Arguing about ratings in sports games is quite frankly pointless. Most games these days will allow you to edit a player’s rating if you aren’t satisfied and, in the end, the rest of the team’s stats will more than make up for any big discrepancies. Arguing about ratings in a game about professional wrestling, which is as much sports as it is soap opera, might seem even more futile. After all, in a discipline where endings are pre-determined, a wrestler will only be as good as WWE wants him or her to be. Furthermore, WWE 2k17, just like the other major sports games, also allows players to edit the ratings of their favourite superstars.
Senseless as it is, arguing about ratings is a lot of fun. The wrestlers themselves seem to place a lot of pride in their own rating. For example, Tyler Breeze simply could not believe his low rating in this year’s game. Rusev was also displeased with his own rating, despite the fact that he was given an 86, which places him in the company of legends like Arn Anderson, Larry Zbyszko and Tatsumi Fujinami. Whether they are serious or they are just having fun with it, the superstars of WWE are aware of their rating and they are more than willing to discuss it. So why shouldn’t we?
With that said, Rusev and Breeze have already made their case about their ratings being unfair, so they will not be mentioned in this list. However, I did manage to find fifteen more ratings that make me think they were assigned at random by a 2K intern.
15 Jack Swagger (Rating: 71)
Where has Jack Swagger been in the last few months? After leaving Raw to sign with SmackDown, Swagger has all but disappeared from television. The last few years, ever since the break-up of The Real Americans, have been hard on this amateur wrestling standout, so a rating of 71, placing him near the bottom of the roster could look appropriate at first sight.
There are a few things that make Swagger deserving of a better fate. He is a former World Heavyweight Champion, which puts him in a very elite club. That alone should put him near the middle of the pack, no matter what has happened since his reign. Furthermore, a rating of 71 puts him at the same spot as the face-licking Bushwhackers. The same Bushwhackers which struggled for years in the tag team division, which never made it close to the tag team championship, which were stuck in comedy matches against Harvey Wippleman and Well Dunn. Surely a former ECW and World Heavyweight Champion deserves better than that?
14 Sting '91 (Rating: 87)
My main gripe with this rating is that the 1991 version of Sting sits at the same rating as his modern counterpart. The team at 2K judges that the vintage Sting, who fought Ric Flair and Vader, who was shortly a part of The Four Horsemen, who won multiple world championships and who fought in War Games, is worth the same as the Sting who wrestled three times in WWE and lost two of those matches. Is it really fair to place an iconic wrestler, who was portrayed as the best WCW had to offer, in the same spot as his less successful future self?
Sting's third version is rated at a reasonable 90. This is the Crow variant which was WCW's franchise during the Monday Night Wars. That Sting fought the nWo and won a few championships of his own, which I believe makes him a better comparison for the classic version of the Stinger. No matter which Sting you believe is the best, I think we can all agree that Surfer Sting, with his flashy face paint and Sergeant Pepper jackets, looked the coolest by far.
13 Shane McMahon (Rating: 77)
The General Manager of SmackDown Live is without a doubt an exciting wrestler. Never backing down, he has fought legendary superstars such as Kurt Angle and The Undertaker, often looking for the highest structure to climb and jump from. As entertaining as he is, let’s not forget that he lost most of those matches and that whenever he wins, he usually has help from someone else, as illustrated by his win over X-Pac at WrestleMania XV.
Shane McMahon, as a wrestler, has a lot of guts, but it doesn’t make up for the lack of talent and sustained in-ring success. A man whose punches look like they wouldn’t hurt a fly should not be ranked higher or similar to people like Tyson Kidd (76), Mark Henry (78) or Luke Harper (79). Henry alone, even this close to retirement, would make short work of Shane. The man is definitely capable of putting on a great show, but his willingness to leave it all in the ring should not be confused with actual ability.
12 Mr. Perfect (Rating: 84)
He’s perfect! It says so in his name. A perfect wrestler should only have a perfect rating. Just like Tye Dillinger had to be #10 in the Royal Rumble no matter his chances at winning, Mr. Perfect should have a rating of 100, logic be damned.
Even a more realistic rating would deserve a substantial bump. As a former Intercontinental Champion, I would argue that Mr. Perfect should be in the same category as other mainstays of the late 80s and early 90s IC division. Razor Ramon is up there at 88 and Ricky Steamboat is even higher at 89. In my mind, the only difference between Bret Hart (90) and Mr. Perfect is that Hart won a few World Championships. Even then, it could be argued that Perfect could have made it to that point eventually, if he had not been forced into semi-retirement by back injuries, first in 1991 and again in 1993. In terms of pure athleticism and in-ring acumen, few people can touch Mr. Perfect.
11 Braun Strowman (Rating: 78)
I understand that the ratings for WWE 2k17 were properly decided early in the development process, way before Strowman’s current push as an unstoppable monster started. The rating of 78 is probably more reflective of his stay with The Wyatt Family, back when he was an imposing but somewhat clumsy figure.
Still, the contrast between the Strowman presented in the game versus the one we see on television is striking. The virtual version of the monster can easily be vanquished by anyone playing as The Miz, Dolph Ziggler, or even his most recent rival Sami Zayn, who is rated 87. The real-life Strowman, on the other hand, has often been shown as a superior to Zayn, and as being in the same league as champion Kevin Owens (86) and perennial challenger Roman Reigns (89). Once again, the low rating is understandable, but even the old Strowman probably deserved to be rated higher than Kalisto (79) or, let’s say, Typhoon (81).
10 Typhoon (Rating: 81)
Speaking of Typhoon, the man might be a one-time World Tag Team Champion, but he was also Tugboat and, more famously, The Shockmaster. Even if the rating is restricted to his Typhoon persona, he was not that successful outside of his short title reign. Mostly relegated to opening matches when separated from his partner Earthquake, Typhoon would often be seen losing to IRS or Yokozuna on early episodes of Monday Night Raw.
When compared to Earthquake, also rated at 81, the lofty ranking makes even less sense. Earthquake was one of the few men to put Hulk Hogan on the injured list and he had a very successful run near the top of the card around the summer of 1990. Typhoon did have a short run as Tugboat, where he was portrayed as Hogan’s buddy, but he was never shown to be an equal.
I must mention that if the rating was based on the length and richness of the man’s mullet, the 81 would be more than justified.
9 Asuka (Rating: 85)
As the current NXT Women’s Champion, Asuka has faced and destroyed every single competitor in her division. She even defeated former WWE Divas Champion Mickie James at Takeover: Toronto, showing that her dominance extends past NXT and that she can hold her own against main roster talent.
Some of the superstars she has defeated in the past eventually made it to Raw before her, and in the process, were endowed with virtual ratings higher than her own. Bayley for example has a rating of 86, which may not seem like much of a difference, but she was shown as struggling against The Empress of Tomorrow before losing the match convincingly. I would argue that with the way she has been portrayed and with the talent she has demonstrated, Asuka should be the best-rated woman superstar in the game, ahead of Trish Stratus and Alundra Blayze, and definitely ahead of Lita, whose greatness always seemed to be related to her opponents’ own abilities.
8 Kevin Owens (Rating: 86)
As the longest reigning Universal Champion in history, Kevin Owens has been seriously overlooked with a rating of 86 and for many reasons. Let’s start by comparing him to Sami Zayn, who has him beat at 87, but who has been floundering on Raw while Owens was busy defending his championship. Since Owens put Zayn out of action in NXT, the likeable one has only been able to defeat his nemesis once on PPV, while The Prizefighter has won the Intercontinental championship twice on top of his current reign as Universal Champ.
Secondly, the only other wrestler to hold the Universal Championship in the game is Finn Balor and he is rated at 88. In NXT, Balor did defeat Owens for the NXT Championship, but Owens has been on the main roster for longer, and in the process has defeated Roman Reigns (89) and Seth Rollins (93) more than once. Finally, the man who Owens defeated in his first main roster match, John Cena, is all the way up there at 93. As a ruthless fighter who has shown that he could defeat Cena in a fair fight, Owens could probably claim a similar score.
7 The Ultimate Warrior (Rating: 89)
An 89 is not a bad rating at all, but when it comes to The Ultimate Warrior, I can't help but see it as too low. During his heydays, The Warrior was unstoppable, a force of nature which ran over The Honky Tonk Man in a few seconds and which defeated Hulk Hogan at the height of his popularity. Let’s not forget that he was also the first wrestler to hold the WWE World Championship and Intercontinental Championship at the same time. There was simply no one more bulletproof than The Warrior at the top of his game.
If the Warrior got different models in the game just like Sting or The Undertaker, a score of 89 might be forgiven for “The Ultimate Warrior ‘96” or “WCW Ultimate Warrior.” However, since this is supposed to represent golden era, “load the spaceship with the rocket fuel” Warrior, a rating in the mid 90’s range would be more accurate.
6 Bo Dallas (Rating: 67)
A rating of 67 places Bo Dallas on equal footing with Eva Marie as the worst wrestler in the game. It is true that Dallas was nowhere to be found in the past few months, but is it really worth being at the very bottom of the rankings? While The Social Outcasts episode might have soured a lot of people’s opinion of the Bo-liever, there are still a few things which should have worked in Bo’s favour.
Shortly before disappearing, Bo Dallas was receiving a small push where he was seen convincingly disposing of local competitors, and of former fellow Outcast Curtis Axel. While this did not lead to anything substantial, we should not forget that he is also a former NXT Champion, something which should put him at the very least over some lower-card wrestlers which never sniffed singles success, such as Titus O’Neil, or at the very least Blake and Murphy.
5 Rick Rude (Rating: 83)
The Ravishing One often gets underestimated because he never was World Champion in WWE. Mostly recognized for his risqué gimmick at a time where WWE was all about family-friendly entertainment, some would say he stagnated at the Intercontinental level, but the truth is he is one of the few men to hold a victory against the prime version of The Ultimate Warrior. The best version of Rick Rude is also a World Champion in WCW as well as a United States champion.
Rude’s biggest success in WCW happened during his membership in The Dangerous Alliance. Seen as the leader of the group, he would go on to defeat Sting and Ricky Steamboat several times, further making a name for himself. Such a storied career should put Rude at the very least on the level of his stablemates Arn Anderson and Larry Zbyszko (both 86). His success as a singles wrestler might even put him up there with his rivals Sting (87) and The Ultimate Warrior (89).
4 Bret Hart (Rating: 90)
There are many reasons why The Hitman should be rated higher than 90, which is still good enough to put him near the very top of the heap as it is. A five-time WWE World Champion, Hart is one of the few wrestlers to win the triple crown in both WWE and WCW. At his peak, he was also the best technical wrestler in sports-entertainment and consistently offered quality performances night in and night out. A fighting champion, he defeated a diverse set of opponents, from monsters like Diesel to high-flyers like Hakushi and the 1-2-3 Kid over the course of his reigns.
If we compare his abilities and his rating to those of wrestlers he often fought, he should be placed on an equal footing to The Undertaker (91) or Ric Flair (also 91), both of which he defeated many times. Furthermore, in WCW, Hart outsmarted and even beat Goldberg (92) for the World Championship, although this one ended up costing him his career. Finally, Hart is one of the few men to hold at least three wins over Stone Cold Steve Austin. Stone Cold has the best rating in the game with a 95, and yet, my researches show that Austin was never able to defeat The Hitman one on one. Shouldn’t that put them in the same tier?
3 AJ Styles (Rating: 89)
Once again, I know that the ratings were made earlier in 2016 and that at that point, Styles had only debuted a few months prior. However, I do think that Styles’ breakout year was already well on its way, with victories over John Cena in the summer and even winning his first World Championship a month before the game’s release. Styles’ performances and exciting matches have single-handedly made SmackDown Live the show to watch, despite WWE’s insistence at making Raw the flagship program.
I do believe that at this point, when it comes to WWE’s full-time roster, there is no one who can touch AJ Styles in terms of talent and abilities. Even within the universe created by WWE, Styles championship reign and his two wins over Cena in the same calendar year should make him the best non-legend wrestler, bar none. A successful year like the one Styles just had is a rare thing and I think his rating should reflect the quality of his body of work.
2 Shawn Michaels (Rating: 89)
While subjectively, Bret Hart is my favourite wrestler of all-time, objectively, I would have to admit that Shawn Michaels just might be the greatest wrestler in history. The Championships he won and the influence he has had on countless current superstars are only the start. The biggest evidence in his favour is the fact that HBK basically had two separate careers and that both of them would be enough to put him in the Hall of Fame, even if taken individually.
Already a multi-time World, Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion, Michaels had to retire in 1998 after a career which saw him win the first ever Hell in a Cell as well as the first and only Iron Man Match to ever be fought at WrestleMania. After a hiatus which lasted four years, The Heartbreak Kid came back to win another World Championship, before spending the better part of the next eight years putting on clinics with anyone lucky enough to wrestle him. Not only did he defeat Triple H and Jericho during his initial comeback, he eventually retired Ric Flair and fought The Undertaker in possibly the two greatest matches in WrestleMania history. In my opinion, that’s the kind of resume that should garner the best rating in the game.
1 Andre The Giant (Rating: 80)
While Andre The Giant might not be the best wrestler of all-time, he is certainly the most awe-inspiring. We must also remember that the ratings in WWE 2k17 are supposed to reflect a wrestler’s in-universe success. With that in mind, in which parallel dimension does Andre deserve a paltry rating of 80? This is a rating that puts him below the following wrestlers, and keep in mind that this list is incomplete: Typhoon (81), Jim Neidhart (82), Billy Gunn (82), Road Dogg (82), Big Cass (84), The Usos (84), and The Miz (85).
Even if we forget how influential he was and his role as the single biggest attraction of the 70s and early 80s in the world of wrestling, Andre The Giant deserves the best rating of all the big men in the game. During his illustrious career, Andre was portrayed as nearly invincible, a mountain of a man who rarely if ever lost a battle royal well into the 80s, and whose lack of championship belts was only due to the fact that he did not want any. In fact, he was portrayed as entirely undefeated for 15 years, from 1973 until his match against Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania III.
Unless this is Andre The Giant exclusively portrayed as the man who walked to the ring on crutches while accompanying The Bushwhackers at SummerSlam 91, the rating of 80 cannot be justified. A man of his stature and with his win-loss record should be nearly unbeatable in WWE 2k17 as he was in real life.