The Smackdown vs RAW series was good but it’s the WWE 2K series that gets attention from wrestling fans. It’s the Madden of wrestling games as each annual installment offers some new stars and options. There’s also the long popular “Create a Wrestler” feature which gives players a chance to craft their own stars. That’s helpful, as quite often it’s the closest some wrestlers will ever come to being in a WWE game.
It’s true that a lot of wrestlers fans thought would never be in a WWE game again have shown up: Kurt Angle, Randy Savage, the Ultimate Warrior, and more. However, many others have been outfight banned from games. An obvious issue is if they work for another company, but there can also be personal issues at play (like getting on Vince McMahon’s bad side.) Here are 20 big cases of wrestlers banned from WWE games and why some big names aren’t available.
20 Scott Steiner
“Big Poppa Pump” was a fantastic athlete in his prime, but sadly lost a lot of his skills as he muscled up. His tenure with the WWE in 2002-03 was an utter disaster as he botched promos and his horrible match with HHH. Steiner spent some time in TNA, but what really gets him on the banned list has been his promos slamming WWE constantly. In fact, security at Wrestlemania XXX had photos of Steiner passed around to prevent him from following through on a threat to Hulk Hogan. It’s a shame a guy as talented as Steiner once was is now such a terrible person.
“The Man That Gravity Forgot” had a very good push in the WWE, being one half of the first ever NXT tag team champions, and the first man to hold that and the NXT title. He was the star of the revived Cruiserweight division, reigning as champion and his astounding matches wowing fans.
But in 2017, Neville almost literally walked on the WWE as he didn’t want to lose the belt to Enzo Amore. The drama about the departure was big until Neville finally got his release. Combine that exit with how he’s about to debut in AEW and it’s no shock WWE wants to forget Neville in games.
18 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik’s legacy in WWE history will always revolve how he ended Bob Backlund’s epic reign as champion only to lose the belt right away to Hulk Hogan. Aside from an old Legends of Wrestlemania appearance, the Sheik is pretty much persona non grata in WWE games. That’s mostly due to how the man is... how to put this... a certifiable lunatic with his various Twitter rants. That means the Sheik is a guy WWE wants to avoid.
17 Gail Kim
Gail Kim really was in the wrong period for WWE. Today, her amazingly skilled athleticism would have made her a standout in the women’s ranks but in 2003, she was lost in the shuffle. Heading to TNA, Kim became the star of the Knockouts division and a multiple champion.
She made a return to WWE in 2011, but it went so badly that she literally walked out on the company in the middle of a match. Kim is now far better known for her TNA work and unhappy with WWE, which is why she’s one major Diva of her time who will never be in one of the games.
16 Superstar Billy Graham
Hulk Hogan has openly acknowledged how much of his act was a direct copy of Superstar Billy Graham. The man changed the game with his outrageous outfits and fantastic promos, reigning as WWE champion. Sadly, Graham is now better known as one of the poster boys for the negative effects performance enhancing drugs can have on a body. While he worked with WWE for a time, Graham is slamming the company on their bad treatment of workers. So unless it’s with the CAW feature, one of the most groundbreaking WWE stars ever isn’t in any of the games.
If ever an act was ahead of its time, Goldust was it. Dustin Rhodes always had potential, but it was dressing up as the flamboyant character that really got him over, leading to several reigns as Intercontinental and tag team champion. Sadly, it often seemed Dustin was trapped in the role and unable to find true success without it.
He’s had a few departures from WWE, but the games still feature him as a fun character. That no doubt is changing as Dustin has joined brother Cody in AEW. Fans had better enjoy Goldust while they can before he becomes a non-playable character.
14 Enzo And Cass
A huge tall guy and shorter loudmouth always make a good combo. Enzo and Cass took off in NXT thanks to Enzo’s wild mic work and an introduction fans loved to chant along with. They had a push on the main roster, but stalled when Enzo was injured. There was a break-up and then Enzo was fired from the company after some very messy personal issues. Cass wasn’t far behind and both men got into trouble for attacking Ring of Honor. Given all that, it’s no shock the duo are banned from any WWE games for quite some time.
At first, Demolition looked to be a horribly blatant rip-off of the Road Warriors. However, Ax and Smash ended up becoming a genuinely good team who dominated in arguably the best period ever for the tag team division. Their first reign as champions was the longest until the New Day broke it and they remained strong afterward. However, while the Legion of Doom are in WWE games, Demolition are not as Ax and Smash are part of a huge class action lawsuit against the company. It’s sad that one of the biggest teams of their time aren’t available for today’s fans.
Kevin Walchoz entered WWE in 1992 with the gimmick of having been an inmate at the prison the Big Boss Man worked at and being out for revenge. He looked pretty intimidating with his build and WWE had plans for major feuds with Boss Man and the Undertaker. Before all that could happen, Walchoz got into a major row about his low salary that culminated in him literally strangling Vince McMahon. Needless to say, that got him fired and basically blackballed from the business.
11 Paul Orndorff
“Mr. Wonderful” got huge in the 1980s thanks to his fantastic feud with Hulk Hogan. However, Orndorff is a guy who's just never been represented properly in WWE games. Part of the reason was that he spent a lot of time in WCW and retired in 1995 before wrestling games really became huge. The real reason, of course, is that Orndorff has been very negative towards WWE for not helping him with his concussion issues, to say nothing of his lawsuit against them.
10 Mick Foley
Fans had expected WWE 2K19 to continue the tradition of “the Three Faces of Foley.” For years, fans have loved being able to play Mick Foley’s personas of the goofy Dude Love, the darker Mankind, and the wild Cactus Jack. Instead, none of those characters were popping in. It seems confusing as even when Foley was working for TNA, WWE wasn’t outright banning him and he still has a good relationship with the company. Fans are just scratching their heads as to why one of the company’s most loved workers isn’t in the new games in any of his famed personas.
9 Jeff Jarrett
Jeff Jarrett had a pretty rough relationship with Vince McMahon for a while. In 1999, Jarrett’s contract came up and he held up WWE for about $300,000 so he wouldn’t jump to WCW with the Intercontinental title. It got worse when Jarrett created TNA and tried to fight WWE for years. Thus, banning him from WWE games was no shock. Surprisingly, Jarrett has made a recent return to WWE as his old “Double J” character, but the ban on him in games has yet to be officially lifted.
8 Jon Moxley
According to reports, developers had to scramble fast to remove Dean Ambrose from WWE 2k19. That’s because in early 2019, “the Lunatic Fringe” suddenly left WWE under a bit of a cloud. Despite multiple reigns as champion and being beloved by fans, Ambrose just couldn’t take his direction in the company. Now going by his old name of Jon Moxley, he’s becoming a major force in AEW so it’s no surprise that 2k19 fans won’t be able to do an official Shield reunion.
7 Bob Backlund
According to reports, this is less a full ban and more a mutual decision. Bob Backlund was one of the longest-reigning WWE champions ever, holding the title for six years and doing quite well. He made an unlikely comeback in 1994 as a crazy man who earned another title run, and still pops up now and then. Yet Backlund has never been a playable character in WWE games. It seems Backlund himself doesn’t want to have his likeness used and so, sadly, one of the best WWE champions ever can’t be a WWE 2K character.
6 Owen Hart
Owen Hart’s tragic accident in 1999 still hurts many fans. He’s yet to appear in WWE games due to how his widow, Martha, controls his estate and likeness. The woman still has obvious issues with WWE on Owen’s end and thus refuses to allow him to be put into the Hall of Fame as many fans want (he only got in as part of the Hard Foundation rather than on his own). While fans can create their own version, an official take on “The King of Harts” isn’t going to happen.
5 CM Punk
Here’s a no-brainer. CM Punk always played by his own rules and was a popular figure in several of the Smackdown vs RAW games. He became famous for his “pipe bomb” that rocked WWE, and then leaving in a huge cloud. Since then, Punk has made it clear he pretty much hates Vince McMahon’s guts (no shock given Vince fired him on Punk’s wedding day) and has slammed the company non-stop. His brief UFC career hardly helps as Punk simply isn’t welcome in current WWE games.
4 Chris Benoit
The reasons why Chris Benoit hasn’t been a playable character in a WWE game since 2007 should be obvious. Some fans push the line of “separate the man from the performer” but Benoit’s horrific final actions remain a massive stain on all of pro wrestling. Every now and then, someone online brings up an old Benoit model and is swiftly criticized by others for it. WWE barely mentions him at all as Benoit’s terrible crimes have ensured he never returns as a playable character in 2K.
3 Marty Jannetty
Here’s a weird fact: Marty Jannetty has never been a playable character in any WWE game. True, the guy was always in Shawn Michaels’ shadow, but somehow he’s never gotten in. Fans have pushed for Jannetty's inclusion so he and Michaels can reunite as the Rockers, one of the best tag teams of their era. But it seems Jannetty’s various issues and attitude have cost him a spot in the games and thus, once again, Marty is nowhere near HBK’s level of fame and stardom.
2 Cody Rhodes
The son of “The American Dream,” had a big push in WWE for a time. However, after he was stuck in the terrible “Stardust” gimmick, Cody left the company, bad-mouthing it. After time in Ring of Honor, Cody began AEW which is now set to be the challenger WWE has long lacked. Obviously, WWE is not going to be promoting a guy ready to show up on TNT programming in their games, so fans can only play older games if they want the “American Nightmare” on their side.
1 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho was a serious force in many WWE games. Whether it was his wild Y2J persona or the more serious act in 2008, gamers loved playing as Jericho. His appearances included his old “Lionheart” gimmick and some fun entrances. Even up to 2018, Jericho was a constant sight in WWE with his “List of Jericho” gimmick. However, that’s obviously changed seeing as how Jericho is now a leading face in AEW. While WWE fans can enjoy him in past games, for now, Jericho is on McMahon’s “list.”
Sources: IGN.com, WWE.com, kotaku.com, bleacherreport.com