All-American American’s tenth in WWE, but his star has fallen since a 2010 World Heavyweight Championship reign. Many assumed he was gone for good after briefly deleting his Twitter account, but he’s still clinging to a roster spot and thus makes the cut for WWE 2K17.
Jake 'The Snake' Roberts
Personal problems plagued the real-life Aurelian Smith Jr for decades, as showcased in 1999 documentary Beyond The Mat. But moving in with fellow grappler (and yoga guru) Diamond Dallas Page sparked a change of mindset, and The Snake was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 2014. This is his second consecutive WWE 2K series appearance.
Most found the former Acolyte's WWE Championship reign to be the perfect cure for insomnia, yet a switch to the commentary desk transformed Layfield from humdrum villain to cult hero. (Although 2016 has not produced his best work.) Listen out for the comedic cow moo just after his music kicks in – an ingeniously subtle nod to his Texan upbringing.
Doubling WWE 2K17's ginger beard count after Erick Rowan's confirmation is Bret Hart's former Hart Foundation tag-team partner. Sadly, the leap to current-gen saw the removal of mixed gender tag matches, meaning it's no longer possible to team Jim up with daughter Natalya. If 2K has a hart (sorry), perhaps that option will see a comeback this year.
Whisper it, but the much-maligned WWE answer to Superman was the company's MVP in 2015. He made the US Championship matter again, his feud with Rusev far surpassed expectations, and a summer series against Kevin Owens delivered two of the year's standout matches. His knockers remain critical, but few deserve their placing here more than Mr Wash-Your-Mouth-Like-Colgate.
For a chunk of 2015 and early 2016 it appeared that WWE was seeking to turn this plucky luchador into a modern Rey Mysterio – but it never gave him the in-ring time to make a significant impression. For instance, a US title defence against Ryback on the WrestleMania 32 pre-show played out in front of an empty arena, and lasted just nine minutes. Regardless, his acrobatic moveset should make him one of the most fun characters in WWE 2K17.
Masked, unmasked, masked, unmasked: Kane’s status these days essentially equates to being a Scooby Doo villain. For WWE 2K17 he’s back to hiding his face, but having gone to the lengths of scanning his likeness for last year’s edition, you’d wager a maskless version of his character will also be selectable.
WWE's second Universal Champion won't get to brawl with Toad from Mario Brothers in WWE 2K17 – more's the pity, according to an interview with GR+ – so instead will have to make due with reignited feuds against John Cena, Sami Zayn and Dean Ambrose. He says he's delighted with his character model, as WWE 2K16 contained his NXT likeness despite him being called up to the main roster before its release.
The Narcissist’s 1993 repackaging as an American hero, complete with flag-trumpeting tour bus The Lex Express, remains one of WWE’s greatest mis-steps. Yet the mulleted muscle-man did have a successful run in WCW prior to that. Foes Ric Flair and Sting provide a welcome chance to relive those halcyon days.
Lita & Trish Stratus
With 11 Women’s Championships between them, this pair were among the most popular of last year’s DLC offerings – and this year, they return to the 2K series’ main roster. These days Stratus runs her own yoga business, while Lita can be seen on pre-shows for WWE pay-per-views.
After dislocating his patella and tearing his medial patellofemoral ligament (you know the one) in March, Harper disappeared off WWE TV – and went unmentioned in July’s draft. Hopefully this means a fresh feud with former master Bray Wyatt on his return – one you can fast track using WWE 2K17.
Retirement rumours continue to stalk the 'World's Strongest Man' – particularly as (at time of writing in mid-August) he's only had three televised matches since WrestleMania 32. But he was factored into July's WWE draft, being sent to Raw, and has had his virtual career extended by at least 12 months with this appearance in WWE 2K17.
Happy news! Epico and Primo, AKA The Shining Stars, are in the game from the outset – whereas last year they were only playable if you forked out extra for DLC. Less happy news! They're included under their old names of Fernando and Diego, and old gimmick – Los Matadores – despite not appearing in those guises since September 2015. What a load of bull.
After retracting his likeness from WWE 2K15 because he felt the royalties were insufficient, Mick returned last year – and the Raw General Manager clearly found the paycheque more agreeable, as he's back again. Indeed Foley counts three times towards the overall roster number, with Dude Love, Mankind, and Cactus Jack all playable in WWE 2K17.
There was never any danger of Miz missing out on the WWE 2K17 roster; the big question is whether his wife Maryse also makes the cut. The pair has been one of the most entertaining acts on TV this year, and his resulting run as Intercontinental Champion has made for one of the highlights of Smackdown. Even if it's only as a manager, Mrs Mizanin needs to be in.
Mr Perfect & Curtis Axel
This father-son pair have had very different WWE careers; Perfect was considered one of the ‘90s greatest in-ring technicians, whereas Axel was 2016’s Mr Irrelevant – AKA the last person selected in the WWE draft. After Perfect’s untimely death in 2003, they’ll sadly never team together in real life; but 2K17 provides that possibility.
The former Funkadactyl recently resurfaced as a face after more than a year on the heel side of WWE – with zero explanation for the good turn. The switch brought new entrance music and a neon, glow-in-the-dark ring outfit; but it likely came way too late to make the game, so expect her WWE 2K17 model to be based on her mischievous Team Bad days.
After being under-utilised throughout 2015, Jim Neidhart's daughter has featured more prominently on WWE TV this year, although seeing her turn from face to heel and back every 12 weeks grew tiresome eons ago. Perhaps her new role as Smackdown’s chief villain will stick until WWE 2K18.
Fred Ottman and Jon Tenta fought under many guises over their grap careers – Typhoon, Tugboat and The Shockmaster among the former's; Earthquake, Golga, and The Shark the pick of Tenta's. WWE 2K17 sees them reunited as the mammoth tandem which held the company's tag titles in 1992, after appearing as DLC in last year's game.
Newcastle's pocket rocket took his videogame bow in WWE 2K15, and soon followed that up with a promotion from NXT to the main roster. Now established as the company's premier high-flyer, his supremely acrobatic moveset should mean lots of online use and a disheartening amount of top-rope move spamming.
New Age Outlaws
Billy Gunn appeared in WWE 2K16 solo – a strange choice, given that he's best remembered for his tag team with Road Dogg Jesse James, who was absent. The Dogg's omission came about because Gunn featured as part of 2K16's Stone Cold Showcase, and with that mode removed this year, we finally get a New Age Outlaws reunion.
The New Day
Big E, Kofi Kingston and Xavier Woods all make the WWE 2K17 cut – the latter with a long-overdue new character model. Their inclusion is no surprise: the trio's laugh-out-loud funny promos quickly turned them from heels to faces at the back end of 2015, and they entered Summerslam having held the tag titles for a full calendar year.
Nia Jax (DLC)
Many tabbed beloved NXT grappler Bayley for a main roster call-up during July's WWE Draft, but instead the first female selected from WWE's developmental territory was Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson's cousin. That family pedigree will increase interest in her first year on Raw, although she's still a little way off the calibre of Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. Jax is initially exclusive to the NXT Edition.
Last year, John Cena's other half was a fixture on WWE TV thanks to a record 301-day reign as Divas Champion. In 2016, however, she's barely been seen (other than in a brief WrestleMania 32 cameo) after suffering a serious neck injury. Bella returned at Summerslam and immediately entered the Smackdown title mix, alongside Becky Lynch, Alexa Bliss and Natalya.
The lass from Norwich transformed the women's division on her first main roster appearance, defeating AJ Lee to claim its title the night after WrestleMania 30. Things have significantly soured since – a suspension for failing the company's wellness policy this summer, for instance – but the Brit remains wildly popular, and at 24 should still have a Championship-packed future.
The man once known as K-Kwik has had a truly bizarre 2016 – not that you should be surprised, given that he used to come to the ring with an imaginary friend called Little Jimmy. His tandem with Goldust even lost a match in August after R-Truth was distracted *looking for Pokemon on his phone*. No. Just no.
After a lengthy absence through injury, the Legend Killer returned at Battleground to set up a Summerslam match with Brock Lesnar. Yet disappointingly, it was as a good guy. GR+'s first move in Universe mode, then, will be to switch him back to being a heel – his dastardly moveset and mannerisms are much better suited to fan boos.
Having gone the entire noughties without appearing in a WWE game, Macho Man is now considered a series regular – this will be his fourth consecutive appearance. No word one whether he'll be joined by long-time wife and manager Miss Elizabeth, but you'd hope so.
Say hello to the Bad Guy. Dropped last year (but kept in as DLC under his real name of Scott Hall), Razor returns for more toothpick-slinging, Razor's-Edge-hitting squared circle action. And with this year's ladder match updates, the timing couldn't be more appropriate – he and Shawn Michaels provided the template for that style of bout via a WrestleMania 9 masterclass.
Last year’s NXT tag champs, Blake & Murphy, earned DLC spots for WWE 2K16, but the current title holders go one better – heading direct to disc. Dash Wilder & Scott Dawson are a welcome throwback to the ‘80s, prioritising in-ring generalship over flashy flips and dives. And while they might look generic, they’ve in fact put on some of NXT’s best matches in 2016.
Woo! With daughter Charlotte appearing in a WWE game for the first time, there was no way Yuke's could omit this Limousine-riding, jet-flying, kiss-stealing, wheeling-dealing son of a gun – giving you the opportunity to add to his 16 previous World Championship reigns, should you so wish. Come on, one more for the road: Woooo!
The Ravishing one enjoyed a storied career, from unforgettable feuds with Jake Roberts and the Ultimate Warrior, to a reinvention as DX's original manager and mouthpiece. He sadly passed away in 1999, but features here for the third year in a row: potentially facilitating an unlikely reunion with Shawn Michaels and Triple H.
One of the great wrestling technicians of the '80s, The Dragon starred in what many consider to be the best match of the entire decade - an Intercontinental Championship tilt with Randy Savage at WrestleMania 3. A brief 2006 comeback produced similarly fluid encounters with Chris Jericho, before injury forced him to call it a day (at least in WWE rings) for good.
Stiiiiink-face! Daddy Usos' finisher, in which he introduces his ample backside to a fallen foe's grill, is as low brow and downright immature as wrestling gets – so naturally, we're delighted to see him, and said cheek-to-cheek move, return to the roster for a second consecutive year.
No in-ring appearances for The Great One this year so far, but that won't stop him being a fixture in WWE games for the next decade and beyond. Fancy granting him a ninth WWE Championship reign, and reigniting his classic feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin in the process? Hit Universe mode and get Rock Bottoming.
Ongoing, underwhelming fan reaction has turned the man being groomed as John Cena Mk II into the modern reincarnation of Lex Luger, yet still WWE persists in pushing him to the moon. He's desperate for a run as a no-prisoners, ass-whupping bad guy – anyone with sense will make that happen in WWE 2K17.
In 2015, the Bulgarian behemoth had his girlfriend stolen and was attacked (by Dolph Ziggler) with his leg still in a cast from a broken ankle. This year, he's been victim to a series of sneak attacks from Roman Reigns, simply for defending his now-wife's honour. Remind us how he's a villain? Hopefully your 2K16 storylines involving Lana's real-life other half utilise more logic than WWE's.
After missing most of 2015 with a busted shoulder, the indie darling formerly known as El Generico returned to feud with long-term best pal Kevin Owens – although six months of seeing the two face off was overkill. Zayn was basically confirmed by his being on the box of the NXT Edition, and this will mark a third consecutive appearance in WWE 2K.
A beastly feud between Samoa Joe and Brock Lesnar has been high on the wishlist of most fans since the former signed with WWE in 2015 – but with no sign of a call-up from NXT to Raw or Smackdown, it'll have to wait in real life. No such problem in the videogame, where Joe is on the NXT Edition box and will be available to pummel Lesnar (or vice versa) from October's release date.
The most talented in-ring prospect among WWE’s ‘Four Horsewomen’ – a quartet who revolutionised female wrestling in 2015 with memorable matches in NXT. She entered WrestleMania 32 as the lady most wanted to capture the Women's Championship from fellow ‘Horsewoman’ Charlotte, and while that didn't happen, she finally held the belt for a month between Battleground and Summerslam.
"Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah." If there's one element of WWE 2K17 where Yuke's could do without striving for realism it's implementing Rollins' patented nails-down-a-blackboard chuckle. His in-ring intensity, upper-tier athleticism, and now-banned curb stomp finisher? All of those things we will happily accept.
Vince Jr stepped down from WWE in 2013 for a new career away from wrestling – only to make a shocking return this year to take on The Undertaker in a WrestleMania 32 Hell In A Cell brawl. He was in WWE 2K16 as a callback to the attitude era; this time around we should get a contemporary character model, with Shane-O-Mac now running things on Smackdown alongside general manager Daniel Bryan.
It’s been six years and despite regular rumours of a squared circle return, Mr WrestleMania still hasn’t had ‘one more match’ since his defeat to Undertaker at Mania 26. The means 2K17 is your only means of resurrecting old feuds, like this classic against Bret Hart, or sparking must-watch new ones – with protege Daniel Bryan, for instance.
It's easy to forget that Sheamus had a WWE Championship run shortly after release of WWE 2K16, so hapless was the League Of Nations faction he joined once Roman Reigns had recaptured that belt. Thankfully, the stupid stable was not long for this world, and he kicks off the WWE 2K17 era doing something vaguely interesting: battling the excellent Cesaro in a best-of-seven series.
Shinsuke Nakamura (DLC)
Disappointed faces were pulled when the King Of Strong Style missed out on a call-up to the main roster in July – but those frowns can be turned upside down come WWE 2K17's release date, as WWE Universe mode gives you the chance to place Nakamura on any brand you like. The catch: he'll initially only be available as part of the NXT Edition, but expect him to be purchasable as paid-for DLC before Christmas.
The former Hunico had a fair run as one half of tag team Lucha Dragons, with Kalisto – but the two were split up by July's WWE draft, and his solo stint on Raw has been a near-anonymous one thus far. Like his former partner, he'll still offer a load of enjoyment in WWE 2K17 thanks to a wickedly quick, high-flying moveset.
Cody Rhodes left WWE in May - but with the roster cut-off point being around WrestleMania time in March, he still sneaks into the game one final time with his intergalactic alter-ego. Brother Goldust and dad Dusty Rhodes were both also confirmed for WWE 2K17 in late August.
Bald guy, goatee, badass, throws arounds stunners, likes a beer or ten, presents regular podcasts on the WWE Network, had legendary feuds with The Rock, Undertaker, Bret Hart, and the entire McMahon Family… you still need more information on old Stone Cold? What? What? What? What?
A rumoured match against UFC fighting machine Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 32 never materialised – sadly – but WWE's chief brand officer has still been a mainstay of the company's TV shows this year. Many argue, in fact, that we've had too much of the boss' daughter across Raw and Smackdown in 2016; something you can now put right, should you so please, in WWE 2K17.
The WCW legend made his series debut as a pre-order incentive for WWE 2K15, ahead of his first ever in-ring appearance for the company against Triple H at WrestleMania 31. He lost that and is now retired after suffering injury in another defeat (to Seth Rollins), but nonetheless looks like being a 2K series mainstay for years to come.
As Rusev’s main squeeze and Lana’s big rival, this former Lingerie Football League star had a decent 2015 – but has since returned to non-entity status after that pair reunited and were married in real life. As someone who’s always played heel, a babyface turn would temporarily raise interest in her prospects.
Last year’s DLC appearance was this Japanese veteran’s first in the series – hardly a surprise given that his WWE (or rather, WWWF) career was mostly based in the 1970s. However, the company’s Hall Of Fame now includes famous grap names from outside the organisation, hence him being inducted at WrestleMania 32, and back for a second shot at WWE 2K.
Injuries and in-ring sloppiness has amounted to a quiet year for Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka’s daughter, and a Naomi face turn – bringing an unacknowledged end to the ‘Team Bad’ faction - doesn’t bode especially well for her future prospects. At least her videogame roster spot is secure for another year.
The former Prime Time Player might want to spend a bit of time with WWE 2K17's new promo engine – his attempt to bait ex-partner Darren Young the night after Summerslam was error-strewn and, as a result, had fans mocking him throughout. With 2K17 due in October, you can finally bring an end to comfortably the worst feud of 2016.
WWE's executive vice president went missing from TV screens after his WWE Championship defeat to Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 32, but is sure to return before the year is out – likely in cahoots with real life wife and Raw president Stephanie McMahon. A WrestleMania 33 match with brother-in-law Shane McMahon would make storyline sense; even if that doesn't materialise in Orlando, you can make it happen in WWE 2K17.
In all likelihood, the one-time Hart Dynasty member has wrestled his last match; he suffered a severe spinal injury in a match with Samoa Joe on June 7, 2015, and is lucky to even be here at all – only 5% survive the same kind of injury, and most are rendered quadriplegic. In a smart, welcome touch, 2K has at least ensured that Kidd's career can continue in the virtual rings of WWE 2K17.
GR+ still isn't over Warrior's untimely death in 2014 – an event marked by this tribute piece looking back at his best videogame appearances – but his inclusion in the WWE game for a fourth straight year at least keeps his memory alive. However, Hulk Hogan's ongoing exclusion from the 'E for you-know-why means no way to relive their WrestleMania 6 classic. Those wishing to do that will need to backtrack to last-gen's WWE 2K14.
He’s a one-match-a-year guy in real WWE rings now – in 2016, that was a randomly-constructed Hell In A Cell bout against Shane McMahon at WrestleMania 32 – but 2K17 enables you to bring ‘Taker back full time. Tombstones ahead for Bray Wyatt, Erick Rowan, and (as is traditional) for brother Kane, then.
WWE's longest-serving full-time tag team get another WWE 2K17 appearance, as expected – and with the company's writers showcasing exactly zero ideas as to how to keep them fresh, you can almost certainly do better. A heel turn? A split with Jimmy going to Raw and Jey to Smackdown? The choice is very much yours. But, y'know, do something. [12 September update: WWE listened, and the Usos have finally turned heel. At last!]
2015 was a year Aiden English (above) and Simon Gotch would describe as splendiferous, defeating Blake & Murphy for the NXT tag titles, and making 2K series debuts. Alas, 2016 has seen them promoted to the main roster and then swiftly forgotten about – to the point of losing in three minutes to the debuting American Alpha in August. Still, an appearance in WWE 2K17 is a small bit of good news.
It’s time, it’s time… After his appearance as one of the most fun-to-play legends in WWE 2K16, Big Leon is back for another round of Sky High Chokeslams and Vader Bombs. Amazing fact: he played for the LA Rams in Super Bowl 14. Second amazing fact: surprisingly, his name has nothing to do with Star Wars.
It's four years since WWE owner Mr Mahon last stepped between the ropes for an actual match – an October 2012 draw against CM Punk on Raw. And we're unlikely to see him do so anytime soon, after turning 70 last year. Age is no such problem in WWE 2K17, however: you can have him F5'd by Brock Lesnar, jackhammered by Goldberg, and gorilla press slammed by Ultimate Warrior as often as you wish.
Woo, woo, woo: he's back. Fans were, quite rightly, incensed in 2015 when the Hype Bro was left off the roster, no doubt because WWE has never valued him as highly as his 1.9 million Twitter followers. There's no such mistake this time around, and you'd fancy Smackdown tag partner Mojo Rawley will also make the cut – even if it's only as DLC released later.