John Cena is one of the WWE’s most beloved Superstars, and WWE 2K23’s Showcase mode is an endearing love letter to one of sports entertainment’s biggest stars.
In WWE 2K22, Visual Concepts took players back in time to relive and recreate some of Rey Mysterio’s greatest matches as the Master of the 619 himself. This year, WWE 2K23 flips the script by pitting players against Cena in the ring, rather than having them don his iconic jean shorts. With 14 Historical Matches to choose from, players will challenge Cena and many of his career-defining moments on some of the WWE’s biggest stages. Prior to 2K23’s launch, members of the Visual Concepts team answered a few questions about the mode and what it was like taking this trip down memory lane.
Q: John Cena’s accomplished a lot during his WWE career. What makes his legacy an excellent focal point of WWE 2K23’s Showcase mode?
John Cena is the face of an era. He is a historic figure, an easy member of WWE’s Mount Rushmore. From his debut in 2002 until today, he has done nearly everything you can imagine as a member of the WWE roster.
In his career, he’s competed against—and defeated—an absolute gauntlet of certified legends, and has earned the love and respect of his peers in the process.
His accomplishments are well-documented. We liked being able to take an essential part of John—”Never Give Up”—and to show how it’s not just something he says to everybody else, but that it’s something he uses daily himself.
Looking at John’s career in this manner also allows us to look back at 20 years of WWE history, including some of the biggest stars of the time. Showcase is where WWE’s Legends clash once more, and John Cena is the ultimate modern-day legend.
Q: What led to the decision to pit players against Cena in the ring, rather than playing as him?
For me, there were two things that led to the approach. First off, we definitely heard some of the feedback that playing as the same WWE Superstar for 10-15 matches, no matter who it was, started to feel a little repetitive. So we had been thinking of ideas that would allow for a more diverse roster for players to control for a while.
Then, with this being the second Showcase that’s had John as a focus, I wanted to cover his career in a different manner than past Showcases, too. Brainstorming ideas, we really liked playing into his “Never Give Up” mentality, and decided that by showing his losses, we could really emphasize that whole concept, certainly with more gravity compared to showing him winning these matches.
So, it became a question of “Do players play as Cena and just lose every match?” Even if it’s through a cutscene loss, that just seemed like too much. “Well, what if we just make it so they control Cena’s opponents? You have to beat John Cena every time, he’s like a recurring boss battle!” Then that led to “You Can’t Beat Me” and that’s when it all came together for us.
Q: With so many matches to choose from, how did the team decide which matches to include?
Once we’d decided on the “You Can’t Beat Me” idea, where the player would control Cena’s various opponents, we had a smaller pool of matches from which to choose. So, we looked through the various WWE Superstars that have defeated John Cena, and tried to choose who between them warranted a spot –the idea being that these are the very best among the group of people to own a win over John.
Some people have multiple wins over Cena, while some may only have one. You’ll see Edge and Randy Orton, two of Cena’s biggest rivals throughout his career, as well as Rob Van Dam, whose victory at ECW One Night Stand in 2006 remains one of the most memorable matches in the career of either man.
In the end, we hope each match either holds historical significance, represents a legendary rivalry, or brings you back to a forgotten classic.
Q: Will players experience the same era-specific filters and visuals that were in 2K22?
Yes, we always do our best to match the in-game presentation to the classic footage. This can be through the use of filters, as well as different uses of our lighting system to get the “old school” matches feeling right!
Q: Do players earn anything special for defeating Cena?
Players can expect to earn unlockable rewards throughout the Showcase mode! Similar to WWE 2K22, there are two types of rewards:
Match Rewards: These are earned by simply earning a win in the match, whether you complete 0 match objectives, or all of them! These are typically reserved for Arenas, Championship Belts, and unlocking the next match!
Objective Rewards: These are earned by completing 100% of the objectives in the match. These are typically reserved for Superstar models/attires.
Q: Is there a variation in match strategy?
Showcase tends to change the match strategy simply with the in-match objectives. One might tend to be a player who uses a lot of combos or running attacks. Showcase instead asks you to try things you may not do all the time – specific grapples, submissions, causing amounts of damage. It is possible to play your style of match and win without completing any objectives, but then you lose out on the bigger rewards. To truly “beat” Showcase, players have to be capable of completing the objectives while also fending off an opponent looking to win at all times.
On top of that, players will now be using a new Superstar in nearly every match, meaning the ability to memorize certain moves aren’t there. One minute you’re Kurt Angle, and the next you’re Batista, and then you’re Triple H. We try to cater the objectives to best mesh with the Superstar’s approach (as well as matching up to historical beats), so someone like RVD will probably see you attempting dives and extreme offense, while a Randy Orton is going to be more methodical with his grapples.
Throughout his career, Cena has frequently reminded and inspired fans to never give up, and that’ll be more important than ever if you hope to defeat him in WWE 2K23. You can finally relive some of Cena’s biggest battles and challenge the 16-time world champion on March 17. Pre-order your copy of the Deluxe or Icon Edition today to earn three-day early access and exclusive rewards!
WWE 2K23 Icon Edition
WWE 2K23 Deluxe Edition
WWE 2K23 for Xbox Series X|S