Ryback was the hottest property in WWE. Coming up quicker than any Superstar has in a very long time, the man known as Big Hungry had the company by the throat and appeared to be heading straight to the top. So, what happened?
The simple answer is CM Punk happened. After all, the longest reigning WWE Champion of the modern era had been unstoppable up to the point when Ryback crossed his path. An unproven contender who had arguably no business challenging for the company’s top spot was surely going to do the job, he was merely there to heighten the drama for Punk.
I hear the snickers out there. Not buying it, huh? Man, tough crowd.
Okay, the fact is, The Shield happened. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins are the reasons why Ryback’s upward movement has been slowed down to a snail’s pace.
And some fans may even argue it’s been killed altogether.
Call it bad timing, call it poor booking, whatever the reason may be, The Shield’s star is rising while Ryback’s seems to be dropping.
Perhaps it is just a knee-jerk reaction on my part, but I have definitely noticed a lack of promotion for Ryback over the past couple of weeks. What began as an inundation, bordering on overexposure, has now cooled down considerably.
We know he’s still there, he works a squash on TV and then gets the crowd chanting “Feed me more.” Then he just sort of goes away again.
Of course, what exactly were we expecting, for Ryback to emerge from his feud with Punk as the new WWE Champion?
Here’s the thing. While a good number of us likely believed that Ryback had no chance of defeating CM Punk, the truth is that WWE did a great job making it appear he did.
Every promo, every confrontation, every moment that happened between them ultimately led to a show of power on Ryback’s part, and actually began to plant the seed of doubt in the minds of some fans.
Was it possible? Could Ryback be the man to end Punk’s reign?
This is where WWE creative excels. They took a Superstar in Skip Sheffield (who literally no one cared about),renamed him, repackaged him, and sent him after the WWE Champion. And their efforts, combined with Ryback’s execution, made him seem like a legitimate contender for the championship.
Hence the doubt that some fans surely began to have that Punk would escape alive. Again, the entire scenario, though unbelievable to a good many fans, was beginning to work. Ryback was on his way.
Until the aforementioned Shield debuted and threw the entire angle into a tailspin.
Now, anytime Ryback gets within 10 feet of Punk, he risks getting put through a table. The man who once looked invincible now looks very human, and some may say even too human.
Ryback had been booked as a monster, a force of nature who could not be stopped. Hit Ryback with whatever you want, but he would not go down. The guy was a beast and WWE was his jungle.
Now, he’s as breakable, as vulnerable, as anyone else. All those muscles, all that power, all that determination, and in the end it got him nowhere. Ryback is just another big guy with a scary growl who is all bark and no bite.
Yes, he’s outnumbered by The Shield’s three members and yes, anyone facing those odds is likely to go down very quickly. The numbers game is very hard to overcome, as Sheamus, Randy Orton and Team Hell No have all come to understand. They were all decimated by The Shield and left for dead, just like Ryback.
But if you are going to give someone the spotlight, promote him like he is the next big star who cannot be stopped, only to pull the rug out from underneath him? Then all of that work has now gone into giving the rub to the men who stopped him.
Truth be told, this all makes sense on some level. The Shield has to look tough. I assure you, WWE’s logic is not lost on me.
But now that The Rock is back, Ryback has been removed from the WWE Title picture. He is the odd man out, the guy who was just working for the industry’s top prize, now relegated to working Heath Slater in a meaningless match on Raw.
Then again, the Royal Rumble is this Sunday.
What if the company’s apparent lack of focus on Ryback the past couple of weeks is just to provide that “wow” moment when Ryback wins the Rumble? Again, fans know he’s still there and understanding the Rocky now has the spotlight, they almost certainly think that Ryback’s presence is no longer a threat to Punk or any other headliner for that matter.
What if that was the plan all along?
Ryback could enter the Royal Rumble and tear through the entire match, eliminate 12 guys and be the last man standing. The night could belong to him, and then he would be thrust right back into the championship picture with a vengeance.
Though he has his critics, Ryback is a WWE Superstar that the company obviously feels has something special. Their efforts at promoting him clearly show their belief in his ability to not only get over, but to deliver in a big way. The fact that this has all but stopped could either be a cause for concern, or the result of WWE’s plans preparing to come to fruition.
Could Ryback steal the show at The Royal Rumble?