The first two weeks of Ryback's return to the WWE has been greeted with a relatively enthusiastic reaction. The same cannot be said for tonight's episode of SmackDown from London.
The underwhelming reaction could be caused by the repetitive nature of Ryback's performances. A local talent, this time James Lerman, came to the ring and cut a heel promo. Ryback interrupts, looks intense and then destroys the jobber in a couple of moves.
There should be high praise for the editing team that hid the poor reaction. Only showing part of Lerman's promo to make him look sympathetic and bypassing positive chants by going to backstage camera angles were clever fixes.
Does this indicate that Ryback is not getting over?
The international crowd could explain the poor reaction. British audiences have a different view on things than an American audience. The British live in a society with different cultural norms and different expectations.
One of those norms is supporting the little guy.
It is not a difficult jump to the world of soccer and the fabled FA Cup—a tournament where anyone can play anyone. The joy of the competition is to see the small teams get one over on the big teams. Every year classic clips like Ronnie Radford scoring for lowly Hereford against Newcastle are displayed and rewatched by the public.
These acts of giant-killing are widely celebrated. It has become a subject dear to the nation's heart. It is not something that can be simply thrown away by one basic heel promo.
Simply put, this meant Ryback's appearance was destined to fail. The audience were always going to feel sorry for the little guy.
This is not the first time the WWE has misunderstood an international audience. Jerry Lawler is happy to call Canada "Bizarro World" due to their negative reaction toward Shawn Michaels. Some Mexican fans have booed Alberto Del Rio for taking off his mask when he joined the WWE. British fans have even booed some talent for mispronouncing local names.
The WWE either chooses to ignore these little apparitions in favour of the American market or do not research the situation well enough.
The big question is whether there is a solution?
Obviously some things can never be fully rectified. There is no way of going back in history and stopping the Montreal Screwjob from happening.
Sometimes fixing the problem is not as complicated as time travel.
This is the case for Ryback. All the WWE needed to do was give Ryback a bigger opponent. It may sound unbelievably simple, but that is the case. The same nature that roots for the little guy also despises big bullies. The same basic heel promo would have produced the heat needed to get a good reaction from the local audience.
Perhaps it is time for the WWE to look for more solutions than simply ignore potential issues when going on foreign tours. Especially when that can build a character rather than halting their momentum.