WWE 2K Battlegrounds uses IMPACT star Tessa Blanchard ‘without permission’

WWE 2K Battlegrounds reportedly features an image of Tessa Blanchard, rival pro wrestling show IMPACT’s former World Champion. The image’s photographer has now publicly called out WWE and 2K Games, asking why they used the photo “without permission” in the newly released game.

The image appears in a WWE 2K Battlegrounds tutorial for its Royal Rumble mode, showing a stylized version of the original photo taken during an episode of IMPACT Wrestling. The similarities between the image and IMPACT’s photo were spotted by Twitch streamers NewLEGACYinc, with the news swiftly circulating on Twitter.

IMPACT responds to WWE Battlegrounds‘ use of Tessa Blanchard

wwe battlegrounds tessa blanchard

IMPACT Wrestling photographer Basil Mahmud responded to the apparent use of his photo on Twitter. “Hey @WWEgames you wanna tell me why you took my photo without my permission to use it in your game?” he tweeted. When another user suggested that the use of Mahmud’s photo falls under Fair Use Copyright, Mahmud replied: “Wrong, fair use act is if you use the picture for explanation purposes. Not for art in a game that your [sic] make money off of.”

Tessa Blanchard was the first female IMPACT World Champion and is one of the promotion’s most recognizable stars. IMPACT is a long-time rival of WWE programming, and before the emergence of fellow US pro wrestling promotion AEW, it was the strongest contender to WWE’s dominance of the industry. As such, WWE 2K Battlegrounds developer Saber Interactive using Blanchard’s likeness is a questionable move, given how many pro wrestling fans would immediately recognize the star’s image.

WWE and publisher 2K Games have yet to respond to these claims, and it’s unclear if IMPACT will look to pursue legal action against either company. For the time being, the image remains viewable in the game, with it uncertain if it will be removed in a future update.

WWE 2K Battlegrounds is the latest WWE game from publisher 2K, with the company looking to recover following the poor reception received by WWE 2K20. The game features arcade gameplay similar to the fan-favorite 2011 game WWE All Stars, with it being available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Google Stadia.