Not everyone can make it in wrestling. Bonafide superstars like John Cena, Randy Orton and CM Punk are few and far between. You cannot manufacture the emotion that crowds feel when they hit the ring or take the mic. They’ve tried and failed.
Every once in a while, a wrestling star is born. Everything clicks, and “just another guy” becomes the untapped star of the show. What happens next is often the difference between “multi-time world champion” and “that guy who should have made it.”
Enter The Ryback.
When the WWE Universe first met him, he was Skip Sheffield: a quirky meathead cowboy from the first season of NXT. He kinda stood in the background looking like, well, a big meathead cowboy, through the Nexus angle until a major leg injury took him out.
For big guys, that could be a killer. Big Zeke went out with an injury, and hasn’t been seen since. Mason Ryan got hurt, and has been wasting away in NXT. Most others just get released.
Not this time.
Skip Sheffiled was renamed, and reborn. Ryback showed up on the scene and immediately received what so few in the wrestling world could ever dream of. He got a second chance.
A new catchphrase, gear, move set, and theme song. The fans noticed, and they LOVED IT.
Ryback started by squashing jobbers. He’d walk out to the ring, yell “FEED ME MORE,” and annihilate every local talent, sometimes two at a time.
It was simple, yet perfect.
As Ryback gained crowd support, he also found better competition…and kept winning. WWE found themselves with a soon-to-be superstar on their hands, and did the absolute worst thing they could have possibly done.
They turned Ryback heel and hot-shotted him to the main event.
Most people wouldn’t think that’s a problem, but it is. There was no way WWE was letting Ryback win in feuds against John Cena or CM Punk. So when he lost — and he HAD TO lose— to guys on the top of the mountain, there was nowhere to go but downhill, and fast.
And it’s amazing to see how far the mighty has fallen.
First, Ryback became the RyBully, picking on people backstage…for no reason whatsoever. It led nowhere, but at least he got those sweet new Stone Cold leather vests.
Then he was (sort of) a Paul Heyman guy, but only for the sake of extending the CM Punk-Heyman feud. A couple of losses later, and even Paul Heyman disowned the big guy. Keep in mind, this is the same Paul Heyman who still had faith in Curtis freakin’ Axel.
This week’s Raw should be an indicator of Ryback’s place in the pecking order, and where he’s headed. He lost clean to R-Truth. Ron Killings. K-Kwik. The guy who spent the last 2 years talking to an invisible child and counting the lights in arenas around the world. And no, it’s not because of an R-Truth push – he lost a 6-man tag to 3MB 48 hours later.
So what went wrong?
There are rumors that Ryback isn’t particularly liked backstage, because he hurts people in the ring. Some writers say he’s actually regressed as a worker, failing to execute now in ways he was able to just months ago.
You know what I think? I think WWE realizes it was too much, too fast for Ryback, and now they’re stuck. Now, they don’t know what else to do. And that’s a damned shame, because they’re wasting someone who, while not an amazing wrestler, is a physical freak of nature who was able to quickly and organically connect with the audience.
What WWE should have done is start slow. Instead of graduating from squashes to main events, Ryback should have found himself in the US/Intercontinental title scene. Work with midcarders who are more talented, but not quite as over. Get better in the ring. Get more comfortable on the mic. Spend an extra year or two working toward becoming the total package before trying to take over the show. You know, like they are doing with Big E. Langston.
If the ‘E had taken that route with Ryback, we’d be predicting future world title reigns. Instead, in conversation with Nick, I predicted Ryback’s release. In the next 24 months, Ryback is gone. He’ll never be the new Austin or Cena. The new Kennedy? Much more likely.
It’s a shame. Ryback could have been great. But they killed his momentum, they killed his gimmick, and they killed his heat.
And you thought they screwed up with Daniel Bryan?