Is WWE 2K23 Ready to Deliver for Diehard Wresting Fans? – A Review of WWE 2K23

It’s that time of the year again. We’re on the Road To WrestleMania, and that means it’s officially wrestling season. The latest installment in the WWE’s series of video games is WWE 2K23 and it releases Tuesday, March 14th. This review aims to help those of you who are debating on whether or not to buy the game. So without further adieu, let’s get to it. 

New additions to the WWE 2K23 roster include The American Nightmare, Cody Rhodes. This year may be the year I can hear the bell ring for months to come, and the gameplay is the number one reason why. 


Like any sporting or pseudo-sporting game, the core of the game will always come down to the gameplay. With all other things put aside, is the game fun to play? 

For me personally, through much of the lifespan of the PS4-PS5/Xbox One-Xbox Series X, the answer to that was an unfortunate but clear “no.” As someone who grew up on wrestling games and literally learned how to read thanks to the subtitles in the story mode on “SmackDown! Just Bring It,” it was heartbreaking for me to put the controller down so early in the games cycle for the past number of years. 

This year though? This year may be the year I can hear the bell ring for months to come, and the gameplay is the number one reason why. 

Another year with the revamped combo fighting style that was introduced a year ago on WWE 2K22 and you can tell it’s been polished. The stamina system plays a greater role in weight detection. The new pin system is a godsend compared to the button mashing system re-introduced recently. The selling of heavy attacks and how it actually stuns the person being attacked is either rewarding or punishing, depending on which side of the attack you’re on. The pacing is much faster now than some of the earlier more simulation-based iterations of the WWE 2K games, but not quite as arcade as previous THQ versions of the games. It’s a happy medium.  

Something else that adds to the gameplay are the graphics. I can’t say enough for how much better the lighting is in the game. It’s genuinely great. It accentuates both the sweat as well as the more bulky character models that the game has adopted, and it adds a lot to the visuals. There is plenty of opportunity for this game to garner a more notable following in the streaming space due to its visuals. Sometimes the game really looks like you’re kicked back in the recliner watching RAW on Monday! 

The downside of the gameplay is that the CPU logic, while clearly improved from recent years, is still not where it needs to be. The AI will still occasionally roll to the outside aimlessly or go to the top rope on the opposite side of the ring from where their downed opponent is. Also, on higher difficulties, the matches can still feel like reversal-fests more than actual wrestling matches. It feels like you have to get lucky more so than you have to play smarter.

These concerns may be nitpicking as a lifelong fan of wrestling, but the community will certainly feel them in their experience as well so it had to be mentioned. 

Overall the gameplay scores an 8/10. It’s legitimately very good, and that’s a stark contrast with early impressions in recent years. 


The new rivalry action option inside WWE 2K23’s universe mode. As highly as I can talk about the gameplay, I just can’t say the same about Universe Mode. 


Universe Mode has always been my go-to mode since it was introduced on SmackDown vs RAW 2011. I’m a franchise player at heart with my sporting games, and Universe Mode is WWE 2K’s version of that. 

As highly as I can talk about the gameplay, I just can’t say the same about Universe Mode. 

I will say this though–if you enjoyed the Universe Modes in 2K20 and 2K22 then you very well could enjoy this year’s version as well. Essentially all of the same features are back as well as the ability to choose your rivalry cutscenes (which admittedly is a big deal), but beyond that you’re still forced to do almost everything with head-canon. Rivalries still don’t feel like they have stakes, the crowds don’t react to rivalry matches any differently than they do cold matches, and there’s still no ultimate goal to be achieved. 

Maybe there shouldn’t be some goal to achieve in a sandbox mode, but what I do know is that the mode leaves me a little cold, and for someone who keeps a Google Sheets page on his phone full of wrestling bookings, booking wrestling **never** leaves me cold.

Overall I have to give Universe Mode a 5/10. It feels like gameplay is just happening inside of a different mode. Nothing about it screams, “You’re playing Universe Mode now!”

Some of the new GM options for 2K23, including Xavier Woods and Tyler Breeze. The mode has certainly grown from the 2K22 version.


MyGM returns for its second installment under 2K’s watch. The first year laid the foundation for what they wanted, which was clearly a more arcade and gimmicky version of what we saw in the SmackDown vs RAW series. GM mode (along with, shout out to the ones who remember!) kept me playing SmackDown Vs RAW 2008 all the way through the release of WWE 12 and occasionally even still to this day, 17 years later! The new version of GM Mode is however not going to keep me around that long. That isn’t to say the mode isn’t good, it just isn’t made for someone like me.

GM Mode returned in 2K22 with gimmicks such as power ups, owner goals and rewards, and special abilities tied to the GM of your choice. In 2K23 those things were doubled down on and expanded upon. So much like Universe Mode, if you enjoyed the previous version of this mode then you’re likely to enjoy this one as well. 

You’re now able to have four shows active at once (with a choice from different five brands) and you’re capable of having four human players locally as well if you chose to do so. Sadly, still no online compatibility. GM Mode is also now an unlimited length! A major change for someone like me who is in it for the long haul. Mid card titles are available, as well as tag titles. Match cards have expanded. The mode has certainly grown from the 2K22 version. 

There are new abilities tied to some of the new GM’s as well as owner goals that actually give you a bit of a competitive edge as a business, but there are of course still some of the cartoonish abilities.

What is frustrating with the mode is the lack of logic with the AI selections in the draft as well as the booking logic. I’m a stickler for realism in my video games, to a fault, which is why I say that this mode isn’t necessarily for me.

The popularity seemingly doesn’t matter much to the AI when it comes to who they draft or who they select as their champion. The stamina doesn’t matter for who they put in what match type, they will run everyone into the ground and injure them just to replace them with another low popularity superstar while they have millions available in their budget. This even happens on the higher difficulty levels. 

What makes it even more frustrating is that similarly to the gameplay on higher difficulties; you feel like you have to get lucky to have a higher show rating sometimes, even if you booked an objectively better show.

For example I was asked by Triple H to book my two highest popularities in a title match on RAW. The Rock and The Undertaker, who were also in a rivalry, went at it in a Hell In A Cell match. The competing show put on a non-title match between LA Knight and Otis who were both low 50s in popularity as their main event, yet they were rewarded with a 3.5 star match compared to my 2.5 star match between Rock and Taker.

What’s the logic? How did the game determine their match to be better? Would it have been different if I were on a lower difficulty booking the same match? I’m just not sure if there’s some sort of formula that you’re supposed to try to understand as a booker, or if you’re just crossing your fingers and hoping. 

Overall, I know it sounds like I hate this mode, but I actually don’t think it’s bad. It just isn’t made for me. I think it’s a 6.5/10. Some of the mechanics that I do not like about the mode will appeal greatly to the masses. Some of the things that I do like about the mode will be critiqued by the casual player. As this mode continues to grow and evolve over time, I do think it will be a real selling point for me, but until it finds it’s footing with the logic, it’s hard to put it up to the standard that the SmackDown vs Raw games set long ago.

MyRise 2K23 character creation. I don’t know what the MyRise solution is, but I do know that the current way that it works is not that solution.


MyRise is hard to talk about in a setting like this. I won’t give spoilers about any of the story, so some of this may seem like generic talk. 

I’ve always loved career or season modes in wrestling games. However, I do not quite think 2K has been able to grasp how to approach a wrestling career mode. I truly believed that WWE 2K22’s career mode was the worst in the series’ history. WWE 2K23, thus far, is not that bad. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s good either. 

The mode greatly lacks a sense of direction. Everything feels disconnected. I have an objective, I complete the objective, and then I’m on to the next objective without anything from the previous objective impacting what I’m doing now. It feels more like a series of tasks to complete than it does a series of branching moments in a career that all have consequences.

I’m going to give a comparison of what it’s like without spoiling any of the stories. 

So once you complete a task on SmackDown, you then go over to RAW to complete an unrelated task. You’re now in the main event of WrestleMania! Congratulations, you’ve done it! You’ve now done X, Y and Z on the main roster! Guess what you get to do now? Go back to NXT. Hmph. Well, okay I guess. But why? 

Unfortunately there’s no answer to that question. You’re just given a task. Now go complete it. 

Overall I have to give MyRise a 3/10. Maybe these modes should just be linear? I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that the current way that MyRise works is not that solution. 

WWE 2K23’s Showcase Mode menu featuring the One Night Stand match against Rob Van Dam. Showcase Mode is where 2K gets it right with their modes.

Showcase Mode

Showcase Mode is where 2K gets it right with their modes. Showcase has been awesome since the year it was first introduced. Reliving massive moments in wrestling history your own way is a good time, and 2K23’s showcase is no different in that aspect. 

Where it is different is this year John Cena and 2K decided we would go through Cena’s greatest downfalls. 

Showcase Mode is great even using the same wrestler’s moveset 10 times in a row, but this year you get to experience history with 14 matches dating back to his main roster debut against Kurt Angle in 2002, and going all the way through Roman Reigns at SummerSlam 2021. 

Getting that narration from Cena talking about his greatest disappointments in his career while having that refreshing gameplay each time with a new character is a whole new layer of fun for Showcase mode. So much so that I played through the entire mode already.

One thing the Showcase Mode does lack is entrances in some of the matches. The One Night Stand 2006 match against RVD was one of the greatest atmospheres in the history of professional wrestling, and we were robbed of that atmosphere somewhat without an entrance in this mode.

But again, I’m nitpicky. The mode is still awesome. Awesome enough to get a 9/10. If you play this, I personally guarantee you will enjoy it. 

WWE 2K23 Weekly Challenge reward menu featuring a Batista evolution card. WWE 2K games, at their heart, are offline games, and the rewards for this mode being exclusive to the mode is a major turn off to the player base.


MyFaction was introduced in 2K22, and I did not spend much time in those menus at all. There was no incentive to play beyond the hidden character models locked behind the mode, which was a terrible decision to begin with compounded by the fact that the mode was offline-exclusive. This year the mode does have online capabilities, but it likely does not have the legs to compete with the other modes for the game’s audience.

The daily and weekly challenges will likely be some fun, little grinds, and the new Live Events feature will surely get some interest from the online player base, but WWE 2K games, at their heart, are offline games, and the rewards for this mode being exclusive to the mode is a major turn off to the player base.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. Maybe the rewards will be good enough that people will want to try something new. 2K will really have to outdo themselves with the post-release content in order to have a chance at that being the case, though. 

Overall I will give MyFaction a 3/10. This just comes down to knowing your player base. I get it, sometimes people don’t know what they like until you tell them. But 2K tried to tell us last year that MyFaction was going to be a big deal, and to me it was not.

WWE 2K23’s WarGames will immediately become the most player match type online, and it will be a staple of Universe Mode.


There were some other things that weren’t mentioned above that I feel deserve to be talked about. 

  • For one, War Games. Man! 2K really put some effort into War Games. It’s very fun. I can see this immediately becoming the most player match type online, and it will be a staple of Universe Mode play throughs. It’s a fun concept in real life because of its chaotic nature, and the game does a great job depicting that chaos in their War Games match type. 
  • The character models of created Superstars much more closely resemble the actual scanned character models in the game now. You no longer look like a dull plastic action figure. 
  • Springboard finishers are now a thing. A minor change, but something that has been noticeably lacking from the CAW community over the last handful of years. 
  • We now have the ability to taunt while holding weapons again. Those YouTube thumbnails are about to pick up in quality!
  • Advanced customization is back now for your created entrances. Pyro galore!
  • Custom arenas are now playable in online gameplay. 
Rikishi raising the roof before a WrestleMania sized Stink Face on the Tribal Chief. WWE 2K23 is not on the pantheon of the greatest wrestling games to exist, but it is closer to that than the recent 2K games in the series have been.


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that wrestling games are hard to make. Wrestling is all about creativity, from the booking and the storylines, down to the moves the superstars come up with and the spots they put them into. There’s only so much creativity you can allow in a game that is dependent on animations.

Yes, I’m nitpicky. We’ve established that. But I’m also fair and honest. This game is not on the pantheon of the greatest wrestling games to exist, but it is closer to that than the recent 2K games in the series have been.

2K took a year off in 2021 with a mission to rethink what a wrestling game should be, and they’re finding their groove in what they want this series to be. It may not be what I want it to be, but they have a vision and they’re actively pursuing it with noticeable year-to-year changes. This game will stay in my rotation for a bit longer than it has of late.