In June 2018, 2K announced AJ Styles as the cover star of their new wrestling game entry WWE 2K19. With it, they announced the Million Dollar Challenge, a competition that could bank the winner one million dollars if they won. To do so, they had to beat the AJ Styles Tower in the game (a very difficult gauntlet match) and cut a killer promo on why they’ll win; if 2K picked their entry, they’d fly out to WrestleMania weekend, compete in a mini tournament against other players they selected and, if they did all that, they’d face AJ Styles himself with the one million dollars as a prize for victory. Sure enough, all of this took place and, on Friday, Stephan T. Benson beat AJ Styles on the NXT Takeover: New York pre-show to win the grand prize. However, everything wasn’t as it appeared.
During the streamed final, many fans felt something was off. For starters, the finalist was acting very egotistical, including riling up fans and constantly bickering with AJ. Many disregarded this as the guy just being a dick, but the major red flag came in the aftermath of the victory. After winning the million dollars, a life changing amount of money for most, he was not only completely nonchalant about it, but his immediate response was to begin a heel promo on the WWE Universe. Even if this guy was a dick AND rich, thus meaning the million dollars didn’t mean much to him, the promo felt incredibly pre-planned and formulaic. Viewers online quickly discovered why. A few hours after the show, fans found out that the winner is someone who has worked for the WWE for at least 5 years, as this photo from WrestleMania Axxess 2014 (courtesy of Twitter user @MarcusBakerX1) shows:
On top of this, fans also caught that Stephan’s Facebook page had him listed as a WWE employee. I was unable to catch a screenshot of this because, of course, Stephan took it down before too many fans caught on. What cements this is what happened on WWE 2K’s forums. Many fans created threads on there calling out the company about the scam, but instead of a response or even being ignored, the threads were deleted. Again, I was unable to get a screenshot because they deleted it so fast. However, I did find a post from one of the moderators pertaining to the removals, with their reasoning being “legal discussion is not an appropriate topic for these forums” (a rule I’ve never seen in my years of browsing there):
This is a huge deal because it’s not only breaking fan trust, but it’s breaking the law too. Thousands of fans competed in the Million Dollar Challenge, meaning thousands bought WWE 2K19 under the impression that they could enter a legitimate competition from it. It’s false advertising, and something that deserves major repercussions. The most frustrating thing about the situation is the fact that that likely won’t happen; both WWE and 2K are behemoths in their respective fields and, as such, they can pretty much get away with anything, including scamming thousands of dollars, pounds, euros and otherwise from their fanbase worldwide. I want to end this article with a positive solution, but I can’t. It’s a bank robbery committed in an indestructible tank. Despite this, spreading the word about this scandal could lead to them being pressed for a statement against the accusations if enough support is gathered, so doing so could accomplish something.
Regardless, tell me what you think of the situation in the comments or on my Twitter profile @JoshBSocial.