Talking Gaming, Careers with WWE Superstars

There is nothing cooler for a WWE fan than talking one-on-one with WWE Superstars. During a recent WWE 2K19 event at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, FL, we were not only able to experience the upcoming game, but speak to some of today’s best talent in the WWE ring. Former Smackdown Live Women’s Champion Carmella, former Tag Team Champion Cesaro, the legendary Samoa Joe and The IIconics, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay all discussed with us some of their origins with gaming, some wrestling roots and what the WWE 2K franchise means to them. It’s safe to say, this was a fantastic day.

The WWE 2K series always features a plethora of WWE Legends in the game. This allows players to play in dream matches against Superstars in their prime. This crosses the minds of these Superstars, as well. Samoa Joe had a few in mind when asked about this. “I would have loved to mix it up with guys like Bruiser Brody and the Stan Hansen’s of the world,” said Joe. “They were just real gritty, mean individuals. Those are the kinds of matches I like. Those are two guys I’d love to get in there and swing around with. I think Bad News Brown would be another one.”

When we asked Cesaro about this, he had a different take on this that stood out. “In real life, I would say whoever is WWE Champion,” said Cesaro. “If you take a step back, it’s cool, I had William Regal’s last match in NXT. When I was starting out, he was a huge inspiration. I was in the ring with Sergeant Slaughter and I got to meet and learn from Dusty Rhodes. All the legends you can just hang an interact with like Ric Flair and I actually asked Tyson Kidd if I could start doing the Sharpshooter as a tribute to him, but then also when I saw Bret Hart, I asked his permission and he said yes. It’s this type of stuff when I was a kid, I looked up to these people and now it’s like I just talked to them. It’s mind-blowing. That’s the cool stuff, it’s very hard to think about facing a WWE Legend because I don’t think of it in that way. People who do or if I do, I’ll just put in the game and play it against a Hall of Famer.”

It’s one thing to want to take on a past WWE Legend, but it’s more important to have inspiration from those that got current WWE Superstars into the industry. When we asked The IIconics, they had two big name inspirations. “It’s Eddie Guerrero, he was my biggest inspiration,” said Billie Kay. As for Peyton Royce, “It was the Rock. He inspired me and everything I wanted to be.” Those are two meaningful names to fans. Carmella’s was a bit different. “I was always obsessed with Miss Elizabeth. I always thought she was so classy and fabulous. When I was young, I never aspired to be a wrestler in my wildest dreams. But when I’d watch her, I always thought she was so fabulous and classy and thought I could do that some day. And then it was just kind of crazy that I turned into a manager in NXT which paralleled her.”

As for being in a video game, it means a lot to these WWE Superstars. “It’s so surreal,” said The IIconics. “We love it. It’s a big dream come true for both of us. One of many. We were blown away by watching our entrance. Every detail is so correct and we’re just really floored over how it looked and how good we looked. Down to our mannerisms and how we interact with each other, we were shocked. Amazing.” It also turns out that Billie Kay is an avid gamer. “I played video games growing up with my brother and I’m playing the new Spiderman on PS4,” said Billie. “It’s so beautiful. We both have game nights though. Trivia games, Jack Box, so it’s so cool even more so that we do play games and get to see ourselves in it. It’s such a surreal feeling, it’s like an out-of-body experience.” Peyton also agreed that Billie would beat her in a WWE 2K19 match. “She’s very competitive and doesn’t like to lose.”

Cesaro loves gaming and it keeps him occupied because he’s constantly on the road. Since he’s part of a tag team, it posed a question if he preferred playing solo games or cooperative games. “I feel cooperative,” he said. “I’m a big Nintendo Switch player because I’m on the road a lot, so I need some single player games on the plane. For Example, The Legend of Zelda, I’m a huge fan because it’s so immersive. Then like FIFA, Mario Tennis, WWE 2K19, NBA PlayGrounds, something you can play with somebody together, that’s where all the fun is. It’s fun to play by yourself, but the allure of video games and why they’re so popular nowadays is because you can play with your friends. We used to have friends over and play Goldeneye. Now, we all play together on our headsets and don’t have to leave the house. Plus the e-sports communities, it’s a new era and we all play together. That’s the fun of it.”

Cesaro also believes that the WWE 2K franchise helps WWE Superstars gain fans and doesn’t an excellent job of representing the product in the ring. “I feel it’s like a status symbol in a video game,” he said. “It’s surreal, even to me today, it’s like, ‘Hey I’m in a video game hahaha.’ It’s that and subconsciously the fans watch and if someone’s in a video game, they have the ability to play with them and their favorite Superstars in the career mode and you face someone you wouldn’t normally play with and think that’s some cool stuff. Even with the rating, you may not want to play as someone with that rating so you play with someone else. I think that definitely helps especially with kids, they know everybody.” He went on to talk about the product representation. “I do motion capture and know people behind the scenes with them. Everybody I know involved with the games are huge WWE fans and those that are fans of the product, I feel, that translates because that’s who you want to develop your games. You don’t want to have someone who doesn’t give a crap and say this is what we do. These guys are all fans and they want to make it better and more fun and you feel that. This year has a whole new graphics engine, what can we do with it, oh Big Head Mode. If there’s little things people don’t like, they try to address it.”

When asked, both Cesaro and Samoa Joe’s favorite games surprised us, but ultimately it was a hard decision for both WWE Superstars. “That’s a really hard question but probably Secret of Mana,” said Cesaro. “It reminds me of how Zelda is now but it’s so immersive and really the first open world thing. I used to play with my brother and the soundtrack is fantastic.” As for Samoa Joe, he mentioned that this question was like picking his favorite child. “That’s a tough decision. It’s really hard for me to say. I have different games for different eras. I think saying if I have one favorite one, which is not true because I’ll go back and play it and be like this game is terrible. It updates frequently. I do love the Final Fantasy franchise, Metal Gear and Call of Duty. They’ve had varying levels of quality over the years and provide a quality experience.” Joe also mentioned that his greatest accomplishment in gaming was beating Gears of War on Nightmare Mode by himself. “I don’t know why, but I felt that needed to be done.”

Since Samoa Joe is feuding with AJ Styles on Smackdown Live at the moment, we decided to poke the bear a little. We asked him what it would mean to him if he could dethrone AJ as cover athlete next year. “I’ve thought a lot about this question because people ask me that. It’s a huge honor to be on the cover of WWE 2K and for me, the personal satisfaction of pulling AJ off that cover and putting myself up there would be fantastic. I’d like to think if I’m ever on a game cover again, I would be brought as someone that would have a hand in the development. I’ve been a gamer for a long time and have worked on games before. 2K does a great job, but I’d love to be more than a picture and more of like a seal of approval. I want fans to look at the cover and think that’s going to be a good game.”

Samoa Joe has been all over the world competing at the highest level in professional wrestling and AJ Styles has been right there with him. We asked him if he believes AJ is his greatest rival. “I think at this point, I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve stared across the ring from than AJ. I think just by the default nature of the business, he’s probably the man I’ve fought with the most in this world.” While he may not give this rivalry the credit it deserves, he did give credit to the fans. We asked him about his greatest accomplishments over the years. “I don’t view accomplishments as greatest feats. I think if anything, if the fans have enjoyed what I’ve done over the years and they’re still finding satisfaction in it then I am more than happy with that.”

While Carmella isn’t an avid gamer, she admittedly has her roots. She, too, is surprised by the fact she’s in a WWE 2K game. “I’ve never in a million years would have been in a video game. I’m not much of a gamer so it’s not like I really grew up playing video games. It’s not that I didn’t game growing up. I had a Nintendo 64 and an original Nintendo, so I played games but stopped when I was eight or nine. But to me, it’s so crazy that I would even be in a game and that people are playing as me. I mean what is that? That’s crazy.”

WWE 2K19 is getting a revamped Career Mode. The developers have focused on storytelling and fun with this year’s game and Carmella has had a lot of both in the past year. We asked her about this journey and what stands out as the best part of her career. “I think it all started when I was the last draft pick when going to Smackdown Live in 2016. I’ve always been super motivated and driven to make it to the top and I think that was just a little bit of a flame under me to really prove everyone wrong. Like, okay you wanna draft me last, that’s fine, but I’m going to make it to the top. And then from there, I won the Money in the Bank latter match and I cashed in so everything has been crazy since.”

Carmella was Miss Money in the Bank for most of the past year until she eventually cashed in. So it’s no doubt that this is her favorite type of match in real life and  the match of choice in WWE 2K19 when we asked her. “For sure the Money in the Bank. Not only did we have one, but we had another the week after. It was so crazy for the women. It had never happened before and then to have two in the span of one week was insane. I’m not gonna lie, I was super scared. I don’t normally go off the top rope, but lately I’ve been upping my repertoire a little bit, but then I didn’t do anything crazy like that. I was really scared but I was going to go into this and do the best I can and take some risks and it paid off.”

Ever since dropping the WWE Smackdown Live Women’s Championship, she has been working with R-Truth leading up to the WWE Mixed Match Challenge. We asked her what it’s like working with this veteran and she’s enjoying this direction of her character. “Oh my god, it’s so much fun. It’s just exciting to show a different part of Carmella and a different personality. I just feel super lucky that I have been able to show so many different sides of my character with NXT being a manager for Enzo and Cass and then just starting on my own on Smackdown Live and having James Ellsworth then I did my own thing as champ and now with R-Truth, I just feel super lucky to keep getting all these different sides of my personality.”

Our time spent with these WWE Superstars was fabulous. All of these Superstars will be playable in WWE 2K19 on top of many more. WWE 2K19 is available for pre-order now and will include a revamped Career Mode and the return of Showcase featuring Daniel Bryan as told in his own words. It will release on October 9 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC with early release available on October 5.