WWE 2K18’s roster is the most comprehensive, impressive line-ups ever seen in a wrestling game. Don’t believe me? Check out GR+’s gallery profiling all 187 playable wrestlers – a number that passes 200 when you take alternate gimmicks, such as Dude Love/Cactus Jack/Mankind, into consideration. Highly commendable stuff, yet a quirk of WWE is the way in which wrestlers can fall from grace on a whim – and, as a result, be excluded from the series with minimal fanfare. Below are ten such names who fans hoped to pencil in this year alongside the magnificent 187, but for a variety of reasons missed the cut.
10. Buddy Murphy
Murphy and former tag partner Wesley Blake are the only two WWE 2K17 roster members to be axed from its follow-up despite remaining active in WWE. While some fans are up in arms about that, it is understandable from 2K’s part. They’ve mustered just one NXT TV show appearance between them in 2017, and Blake is currently being repackaged with a brand new partner in Steve Cutler.
9. William Regal
When we ran a similar list to this last year, Regal finished second – and while the man in top spot, Batista, does make his return in 2K18, there’s still no place for the bruising Brit. It’s again curious given that his WWE 2K16 likeness was perfect and he’s still on TV as general manager of NXT. But with other active names such as Sanity and Authors Of Pain given priority, this isn’t an exclusion to get overly irritated about.
8. Candice Michelle
Previous years have seen each year’s Hall Of Fame class incorporated into the corresponding 2K game as DLC, with every wrestler added alongside a rival they once defeated in a major match. Phoenix’s first Women’s Championship reign began with a victory over Michelle – but while we are getting Beth as DLC, the Hall Of Hame pack is no more. That means zero chance of a 2K18 appearance for Candice or Kelly Kelly, who Phoenix defeated to capture her first Divas Championship.
7. Stevie Ray
One of the best DLC packages 2K has produced in recent years came after the release of WWE 2K16, with tag partners Booker T and Stevie Ray released in the early-‘90s Harlem Heat garb that made them favourites in WCW. Yet while most DLC wrestlers make the following year’s on-disc roster, Ray wasn’t afforded that honour – and, unlike Booker, he’s absent both on-disc and off- once again this year.
6. D-Von Dudley
Most of the wrestler axings from 2K17 to 2K18 are understandable: names such as Cody ‘Stardust’ Rhodes, Jack Swagger and Alberto Del Rio have all departed WWE since 2K17’s release, Del Rio on particularly bad terms. D-Von Dudley’s removal is more curious, as he remains in the company’s employ as a backstage producer. Perhaps the feeling was that, with tag partner Bubba Ray no longer contracted to WWE, his long-term cohort had to go too. Fair play.
5. Ted DiBiase
Riddle us this. Ted DiBiase is considered one of the 1980’s greatest workers; was teased in 2K18’s very first trailer; and has his ring entrance included as a selectable option in 2K18. Oh, and he’s included as a manager. All that effort, yet he still isn’t playable, and hasn’t been since 2K14. Maybe DiBiase’s religious ties mean he no longer wishes to be portrayed as an active wrestler. Maybe there are licensing issues with that incredible theme tune. Whatever the reason, he’s yet again no more than a million dollar dream.
4. Road Dogg
Like with D-Von Dudley, the removal of Brian ‘Road Dogg’ James after appearing in WWE 2K17 is curious as he’s still working for the company behind the scenes. Yet James’s omission feels even more senseless as one of 2K18’s new features is four-on-four matches. Alongside Billy Gunn, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels, a DX reunion would have been the perfect way to showcase that match type; but with Dogg and Gunn both gone, it won’t be occurring unless you use Community Creations to make up numbers.
3. Andrade 'Cien' Almas
2K has done a superb job of drilling deep into the developmental NXT roster for talent, with surprise names for WWE 2K18 including Aussie tag-team TM-61 and DLC brawler Lars Sullivan. The unexplained flip side is Almas’ omission; he’s been tenured to WWE for longer than those three newcomers, and appeared regularly on NXT TV since making his debut against Angelo Dawkins way back in July 2016.
Here we go again. Last year we recommended Pitch Perfect actress CJ ‘Lana’ Perry as a DLC character given that she’d made her in-ring debut at WrestleMania; it wasn’t forthcoming. Once more she’s snubbed in 2K18, and limited to manager-only status. One could argue that her full-time run as an active competitor only began in June, but it’s one she’d been training for on local NXT shows from December 2016 onwards: plenty of time for her to be given DLC consideration.
1. James Ellsworth
This time last year Ellsworth had just been plucked from nowhere to grapple AJ Styles for the WWE Championship. While he was mainly used as a comedic third wheel in Styles’ feud with Dean Ambrose, his character – as they say in wrestling parlance – ‘got over’. He’s been a fixture on Smackdown Live since, mostly as nefarious ally to Carmella, and even got his first action figure confirmed in the summer. Even so, there’s no on-disc or DLC appearance in WWE 2K18.
Want more ‘rasslin reading? Then check out the highest-rated wrestlers in WWE 2K18 – and no, number one isn’t The Rock, The Undertaker, or Brock Lesnar…