Last Sunday night, at Hell in a Cell, Ryback wrestled CM Punk for the WWE Championship and everyone involved came out of it looking really, really bad, which is pretty much the opposite of what they were probably going for.
Punk looked bad in a pretty obvious way as he was on the brink of defeat and took advantage of interference to retain the title. He wound up getting laid out on the top of the cell and ended the night looking like a clearly inferior wrestler to Ryback, even though he's the WWE Champion and has said that he's the Best In The World enough times that I legitimately wonder if it's a speech tic for him. He didn't come off much better the next night on Raw.
Brad Maddox, until he explains further, punched a wrestler in the groin for no apparent reason, which is some combination of mean, weird, and perverted. None of those are good things to be, if you were wondering.
But Ryback, he looked pretty good, didn't he? He kicked around the guy who has been WWE Champion for over a year like he was a 7-year-old kid. He ended the night triumphantly screaming from the top of the cell. He went back to the hotel, ate a 3,000 oz. steak, and Shell Shocked the waiter through his table when he was late with the check.
And the truth is that yeah, he did look really good. In the context of the match, he looked like Punk's obvious superior in the ring, which leads to this question: If he's that much better than the WWE Champion, how did he get beat by a ref's punch and a quick count? I mean, if he's that much better than Punk, he should have been able to kick out of that, right?
That wasn't rhetorical, by the way. The question has a definite answer, and that answer is yes, based off of Ryback's short history in the WWE, he probably should have been able to kick out or get a shoulder up or do pretty much anything to avoid being legally pinned.
And there lies the problem with Ryback, and with monster faces in general: The only logical career path for them is to crush everyone, win (Insert Promotion's Most Important Championship Here), and then continue to crush everyone until they run into another monster.
Okay, so before I go into any more detail on this, I should probably clarify what I mean by a monster, even though I'm sure everyone reading this already has a general idea about what I'm talking about. Anyway, I use "monster" to refer to any wrestler who is inordinately large, muscular, wrestler who, for a sustained period of time, runs through all of their opponents like a tank through a flower patch. Guys like Goldberg and Big Show (to use recent examples) and now Ryback.
Anyway, by these loose standards, it's difficult to argue Ryback as anything but a monster. Before Hell in a Cell, he crushed everyone he faced, including established superstars like the Miz. His match with Punk was the closest thing he had a to an actual challenge by far. And Punk wasn't even that much of a challenge for him. He only lost due to the actions of some wayward referee, even though, again, that probably shouldn't have been enough to actually beat him.
But once again, that's the problem with monster faces. Once they're built up to a certain point where (like Ryback has been), logically speaking, they should win every match decisively. They have recent histories of dominating everyone in their path, clearly visible physical advantages over other wrestlers, and unlike heels, they have no room to win matches via nefarious means.
Of course, you can't have them win every match decisively, because that would get boring really fast. If the Heat won every game for a few years in a row by 30 points, people would eventually give up on the NBA and turn to Impressionist painting for their entertainment needs (literally everyone would do this).
But then again, guys like Ryback look ridiculous when they lose most of the time. With as dominant as Ryback has been, it would have made just as little sense for Punk to pick him up and put him to sleep for the clean win as it did for him to lose via Brad Maddox's (Braddox?) crotch punch. The only logical way for them to lose is via ridiculous outside interference (chainsaw to the leg, attack by the entire locker room, having their opponent throw several live badgers into the ring, etc).
And of course, once you start throwing outside interference into every match, wins and losses cease to have meaning, no one cares about the matches and we all have to quit watching wrestling and find something more socially acceptable to care about. And I don't think anyone here wants that to happen.
So how should the WWE handle Ryback going forward? Simple. Quit making him look so good all the time. Let Punk get one over on him once in a while. Maybe let the Miz or Dolph Ziggler get a bit of good offense in when they're fighting each other.
Ryback can still be the huge, powerful, studly beast that he is right now, just a slightly less studly version that can feel pain occasionally and wouldn't be so unbeatable that only one or two different conclusions to his matches make any sense.
All of this is easier said than done, I suppose. But the "good guy" monster just doesn't seem to have a lot of flexibility as a character, which is bad for both him and whoever he happens to be wrestling. Ultimately, no one is going to benefit from an inflexible character, or look good after wrestling one.
And once again, that's pretty much the opposite of what you're supposed to be going for in wrestling.