I didn’t watch Monday Night RAW live this week, but the first thing I got when I asked for people’s thoughts on Twitter the next day was a flow of angry Zack Ryder fans, giving out about how he lost the United States Championship only 29 days after his triumphant victory at the TLC pay-per-view last month.
To me, it makes perfect sense.
This time last year, Ryder was nothing more than a jobber, only ever seen on bottom-tier show Superstars—infrequently at best—and his most memorable appearance since being drafted from ECW to Monday Night RAW in 2009 was a nine-second WWE Championship match against Sheamus that was purely to add heat to Sheamus as a heel champion. Ryder was just the random person across the ring.
In February, Ryder indirectly acknowledged that he was next in line for a Friday afternoon ‘future endeavored’ phone call and decided if he was going out, he was going out fighting.
With that, he began a weekly YouTube show: Z! True Long Island Story and each week he’d give fans roughly five minutes of himself—roughly five minutes more than they’d see of him on WWE programming.
He was up against it, an underdog if there ever was one, and fans could see he was trying, and you can’t help but rally behind someone like that and hope they can overturn the odds. That is where Ryder found his fanbase.
Fast-forward 11 months and Zack Ryder is on pay-per-view at TLC; a month prior at Survivor Series, Madison Square Garden chanted his name in what was meant to be a night about Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson‘s WWE in-ring return, Johnson helpless but to acknowledge Ryder to give the fans what they want.
Ryder had the most successful act.ly petition in their history, campaigning to get a rematch against Dolph Ziggler for the United States Championship. Despite becoming a fixture on WWE television in the weeks leading up to Survivor Series, WWE said no to Zack Ryder.
So MSG chanted "We Want Ryder, We Want Ryder, We Want Ryder." Why wouldn’t they? Zack Ryder had done everything to earn a shot in his home state and WWE just said no and offered it to intending-to-quit John Morrison instead.
Ryder was up against it, an underdog if there ever was one.
So with the WWE Universe ignoring the Ziggler/Morrison match with their plea for Ryder, WWE gave in—or began thinking properly and made the match the people wanted. Zack Ryder would go to Baltimore to the TLC pay-per-view to compete for the United States Championship, and that is exactly what he did when he captured the title following a Rough Ryder on the self-labelled ‘Show Off,’ the first singles championship of his career.
Ryder was on top, a victor, a champion. The following night, he stood inside the ring in the opening and main event of RAW alongside World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan and WWE Champion CM Punk. Clearly the pinnacle of Ryder’s career to date.
So now, what do we rally behind? Why do we protest and chant "We Want Ryder"?
Fans didn’t know what to do when they saw Long Island Iced Z. What was Ryder’s goal—that we’d all sit back and watch as he scratched and crawled and finally over came the odds and made it? We didn’t know. So WWE did it for us.
Last Monday, despite not being medically cleared to defend his title against Jack Swagger, Ryder showed his determination to be a defending Champion—his first defense. However, his determination wasn’t enough as Swagger capitalized on Ryder’s injury and quickly disposed of him to become the new champion.
Now let's look at Zack Ryder. He lost his championship and no doubt he wants it back, but he’s still suffering from the injuries that cost him to lose the belt—not forgetting the man responsible, Kane, is still lurking and still on a rampage.
Now once again, we’re all tuned in to see how will Ryder overcome the odds. How he’ll come back from this unfortunate setback. But you have to admit: Zack Ryder is up against it, an underdog if there ever was one…time for everybody to rally behind him once again.