WWE 2K23 [Review] – Hustle. Loyalty. Okay.. RESPECT!

“Reverend” Lauro Rojas

Well, Moody, here we are — another year, another installment of WWE 2K23. The annual wrestling sim made strides in the right direction with last year’s game including the much sought after GM Mode and better hair physics. I’m not the only one that was digging it, right? But at the end of the day it was just the basics with the a shiny coat. What’s your take on 2K23?

Shingo Moody

Lauro! Much like its sister television product, WWE 2K23 is immediately so shiny, so glossy. It’s just.. so pretty. The menus, with its massive overlays and giant wrestler visuals smothering each choice. This is a big year for 2K with Big John on the cover and it all has an in-your-face I absolutely have no problem with and no problem SEEING.

LAURO: Starting off with John Cena’s Showcase, the folks at 2K and Visual Concepts have turned the showcase on its head by having the player be the one to beat Cena. Again and again and again… Showcase mode is a who’s-who of Cena’s toughest losses throughout his in ring career, with obvious omissions such as CM Punk at Money in the Bank or Daniel Bryan at SummerSlam. Then there are some head scratchers to boot, such as his loss to Kevin Owens for the US Title.

Aside from the walk down memory lane the matches are full throttle, so much so that half the time you’re spending your time trying to complete the match objectives all the while Cena is trying to finish off the match as quick as possible. Yeah, this was damn annoying after the second or third round.

MOODY: Well, we’re used to some “huh?’s” in Showcase mode due to key matches involving wrestlers either signed to AEW or not signed to Legends contracts (see Rey Mysterio last year missing matches with Chavo, Jericho, Angle), but, overall, I enjoy the nostalgic trip. The fact that 2K allows you to play a diverse cast of characters who’ve defeated Cena (rather than having to time the Attitude Adjustment match after match) was a terrific move.

I always just put the mode to “Easy” and try to reach the objectives as fast as possible while sitting back and enjoying the footage from Peacock. Heh. This year, I’ve only had time to see Cena’s ECW Invasion and the roots of Ruthless Aggression against Kurt. And much like the Mysterio series from last year, the interviews in between are enjoyable.

LAURO: God bless! Suffice it to say the mode is enjoyable and a decent celebration of Cena’s storied career. I, for one, would love to experience a Triple H showcase. Which feels like it’s wicked overdue, wouldn’t you say?

MOODY: Would that also put us at a first ever Showrunner Showcase? Like, take bits and pieces of Mister McMahon’s, Stephanie’s, Mick Foley’s, Shane’s and Paul’s career and give us options to make “What if?” scenarios? Just suggestin’.

But, man, visually, this 2K23’s a looker, eh? By far and away the best looking 2K game, and imagine if they ditch programming for PS4/Xbox One.. it’ll be even extra special. Still, the animations are super clean this year—especially with the new combo system, where the 4th button press will often trigger a sweet-looking move that might show your “sports entertainer” bouncing off the ropes before a running lariato(!), or setting things up before a clean moonsault.

LAURO: I like the Showrunner/GM Showcase idea– it’s innovative. The control scheme is definitely as smooth as a wrestler’s baby oiled bum. The combo system was some getting used in last year’s version but it’s so rewarding when you figure out a new move or pull of something…glorious. The new Payback system it is, with the new ability to call for a distraction when you’re feeling the momentum.

Speaking of which, that new pin kick-out is all types of intuitive and entertaining. Just like the real life thing, you flick up on the right joystick and depending on the stamina, your character will kick out with force or lethargic. Another thing, stamina is really a treat to behold. In my time grappling I’ve had some bangers that started as spot fests which devolved to sluggish back and forth offense.

MOODY: I’m almost wondering if 2K gave this year’s entry a more “arcadey” feel with AEW Fight For Never in the wings (or, is that caught in a One-Winged Angel?). Speaking of which, WWE 2K almost NEVER comes out in the Spring, and this year they decided to. Sure, they avoid the Call of Duty’s, NBA 2K’s and other massive AAA’s of the world with a Spring release, but funny how AEWFF was supposed to drop around this same time – with a wrestling title that promises a more relaxed, arcade-like “WWF No Mercy” inspired take. Then, we receive a sequel that has button mashed glory, especially with the pins.

That said, WWE 2K23 is still a great sim. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t jump right into Universe Mode this year. Sure, the glorious spontaneity of the mode is now all but gone, as players can choose their rivals and now choose their cutscenes, which the A.I. chooses the 50% outcome for you. But at least now you’re under control of what goes on in your Universe, and then there is that new trick that allows us to edit rivalry scenarios for any match. Turn off “automatic rivalries” and leave one empty rivalry slot. This workaround allows us to now select cutscenes for any match involving any superstars involved. That’s a game-changer (if Visual Concepts doesn’t patch it), since now this allows us to – *Rock voice* FINALLY – create our own custom storylines/rivalries.

I do have some issues with Universe Mode, still, sadly, but I’ll bounce back off the ropes with those once you get your shit in.

LAURO: I have devoted an uncomfortable amount of time into Universe Mode. Honestly it’s my go to. Always has been. The new rivalry actions is an honest to goodness game changer. I even discovered that that you can continue rivalries up to 4 levels. With this much booking power you can be your own TK or Papa H. Aside from small technicalities in UM, 2K has clotheslined several jobbers over the top rope with this mode.


MOODY: Oh, dude, I definitely appreciate that they even did anything to improve Universe Mode – which has been the forgotten bastard stepchild for years now. TBH, nothing will ever touch the random wonder that was WWE 12 – but that was an entry from Yukes and not VC. I’ll never ever have as much fun playing a wrestling game as I did that year; the Universe was so amazing that I even blogged my entire year-long run out on the Operation Sports message forums. That said, Universe needs a whole boatload of things to further spark the flames (i.e. promos with actual voice acting like MyRise; maybe combining GM Mode with Universe; adding another 100 cutscenes, etc.), but I’m happy it’s worth diving into.

My biggest issue so far with the mode is Pay-Per-Views. I went ahead and played WrestleMania Backlash (which I just made into a condensed one-day Hollywood Mania) and there were zero cutscenes – despite almost every match having a Rivalry implication. That’s a major bummer. I get not doing a DQ finish, or handshake, or something you’d see on TV, but at least give us something major after a few of the matches to further the story or put a stamp to it.

LAURO: There are definitely some kinks to be worked out. Now, speaking about red headed bastard stepchildren — MyFaction mode. 2K/VC is at it again trying to make Faction a thing and honestly it doesn’t get as much love. Reminiscent to MyTeam in NBA2k or FIFA, you create a stable from card packs you gain with VC or challenges completed. Kind of like Homer having an addiction to eating flowers (season 5 episode 18, peak Simpsons), MyFaction was my secret shame.

Sure, it’s one player for the most part but there’s a certain dopamine release when you open packs and get a good wrestler or foil type. The mode also opens up your technical skill with different talents building on your familiarity with the roster — as opposed to playing as Cody Rhodes every single time, unless that’s just me. I also like the limited live events and spontaneous 2K codes. It helps to turn to this mode if I ever get burned out on controlling everything and just want to kick back and take on towers a la Mortal Kombat.


MOODY: I haven’t touched it. The only intrigue in the mode for yours truly Moody is the – you guessed it! – Mattel action figure skin of Ruthless Aggression John Cena. Crazy that I preordered that figure twice, but waited for a sale from Wally World, only to witness the character sell out and be sold on the scalper market. I may have to take a look-see for it next time I’m near a Walmart, and there aren’t too many of those nearby (at least none where I wouldn’t feel the need for a bulletproof vest).

Anyway, speaking of skins or cosmetic appearances, how ‘bout them CAWs this year, eh? Gotta feel for Fight Forever; the CAWs in this title look way better than any of the character models from that (delayed) game. I’d argue that this year’s Create-A-Wrestlers are the best yet, as Creation Suite legends Dre41, Defract, and WhatsTheStatus have set a standard that, now, some are even living up to. Weird that — as of this publishing — Iconic2K has a “Bronze” status when he seems to be the top dog for me (then again, he does mostly AEW CAWs, so I could understand some trolled ratings there). There are some dynamite creations and by a whole slew of creators, some veteran and many new.

LAURO: Dynamite! I see what you did there! It is amazing what some of these creators are putting out. I’ve downloaded Christian, Mox, MJF, Jericho and Omega. With the sole intent of running Omega through the gamut of MyRise mode and see if he is truly…Tough Enough. The models are a beauty to behold and looking a whole lot better than what’s been shown on AEW: Release Never.

Perfect segue into MyRise, essentially the player’s story as they climb the mountain top that is WWE — a mode I’ve sadly yet to dive into. Your thoughts?

MOODY: MyRise has, once again, been MyMode this year because of – wait for it – MyMax! MyMJF! Broseph, this mode was made for Maxwell Jacob Friedman. Not only is my CAW from DXCAWs (@DX4LIFEE) just the best (and there are a slew of incredible MJCAWs this year), but his likeness and interaction with HBK, RKO, MVP, HHH – hell, anyone else with 3-letter dubs – is just the best. Of course, I’ve only chosen the most obnoxious choices, and some are on-point. While he’s never as utterly outrageous in this mode as he is on TBS, my man does who voices the main male character in MyRise does, at points, sound like Max when he whispers or talks very calmly. It’s maddening.

Beyond the ability to select a CAW for MyRise, definitely one of the best damn decisions in WWE 2K history, the mainline story is a treat — no longer having to work your way up through the PC (Performance Center) and this time starting off your career with a title match. Yeah, that’s very much something that could happen if Max decides to go home to New York and rock that Burberry for the ‘E. The writing in MyRise has improved, too. You get to decide on joining The Hurt Business 2.0 (with Carmelo Hayes and Omos) or Randy’s Evolution 2.0 (with a generic side character, Randy and yourself). OFC my Whoo Flair-inspired MyRise character chose Evolution and shenanigans ensue. The side missions don’t appear to be more than what they were last year – some comedic or b/c-list programs that start with backstage banter or twitter shit-talk. So far, I’ve really enjoyed my time with MyRise, much like last year before my save data went kapoof for the zillionth time in the series.

LAURO: Yes! Previous MyRise have felt like slots as you had to try in the PC make your way up the ranks in NXT and eventually main event the show of shows. I just downloaded a wicked Will Ospreay and cannot wait to put the roster through its paces.

Finally last year, 2K gave the frothing fans what they wanted when they brought back GM Mode. Albeit it was basic with a set number of weeks, a top singles and tag championships, and a limited set of match types. But they brought it back. With 2K23 the developers have opened the books to the players. You now have top, singles, tag championships and a multitude of match types and stipulations in GM Mode, as well as a laundry list of achievements to be completed over the course of your managerial reign.

Once more, you’ll face off talent that mesh well with their heel/face alignment and fighting types (fighter/bruiser/technical/high flyer/giant). Although it can be frustrating at times when you think you have a decent match up but the virtual crowd cannot get behind and they’ll let you have it with their Twitter fingers. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried to make LA Knight (YEAH!) happen only to be relegated to mid card. Same with Zoey Stark and I pushed her hard only for her to tell me she thought she was not being used correctly, so she asked for her release. But it is incredibly rewarding once you perfectly book a card and get the famed 5 stars, sans Meltzer. This mode is intoxicating and cannot wait to see the improvements to come.

MOODY: Since I haven’t tried MyGM yet – mostly due to my disdain for the mode last year – those sound like some significant improvements. I’m happy that the booking has improved, but I wish we had the option to mesh both MyGM & MyUniverse. A lot of players are clamoring to see that.

Other than that, how you feeling about the presentation? While far from the commentary we hear in 2K’s sister NBA title, it’s once again far more acceptable. Although, during cutscenes they refer to everyone as “they” and not because of a politic pronoun issue (they/them), but because programming something like “I can’t believe Rousey just went THERE!” would be too difficult or time costly. As far as the overlays and entrances, everything is a WrestleMania football stadium level sight to see.

LAURO: 2K23‘s presentation is nominal. At times I do wish they had different commentary teams just to mix it up; I mean how hard can it be to get Barrett and McAfee in the booth to spit some audibles?

Settings are usually background fodder but can sometimes dip into the silliness when a high school gym has all of Cody Rhodes pyro going off next to some bleachers. But that’s just nitpicking.

MOODY: I agree. Now that they’ve made a great well-rounded edition in terms of gameplay and modes, it’s time to change the guard and bring in some fresh voices. Add more dialogue lines in Universe Mode – especially from the Superstars themselves. As I mentioned earlier, they got rid of the laborious text promos from the previous entries, but promos are a BIG part of pro wrestling, especially in Sports Entertainment. Time to use some real life audio clips from TV for the game and allow us to promo with the best of ‘em.

LAURO: Safe to say that expectations were met, with positive feedback coming in. Could it be better? Yes. Are there improvements to be made? Always. Is it a good time? Oh, hell yeah. This years’ installment is a leap in the right direction and is taking all my attention away from adult responsibilities.

LAURO = 3.75/5 Slammy Awards

MOODY: I’m with you, fam. Maybe it’s just the pride in me working Toy Fairs for WWE Mattel and the mark in me loving the Triple H regime in the past 8-10 months. I’m no longer embarrassed to be a fan of the WWE, and hopefully Vince keeps it that way by staying out of the way. It doesn’t seem like he had a lick of anything to say here about this video game that would be a chore for the old man to understand, so I’m gonna mark out for that too.

While a seemingly “safe” follow-up to a game that was indeed a major upgrade, the improvements run across the board and have given both critics and fans alike hardly anything to nitpick about. Universe Mode is more than playable, and MyRise including superstars from the Creation Suite is a massive win. It might not be “The GOAT” as WWE has proclaimed my dude Cena to be, but it deserves a Top Five Knuckle Shuffle.

MOODY = 4/5 You Can’t See Me‘s

-Lauro Rojas and Travis Moody