Are Fans Buying into Ryback as WWE's Next Main Event Superstar?

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2012

photo by
photo by

Name one.  Go ahead, let’s hear it.

Name one WWE Superstar in Vince McMahon’s locker room who is ready to come off the bench right now, and make an impact.  Name one guy who has the “it” factor, that one certain intangible that sets him apart from everyone else and causes the company to look at him in a different light.  Name one guy who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with John Cena and CM Punk.

Hit me with it.

As you begin to form your own opinions and are thinking of names, I will assume the usual suspects are all present and accounted for.

Dolph Ziggler’s name is surely being thrown around.  Mr. Money in the Bank is just one three count away from being crowned the new World Champion and seems to be the next logical choice to main event in WWE.

Wade Barrett is a Superstar who many fans feel has all the necessary tools to become a top heel in the company—and a headliner.  If he can handle himself and do everything asked of him under the right circumstances, there is no reason to believe that he could not get over as a top guy.

Kofi Kingston is a great baby face who is getting better all the time.  If WWE continues promoting him and giving him the right spots, he could be the next Superstar to find success in the upper echelon of the company.

Then there’s the rest of the bunch, guys like Daniel Bryan, Damien Sandow, and Cody Rhodes.  On any given day, all of these Superstars have enough supporters who make all the right arguments, to convince  anyone listening that their guy is the next man to make it big in WWE.

And to all of that I call shenanigans.  

That’s right, it just got real.

Don’t misunderstand me here, it’s not that I’m against any of these workers being given a chance to rise up.  The fact is, a case can be made for each guy to be given the opportunity to run with the ball.  WWE is all about creating new stars to keep the company moving forward and those stars have to come from somewhere.

But at this point I am really wondering when exactly that moment is going to come.  

Because if you’re a WWE Superstar on the rise and your name is not Ryback, you’re not getting anything even remotely resembling a main event push.  And that does not look to change anytime soon.

The truth is, we are all very aware of this.  We knew that WWE was going to begin focusing on Ryback whether fans necessarily wanted it or not, so there was not much we could do besides sit back and watch it all unfold.

And now that it has, how are you feeling about it?  Are you buying it?

Does Ryback have that “it” factor, is he head and shoulders different from, and above, his contemporaries in WWE?  Or, is he just in the right place at the right time?  

John Cena is still recovering from elbow surgery and Randy Orton’s recent suspension has likely caused WWE to be a bit apprehensive in placing the World Title back on the Apex Predator.  Then there is Sheamus’s baby face pop perhaps not being what WWE would like it to be and his Hell in a Cell loss to Big Show.  

It seems that Ryback is the only logical choice to take that next step.

At least, that’s what Vince McMahon thinks.

It’s no secret that Vince loves the big muscled-up Superstars.  When he looks at Ryback, he undoubtedly sees a guy he can promote heavily, pushing him to the forefront of the company.  

With Big Hungry as WWE’s newest top dog, Vince has another face to advertise, another guy to sell to his audience who has been conditioned over the years to accept the polished, rock chiseled physique of a comic book hero come-to-life.

For the boss—Ryback is that hero.

So considering the fact that Vince is not a man who is known for changing his mind very often, or admitting when he’s wrong, let’s face facts and accept that the decision has been made with Ryback, and there is no turning back.  

Like it or not, WWE is moving ahead with him.  What now?

To begin with, he is not as awkward and clumsy as some fans have accused him of being.  I was in Charlotte this past Monday to see Raw and I will tell you that I was immediately struck by how quick and athletic Ryback was in the ring.

This is not to say that he has not had his growing pains, of course, and the truth is he’s still working on his game.  It’s a learning experience for him that is ongoing, and he is likely doing all he can to absorb as much as possible in order to improve.

But unless you have seen him live, don’t be so quick to judge him.  

I expected to see a train wreck of a pro wrestler and he is nowhere near that.  Was he just having a good night?  Possibly.  Has he been given enough time to prove himself on the main event stage?  Not at all.  So, take that for what it is.

But here’s the sticky part of the conversation, one that will eventually be laid at Ryback’s door, if it hasn’t already.  As I began to look around the Time Warner Arena on Monday, I noticed a few empty seats.  Okay, several.

Actually, I stopped counting at 20.

And the empty seats, including the two right next to me, stayed empty throughout the duration of the event.  Now, while this is not a big deal for a billion dollar company like WWE who will more than make up ticket money elsewhere, I have to say that as a fan I was disappointed.

Not because I expect every single Raw to be sold out, but because as I sat there being served up a Superstar that WWE really wants me to care about and wants me to believe in, that hype did not directly translate to the environment in the arena.  Simply put—I just did not feel it.

The crowd seemed divided on him as the Goldberg chants continued once again.  It seemed that no matter what they did to convince us that, “hey guys, here’s your hero, you’re going to love him,” it just wasn’t happening.

It’s not the end of the world and one night does not directly impact every other night WWE opens its doors. I get that.  But for me, I am still left asking one very important question.

Are WWE fans really buying into Ryback?  Is it working?  And if it ultimately does not work, will WWE move on and go with someone else?  If so, who will that someone be?

Back to the drawing board.