Zack Ryder wins battle royals. That's what he said on his most recent edition of Z! True Long Island Story, and it turned out to be prophetic as he would win again in the Night of Champions preshow, continuing his winning streak, earning a spot on the pay-per-view and finally getting his rematch for the United States Championship.
In honor of that, let's take a quick look back at his previous wins and rank them all.
Ranking is based on a combination of opposition, eliminations made, the stakes of the match and the ensuing results.
SmackDown, November 9, 2007
No. 1 Contendership for the Tag Team Championships (held by MVP and Matt Hardy)
Deuce 'n Domino, Dave Taylor and Drew McIntyre, Shannon Moore and Jimmy Wang Yang, Jesse and Festus
Deuce 'n Domino
Dave Taylor & Drew McIntyre*
Ryder and Hawkins (wrestling as Brett and Brian Major) faced MVP and Matt Hardy later that night and lost.
While they failed to capitalize on the win with championship gold that night, the pair would join with Edge in La Familia the following year, and also win the tag team titles once, becoming the youngest (combined) pair to do so. Both men are still on the roster today.
The opposition was not that stiff, including one pair of recent champions in Deuce 'n Domino. Shannon Moore's biggest accomplishment was being Matt Hardy's underling. McIntyre would become "the Chosen One" two years later, and eventually become an Intercontinental and Tag Team Champion. At the same time, Jesse and Festus would return as Slam Master J and Luke Gallows for a short time before their releases. The longest continually signed wrestler of the eight was Jimmy Wang Yang, who never made much of an impact.
The stakes were fairly high, especially for a young duo, but success would elude them for several more months, and would only come after aligning themselves with Edge.
The two were overlooked for most of the match before struggling their way to a pair of eliminations, culminating with Ryder pulling the rope down for a charging Deuce 'n Domino.
Plus Ryder has to share this win with Hawkins, and while it was a 10-man battle royal, only five men were thrown over the top rope. (Only one partner needed to be eliminated to eliminate each team.)
It started it all for Ryder, but this is his least momentous battle royal win.
*I'm pretty sure this elimination was by partner Curt Hawkins
ECW, September 15, 2009
No. 1 Contendership for the ECW Championship (held by Christian)
Sheamus, Ezekiel Jackson, Vladimir Kozlov, Shelton Benjamin, Tommy Dreamer, Goldust, Yoshi Tatsu, Tyler Reks, Paul Burchill.
Ryder would fail to defeat Christian for the ECW Championship the following week.
Ryder never won the ECW title, and the show would end in favor of NXT. He would, however, defeat Dreamer in a match that retired the ECW original.
Sporting a new look and a new attitude, and breaking out as a singles performer that year, the competition was pretty solid, as it amounted to practically the entire ECW roster at the time. Goldust and Dreamer were in the tail ends of their careers but well respected. Kozlov and Jackson were being sold as major threats. Benjamin was well respected. And while Sheamus was newly arrived, he would capture the WWE Championship three short months later.
Also a step up from the previous match, Ryder managed to eliminate someone before the final competitor.
Taken together, it all helped sell Ryder as at least a credible underdog threat as a singles wrestler.
SmackDown, Great American Bash, July 3, 2012
Appointment as Interim SmackDown General Manager for one night.
CM Punk, John Cena, The Big Show, Kane, Alberto Del Rio, Daniel Bryan, Tensai, Dolph Ziggler, Cody Rhodes, Kofi Kingston, Brodus Clay, Santino Marella, Christian, The Great Khali, Jack Swagger, Damien Sandow, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, Heath Slater
Ryder hosted SmackDown the following week, doing nothing much of note.
Ryder continued to struggle to find wins, or even matches on TV. But he'll always be a former Interim General Manager of SmackDown.
This could have been No. 1, and really should be, based on the value of the prize, the fact that he actually lived it (as opposed to failing to earn any of the titles he received shots for), the greater number of competitors, and the higher overall talent level inside the ring.
Every major star available was tapped, and the bottom of the barrel was for once not scraped to pull together a complete 20-man battle royal. Winning this match was a huge achievement and a true long shot.
Unfortunately, it falls just short due to the fact that Ryder didn't eliminate any extra competitors, and squandered his prize.
Night of Champions (Pre-Show), September 16, 2012
No. 1 Contender status for the United States Championship
Primo and Epico, Titus O'Neil and Darren Young, Tyson Kidd, Justin Gabriel, Brodus Clay, Santino Marella, Tensai, Jinder Mahal, Drew McIntyre, Ted DiBiase, Heath Slater, Michael McGillicutty, JTG.
Darren Young (Shared with Tensai)
Ryder went on to face Antonio Cesaro for his United States Championship but lost.
Ryder finally got his U.S. title rematch, and his gold-less position is now finally legitimate. Combined with his recent RAW win streak, hopefully this close loss on a PPV will be a sign of better things to come.
The competition here is solid but not stellar, featuring fifteen of the company's mid-carders and side acts. Notably, Santino and Epico and Primo had recent runs with titles, the Prime Time Players had their chance at the Tag Team Titles and Tensai, Brodus Clay, and, to a lesser extent, Jinder Mahal have had their moments in the past few months. Notably absent in what was an odd 16-man battle royal were the Usos, considering the appearance of all the other tag teams.
Ryder had already held the United States Championship, having taken it from a bigger star than Cesaro in Dolph Ziggler, and he failed to reclaim it, which hurts this match's standing.
However, that's more than made up for in Ryder's three and a half eliminations and the bigger stage it set in offering a spot on a major PPV as opposed to an episode of ECW or SmackDown.
So, somewhat disappointingly, each of Zack Ryder's battle royal wins was bigger than the last.
For a guy who has struggled to maintain his position on television, will this growing run of battle royal wins lead to anything?
Could Ryder gain a reputation as a slippery, crafty or even lucky competitor who does his best work amidst the chaos and confusion of mass combat?
Could this storyline play out leading up to the Royal Rumble, and could it again bring him up against Kane, whose own affinity for such matches is well documented?
Could Ryder be the first true underdog to win the Rumble, and what kind of title match could he enter into at WrestleMania, only to get blown up in short order?
Could he demand to defend his Internet Championship?
Probably not to all the above.
But more importantly:
Is it battle royal or battle royale?
And what does that have to do with cheese and the metric system?