Over the course of the previous 28 WrestleManias, WWE has attempted regularly to take two of their bigger and stronger superstars, put them in a match at WrestleMania, and hope to see a clash of titans. It hasn't exactly worked out for them, as many of the stars don't have much more appeal than a sideshow act or the match has ultimately become too much about a test of strength. Many believe that Ryback taking on Mark Henry this Sunday will add to that long line of failed matches between two guys that are too similar. Instead, it may be smarter to believe that this match could be different.
The build for this match has been very similar to those in the past. There's no real rivalry behind it, but rather, just seeing a fellow big man sparks an interest between the two. Both are dominant, and the question gets posed as to who is more dominant than the other. There are usually inncoent bystanders who get caught up in a game of one-upmanship. Anything that one man does, the other feels that he can do better. There may even be a literal test of strength with weights to see who is stronger.
That last paragraph just described Mark Henry and Ryback from the past few weeks, but those same things can be applied to other matches from past years. Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules fought over who could apply a Full Nelson better at WrestleMania III. Twenty years later, Kane and The Great Khali had a forgettable match. Who could forget the hype behind Brock Lesnar and Goldberg at WrestleMania XX, only to see clotheslines and boos from the New York crowd from both men? Why should this match be any better? These two can actually wrestle. Even though that isn't put on display too often, the simple fact that these two men aren't stiffs gives this match a fighting chance to be something out of the ordinary.
Mark Henry is not the most agile wrestler on the roster, but the seasoned veteran has put together good matches with many superstars in the past. He still takes criticism from his awful WrestleMania match against The Undertaker, but this is a leaner and more motivated Henry who is still reeling from injuries he has had over the past year. Henry won't be doing dropkicks, but he probably wants to prove that he still has some gas left in the tank in what he hopes won't be his last WrestleMania match.
As for Ryback, this is his WrestleMania debut. For a guy who came into WWE through the same Tough Enough as The Miz, he has some catching up to do. Ryback came through NXT and has seen Wade Barrett in high-profile matches, while Daniel Bryan has taken a world title into WrestleMania before. Ryback was injury prone in his own right, but has gained a lot of momentum since returning with his current gimmick. He was inserted into WWE Championship feuds and the fans have responded to him well. This year coming up may be the time for Ryback to move forward with trying again to become WWE Champion. That's why this match is so important to the stock of Ryback.
Both men need good showings for similar main event aspirations, despite being in two completely different areas on their careers. Henry is on his way out and Ryback is on his way up, but both need this match to be more than bodyslams and clotheslines. Even if it will ultimately have to end with one of these men slamming the other, this is the perfect chance for Ryback to show exactly how versatile he is. While his power can match Henry's, Ryback is clearly more agile than the veteran Henry. Showing quickness from Ryback only makes him more lethal against the rest of the roster.
Henry may do a lot of throws, especially with the smaller members of the roster, but he has made it a point to have better matches when possible. Look back to some of his matches against CM Punk in the past year, which have seen Henry as the clear strength of the match. Punk did whatever he could to take the big man down, which needs to be where Ryback is coming from too. Even though Ryback can simply lift Mark Henry and toss the big man at will, it keeps Ryback one-dimensional, which won't work when the main event opens back up to him. It also diminishes Henry while he is the strongest he has ever looked in his career.
Keeping this match as a simple test of strength only will effectively end Mark Henry's relevance, while destroying Ryback's appeal before it can truly blossom. Those chants of "you can't wrestle" that Fandango has been treated to could very well be shouted to Ryback if things don't go carefully. This is a New York crowd, one of the more brutally honest crowds in the WWE spectrum. If you lay an egg in front of those fans, they'll let you hear about it. With the bulk of the crowd gaining a buzz and this match falling by the wayside, WWE could surprise people with a match that isn't what the fans are expecting. The two wrestlers, as well as the mentality of the fans in attendance, only stand to gain from this match being better than anticipated.