Ryback's push to the top of the card continued on Monday night as he came to Jim Ross' defense after WWE Champion CM Punk bullied him. It remains to be seen what all of this is leading up to, but it is quite clear that there are fairly big plans for the freak of nature known as Ryback.
Although Ryback has done little more than squash jobbers for the past several months, the WWE appears to be trying to elevate him to the next level. John Cena is currently out of action due to an elbow injury, and the writers have obviously come to the realization that there is nobody else on the roster to feud with Punk in the interim.
Cena is on the shelf, Randy Orton is filming 12 Rounds: Reloaded and World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus is busy with Big Show, so it comes down to a numbers game for Ryback right now. Aside from the trio of main-event faces, Ryback is the most over with the crowd at the moment, so he is getting an opportunity that few ever will.
It doesn't necessarily mean that Ryback is a permanent major player, but he has a chance to cement himself. He may only be in the spotlight right now because of a lack of alternative options, but if he performs well in a mini-feud against Punk and the fans eat it up, then it's possible he'll be the company's next big star.
The question is whether or not he has the long-term viability of a Cena or an Orton, though. The way his character is currently constructed limits him, as he's one-dimensional and doesn't have much of a personality, but perhaps that will evolve over the next couple weeks and we'll see more of a well-rounded Ryback.
There is a lot riding on what Ryback does in the absence of Cena, though. I feel like it's refreshing to have a guy like Ryback on the roster who settles things in the ring, but you simply can't be a top face in the WWE if you can't speak on the mic. Ryback showed some potential in that area in past gimmicks, but he'll need to prove that he can hold his own against Punk in that regard.
If that happens, then Ryback will be on the fast track to success. Ryback isn't going to be doing anything with Punk long-term unless Cena's rehab takes longer than expected, but it will be very interesting to see where he goes next.
He is pretty much past the point of no return, as he has beaten Intercontinental Champion The Miz and is now in a program with the WWE Champion, so he can't go back to "Jobberville." It's either sink or swim for Ryback right now, and for the sake of the WWE I certainly hope he doesn't flounder.
In addition to his possible limitations on the mic due to his gimmick, there is reason to be concerned about his in-ring ability. Ryback is essentially a power guy without any real technical skills, but he has shown a propensity to get sloppy. It started when he nearly dropped Jack Swagger on his head with a back-body drop a month ago, and it continued on RAW as he twice failed to get Tensai up into his finisher.
That won't be tolerated when Ryback is in the spotlight, so he has to clean that up immediately. If he does, then I'll be very interested to see where Ryback goes from here. The WWE is constantly trying to cultivate new stars, and there is no question that Ryback has the potential to be a big deal based on the crowd reaction he receives.
My hope for Ryback is that he becomes a loose ally of Cena's once he returns and Brock Lesnar interferes on Punk's behalf against Cena at Hell in a Cell. Then we can get a tag match of Punk and Lesnar vs. Cena and Ryback at Survivor Series.
Putting Ryback in the ring with three high-caliber performers could work wonders for him and help him take that next step. If it culminates in a match with Lesnar at WrestleMania and a win to boot, then the fans' chants may come to fruition with Ryback assuming that role as the new Goldberg.
Ryback needs to be his own guy and probably shouldn't be compared to someone like Goldberg, but there are similarities, and if Ryback becomes half as popular, then the WWE will have something special on its hands.
There is no guarantee that Ryback will be able to handle the pressure that comes with being in a high-profile angle, but the sky is the limit for him if he shines brightly against Punk.