Thursday, 27 July 2017

WWE 2K18 - Roster Prediction

Image Source: WWE 2K18 News
Written By: Mark Armstrong

Doesn't a year fly by? It only feels like a few months since we were contemplating whether Goldberg's appearance in WWE 2K17 would lead to a proper return to the company (it did, and in grand fashion too), and it doesn't feel like it was that long ago when we were debating the decision to have Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator characters as the pre-order exclusives for WWE 2K16. Hell, even the meltdown regarding the purged WWE 2K15 roster is still fresh in mind.

Getting back to the point of this article: it is that time of year once again where the WWE/2K collaborative team are hard at work preparing this year's flagship game for its annual autumn release. The hype for WWE 2K18 began several weeks ago, and whilst we haven't seen any screenshots of the game yet, it's only a matter of time before we do. Around that time, we should start properly hearing about which wrestlers have made the grade for the nineteenth installment of this hugely-popular yet somewhat flawed series (I'll gripe about the shortcomings of recent WWE games another time).

Make no mistake about it: for WWE fans who have a passion for videogames, this is an exciting time. It's almost as exciting as WrestleMania Season. Seriously, it's a lot of fun to consider what the next game will deliver, where it may repair damage from past editions, and how it might provide innovations to make a massive and positive impact. Sure, there are always bumps in the road, and some would argue that there hasn't been a truly great WWE game in a long, long time. But if the series was truly dogs--t, then we wouldn't still be seeing annual WWE releases, and for all its faults, the WWE 2K series is incredibly important to WWE's financial revenue, as well as a yearly way for WWE fans the world over to create and recreate classic wrestling matches. Of course, this becomes easier when they have a generously large and star-studded roster to play with.

And so we come to the roster for WWE 2K18. Well, let's start with the 2K17 crew: last year's game included a record 177 playable characters, which as ever included a fair number of duplicates. It brought in plenty of new faces amongst the regular roster (AJ Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, The Four Horsewomen, Asuka, Austin Aries etc), as well as returning legends like the aforementioned Goldberg, Brutus Beefcake, Eddie Guerrero and The New Age Outlaws, along with some long-awaited fresh legends via DLC such as Tatanka, Psycho Sid and Papa Shango. This was alongside the usual faces, both current and retro, ultimately resulting in a roster that was both large and varied, making for what was probably the strongest line-up ever in a wrestling game.

But even the 2K17 roster wasn't without its downsides. For starters, Roddy Piper, Batista, Sgt Slaughter and a fair few other legends were removed from 2K16. The game's new legends only came in the form of DLC; The Outlaws, Razor Ramon and Diesel were the only legends on the disc who weren't in 2K16, and they had been in previous games earlier this decade. Plus, managers were much smaller in number; there were only six, compared to more than 20 in the last title, which included Ted DiBiase not being a playable wrestler for the second year in a row. So, whilst it was undoubtedly a strong roster, and the biggest to date, it could have been so much better with a bit of tinkering and a greater sense of logic.

Fortunately, that was last year. This year is a whole new year, and 2K18 has the potential to blow 2K17 out of the water when it comes to the roster. For starters, we've already been told that this year's crew will be by far the largest yet, granted, this has become an annual trend, but it's always reassuring to know that we'll be treated to another record-breaking line-up. And whilst the decision to stop the series appearing on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will be disappointing for those who still own those consoles, it's fair to say that keeping the game accessible for previous-gen probably held it back in a few areas, and the roster was likely one of them. Sure, the PS3 and 360 versions got the entire 177-strong line-ups, but who's to say that the power of the PS4 and Xbox One (and the new Nintendo Switch) couldn't allow the roster to expand well beyond 200? We're four years into the ninth console generation now, and with rumours that development for the next console generation has at least already been seriously discussed internally, now is as good a time as ever to start really capitalising on the consoles that we have currently.

We also already know a few names who are guaranteed to make it. Cover boy Seth Rollins is obviously in, but so is Kurt Angle. Making his first WWE videogame appearance in 11 years, Angle's inclusion - and his status as the pre-order exclusive - was guaranteed from the second his Hall Of Fame induction was announced, yet that doesn't change the fact that it will be a real treat to once again play as Angle in a WWE game; to underscore the significance of this, Angle's only appearance on a PS3 game was in TNA iMPACT! So, it's been a long time coming, to say the very least. Plus, we've just heard about the Deluxe and Collector's Editions providing pre-order exclusives in the form of John Cena circa 2006 and 2010, as well as Rob Van Dam and Batista. RVD hasn't been in a WWE game since 2K15; Batista missed last year's outing. So, we already have three popular stars from the not-so-distant past confirmed for the game, all of whom weren't in 2K17, so it's a great start to get fans buzzing about WWE 2K18.

But then what? Well, several dozen characters from today's WWE crew are virtually guaranteed to be in, and from the legends who we saw in 2K17, I would estimate that a good 70-75% are extremely likely to reappear in 2K18. Some have already basically been revealed as part of the teasers seen in the 2K18 trailers: items relating to Andre The Giant, Big Boss Man, Bret Hart, Brutus Beefcake, Cactus Jack, Chris Jericho, Diesel, Dusty Rhodes, Edge, Goldberg, Jake Roberts, John Bradshaw Layfield, Mankind, Papa Shango, Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, Sting, Tatanka, Ted DiBiase (who will hopefully be playable again at last), Triple H, Ultimate Warrior and The Undertaker were seen in the trailers, which almost certainly guarantees that they will be back in the fold for 2K18.

So, since a large number of the characters from 2K17 are most probably going to appear in 2K18, I'll instead focus on those who will be debuting, returning and/or have question marks before jumping to my full predicted roster for the game. Let's start with the newbies: the NXT debutants over the last twelve months have included Bobby Roode, Andrade "Cien" Almas, No Way Jose, Ember Moon, the former members of DIY (Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciappa), The Authors Of Pain (Akam and Razar), TM-61 (Nick Miller and Shane Torne), Roderick Strong and Sanity. From Sanity, I only foresee Eric Young and Nikki Cross making it in, at least before DLC. We've also had some returnees to the brand, who I'll cover when I consider DLC.

Prior to the release of last year's game, WWE held the Cruiserweight Classic, which ultimately led to the revival of the Cruiserweight division and the introduction of 205 Live as a weekly show. Regardless of your opinions about all this, this has still led to several performers getting a chance that they may not have previously received, and this includes them potentially appearing in 2K18. Those who I believe will be included are TJP, Rich Swann, Akira Tozawa, Cedric Alexander, Noam Dar and Jack Gallagher. This doesn't comprise the entire division, but these are the names most pushed on Raw/205 Live between September and the spring who debuted via the Cruiserweight set-up.

Then there was the United Kingdom Championship tournament. Honestly, I only see Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne making it in, given that the UK Championship weekly programme has still yet to properly launch, and even then, I think that both will come as DLC. So, we'll come back to these two, and since the Mae Young Classic women's tournament won't be televised until the end of next month, I seriously doubt that anybody who will debut in that competition will be in 2K18 either.

Otherwise, there are only two other completely new faces who will appear on the current roster. One is Elias Samson, who had previously been on NXT but who has moonlighted on Raw for several months now. The other is James Ellsworth, who became the most unlikely hit with WWE fans in many years, perhaps since Eugene in 2004. Even though Ellsworth's role has reduced over time and his popularity is nowhere near what it was in the autumn of 2016, he'll definitely be in the game. As for Mike Kanellis, who recently debuted alongside the returning Maria Kanellis: I will cover those two when focusing on DLC.

We've talked about the new faces who will be on the roster, but let's consider those who won't be in the game that appeared in 2K17. Alberto Del Rio, Jack Swagger, Simon Gotch and Stardust all left WWE (Stardust actually left months before 2K17 was released, but he remained in the game), so they'll all be absent this year. Blake and Murphy remain under contract, but they've fallen so far down the radar that I can't see them re-appearing in 2K18. I would have said Tyson Kidd won't be included since his last WWE match occurred more than two years ago, but he has stated that he will be included, so there you go. As for The Dudley Boyz, this could go either way. They officially left WWE after SummerSlam, but D-Von still works for the company; however, Bubba Ray signed with Ring Of Honor in March, reducing his chances of appearing and, consequently, those of D-Von. But did his ROH debut occur too late to have him taken out of 2K18? I'm going to take the pessimistic route and suggest that 2K18 won't retain The Dudleyz, but I wouldn't be surprised whatsoever if they were included after all, especially with a certain extreme tag team having returned to WWE at Mania 33 (more on those two shortly). And I predict that Austin Aries will remain in the game despite him recently leaving the company, since A-Double will have been locked in before this news filtered out.

Now, then, the fun part: considering which wrestlers who have returned to WWE will be in 2K18. There's plenty to choose from. Jinder Mahal is the obvious one as things stand, which is fascinating considering his status just a few months ago (oh, by the way, I doubt that The Singh Brothers will be in 2K18 since they have only wrestled once on 205 Live, when they were still The Bollywood Boys). Then we have Rhyno, Brian Kendrick, Mickie James and Curt Hawkins. We also technically have Primo and Epico, formerly Diego and Fernando of Los Matadores. I'm inclined to believe that Tajiri may sneak in, since he appeared on 205 Live at the start of the year, and only recently confirmed that he was leaving WWE, so he might just make it on a technicality of sorts. Oh, and then there's the Hardyz, Matt and Jeff, the legendary tag team who are finally back in WWE, and who I believe will be part of the existing roster in 2K18 as a further incentive for fans to buy (as in, they won't be DLC). Finally, I don't envision that either The Spirit Squad or The Headbangers will be in, since they disappeared in late 2016 and are unlikely to return anytime soon.

I'll cover DLC at the end, but now let's talk about the most intriguing aspect of the roster: the legends. As noted, 2K17 was disappointing when it came to completely new legends prior to DLC. A big reason for that was the decision not to have a Showcase mode. At time of writing, 2K haven't yet confirmed whether or not there will be a Showcase mode but, since they've talked about the other modes already, it unfortunately seems more likely that they've chosen to bypass Showcase, aside from the Hall Of Fame DLC, for another year (which is a big mistake, but I'll wait until this information is confirmed before having a rant about it). In the event that Showcase IS back, then there is suddenly potential for a fair number of fresh legends to appear. If not, then this becomes less likely - but not impossible.

Therefore, I have to take the careful step of predicting legends who may or may not appear depending on a Showcase mode which may or may not be included, based on a character or a theme which could literally be anyone or anything. Phew!

Let's think about the legends who weren't in 2K17 or in any recent games, as this may provide the answers. Funny that I should use that expression because it isn't too dissimilar to a phrase used by Roddy Piper, a man who returned in 2K16, only to be taken out for 2K17. I am predicting that he will be in 2K18 regardless, and we already have a teaser that Ted DiBiase is a playable wrestler once more. Otherwise, it becomes more tricky, partly because of the concussion lawsuit against WWE which is supported by many former stars (on the bright side, this is apparently going to be finally settled next month). Therefore, the safest bet may be to focus on legends whose character data could still be used, but who weren't in 2K17: Sgt Slaughter, X-Pac and Ken Shamrock, along with Faarooq and D'Lo Brown. The other Triangle Of Terror members frankly probably won't be included, and there's no need for Kama Mustafa if we have The Godfather and Papa Shango again, right? (Charles Wright played all three in case you're confused.)

I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that the final legend who will reappear in 2K18 will be Hulk Hogan. Yes, the Hulkster, who hasn't been seen in WWE, or in a WWE game, since the racism scandal of 2015 led to his abrupt WWE termination. But WWE has been slowly weaving him back into certain things, such as a WWE Network commercial and the intro for this year's WrestleMania. Let's face it: Hogan's WWE return is inevitable, and if it hasn't happened by this time next year, I will be very surprised. The best way for Hulk to resurface in a WWE game is for it to happen quietly, without much attention, thus reducing the likelihood of a major backlash. If that is the case, then his 1980s, nWo and 2000s personas are all likely to be in. This would round off the updated legends crew prior to DLC nicely, at least if we assume that there won't be a Showcase mode again. If there is, well that changed. As for any completely new legends? Without Showcase, 2K will likely save this for DLC (which I will get to, I promise).

As for legends who won't make it into another game? It's a matter of opinion, of course, but those who aren't particular popular amongst current fans and/or who aren't crying out to be featured in another game are likely to be cut. That means that Bam Bam Bigelow, Tatsumi Fujinami, Larry Zbyszko, The Bushwhackers, Rikishi and The Natural Disasters will probably all disappear this time around, along with Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Stunning Steve Austin. All of the other duplicate versions of legends should remain in, though, including all three Faces Of Foley (incidentally, I predict that Mick Foley is playable as Mick Foley, given his run as Raw General Manager in the preceding twelve months). And all of the 2K17 DLC characters should be back, all of which means that 2K18 should have a weighty line-up, which of course will be even better if we're treated to the return of Showcase.

So, now let's think about DLC, aside from the pre-order exclusives which have now been confirmed. One DLC pack could be NXT-themed, with appearances for Drew McIntyre, Kassius Ohno, Killian Dain, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay and possibly William Regal. Another DLC pack could have the Future Stars theme for the aforementioned UK names Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, along with Tony Nese, Mustafa Ali and Gran Metallik for the Cruiserweight division, and maybe Mike and Maria Kanellis too. This year's Legends pack will be most intriguing, as it could potentially offer series debuts and/or returns to some truly classic names. I'd personally love to see Tito Santana and Rick Martel finally join the series, and a series debut for Hacksaw Jim Duggan is long overdue. I would love to see Doink make another appearance; the colourful character has only appeared once, and that was eight years ago, so a return would be very welcome. I don't get why IRS has never been in as a legend since Mike Rotunda a.k.a. Irwin R. Schyster has worked for WWE as a road agent for years, and two of his kids (Bray Wyatt and Bo Dallas) have worked for WWE for years as well; maybe this year, Irwin finally gets in. Finally, perhaps this DLC pack could include Chyna, the ground-breaking female competitor who shone during the Attitude Era, but who had a major falling out with WWE and tragically passed away last year. This would at least serve as a tribute to Chyna, and it would also be her first videogame appearance in an astonishing 17 years, making this DLC pack a must-own.

Finally, we come to the Hall Of Fame 2017 DLC Showcase. Angle will already be involved, but he could have an additional attire from 2005 if this Showcase mode were to cover his classic WrestleMania 21 battle with Shawn Michaels (who would have a 2000s-era character slot as a result). The Rock 'N' Roll Express would be included, and it would be a shame if The Midnight Express, backed up by Jim Cornette, were not also involved. In fact, both main versions of Midnight (Bobby Eaton and Dennis Condrey, and Eaton and Stan Lane) could be included, since The Fabulous Freebirds received two matches in the previous HOF Showcase. Elsewhere, Beth Phoenix will be in, and her logical opponent would be Candice Michelle, since Beth beat Candice for her first Women's Championship at No Mercy 2007. Adding to that DDP vs. Christian from WM X8 (since the WCW version of Page is already in) and Rick Rude vs. Ultimate Warrior from WrestleMania V (giving both men additional attires) makes sense too.

The other inductee, besides Warrior Award winner Eric LeGrande (who probably won't be included), is Teddy Long. As a non-wrestler, do you pick one of his gimmicky matches? How about we go down a different route, and choose the one thing he's most famous for with modern fans, so "let's have a TAG TEAM MATCH, PLAYA!" It would be from SmackDown circa 2006, and it could see, say, King Booker and Finlay team up against Batista (Ruthless Aggression era) "AND THE UNDERTAKER! HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA!" Seriously, even though Finlay would be the only different character from those already present, this would be a perfect option, and preferable to playing out a gimmick match involving Long. If it included a pre-match scene of Teddy announcing the format, and he was available as a manager after the match, even better!

Though he wouldn't be wrestling, he could still become a manager in the game, as would Cornette and possibly Queen Sharmell, if we're including King Booker. They would join the managers already in the game, which would include Bobby Heenan, Paul Heyman and Lana from 2K17, as well as (hopefully) returns for Jimmy Hart and Paul Bearer, and also a series debut for Paul Ellering. Maryse will no doubt be a manager this year as well (she wrestled at WM 33, but I don't see her being a playable wrestler this time around), as could Bob Backlund, since he was Darren Young's "life coach" prior to his injury. Elsewhere, we already know that Michael Cole, Corey Graves and Byron Saxton will be the announce team, and JoJo will be the ring announcer. Rounding things off, expect the usual referee characters, though it'd be cool to have authentic officials to choose from, since we could pick referee shirts (which is basically what it was) in the last game.

Before I conclude, I haven't mentioned Owen Hart and CM Punk for the obvious reason: neither will be included for vastly different reasons. It's a real shame in Owen's case, since fans and even fellow Harts would love his memory to be celebrated in a manner such as the annual videogame. As for Punk, while I do believe that he will eventually return to WWE, it won't be for many years, ruling him out of 2K18 and the next couple of games in the series, at the very least.

As you can see, there are tons of characters who could find their way into 2K18, and bear in mind that there's many not included here, such as The Legion Of Doom and Demolition (who aren't likely to make it into a game so long as the aforementioned concussion lawsuit against WWE is active). We're bound to have a line-up which represents the roster split, as well as the NXT newbies, Cruiserweight competitors and the main UK faces, along with the usual generous supply of Legends. Crucially, the roster has to really blow last year's away if fans are to truly invest in 2K18, but fortunately the early signs are promising. Hopefully, it'll break the 200 barrier for the first time, and with this being the fourth game into the current videogame console generation, there's really no reason why this shouldn't happen. Other elements will determine if this game is truly epic, but at least the line-up has a strong chance of being incredible.

Summarising, then, this is my predicted roster for WWE 2K18, and I have provided the list in its entirety below. It won't be long before we start getting more news on the game, so in a few weeks' time, we will find out how similar the actual line-up is. If it is anything like the roster below, we're in for a real treat with WWE 2K18!

Leave your comments below if you agree or disagree with the choices, and give your feedback about who you would like to see in WWE 2K18!

Playable Characters:

Aiden English
AJ Styles
Akam
Akira Tozawa
Alexa Bliss
Alicia Fox
Alundra Blayze
Andrade "Cien" Almas
Andre The Giant
Apollo Crews
Arn Anderson
Asuka
Austin Aries
Baron Corbin
Batista (2006) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Batista (2010) (Pre-Order DLC)
Bayley
Becky Lynch
Beth Phoenix (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Big Boss Man (1990, 1999)
Big Cass
Big E
Big Show
Big Show (1999, 2000)
Billie Kay (NXT DLC)
Billy Gunn
Bo Dallas
Bobby Eaton (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Bobby Roode
Booker T
Bray Wyatt
Braun Strowman
Brian Kendrick
Brian Pillman (1993, 1997)
Brie Bella
Bret Hart (1997, 1998)
British Bulldog
Brock Lesnar
Brutus Beefcake
Buddy Roberts
Cactus Jack (1992, 1998)
Candice Michelle (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Carmella
Cedric Alexander
Cesaro
Chad Gable
Charlotte
Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho (2001)
Christian (2014)
Christian (2002) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Chyna (Legends DLC)
Curt Hawkins
Curtis Axel
Dana Brooke
Daniel Bryan
Darren Young
Dash Wilder
Dean Ambrose
Dennis Condrey (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Diamond Dallas Page (1992, 1997)
Diamond Dallas Page (2002) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Diesel
D'Lo Brown
Doink (Legends DLC)
Dolph Ziggler
Drew McIntyre (NXT DLC)
Dude Love
Dusty Rhodes
Eddie Guerrero
Edge
Elias Samson
Ember Moon
Emma
Enzo Amore
Epico
Eric Young
Erick Rowan
Eva Marie
Faarooq
Fandango
Finlay (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Finn Balor
The Godfather
Goldberg
Goldberg (1998, 2004)
Goldust
Gran Metallik (Future Stars DLC)
Greg Valentine
Hacksaw Jim Duggan (Legends DLC)
Heath Slater
Hideo Itami
Hollywood Hulk Hogan (2000s)
Hollywood Hulk Hogan (nWo)
Hulk Hogan (1980s)
IRS (Legends DLC)
Ivory
Jack Gallagher
Jacqueline
Jake Roberts (1991, 1996)
James Ellsworth
Jason Jordan
Jeff Hardy
Jey Uso
Jim Neidhart
Jimmy Garvin
Jimmy Uso
Jinder Mahal
John Bradshaw Layfield
John Cena
John Cena (2006) (Pre-Order DLC)
John Cena (2010) (Pre-Order DLC)
Johnny Gargano
Kalisto
Kane
Kane (1998)
Karl Anderson
Kassius Ohno (NXT DLC)
Ken Shamrock
Kerry Von Erich
Kevin Nash
Kevin Owens
Kevin Von Erich
Killian Dain (NXT DLC)
King Booker (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Kofi Kingston
Konnor
Kurt Angle (2001) (Pre-Order DLC)
Kurt Angle (2005) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Kurt Angle (2006) (Pre-Order DLC)
Lex Luger
Lita
Luke Gallows
Luke Harper
Mankind
Maria Kanellis (Future Stars DLC)
Mark Henry
Matt Hardy
Michael Hayes
Mick Foley
Mickie James
Mike Kanellis (Future Stars DLC)
The Miz
Mojo Rawley
Mr. Perfect
Mustafa Ali (Future Stars DLC)
Naomi
Natalya
Neville
Nia Jax
Nick Miller
Nikki Bella
Nikki Cross
No Way Jose
Noam Dar
Paige
Papa Shango
Pete Dunne (Future Stars DLC)
Peyton Royce (NXT DLC)
Primo
Psycho Sid
Randy Orton
Randy Savage
Razar
Razor Ramon
Rhyno
Ric Flair (1988, 1991, 2003)
Rich Swann
Rick Martel (Legends DLC)
Ricky Morton (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Rick Rude (1989) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Rick Rude (1990)
Ricky Steamboat (1991, 1994)
Road Dogg
Rob Van Dam (DLC)
Robert Gibson (Hall Of Fame DLC)
The Rock
The Rock (1997, 2001)
Roddy Piper
Roman Reigns
R-Truth
Rusev
Sami Zayn
Samoa Joe
Sasha Banks
Scott Dawson
Scott Hall
Seth Rollins
Sgt Slaughter
Shane McMahon
Shane Thorne
Shawn Michaels (1997, 1998)
Shawn Michaels (2005) (Hall Of Dame DLC)
Sheamus
Shinsuke Nakamura
Sin Cara
Stan Lane (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Stephanie McMahon
Steve Austin
Sting
Sting (1988, 1991)
Sting (1998, 1999)
Summer Rae
Tajiri
Tamina
Tatanka
Ted DiBiase
Tito Santana (Legends DLC)
Titus O'Neil
TJP
Tomasso Ciappa
Tony Nese (Future Stars DLC)
Triple H
Triple H (1998, 2001)
Trish Stratus
Tye Dillinger
Tyler Bate (Future Stars DLC)
Tyler Breeze
Tyson Kidd
Ultimate Warrior (1989) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Ultimate Warrior (1990, 1991)
The Undertaker
The Undertaker (1991, 1995, 1998, 1999)
The Undertaker (2006) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
The Undertaker (Biker)
Vader
Viktor
Vince McMahon
William Regal (NXT DLC)
Xavier Woods
X-Pac
Zack Ryder

Managers:

Bob Backlund
Bobby Heenan (1989) (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Bobby Heenan (1990)
Jim Cornette (Hall Of Fame DLC)
Jimmy Hart
Lana
Maryse
Paul Bearer
Paul Ellering
Paul Heyman
Queen Sharmell (DLC)
Theodore Long (Hall Of Fame DLC)

Commentators:

Byron Saxton
Corey Graves
Michael Cole

Ring Announcer:

JoJo

Referees:

TBC