Remember when Zack Ryder used to be—how do I say this—cool?
You know? When he was the best thing the WWE didn't know about and that neat little secret that the Internet swore the office was missing out on?
There was once a time when Ryder's appeal was strictly underground, much like pre-Sandman Metallica before they were signed by a major record label.
Ryder transcended the way a WWE superstar gets over through his popular YouTube show Z! True Long Island Story. Now celebrating its 50th episode, the cult-favorite web series has already lasted five times as long as the Onion SportsDome.
Using a combination of the pop culture-catnip that is the New Jersey Guido gimmick—although he calls them Broskis—and his own, unmistakable charisma, Ryder fist-pumped his way into the jaded hearts of the most hardcore pro wrestling fans.
Ryder's appeal, while pronounced, was certainly complicated. He was cool because he was yours.
Finding a niche as a Messageboard Messiah, Ryder connected with the often-underground, anti-establishment Internet fans because he was unfiltered and untarnished by the same creative hands that fans insisted should give him a push.
The more Ryder was held down, the stronger his following became. And for a company that has offered up iconic names such as Hulk Hogan and the "Macho Man" Randy Savage, the WWE didn't offer Zack Ryder to anybody. But he eventually kicked the door down and took what was he felt was his.
Pairing up with John Cena, the WWE sought to use Ryder shrewdly as a pawn to get stubborn, anti-Cena fans to finally unite as one in their devotion towards Cena.
It's as if the Fed was trying to say "Look, Internet, John Cena gets you! That's something worth cheering about, right?" Instead, their efforts may have only had an adverse effect on Ryder's online street cred.
Leading up to a momentous United States Title win over Dolph Ziggler, in a moment where the Ryder mystique unequivocally peaked, Ryder was booked like Cena's liability-bound little brother.
Following a dark day in WWE history where Ryder was one of three focal points of a main event that drew historically low numbers, Ryder would see his character take a noticeable tumble down the midcard as he floundered alongside Eve in an accelerated love storyline.
The storyline fed into the return of Kane as Eve and Ryder were positioned as cannon fodder for the WWE's resident monster. After a series of attacks on the man they call Long Island Iced Z, it wasn't long before Ryder was more reminiscent of one of Cena's Make-A-Wish kids rather than a breakout star.
This wasn't any more evident than this past Sunday at the Royal Rumble where Eve had to push around a wheelchair-bound Ryder backstage prior to yet another attack from Kane that was as inevitable as Eve's acting was poor.
Apparently, there is a reason for Ryder's descent from WWE TV as, along with a rumored movie role, there are reportedly plans for him to take his once-underground Z! True Long Island Story to the next level.
That's right, what started as an electronic study in self-starting designed to upset the corporate apple cart of the WWE will now figure to be cooperatively taken by the creative claws of the establishment.
Fans will now have the viewing pleasure of joining their favorite former Internet icon for 10 minutes of a glorified RAW recap that will "take care" when it comes to breaking kayfabe or upsetting any corporate sponsors. Say goodbye to Long Island Iced Z, and hello to Zack Ryder—John Cena in training.
It's important to note that, with the continued success and—er—evolution of his YouTube show, Zack Ryder is only succeeding in what he had originally set out to achieve. He is not being a sellout (and even if he is, so what?) but rather a self-starter who was dropped down the WWE totem pole only to land on his feet. Good for him.
But do we really need the continuation of Z! True Long Island Story at this point? It's just not the same knowing he's now BFF's with John Cena in a bromance that is three steps away from being Siegfried and Roy. The more Zack Ryder is on TV, the less underground he becomes and therefore the less fans need his show.
The Internet is a den of fickle mind-changers ready to turn on their so-called heroes with the swift motion of a single tweet. I remember back when John Cena was a champion of the jaded fan with his gritty, edgy rapper gimmick.
Z! True Long Island Story seems to have done its job. The last thing the show needs is a diluted debut on WWE's revamped YouTube Channel after it has already jumped the shark.
In fact, the day Zack Ryder decides he no longer needs the Internet to get over will be the day that the battle will officially have been won.
Don't believe me? Just ask CM Punk.