After a dominant, undefeated run, Ryback has come out on the losing end at each of the last two pay-per-views. While that would kill the momentum of most rising stars, Ryback has proven over the past few weeks that he is immune to any such drop-off.
Heading into Hell in a Cell, most fans figured that WWE Champion CM Punk would find some way to retain his title against Ryback. That was precisely the case, as referee Brad Maddox went rogue and helped Punk pick up the victory. While that would have slowed down most superstars, Ryback kept pressing forward.
His crowd reaction got even louder heading into Survivor Series, where Ryback once again came up short. He didn't take the fall in the triple-threat match against Punk and John Cena, but he was taken out by The Shield, and the prevailing thought was that the WWE had essentially squandered a potential top face.
Even with consecutive pay-per-view losses, however, Ryback continues to gain momentum rather than lose it. On last week's edition of Raw, the WWE handled Ryback quite well, as he was saved for the final segment rather than competing in a squash match. Ryback chased off The Shield and put Punk through a table to thunderous applause.
The main thing that fans got too wrapped up in was Ryback's initial undefeated streak. While the announcers mentioned from time to time that he hadn't been beaten, it wasn't made into a big deal. People like to compare Ryback to Goldberg because they have similar looks, but Ryback's character was never about having a long win streak over jobbers like Goldberg's was.
Ryback's gimmick has always been about being a dominant force, and that can still be the case even with a couple losses. It isn't as if Ryback has lost cleanly, either. It took a shocking referee turn for him to lose at Hell in a Cell, and he was taken out by three guys at Survivor Series while losing without taking the fall. There is nothing wrong with losing, and Ryback has proven that it isn't that difficult to rebound.
He has been getting even louder pops in the wake of his two losses, and it's because the fans can now connect with him. It was cool when he was an unstoppable machine who couldn't be beaten, but the two losses have humanized him. He isn't any less of a monster. However, the fans are behind him now more than ever because they're pulling for him to beat the odds that are constantly stacked against him.
On top of that, Ryback looks even tougher now that the WWE is accusing him of injuring Punk. The fact of the matter is that Punk's knee was injured well before Ryback put him through a table, but the WWE saw an opportunity to take Punk's preexisting injury and use it as a vehicle to further Ryback's appeal.
As a whole, the "smart" wrestling fans focus too much on win-loss records, winning cleanly and the like. The fact of the matter is, though, that the general fan population determines who is over and who has momentum, and that population has obviously decided to pull for Ryback regardless of whether he wins or loses. The hardcore fans may not like that approach, but the truth is that run-of-the-mill fans are indifferent to those types of things.
Now, rather than facing Punk at TLC, Ryback will team with Kane and Daniel Bryan against The Shield. If anything could possibly hurt Ryback's momentum, it's the fact that he won't be going after the WWE Championship. With that said, though, The Shield is the hottest thing in the company right now, so Ryback is still quite relevant.
I understand the fact that fans want Ryback to be booked flawlessly, since it worked in the past for guys like Goldberg and Ultimate Warrior, but not every wrestler is the same and not every era is the same. Taking a loss isn't as big of a deal as it once was, so Ryback is going to be fine as long as he keeps his persona and keeps chanting "feed me more."
Had John Cena lost to The Rock at WrestleMania 20 years ago, it would have been a huge setback for him, but not in the year 2012. Cena simply beat Brock Lesnar at the next pay-per-view, and everyone forgot about it. The vast majority of fans have a short memory, and Ryback has benefited from that.
In a different time, perhaps Ryback would have lost a bit of steam, but he has done nothing but get stronger even as a couple of losses have mounted. Ryback is well on his way to becoming one of the top faces in the company, and I doubt that a third consecutive pay-per-view loss would do anything to damage that, either.