After taking over two years to focus on this year’s instalment of the franchise, WWE 2K22 finally hit the shelves on Friday.

2K, the developer of the game, decided against releasing a title last year as the previous edition, WWE 2K20 was horrendously broken in most aspects.

It was alright graphically but there were some major glitches in both gameplay and the graphics themselves.

Those anomalies made the game practically unplayable.

Thankfully, the early reviews for WWE 2K22 are good. It has got a 3.5/5 rating on Games Radar before it has even come out in the UK.

Compared with 2K20’s 2.5/5 rating, WWE fans may well have a good year of gaming ahead of them.

However, thanks to WWE’s obsession with releasing talent during the game’s development, WWE 2K22’s roster is way out of date.

The reason for this is simple. 2K didn’t get any heads up in terms of talent releases as WWE themselves didn’t have to/couldn’t give them any.

It could be argued that this actually improves the game, giving fans a chance to play as Superstars not seen in WWE in some time.

So, here are the top five released stars that are included in WWE 2K22:

5. Toni Storm

Based in the North-West before making her move to the US in early 2020, the New Zealand native spent most of her WWE career in developmental.

Her three year run in NXT and NXT UK was a good one. She held the UK Women’s Title for 231 days after defeating Rhea Ripley.

She competed as part of the NXT Women’s team at Survivor Series 2019 as well as a number of NXT-branded pay-per-views. Those include NXT Takeover: Vengeance Day and NXT Takeover: Stand & Deliver.

Storm debuted on Smackdown in July 2021 and, once again, competed at Survivor Series that year before entering a program with Smackdown Women’s Champion, Charlotte Flair.

Fans thought this would be the start of her big push but she seemingly walked out of the company after a live event in Washington on the 29th of December.

“Burnout” was the reason noted by The Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s, Dave Meltzer.

4. Kyle O’Reilly 

A veteran of the business, Kyle O’Reilly’s wrestling career goes back to as early as 2005, starting in Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling. It’s a promotion he’s gone back to now and then since.

O’Reilly joined WWE in July 2017. It was the events of the next month that would truly propel his NXT career.

After Drew McIntyre won the NXT title at NXT Takeover Brooklyn III, he was attacked by the trio of O’Reilly, Bobby Fish and Adam Cole. They’d form the Undisputed Era a month later.

He tagged with Fish for a while before Roderick Strong was drafted into the group. O’Reilly won the NXT Tag belts three times, twice with Strong and once with Fish.

The group fell apart in February last year with O’Reilly feuding with Cole over the NXT title.

His contract expired in December 2021 and joined Adam Cole in All Elite Wrestling later that month.

3. Cesaro 

Named as the most underrated wrestler on the planet four years in a row between 2013 and 2016, how this man never won a world title in WWE is anyone’s guess.

A career spanning over two decades, a wrestler of such commitment should have been rewarded with the biggest belt in the business.

It wasn’t to be, though. He joined the company in 2011 as a part of their developmental brand, Florida Championship Wrestling. The main roster debut came two years later.

The Swiss Cyborg arguably did his best work as part of many tag teams, winning the belts with Tyson Kidd, Shinsuke Nakamura and, most notably, Sheamus as part of The Bar.

He left the company with just one singles title to his name as well as winning the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 30.

A man who was never allowed to grab the proverbial brass ring, Cesaro departed WWE last month and is yet to sign for any other promotion.

2. Jeff Hardy

The Charismatic Enigma has had three spells in WWE, the most recent one coming to an end in December. Hardy walked out of a house match on December fourth and was sent home from the tour the day after.

WWE subsequently released him from his contract five days later, putting speculated plans of a run with Riddle to bed.

Hardy has had a successful career, delighting fans with his high-risk offence. The Swanton Bomb still gets a pop out of even the most jaded wrestling fan.

A man who has battled his demons in and out of the ring, his time in WWE has been a sparkling one.

He won 23 titles in the company, including one WWE Championship and six Tag titles. All six of those victories came alongside real-life brother Matt.

He debuted in AEW last Wednesday, tagging with his brother once again.

1. Braun Strowman

WWE really dropped the ball with the Monster Among Men. He was the most popular man in the company in mid-2017. However, a defeat to Brock Lesnar at No Mercy halted all of his momentum.

Having become the Wyatt Family’s fourth member in 2015, Strowman struggled to get over with the live crowd. His gimmick was just that he was tall and strong, a theme seen too often in WWE.

However, Strowman came into his own and grew in popularity before the aforementioned loss to Lesnar.

It was a struggle but Strowman did capture championship gold, beating Goldberg at Wrestlemania 35 for the Universal title. He is also a one-time Intercontinental Champion.

Released in June last year, he’s returned to the independent circuit, notably appearing at Ring of Honor’s Final Battle pay-per-view in December.

These are just five amongst a catalogue of over 40 other released stars available to play in WWE 2K22.

[Featured image thanks to: Dominique A. Pineiro, creative commons licence]