Zack Ryder might have been the story of 2011. At the start of the year, the little used "Long Island Iced Z" seemed on the verge of being wished the best of luck in his future endeavors.
Now? He's getting time off for work with the WWE's YouTube channel and maybe even a movie. WWE stars like CM Punk and John Cena have long vouched for Ryder. His Internet series, "Z! True Long Island Story" seems to be proof that one can make it in the business if they are creative enough and have enough will to see matters through to the end.
Bleacher Report's Big Nasty posited a question, in elegant fashion, if Ryder had jumped the shark by moving his series over the WWE's YouTube channel, does Ryder even need to continue the series now that he's deep in bed with the WWE's Social Media endeavors?
The answer, to make a long story short, is yes.
Ryder's "baby" began as a personal video blog where he sought to do a number of things. As he added his own touches of self-deprecation humor and quirky skits, the show achieved a "cult" status amongst Internet wrestling fans.
The show's cast, crew and the production values improved, but at its heart, Ryder never forgot the ones who pushed him back onto TV, who bought all his merchandise off of WWEShop.com. He never forgot his fans.
Ryder started the "Ryder or Riot" movement where fans began to chant his names, buy his gear and bring signs to live events. Eventually, the WWE was forced to acknowledge Ryder and he became an important part of SmackDown as Teddy Long's assistant while the Creative Team attempted to find something for him.
Eventually, he became embroiled in a six-month feud with Ziggler (which naturally spilled over to "Z:TLIS") that finally saw Ryder vanquish "#HEEL" at TLC 2011.
After the feud blew off, the WWE put Ryder in an angle with Cena and Kane. This was important for all parties. Until Ryder was written off to do some other projects with the WWE, he was a sympathetic Robin to Cena's Batman. It gave the excuse for Kane to target someone to get Cena to snap while Cena got a sympathetic focal point, someone the fans could identify with.
During all this time, Ryder continued to produce "Z:TLIS" for his fans at his own personal expense. It never took a hiatus. It didn't go down. It kept running.
The WWE seemingly asked Ryder to move his show to their YouTube channel to help kick start it. Z:TLIS garners in excess of a 150,000 views per episode per week with rave reviews. One thing to note as well as the series is Ryder's Intellectual Property. It stands to reason they couldn't force him to move it.
The long story short, the WWE "needed" Ryder. History isn't without a sense of humor.
All these things aside, Ryder's success in the second half of 2011 could be attributed to his brain child turned "social movement." Ryder's impressive inroads into the world of social media made him a star on traditional media. Ryder became the personification of the underdog making it big in the world of larger than life bodies and comic book hero personalities.
The important thing is that Ryder doesn't forget his fans. The enduring nature of "Z:TLIS" and Ryder lies in the simple, campy nature and its quirky humor. Provided Ryder still has "Creative Control" over his program, there is little to fear.
Ziggler noted that in his show, "WWE Download", he comes up with a good portion of his own material for the program. This bodes well for fans to the "Z:TLIS" and Ryder himself. The WWE's new venture with YouTube rests a lot on the success of Ryder and his show. They need Ryder to continue to do his own thing without exerting any sort of "wrongful" influence.
Provided this happens, Ryder will continue to succeed where he once was a failure. General George S. Patton said "success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom." If that's the case, then Ryder is the very personification of that idea. Ryder will continue to succeed provided he doesn't bite the hand that feeds him.
Based on his history to date, there is little chance of that happening.