I began watching wrestling in earnest in 2014. I was in the deepest depression of my life when a friend invited me over to watch WrestleMania 30. That just happened to be the year that WWE told one of media’s greatest underdog stories, as pipsqueak Daniel Bryan (or Bryan Danielson, as you may know him now) overcame impossible odds to become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion. It was an impactful moment — one that gave me the confidence I needed to start the long climb out of a deep hole.
WWE doesn’t tell stories like that anymore. Its creative work has stagnated in recent years especially. Promising talent is thrown to the side to prop up the same big names I was watching in 2014. Mass firings at the company have abruptly killed storylines, making it impossible to get invested in any character. The show that meant the world to me as an empowering outlet I needed has become a frustrating train wreck that seems beyond saving.
Perhaps that’s why I’m obsessed with watching, not actually playing, WWE 2K22. The latest pro wrestling simulator from 2K Games features a standout mode called MyGM that’s been eating up my time. It allows me to rehabilitate the TV show that I once loved and tell the stories that matter to me.
MyGM lets fans take on the role of a “general manager” instead of a wrestler. Players get to run their own promotion, calling the shots like CEO Vince McMahon himself. That starts with a draft where managers hire a roster of superstars. From there, they book weekly TV shows (three matches and two promos per show), building up to a pay-per-view event every month. Players need to balance their budget while putting on the best show they can week after week.
While the core of WWE 2K22 is built around combo-based wrestling gameplay, MyGM doesn’t actually require managers to play through matches themselves. Instead, there’s an option to simulate booked segments, letting the computer decide the outcome in A.I. bouts.
That’s exclusively how I play MyGM. While I set the wheels in motion by architecting the stories I want to see, I then passively sit back and watch the simulation play out like an actual episode of Smackdown. That’s often left me more excited, surprised, and delighted than any episode of WWE TV has in years.
In one run, I start weaving a feud between Xavier Woods and Sami Zayn over the course of five weeks. It’s a classic story where Zayn, the heel, keeps running in on Woods during matches to sneak attack him. Woods beats Zayn at Backlash, but there’s still animosity between them, so I set up a Hell in a Cell rematch between them the next week and hit simulate. I’m treated to an incredible match that sees Zayn and Woods breaking through the cage and fighting to the top. An extremely tense brawl follows, with each competitor dropping the other on the top as it threatens to buckle with each hit.
After getting beat down for most of the match, the babyface Woods finally rallies. He lets Zayn have it and sets him up for a heroic running bulldog … which turns out to be a costly mistake. Due to the nature of the move, part of the cell buckles under Woods, sending him plummeting into the ring. In classic heel fashion, Zayn capitalizes like a snake, dropping into the ring quickly for an unearned pin.
It’s one of the most entertaining and logical finishes I’ve seen to a WWE match in years.
Shock the system
MyGM simply gives me back the catharsis I used to feel when watching a good WWE show. Underdog stories return as the simulation is a much kinder master than McMahon. The criminally underutilized Peyton Royce thrived as a crowd-favorite babyface. Asuka and Rhea Ripley scored WrestleMania main events instead of Ronda Rousey. Best of all, Cesaro, recently released from WWE, finally got a deserved championship win after being a workhorse in my digital promotion. That last one hits me the hardest after watching the real wrestler struggle to make a name in WWE for nearly a decade despite putting in the work week in and week out.
In MyGM, hard work pays off. The only thing that stands between them and their moment is a random number generator, which is an easier opponent than a stubborn billionaire.
WWE 2K22 fills a Brock Lesnar-sized hole in my heart. It revives everything about the product I used to love — all without the constant frustration. MyGM brings me back to a time where it still felt like the little guy could overcome the odds — an era that was pivotal in my own development. The only difference is that I get to call the shots this time, ensuring that those stars get the opportunity they deserve. After that, I let the simulation take the wheel and root for my favorites as an excited viewer hoping to see a cathartic Cinderella story. That’s good TV, folks.
WWE 2K22 is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
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