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A missed opportunity in a year full of ‘firsts’ for WWE’s women.

Earlier this week, the newest cover star of 2K’s WWE 2K19 was revealed as AJ Styles, the current WWE Champion, and arguably one of the best modern wrestlers alive. Styles has enjoyed a brilliant run in WWE since debuting at the Royal Rumble in 2016, sharing great matches with the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns, Shinsuke Nakamura and Finn Balor. Through this series of stellar feuds, Styles has gained the respect of WWE audiences, becoming a revered member of an increasingly talented roster.

While there’s no argument that Styles doesn’t deserve the cover of WWE 2K19, having achieved near-greatness during his current WWE run, it’s arguable that there weren’t superstars that deserved the cover more.

In a year full of ‘firsts’ for WWE, having a female superstar cover the game would have provided both mainstream exposure and legitimacy for WWE’s women’s division, and women’s wrestling as a whole. In a year of broken barriers, women’s tournaments, and improving screen time for WWE’s female superstars, this cover feels like a major missed opportunity for 2K’s enduring franchise.

The WWE2K series has long been accompanied by loud and varied complaints about women’s representation across various game modes, and it’s a problem that’s dogged the franchise for years. While the vast majority of the women’s roster is likely to make an appearance in this year’s release, alongside a variety of legends and current NXT stars, their use may still be fairly limited.

In a year full of ‘firsts’ for WWE, having a female superstar cover the game would have provided both mainstream exposure and legitimacy for WWE’s women’s division.

As of last year, women did not have an equivalent MyCareer mode option, and were thus unable to participate in the main storyline of the game. In addition to this, women were unable to enter certain match types, including the Royal Rumble. Whether this will be rectified for WWE 2K19 is thus far unclear, but featuring a woman on the cover would have gone some way to highlighting much needed change within the series.

WWE’s women’s division has leapt to the forefront of WWE’s programming since dropping the unfortunate ‘divas’ moniker in 2016, and currently features a range of talented faces including Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Ember Moon, and Asuka among what has become WWE’s strongest roster of women in years.

In the period between 2016 and 2018, WWE’s women celebrated a variety of ‘firsts’, including the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match and a Women’s Royal Rumble, as well as multiple main event spots and the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament, celebrating women’s wrestling around the world. These achievements proved how far WWE’s women’s roster had come, and highlights why 2018 was the perfect year to showcase them across 2K’s WWE franchise.

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WWE has a long, deserving list of women’s cover stars, all of which have contributed to breaking down barriers for mainstream women’s wrestling. Both Charlotte and Asuka come to mind as perfect contenders to have featured on the cover of WWE 2K19, along with less likely superstars like Carmella, Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss.

As of last year, women did not have an equivalent MyCareer mode option, and were thus unable to participate in the main storyline of the game.

Charlotte in particular has had an incredible last few years with WWE, becoming the last ever Diva’s Champion, and the first Women’s Champion of the modern era, as well as leading the charge for women by wrestling in the aforementioned women’s Hell in a Cell match in 2016. In addition to this, Charlotte performed alongside Sasha Banks in the first women’s main event on Raw since 2004, adding fire to their already heated rivalry. Charlotte has gone on to become a four-time Women’s Champion, and remains a pillar of the SmackDown women’s division.

Sasha Banks would have made a worthy cover star for similar reasons, having shared many of her accomplishments on the stage with Charlotte – including starring in the first women’s rivalry to receive Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s ‘Feud of the Year’ award.

Another option could have been Carmella, and while she might seem like an outside choice, ‘Mella is money, and what better way to showcase her brash, obnoxious character than having her steal the spotlight on the cover of the game? Carmella spent much of 2017 as the first Ms Money in the Bank, after winning the women’s Money in the Bank match in controversial fashion.

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With chinless wonder James Ellsworth by her side, Carmella established herself firmly as a grating, arrogant heel, eventually cashing in on Charlotte to become SmackDown Women’s Champion. She’s since retained the title in a bout against the unstoppable Asuka, thanks to interference from returning beau Ellsworth, further incensing WWE fans everywhere. Featuring Carmella on the cover could have been the ultimate, infuriating accomplishment to cap off Carmella’s fabulous last year.

WWE has a long, deserving list of women’s cover stars, all of which have contributed to breaking down barriers for mainstream women’s wrestling.

The final, and arguably most deserving contender is Asuka, who, up until WrestleMania 34, was enjoying the longest ever unbeaten streak in WWE (a title previously held by WWE 2K17’s featured guest, Goldberg) clocking in at 914 days. Before even reaching the main roster, Asuka became the longest reigning WWE champion of the modern era, holding the NXT Women’s Championship for 523 days. Asuka was also the winner of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, going on to face Charlotte at WrestleMania 34 in what was arguably one of the show’s best bouts.

Coming off an E3 where women have risen to dominate video game charts, starring in several prominent AAA titles, including the upcoming The Last of Us: Part II, Beyond Good & Evil 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, as well as being featured on the cover of massive franchises like Battlefield, 2018 felt like the perfect storm of circumstances for a woman for cover 2K’s WWE series. Alongside a brand new MyCareer overhaul, and access to previously unavailable matches such as the Royal Rumble, an equality-centric WWE title feels both necessary and overdue. While we can always look forward to next year’s offering, it’s a shame that this year appears to be a case of history repeating.

Leah Williams is a freelance writer who has a barely contained obsession with professional wrestler Toni Storm. Call her out for her bad opinions on Twitter.





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