Learning cheaters never prosper in WWE 2K22

WWE 2K22
(Image credit: 2K Games)

Some people grow up watching wrestling and dream of one day being WWE champion. Of winning the ultimate prize at Wrestlemania, the grandest stage of them all, while tens of thousands scream their name and millions more watch at home. Of carrying out feats of athleticism so grandiose they echo through eternity. 

The wrestler in this month's diary is not one of those people. Yes, he's on the hunt for championship gold. But he has no intention of entertaining you along the way. Your enjoyment is poison to him, your hatred ambrosia. He intends to clamber up the rankings ladder and win a championship belt—probably one of the ones you forgot existed—without ever winning a match fairly. 

Say hello to the most unworthy contender in the history of sports entertainment: 'Luscious' Lord Fentiman Skett. He's named after the sound of someone running from conflict while wearing oversized homemade clogs. He's the sort of creature who stopped tying damsels to train tracks because he decided it was a waste of rope; a man who saves his red shells in Mario Kart so he can fire them back at people he's lapped. Fentiman Skett makes Ric Flair look like Bob Ross. 

CAWsome Kong 

(Image credit: 2K Games)

Crimping this awful villain into existence is a painstaking process. The level of depth in WWE 2K22 is intimidating, so I have to scour Skett's moves to make sure nothing inspiring, powerful, or entertaining accidentally wriggles, through like a historic bigoted tweet from an English cricketer. Skett is a ratings disaster, with his tedious arsenal of headlocks, roll-up pins and blatant cheating. His finisher, if you can call it that, is eye rake-low blow combo that even I'm tired of seeing, and he hasn't even had a match yet. As a concession to the noble art of wrestling I equip Skett with an athletic drop kick as a signature move. But it's not to impress people. Instead, it's an example of what Fentiman /could/ do if renounced cheating. In a perfect world, I can hear Jim Ross's exasperated voice explaining it to fans, "Skett could get the damn job done legally if he just applied himself. But he only wants to do it the easy way!"

Physically, he embodies the combined aesthetic qualities of ponderous Tory lollipop Jacob Rees-Mogg, fish-and-foreigner averse horror writer HP Lovecraft, and Eric the cowardly cavalier from Dungeons & Dragons. At 6'3" and 190lbs, he's about as suitable for a career in professional wrestling as I am at pitching diary pieces that won't make my life a screaming misery. More on that shortly.

My plan, then, is not only to misappropriate a championship, but to keep hold of it by cheating. You can't lose a belt by being disqualified, so I intend to make Skett the longest reigning champion who's never successfully defended his title. I've got a long way to go before that. I fire up Universe Mode and assign Skett to the Raw brand, assuming that I'll have a gruelling path ahead of me. 

I try the more direct method of clattering him with a clothesline.

My first match, however, is inexplicably Raw's main event, facing off against Kevin Owens. Even more bizarrely, Paul Heyman is my manager. Narrative weirdness aside, this feels like the perfect way to trial Skett's nefarious ways. I can use Heyman to distract the ref, while I pick up a slimy victory. And it's around now, literally at the very start of my journey, that the weaknesses in my plan become apparent.

The most difficult thing in wrestling isn't playing hide-and-seek with John Cena. It isn't deciphering why Mae Young once gave birth to a hand. Nope, it's trying to cheat effectively in WWE 2K22. This game is absolutely, rigidly determined that you play by the rules. I assume that having Heyman at ringside will help, but I'm wrong. Apparently managers in WWE 2K22 are there to do *checks notes* literally nothing. Instead, I decided to mercilessly bump the ref so I can break the rules while he's unconscious. One problem: whatever I do, the referee will not stay down. I try whipping my opponent into him, but he deftly sidesteps each time. I try the more direct method of clattering him with a clothesline, but he no-sells like The Ultimate Warrior taking a Pedigree. There's a slider to determine how long the referee is dazed, but, even at its highest setting, the ref is back up before I've had time to pick up a chair, let alone swing it. This, combined with WWE 2K22's byzantine controls, actually makes winning fairly harder than cheating.

Turnbuckle up 

(Image credit: 2K Games)

I decide I'm going about this the wrong way. Instead of knocking down the ref, Skett will distract him. It's possible to remove the turnbuckle cover in WWE 2K22, exposing the metal ring underneath. This sliver of thin metal is apparently so dangerous that any interaction with it results in an instant DQ. Eventually, the ref will notice the missing pad, waddle across the ring, and replace it from his secret supply of endless turnbuckle covers, giving me time to brutalise my opponent with a foreign object. The only trouble? The one thing that 100% guarantees the ref's sudden interest in turnbuckle maintenance is Skett going for a pinfall. If that happens, the ref replaces the cover immediately, which is exactly the opposite of what I need to happen. 

An alternate plan forms in my head. What if I remove the turnbuckle pad and trick my opponent into using it? That would be vintage Fentiman Skett. But that doesn't work either. Because I'm the one who removed the pad, slamming my smirking face into the exposed turnbuckle is suddenly legal. Similarly, during the three-second window when it's safe to use a weapon, I go to crack my opponent over the head with one of the 40 kendo sticks inexplicably hidden beneath the ring. But he manages to wrestle it off me and return the favour, all while the ref watches on. At the risk of sounding like a deflating balloon animal at a disappointing party, it's apparently fine when I'm the one being assaulted. 

I'm beginning to feel Skett is the victim here, which is a very odd state of mind for a man expressly created to break the rules. I initially decided that I could only go for the pin after using a foreign object on my opponent, but it's practically impossible to execute. For it to work I'd have to 1) remove a turnbuckle, 2) prepare a weapon, 3) wait for the ref to notice said turnbuckle, 4) jump back into the ring with the weapon, 5) hit my opponent, which only works 50% of the time, and 6) go for the pin once the ref is looking again. And that's such a conjunction of unlikely events that would herald some cataclysmic infernal event. So I decided that cheap pins can be part of Skett's victory strategy, so long as I've used a weapon at least once.

Raw meat 

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Sadly, I'm not having an enriching time on Raw. I'm booked in a series of tag matches with random partners, which isn't much fun for a sociopath like Skett. More bafflingly, I end up competing for the Smackdown tag team belts during a PPV, even though I'm not assigned to the brand. Skett and his new partner, Angel Garca, manage to win the belts, but I decide this can't possibly count towards my goal. Skett doesn't share glory. And I need to feel like I've earned my stolen championship. 

The final straw comes when I use the curation menu to push for more singles matches. Skett is still headlining, which feels wrong like your dad's Steely Dan cover band headlining Glastonbury. Worse yet, the game only wants me to fight Omos, the 7'3" Nigerian titan who could probably use Skett as a toothpick. After six consecutive matches against him, I decide it's time to change promotions.

Who's NXT?

'Luscious' Lord Fentiman makes his NXT debut the next week, and to be honest, it feels like a more natural environment for him, not least because he looks like the third member of erstwhile NTX tag champs, the Vaudevillains. Yes, it's a step back, but I embrace it, not least because NXT's solid cruiserweight division means Skett isn't the smallest man on the roster. Better still, I have some tight, competitive matches, by which I mean I managed to cheat consistently without getting disqualified. There's also a strange, satisfying sense I've broken the game. My stats are so hilariously low that the commentators don't know how to talk about me. They skirt around my abject failures, talking about 'challenges' and 'resilience', like I'm a brave relative with an embarrassing disease. And this might actually be true, because, as I learn after turning the blood on, Skett bleeds like a man with moist rice paper for skin. The slightest hint of fist to forehead and he's Carrie White on prom night.

A few matches later, and the game throws up the curation menu, asking me what I want. A crippling sense of Britishness almost stops me from being honest about my desire for a title match, like an awkward vicar avoiding the last French Fancy, but in the end I relent and ask for a shot. And, sure enough, Skett is booked against Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT Championship.

It's a decent match, and one that actually becomes slightly tense given the rules I've imposed on myself. A few times it feels like Ciampa is gearing up for his finisher, and I have to roll out of the ring and recuperate, knowing that I won't be allowed to kick out if he lands it. After removing about 15 turnbuckle covers in total, I manage to finally catch Ciampa with a chair shot, which softens him up nicely. He kicks out of my dirty leverage pin, but I'm able to clatter him with a miserable low blow and roll him up for the win. Skett is a champion: a shitty, cheating, miserably disappointing champion. He celebrates this momentous victory by stamping the hell out of his fallen enemy. Classy.

(Image credit: 2K Games)

All that's left is to hold on to my not-actually very hard fought championship and get myself disqualified or counted out from the next match, which takes place at an NXT In Your House PPV.

As always, there's a problem. It's a no disqualification Triple Threat match. I'm confident I can make it work, however. Skett immediately legs it from the ring, arms himself with a weapon, and only gets involved when someone looks like they're in need of a thrashing. He dives in and out of the ring like a poisonous fish, delivering chair shots before retreating to relative safety. My opponents, Pete Dunne and Walter, do a fine job of pulverising each other and I plan to sweep in and finish the match...

But disaster strikes: Dunne hits his finisher on Walter, and when I try to break up a pin with a baseball bat it inexplicably doesn't work, so I drop my belt after a mere five days because of vomitous collision detection. Thus ends WWE 2K22's moral theory lesson: cheaters never prosper, even when cheating is legal.