Three years ago, Zack Ryder was given his time to shine as a singles star when he was sent packing to the ECW brand via the 2009 WWE Supplemental Draft. Upon his arrival in the Land of Extreme, Ryder debuted a brand-new look, sporting spiked hair and calling himself the Long Island Iced Z.
Over the course of the next two years, Ryder would get himself noticed via social networking, building a following that he called his "Zack Pack." Last February, he debuted his own weekly YouTube show entitled Z! True Long Island Story, which saw Ryder take shots at WWE management while entertaining his viewers with his comedic antics.
Once Raw traveled to Long Island that June, many disappointed fans stated that the WWE dropped the ball in not having Ryder appear on the show that night, but instead on a WWE Superstars taping. However, being relegated to Superstars that night ended up being the best thing for the New York native, as he was turned into a fan favorite by his hometown crowd during his match against Primo.
From that point on, Ryder would gradually be featured more and more on the flagship show as time progressed, eventually culminating with a huge victory over then-United States Champion Dolph Ziggler—with movie star Hugh Jackman in his corner.
At WWE TLC that December, Ryder achieved his lifelong goal of capturing his first major singles title in the form of the United States Championship. While his friendship with John Cena leading up to this monumental moment may have helped him for the better, it would soon after be the cause of Ryder's downfall.
Shortly after winning the title, Ryder would engage himself in a romantic relationship with Eve after chasing her for quite some time. As 2012 came around, the former Edgehead would be the victim of numerous Kane attacks due to Ryder being an ally of Cena.
During this time, Ryder dropped his star-spangled prize to Jack Swagger after only three weeks in mid-January. Things would only get worse for the Long Iced Z as he would soon be betrayed by his lady interest Eve when it was revealed she was only with Ryder for the publicity she was receiving.
His friendship with Cena quickly fizzled out following the incident, and Ryder was left to fend for himself. Although he was able to score his first Mania match at WrestleMania 28, he ended up being the weakest link for his team, as he was pinned by The Miz to give Team Johnny the victory—all thanks to the interfering Eve Torres.
Instead of continuing to pursue the storyline, Ryder jobbed to the likes of Miz and Kane before being dropped from television altogether. Nowadays, Ryder can be found on WWE Superstars—the very same program he was trying to move on from a year ago.
Reminiscing on his brief time at the top late last year, it would seem that Ryder's rise can only classify him as one thing: a one-hit wonder.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a major Ryder supporter myself, but the way WWE has treated him as of late signifies that his time has already come and gone. His improved skills in the ring and on the mic have proved that he has great potential to be worth something to the WWE, especially when you consider his high merchandise sales since being released.
One argument that can be made is that Ryder's Long Island gimmick is what's holding him back from achieving more in WWE. However, I beg to differ, as I believe his natural connection with the crowd has made him very popular and a likable character in the eyes of the audience.
Of course, Ryder is not the one to blame, as it was mostly Creative's fault for not continuing to capitalize on his popularity. Even now, the former WWE Tag Team Champion is still very over with the WWE Universe when he does compete, but similar to a year ago, he just isn't being given an opportunity to prove why he deserves the spot he once had on the rosters as an entertaining mid-card act.
One would wonder if Ryder is once again being given the underdog gimmick that sees him lose most matches he's involved in on Raw, only to pick up a major victory against a credible opponent at some point in time.
Since Ryder's "one hit" occurred at WWE TLC when he captured the U.S. title, we've seen his career quickly deteriorate, and everything he's accomplished over the last year forgotten. WWE has showed no signs of pushing Ryder anytime soon, as a speculated "heel turn" is out of the question with his television time now diminished.
The most recent example came this past week on Monday Night Raw, where the flagship show was hosted from Long Island for the first time since last June. Despite Ryder teasing that he would be featured on the show, he was yet again relegated to WWE Superstars much like last year.
That being said, one broski can only hope that Ryder's irrelevant career takes a turn for the better in coming weeks. Personally, I believe a move to SmackDown could help him receive more exposure on television, but in the end, it's the fact that he's not being given enough opportunities to prove himself to management, and most of all, the WWE Universe.
Do you believe Zack Ryder will be remembered as a one-hit wonder? Or, is there still hope to revitalize the former United States Champion's career?
Thanks for reading, Bleachers, and be sure to drop a comment below with your thoughts on the situation. As always, your criticism and overall feedback of my latest article is welcomed and greatly appreciated.
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