WWE stars Cody Rhodes, Rhea Ripley, Bianca Belair headline 2K24 covers


PHILADELPHIA — Cody Rhodes needs only to look at the wedding band tattoo on his finger for a reminder of the days when he was a big gamer: It’s the Triforce symbol from “Legend of Zelda.”

“I have good love for the lore,” Rhodes said.

The WWE star needs only to look at the gaming aisle in his nearest retail store or scan an online retailer in the weeks ahead to see his mark on gaming stretch from a wedding ring to a wrestling ring. Rhodes is this year’s cover star on the WWE 2K24 game. WWE women’s Royal Rumble winners Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley share the deluxe edition cover, marking the first time in history two women have made a dedicated WWE 2K cover.

The standard edition is set for a March 8 release, about a month ahead of April 6 and 7 WrestleMania weekend in Philadelphia.

“That’s the deal,” Rhodes said. “I came back, I wanted to win the WWE championship, I wanted to be on the cover. I think I had a few other bucket-list items. To check it off in this style, it’s just the best.”

Rhodes is one of WWE’s biggest stars, and he performed in the main event of last year’s WrestleMania card against Roman Reigns. The 38-year-old Rhodes is expected to be in the mix for the top spot next month at Lincoln Financial Field, where banners, signs and videoboards promoting the event have been more prominent at the stadium than postseason games.

Rhodes joined some of WWE’s greats to earn a cover shot, along with previous stars Brock Lesnar, Steve Austin, Rey Mysterio and John Cena. The game also includes a Showcase of the Immortals that celebrates 40 years of WrestleMania. Roman Reigns, Andre the Giant, Becky Lynch, Batista, Kurt Angle, Asuka and Bret Hart are among the 200 WWE superstars on the video game roster.

The standard edition is available for $59.99 on previous-gen platforms (PS4, Xbox One consoles) and PC and for $69.99 on current-gen consoles (PS5 and Xbox Series X).

Rhodes, son of WWE Hall of Famer Dusty Rhodes, made his debut for the company in 2007 and has since emerged as a top act, merchandise seller, ratings draw and pillar of the promotion. While wrestling fans sometimes tire of the good guy, WWE fans have been behind Rhodes from the moment he returned to the company — after a few years away — at WrestleMania 38.

“There was a period of time of where the wrestling babyface wasn’t a thing anymore,” Rhodes said. “I don’t know what changed or how it changed. Just the fact that I’ve been able to be me. I sometimes wish it was more character than it was reality. But to be me and then for them to gravitate toward it, I think the only thing I can attribute it to is maybe because it’s real.”

Rhodes said the days of wrestlers such as Andre the Giant playing cards in the locker room have long been replaced by a generation of performers that are more likely to spend their down time playing video games such as Tekken. It’s one more reason why the cover is as coveted within the locker room as a championship match.

Ripley, the WWE women’s champion, laughed when she noted she cut her teeth on gaming playing Crash Bandicoot. The native Australian says she doesn’t get much time to grab controls these days — “Being the person that runs Monday Night Raw, it’s kind of a busy schedule,” she said — but has participated in WWE 2K tournaments in the past with her fellow wrestlers. She even lost playing as herself to fellow WWE rival Charlotte Flair before she returned the favor in the ring last WrestleMania.

’I can’t catch a break, even on WWE 2K. I can never beat this woman,” Ripley said. “Then WrestleMania 39 came around I got the one that counted.”

Rhodes said it was a thrill to share cover honors with Belair and Ripley, one more sign after a women’s revolution over the last decade in WWE that there is no separation among the main eventers.

“It was a boys club, really,” Rhodes said. “They had so many things that were novelty factors. At this point, it’s not a novelty at all. I get a breakdown after every show of the top five merch sellers for that night. Rhea Ripley is never not in the top five. Sometimes she’s ahead of me, sometimes she’s ahead of Jey Uso, sometimes she’s ahead of Steve Austin. It’s not a gender thing with WWE anymore. It’s just, big star. Big stars doing big star things.”

That includes the competitive market of video game cover athletes.

Rhodes hopes gamers can play as his character and go on to win the WWE championship that eluded him thus far.

“Change the story,” Rhodes said. “Or perhaps finish the story.”

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports



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