It took almost two years for Reeves to fight his way back from injury and regain his footing on the main roster. His absent may have seemed damming at the time but it proved to be a blessing for Reeves career. Reeves debuted on Smackdown in August of 2012 as the character that best suited him; Ryback. He ran through local wrestlers from every town that WWE visited and competed in handicap matches where he would face two (or more) of these local jobbers, decimating them in squash matches which the fans reacted to and Ryback gained momentum week after week. In the beginning of his current run on the main roster Ryback wrestled primarily on Smackdown but before long his reputation grew so that WWE was forced to highlight the incredible monster on Monday Night Raw.
Ryback went from being a ripped, menacing presence who was feasting on the lower-mid card to being catapulted into a main event WWE title program with CM Punk. It might have been a little premature to put Ryback into the spot to face Punk because after the feud was over Ryback’s persona was tarnished revealing the superstar as a mere mortal who had weaknesses. In Rybacks first match for the WWE Championship and pay per view main event , Brad Maddox, a rogue official, delivered a low blow to Ryback costing him the championship. He had been on a winning streak since his re-emergence on the main roster so having him drop a match of this calibre due to one low blow from an official was an anti-climatic way for WWE to end his undefeated run. Further interference in his subsequent championship rematches hindered Ryback as The Shield cost the beast the WWE Championship by power bombing him through the announcers table at Survivor Series. The Shield would again cost him the championship by attacking him during the Tables, Ladders and Chairs match against Punk. Soon after Ryback’s program on top of the WWE seemed to be coming to a close. The booking during his run against Punk was less than perfect and it left the character beaten and without much direction for the future.
Ryback participated in the 2013 Royal Rumble and was the runner up. Having Ryback fight his way to the end of a match as gruelling and prestigious as the Royal Rumble served to remind the fans that he could potentially get another push in a top singles program, though it would not come soon. Ryback went on after the Royal Rumble to continue feuding with The Shield into the Elimination Chamber PPV where he teamed with John Cena and Sheamus to face the trio. Ryback and his tag partners lost and The Shield continued to be a thorn in Ryback’s side until the feud faded as The Shield turned their attention to Randy Orton and Sheamus. Teaming Ryback with Superstars like Cena and Sheamus was another discrete way for WWE to remind fans that Ryback was still a significant talent and a major contender for the future.
Ryback was immediately placed into a semi-high profile feud with Mark Henry who had recently returned to WWE after extended time off. The program made little sense when it came to the development of the Ryback character as there was very little build or reason for these two to wrestle. The two men met in a match at Wrestlemania known as the battle of the behemoths and Henry went over Ryback after a very uninspiring and forgettable match.
Following Wrestlemania it would seem that WWE had left Ryback with no direction and his future was unclear. On the Monday Night Raw following Wrestlemania fans expect something exciting and unpredictable to occur. This year was no different as at the end of Monday Night Raw Ryback rushed to the ring to save the leader of the Cenation, who had just captured his eleventh WWE Championship the night before. With The Shield despatched, Ryback and Cena stood alone in the ring then shockingly Ryback would attack Cena consequentially turning the big man heel. In the week that followed it was announced that Ryback would face Cena for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules.
This match is the culmination of years of hard work finally paying off. If Ryback were to pull out a victory at Extreme Rules and become the next WWE Champion his run with the title would have to be booked appropriately because it is very unlikely that he will be a successful champion based on the strength of his character alone. His gimmick is one of the more recognisable in WWE currently but in order to be thought of as a true main eventer he has to adjust and be willing to make changes to what he does. There are those in the WWE universe who feel that Ryback has a formula that he works by and every match that he competes in consist of the same half a dozen spots dictating that in a very short time he will become stale and uninteresting. Ryback needs to inspire and innovate in order to leave a lasting impression on the fans.
Ryback’s character has gotten over with the fans in the past and that trend has potential to continue. The timing of his emergence in the main event scene is perfect since the WWE Universe is looking for another anti-Cena contender. CM Punk is absent for now and the second spot on the roster is wide open. If the fans get behind Ryback and he is given the amount of creditability as a champion that he has earned he could become a megastar. There are very few wrestlers who come up through the WWE developmental system and become household names with a mesmerising drawing power. Ryback has the potential to be one of those Superstars.
The road for Ryback to main event a WWE PPV against its most popular star for its most precious prize has been much longer and harder than most fans believe. At first glance it would seem that WWE saw a hot commodity with a good look and magnetic appeal and ran with it. Ryback has shattered the glass ceiling very quickly since his debut with his current persona and he will now be tested to see if he has staying power required. Ryback might be a fresh face to many of the WWE fans but there is no denying that he has worked as hard as anyone else to get a chance to try his hand at a main event angle and only time will tell if he is ready…