[This is a script I wrote for the video below]
The yearly roster for WWE games is always a big selling point. Speculation runs wild as to who will make the cut, what Legends will get their time to shine again, and which superstars are given the best stats. Some names come so close to making it into the games, only to be ripped away or walled off as abandoned DLC, or to have their parts spread across the create-a-wrestler mode at the last minute.
Reasons for why this happens can be numerous, but it always hurts when someone’s favorite doesn’t make it. Most of the time it’s because that star isn’t big enough yet, hasn’t been on television lately, or left the company, but rumors have it that Vince McMahon has even pulled wrestlers from WWE games as some sort of punishment or just plain spite. It might seem like an odd business move, but few will have trouble believing that the chairman can be petty.
In the 8 and 16-bit days, development was a bit different and many games simply had various skins to represent a fighter, with wrestlers sharing all but one or two moves, so there was less need to remove characters from those games. It is a bit harder to find information for instances when that happened back then, and even today the reasons for someone being cut aren’t always clear, as many more performers are considered but wind up discarded. With all of that in mind, here are some of the more notable absences over the years.
WWF In Your House (1996)
For those who never played In Your House, it’s less of a traditional wrestling game and something that wanted to be more like Mortal Kombat—arcade style, with each competitor having their own stage to fight in. The game had a quiet release and isn’t too highly regarded by fans, but anyone who was fond of Jeff Jarrett at the time would have been especially disappointed. The man with a lot of double letters in his name would leave the WWF that year a few months before his first foray with WCW, but that meant that The King of the Mountain would be pulled from the game, even if it was last minute.
Jarrett was planned to be a part of the final roster to such an extent that the superstar was filmed and digitized—ready to fight. A contract dispute is said to be what sent him packing, but that also meant that he was taken out in the virtual realm as well, leaving many wondering what his personalized stage would have looked like.
There was also a rumor that both Scott Hall and Kevin Nash were on the list for early planning of the game, but their defection to WCW most likely meant that they were scrapped early on as well.
WWF Wrestlemania 2000 (1999)
A rather misleading title, as the game released several months before the actual event it was named after. Most fans of wrestling video games that enjoyed this one on the Nintendo 64 remember it as the first entry that was placed in the capable hands of THQ.
Both Tiger Ali Singh and Gillberg were discussed for the roster but they stopped appearing on WWF programs and were removed at some point in development. There were also several women wrestlers that had been eyed for the game, but Nicole Bass, Ryan Shamrock and Sable were all left out upon leaving the company. The last two supposedly had a good bit of work put into their characters due to the timing.
Most importantly may have been the absence of Golddust. Dustin was supposedly unhappy with his character at the time and went to WCW to do…the Seven storyline. A good bit of work had been done for Golddust though and upon his leaving, that character slot was given to Chris Jericho.
WWF SmackDown PS1 (2000)
In the first WWF/E game by long-time developer Yuke’s, the new PS1 title would take on the name of the hit weekly show. Once again, Jeff Jarrett would be worked on for a title and leave the company just a few months before its release. We know that ol’ Double J was deleted from the game thanks to information in the debug menu and his name and picture can be found as well. The images look to be from an earlier build, but still indicate that his character was decently far along before being cut.
Another rumor proposed that this had also happened to Golddust again, but no evidence proving that he had been removed was found.
WWF No Mercy (2000)
In THQ’s last hurrah for the N64 and they published one of the best-selling titles for that console. No Mercy is regarded as one of the best wrestling games of the era, where the developers tweaked their formula to near-perfection, but also had to remove some characters.
One large name, and star, was notable by his absence. The Big Show was having a rough time in the federation as he was pulled from television and sent back to OVW. This was due to the performer’s weight, an issue that the company viewed as such a problem, that he was also removed from the game. It may seem quite harsh, but the giant is still in the code and accessible with a GameShark.
Notably, players could also see pictures of several wrestlers not in the game via some work, with the likes of The Headbangers, Mideon, Gangrel, and The Mean Street Posse showing up in image only. These wrestlers can all easily be created within the game, allowing fans to still play as their favorites.
WWF SmackDown 2: Know Your Role (2000)
One of the best-selling sports games of its era; to say SmackDown 2: Know Your Role was ‘good’ may possibly be an understatement. Two athletes wouldn’t get a chance to celebrate the success though, as both Big Show and Ken Shamrock would be removed from the game late in development.
The year 2000 was not a good one for Big Show in wrestling or the video game world. As mentioned before, issues with his weight would have him taken off of television, sent back to OVW, and cost him a spot on another game’s roster, but being taken off of two seems a bit cruel.
Ken Shamrock left the company in late 1999, but was still being used in other games that year, so he was a solid bet for SmackDown 2 as well. Whether the company realized he wouldn’t be returning soon or simply soured on his decision to try and refocus on MMA over working for them, The World’s Most Dangerous Man was quietly cut.
There is plenty to find in the game’s code to show how much work was put into these two, but their themes being present and the character models having been updated are the biggest tells. Moreover, the two grapplers can make an appearance in the game. As Big Show returned that year to the Royal Rumble in real life, it was appropriate that he and Shamrock have a chance of appearing in this mode for the game, and without a cheat. Even though both possess updated move sets, these characters are still unfinished and have a chance of crashing the game under certain circumstances.
Call it Big Show’s revenge.
WWE Road to Wrestlemania X8 (2002)
Game Boy titles already have it rough living up to their main console counterparts, but this prequel to the Wrestlemania X8 version on the Gamecube would face another small setback. Scott Hall was still featured in the main Wrestlemania X8 offering since the game came out just over a month before his release from the company, but they had several months to take him out of the Game Boy installment.
WWE Raw 2 (2003)
Since Raw 2 was pushed back a bit in development, there was a chance to update the roster to something more current. Because of this, both Scott Hall and Jeff Hardy were dropped from the list of playable superstars. The characters were present in early builds, but both had been released from the company due to issues of substance abuse. Hardy had begun no-showing events and his in-ring performances were suffering, while Hall had a particularly bad incident with the infamous Plane Ride from Hell.
Maybe if the developers had spent less time cutting superstars and updating the game to match current WWE content, but rather more on the gameplay, Raw 2 would be remembered more fondly.
WWE SmackDown: Here Comes the Pain (2003)
Little needs to be said about Here Comes the Pain, as its reputation is well-established. Not only did this installment refine many aspects of the gameplay and add series mainstays like the Elimination Chamber and Legends in the roster, but tons of fans hold it up as one of the best wrestling games period. Many fighters were removed from the finished product but still remain in the game in pieces, but there were a few that were much closer to keeping their spots.
Wrestlers like William Regal, Billy Kidman, Spike Dudley, Bradshaw, Rosie, Billy Gunn, and Molly Holly were all removed for various reasons from being off WWE television to production times, but they can all easily be recreated as CAWs. Al Snow is one who is believed to have been cut due to time, as he is still somewhat playable, only with The Rock’s model. Just remember to turn entrances off when doing this or the game could freeze.
Both Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior have stats and images on the select screen. Hulk actually has two, one of which seemed to be for a Legends model. Hogan had left the company during his Mr. America run, just after unmasking, supposedly due to irritations with creative, but more likely the money he was being paid at the time. For Warrior, things were always a bit shaky, but there were apparently threats of lawsuits being thrown around, which is why he was left out. This is not too hard to believe since it was only two years before WWE would produce the infamous Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD.
The worst offense for some was the absence of Jeff Hardy, who had been released for the same reasons he did not appear in Raw 2, as previously mentioned. This time felt like more of a slight though as the high-flying daredevil had been removed quite late in development, so much so that he was even featured heavily in the trailer.
WWE SmackDown vs Raw (2004)
Following up one of the greatest wrestling games ever can be tough, so it’s best to change the name and make sure the cover looks badass. SmackDown vs. Raw was a good attempt, even being nominated for Best Fighting Game at the Spike Video Game Awards that year, but there were some omissions.
Rumor has it that The Basham Brothers were involved in the initial development of the game, but the reasons for their removal seem unknown. The British Bulldog on the other hand was so close to being finished that he can still be played with the help of cheats. The idea of having him there to team with Bret Hart was a solid one, but licensing issues prevented him from being included fully.
WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2006 (2005)
The next installment in the series would go for more realism, and to hit that point home and keep it like the real life WWE, the company would give the shaft to almost fifteen characters. Most of these are simply because Yuke’s didn’t remove a lot of information from the previous games, but a few were because the stars weren’t appearing on television as much or had lost favor with the audience, even with most of their information already in the system. No one was safe apparently, as even Stephanie McMahon didn’t make the final roster.
There were a few interesting names of wrestlers who almost made it, like Kenzo Suzuki, and cheats that would allow players to take control of non-traditional combatants, but the more interesting one here is that Mr. America was once again removed, but this time at the request of Hulk Hogan. This was most likely still over money, but we know that he and Suzuki were intended for the game by announcer introductions for those two. Indications of Maven also still reside in the game files.
At least this entry will always be seen as favorable for introducing GM Mode.
WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2008 (2007)
SVR 2008 is remembered fondly by some for introducing the new ECW brand, but it also has a shadow that looms over it. Chris Benoit was set as a finalized member of the roster, but the real life murder suicide that occurred in the summer of that year caused WWE to have him and all hints of his signature moves to be taken out in fear of a public relations fiasco. This is one removal that was completely understandable.
The Boogeyman and Jillian Hall were also dropped late in development for seemingly no reason.
WWE SmackDown vs Raw 2011 (2010)
The last game to focus on the two main brands facing off and use the vs. title had four noticeable absences. Okay, maybe three point five, depending on how many people actually wanted to play as The Great Khali. No one seems too sure why he was removed, but like the others, everyone removed from this entry were worked on quite a bit. All were referenced in various ways in the final game, like with their names appearing and some moves being available.
Both Tommy Dreamer and Carlito were dropped when they left the company, but the more confusing one is The Hurricane, as he even appears during Ry Mysterio’s story mode.
Carlito and Hurricane are complete but all four missing wrestlers were quite far along and had most of their elements left on the disc, with moves and entrances that are easily accessible. The Cool One, Carlito, is the only grappler who is playable through cheats it would seem.
WWE ‘12 (2011)
The game that was declared to be, “Bigger, Badder, Better,” added some needed life to the core mechanics but sacrificed on many of the other modes. This entry is less of an obvious missing name and more of what could have been, supposedly.
After his Wrestlemania match against The Big Show, professional boxer Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather was preparing to make another impact on the WWE a couple of years later, but this time in video game form. If the rumors are to be believed, Yuke’s had made a lot of progress on Mayweather’s moveset and entrance, only for the boxer to back out of the deal late in the game’s development. Thankfully, most of the work was still used in WWE ’13 for Mike Tyson’s character.
Did we really miss out?
WWE 2K15 (2014)
Many see WWE 2K15 as another installment that made an attempt to not only update the roster, but the feeling of the gameplay to match the current atmosphere of the WWE, most of this centering around the revamped stamina meter.
CM Punk almost didn’t make it into WWE’s new installment after leaving the company around the game’s release, but some quick dealing between The Best in the World and 2K kept Punk in the game. Curious how WWE felt about that.
Trish Stratus is one of the most revered performers of the women’s division and a Hall of Famer, but she was left out of WWE 2K15 for some reason. The giver of Stratusfaction was in the game at some point of development, possibly even planned for the story mode, but perhaps even considered for being a selectable character. Stratus’ theme shows up in the European release of the game and all versions have a line of dialogue from Michael Cole mentioning her. Some players have even said that the line has a chance of triggering in normal matches, but this seems to be rare, if possible. Cole’s dialogue could also produce a rare line for another cut superstar, Sin Cara. He was meant to be a part of the NXT Arrival DLC pack but was abandoned for what could be various reasons.
Lana appears in the game alongside Rusev for his cutscenes, but data in the game has many speculating that she was meant to do much more, either remaining at ringside to interfere in a managerial role or possibly even making the roster as a selectable character. She is listed as a manager during online play and her render is even available as a player icon as well.
Hulk Hogan also made his way into the game that year as pre-order DLC, but was removed from stores on multiple platforms over six months later. This was due to a controversy about racist comments made by the superstar that left him immediately scrubbed from WWE and their games.
WWE 2K16 (2015)
For those same reasons, Hulk Hogan was also removed from the game currently in development, WWE 2K16. The Hulkster’s taunts and comebacks are still present, but little more remains after the deep cleaning. 2K was also denied being able to use Cody Rhodes in his standard persona, but were instead made to include The American Nightmare as the Stardust character. These particular changes were certainly not the worst parts of the game and could easily be overlooked.
WWE 2K18 (2017)
This installment into the franchise saw the introduction of many new wrestlers and offered the ability to create Colonel Sanders, probably to distract from how bad the Switch port was.
To be expected, several superstars were cut, as Eva Marie, Alberto Del Rio, Stardust, Simon Gotch, and the Dudley Boys had all left the company. A little bit more of a bummer though was one of the missing stars of 205 Live, Austin Aries. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived was released or asked to leave, depending on what story we believe, but everyone agrees the banana eating cruiserweight had a bad attitude. He was supposed to appear as part of the roster and was removed well into the game’s development. Aries even responded to a fan on Twitter, commenting that he had been cut, even though the former champ had been scanned in.
WWE 2K19 (2018)
In what many saw as a step in the right direction, improving on a lot of small things from the recent years, most of the issues concerning the roster was the absence of two popular NXT stars.
This is back when Sanity looked to have a bright future ahead of them as they moved to the main roster, but Nikki Cross was initially left down in the black and gold brand. It could have been an issue with the contract, as NXT performers have to sign a separate contract for video game appearances, but it was most likely just bad timing on the move. Still, many felt the Twisted Sister was missed.
Perhaps not as much as the then current NXT champion though. Tommaso Ciampa, conspicuous by his absence, may have missed being scanned in because of a previous injury, or simply felt that the contract offered him wasn’t substantial enough, but many fans were upset that they couldn’t play as the champ to defend Goldie.