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Zack Ryder is the Tim Tebow of professional wrestling.
Unique in the eyes of the audience. A following and fanbase which is unusual for someone who has limited accomplishments and exposure. Always the topic of debate regarding opportunity given or not given.
To football fans, Tim Tebow's uniqueness is in the form of his playing style and personal life. A mobile quarterback constantly facing critics questioning his arm and if a franchise can build around him.
To wrestling fans, Zack Ryder's uniqueness is in the form of how he came to the relevant level he did. A WWE talent who in many respects went rogue to vent about his frustrations in a comedic fashion on a YouTube show. This being before WWE acknowledged YouTube or got heavily involved in any Internet venture beyond WWE.com.
Tim Tebow has a decorated college career. He's been on two NFL teams. He's won one playoff game.
Zack Ryder's has had a few pay-per-view advertised appearances with his Long-Island Iced Z gimmick. He's won the United States title one time.
Tebow's plays a number of snaps and starts being heavily monitored and discussed in a way similar to Ryder's cameos and matches on Raw.
Ryder finally getting his shot and winning the U.S. Title from Dolph Ziggler on pay-per-view in December 2011 was Tebow leading the Denver Broncos to a January 2012 playoff win against the favored Pittsburgh Steelers.
Momentum was at an all-time high for both men only to be followed by a tumble down the mountain. Ryder would lose the title and be “injured” by Kane on television, which wrote him off of any primary role on television and wrestling. Tebow would get knocked out of the playoffs and was dispatched to the New York Jets in the offseason.
People love an underdog story. They get quickly tired and eager to criticize the current model of how things work. This becomes the basis for Ryder and Tebow's fanbase.
In the eyes of many, they aren't suppose to succeed. They have as many vocal haters as they have fans. That's not bad. Everybody has an opinion on you. Good publicity. It would be bad if there were those who liked you and then a large group who didn't even care enough to hate you.
Tebow is viewed as a rarity for an NFL football player. The wholesome, religious, good boy image he carries stands out against the lavish, bad boy lifestyle many football players carry whether it be on the field or off.
Ryder is viewed as a wrestler who opened up new doors. The insides of professional wrestling can get leaked about and debated about on the Internet―but it was never the wrestler themselves starting the debate about their own careers currently going on via their own independent Internet talk show.
For many periods of time in their careers, both Tebow and Ryder have stood in the sidelines while fans chant their names. Chanting their names in hopes of seeing them get a chance to succeed and grow off of the limited success they've had in the past.
So what does the future hold for these men?
Initially you would think the advantage goes to Zack Ryder. He's trying to succeed in a genre based on filling arenas and getting people to tune in at home. Tim Tebow's success in his genre is based on his natural athletic ability to lead a team to victory. With the crowd already on his side, you would think the odds are in Ryder's favor to succeed.
Ryder has been in the minds and conversations of wrestling fans for over a year. Little has happened. He continues his unhappy tweets from time to time and WWE even took over ownership of his YouTube show. The vehicle which allowed him to stand out because he could say or do anything is now out of his hands. He can't say or do anything. He's just another WWE wrestler who is hosting a show on WWE's new YouTube channel.
Tebow has been in the minds and conversations of NFL fans for a couple seasons. The fire at the “we want Tebow” camp ground is only growing. While Ryder has been stripped down and exploited in the league he wants to be champion in, Tebow has 30 other teams to try and create a long-term career with.
Everyday Ryder and Tebow get a day older. Ryder is already two years older than Tebow. Many names all already lined up on the main roster and ready to get their chance in WWE. Factoring in experience and finding the right team―the more time that goes by is the better for Tebow.
After the draft in April, we'll all take part in the Tim Tebow watch and see what team will land his services for next year.
This spring, after WrestleMania in April, we all take part in the Zack Ryder watch and see which indy show poster he is on the cover of or what TNA cryptic video he gets for his debut.