There has been a great deal of excitement in WWE circles since Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns invaded the Survivor Series pay-per-view and cost the monster Ryback his chance to become the WWE champion
Most fans’ concentration has been on the new arrivals and how they might impact WWE television, but another important revelation, connected to these men’s debuts, was made in that match—Ryback can and will be overwhelmed by multiple attackers.
This is a really big step forward in rounding Ryback out as a character who can be utilized in top feuds. There was no way that Ryback had a long-term future as a main eventer in his past guise as an unrelenting figure that could not be stopped by ability or numbers.
Admittedly, Ryback was gaining a cult status—causing his accelerated rise up the roster—but the excitement of coming out and winning squash matches only lasts so long. Without more time to develop character and reasons for his actions, Ryback would have been very one-dimensional, and the audience would have eventually tired of him.
In previous examples of such wrestling career paths—like the Ultimate Warrior—once the momentum of the character falls away, and they begin to lose, the career trajectory of that performer becomes a downward spiral.
WWE’s decision to show Ryback as vulnerable to excessive numbers of opponents introduces losses to his record without tarnishing his reputation as a juggernaut who is capable of beating anyone. He is still going to be the favorite in one-on-one matchups, but he will have to look out for people with managers or tag partners nearby.
More than anything else, this flaw in Ryback's character gives him time to cement the support that has grown around him and to get the wider audience to understand his motivations for behaving the way he does.
There is the argument that being attacked twice by the three NXT invaders does not constitute a weakness to double-teams, especially as Ryback made his name defeating jobbers two at a time and followed this by beating the tag team of Tyler Reks and Curt Hawkins. He has even beaten Dolph Ziggler and David Otunga in a two-on-one match.
Valid as this point may be, it becomes redundant when considered next to the WWE’s general way of promoting monster characters. Big Show, Kane and even flash in the pan mid-2000s disappointment Gene Snitsky defeated numerous double-team jobbers to show their power.
What is important is to look at the most critical moments in Ryback’s career to see how he deals with double-teams.
He lost to the unusual combination of CM Punk and the referee at Hell in a Cell, was taken out of the triple-threat match by John Cena and Punk when they double-teamed and has now had the aforementioned run-ins with the NXT group.
On each occasion when faced by a double-team, Ryback has failed to fight the situation off and has come up the loser. Even his victory against Ziggler and Otunga is not a truly decisive counterpoint, as Ziggler left the match to avoid having to take on the monster.
Another objection may be why is it significant that Ryback can be beaten down by more than one person, as this is a perfectly normal happening in the WWE from week to week. In fact, it would be expected for one person to be defeated by two or more.
Yet this is not as accurate as many may think. The WWE’s greatest heroes are figures who go beyond what is considered normal, and win over the odds when it really matters. Hulk Hogan did this by slamming Andre The Giant, and John Cena showed this 20 years later by defeating The Miz with Alex Riley and ending the original Nexus, but only when everything was on the line.
Ryback is now set up as an interesting opposite force to this, as he is mostly dominant except when it comes to a time when it really matters. If anything, Ryback is now closer to the big men that lost to these faces at crunch time than the heroic face he is designed to be.
When it becomes inconvenient for Ryback to struggle against multiple opponents the WWE will allow him to grow past his issues, as so many others have, but for the time being this is the perfect way to help the performer solidify his position as a top wrestler in the company.
This could be the decisive move that takes Ryback from a cult hit to a full-blown phenomena.