Throughout much of 2012 we saw Ryback devour his opponents. On every show he appeared on we saw squash match after squash match in what was an attempt to make him look indestructible. However fans began to wonder when, if ever, Ryback was going to face someone of note. He needed a feud with a big name to finally gain some respectability. It seemed for a while we were going to see Ryback face The Miz for the Intercontinental Championship but something extremely unfortunate happened, John Cena got injured.
At Hell in a Cell the original plan was for CM Punk to face John Cena for the WWE Championship however those had to be changed due to Cena’s injury. WWE needed a replacement and they decided to pick Ryback to fill John Cena’s spot. Could this one decision have had a damaging impact on Ryback’s long-term success?
Before I go into the consequences I want to look back at the Intercontinental Championship. During Ryback’s run against jobbers, the Intercontinental title was having a good succession of champions. It started with the reign of Cody Rhodes, then to Big Show, back to Cody Rhodes, Christian, and finally The Miz. The Intercontinental Championship was something worth holding again.
The Miz, fresh off of successfully defending his Intercontinental title against Sin Cara, Rey Mysterio, and Cody Rhodes at Night of Champions, debuted Miz TV, in which Booker T was the guest. After being verbally assaulted by The Miz, Booker invited Ryback to the ring and he destroyed the Miz TV set. This would have been a good introduction into a possible feud and a good next step for Ryback’s development into an eventual main event star. The Miz would be able to carry Ryback on the mic and Miz would be able to generate enough hatred from the fans to have them side with Ryback. But as I alluded to earlier, John Cena got injured and in their scramble to fill the huge void left by Cena in the main event at Hell in a Cell, WWE chose Ryback, believing his time was now.
Fans are known not to be receptive to those who are given an elevator push to the top too quickly without first having proven themselves. We’ve seen this recently on two occasions with Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. After just six months in the company Sheamus won the WWE Championship and within a year had two reigns. But because Sheamus never established a rapport with the fans, they didn’t care much for Sheamus. As a result, he dropped off the main event scene and jobbed for a good while. By the time the creative team was ready to push Sheamus again, he had fallen far enough to rebuild himself. He won the United States Championship, had good feuds with Mark Henry and Christian and won the Royal Rumble going on to Wrestlemania to win the World Heavyweight Championship.
Alberto Del Rio had similar beginnings, receiving a huge push too soon by winning the Royal Rumble after only being on the main roster for seven months. He wasn’t given enough time to build a solid foundation of accomplishments and develop his character into something that would click with the fans. Even today the fans still don’t connect with Del Rio. The only reaction he gets is the announcement of his name by Ricardo Rodriguez.
We are seeing history repeat itself with Ryback. Whenever we hear his music hit, there is no reaction from the crowd. The only reaction he ever received was from the “FEED ME MORE” chants during the intro of his theme. With that removed in his theme’s latest incarnation there’s virtually nothing from the fans. This problem bleeds into WWE’s main dilemma, their inability to appropriately position superstars for next level pushes.
We have seen superstars like Dolph Ziggler and Daniel Bryan who have worked hard and fought their way into a good position. They were given a chance to really show the crowd who they were, and what they could do in the ring. Ziggler was a United States Champion, Intercontinental Champion, and a Tag Team Champion before competing regularly against main eventers. When Ziggler finally won the World Heavyweight Championship the fans cared because they had seen his journey to reach that point in his career. Daniel Bryan was a United States Champion, fought against the Miz and Sheamus and won the Money in the Bank. When Bryan won the World Heavyweight Championship the fans understood his growth (and history) and he is still massively over today.
If Ryback loses to John Cena at Payback what will he do next? Look at his last 9 months of action; he’s faced CM Punk for the WWE Championship three times, faced The Shield at TLC and Elimination Chamber, faced Mark Henry at Wrestlemania and has since been feuding with John Cena for the WWE Championship. He’s always been in the main event except for his match against Mark Henry which was among the least exciting matches of Wrestlemania 29. So now the creative team is in a situation where Ryback’s main event credibility is shattered because he has never won the big one, he has to be built back up somehow. Without that foundation you crash to the bottom with nothing to break your fall.
The WWE creative team may have to risk dropping Ryback into the midcard to build him back up into an unstoppable monster. He needs to win something and right now the Intercontinental Championship would benefit both perfectly. Ryback could bring relevancy back to the title and simultaneously rebuild his monster image. There aren’t many superstars today who could understandably compete against Ryback, but a good start would be against Kofi Kingston. Recently, Ryback put Kofi out, powerbombing him through three tables so that’s reason enough for those two to go at it. For Ryback, it would be a good introductory feud into the midcard. The next step would be for Ryback to face Alberto Del Rio, Randy Orton, Kane, and Sheamus. The idea behind feuding with these superstars is to give Ryback more experience facing main event-level superstars, establish his dominance and revitalize the Intercontinental Championship. Fans like to remember the times when the Intercontinental Championship was once considered almost as important as the World Championship. Giving Ryback a personal stake in bringing those times back would go a long way towards fans seeing Ryback as a deserving contender for the WWE Championship.