A big stink has been made about the very odd booking of Ryback over the last several months, and rightfully so.
It’s certainly been puzzling to see Ryback almost instantly go from one of the WWE’s most dominant and most pushed superstars to a bit of an afterthought who loses literally every big match he participates in.
When you look at Ryback—at least on the surface—it’s quite appropriate to label him as a failure because he has indeed failed quite a few times at “winning the big one” and hasn’t really won many matches that have mattered much. It’s not surprising that many wrestling fans, myself included, have questioned why Ryback was pushed so hard initially only for the WWE to scale back considerably on that push.
The WWE may or may not have a genuine reason behind it, but believe it or not, it’s actually smart booking to have Ryback fail so many times. After all, it’s the only way he will ever truly succeed.
If you take a look back at the WWE’s recent history, so many guys who are big stars now struggled mightily early on in their careers.
Widely known as one of the top talents in all of pro wrestling, Daniel Bryan was forced to compete on NXT and didn’t even win the first season of the show in 2010. That very same year, he was released for the infamous tie-choking incident that took place during the debut of The Nexus.
Bryan initially had some major struggles with both character development and picking up victories when he made his way back to the WWE, but now, he’s one of the most over stars in the company.
He’s certainly not the only one who’s had to struggle before making it big, either.
When The Miz debuted in 2006 as the “host” of SmackDown, he was the WWE’s laughingstock and a locker room outcast. No one, except perhaps The Miz himself, ever thought he would amount to much of anything—at least not in pro wrestling.
But after some early ups and downs, The Miz has evolved into one of the most accomplished stars in the entire company. He’s held the Money in the Bank briefcase, the United States, Intercontinental, Tag Team and WWE Championships, and as we all know, he main-evented WrestleMania 27 against John Cena.
You can also look at the case of a guy like Sheamus, who was pushed so quickly that he found himself winning the WWE Championship—by beating John Cena, nonetheless—just six months after he debuted on the main roster in late 2009. Sheamus would hold that title twice within his first year in the company even though hardly anyone thought he was ready to.
Sheamus would then drop down to the midcard and get lost in the shuffle for a bit before a face turn in late 2011, which catapulted him to the top of the company and led to him holding the World Heavyweight Championship for seven months last year.
When you take into consideration what Sheamus, The Miz and Bryan have gone on to accomplish, you have to think it was their early failures that eventually led them to the Promised Land.
After all, struggling and losing builds character. It tests you and is a way to see if you can handle the bad before you can handle the good.
That’s what’s going on with Ryback right now, too.
Yes, it’s really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel at the moment. Ryback has struggled so much recently, and except in rare cases, you almost never see a guy go from being stuck in a rut to having tons of success overnight.
But there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel for Ryback—a light that Bryan, Sheamus and The Miz all reached, perhaps not at the same pace but at least eventually.
You can never really tell when a superstar will overcome his struggles to reach the mountaintop. Jack Swagger went from a totally forgotten jobber to Internet sensation and WresleMania main-eventer (kinda) in almost an instant. Meanwhile, it took The Miz five years to become a top guy.
But the common link between every—yes, every—guy who makes it to the top of the WWE is that he has to fail before he can succeed.
Some superstars were wannabe rappers first. Some almost immediately won a World title before being brought back down to Earth. Others started as heels and then turned face, or vice versa.
Ryback will fall into that group that starts off their WWE career with a bang, only to realize that what goes up must come down. And there’s another saying that we can now apply to Ryback, too: Once you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up.
The good news for Ryback, though: His rock bottom is a lot higher than most. But after losing big match after big match after big match, he can’t go much lower.
As the saying goes, he can only go up from here.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!