Ryback standing tall over a fallen John Cena on Monday Night Raw sent a clear message: The Human Wrecking Ball was turning heel, and he meant business.
After suffering six-straight pay-per-view losses, the WWE had to do something to get him back in the title picture. But is a heel turn the right move?
It was clear from the moment that he stepped foot in a ring, the WWE had big plans for Ryback.
In a company known for larger-than-life wrestlers like Billy Graham, Hulk Hogan, Sid Vicious and any other muscled monster, Ryback fit the bill perfectly. Chiseled, with a professed appetite for squashing smaller men, this was a guy who should have been main eventing shows.
The WWE tried to do just that by placing him in WWE title contention when Cena was out with an injury. But instead of taking the title from then-champion CM Punk and facing The Rock in an epic bout at the Royal Rumble, he lost.
Ryback continued to lose on every pay-per-view appearance he had.
Was the heel turn the right move? Following his loss to Mark Henry at WrestleMania, where else could Ryback go?
Sure, Ryback could have had another shot at The World's Strongest Man. Their feud would have been a typical one about revenge and redemption. The only problem with that path is, in order for such a storyline to work, the WWE Universe needs to care about the journey.
It's hard to believe Ryback could be viewed as anything other than a long-term mid-carder if he continued in a meaningless feud with a guy who had already beaten him at WrestleMania 29. What made their first matchup so compelling was that both men were built to be monsters. It was like Godzilla fighting King Kong.
After being beaten by Henry, Ryback had nothing. By adding a sixth-straight defeat to his resume, Big Hungry left MetLife Stadium in a worse position than when he went in to the match. The only way to put Ryback back at the front of the pack was to do something to get the WWE Universe interested in him again.
In this case, it was attacking newly minted WWE Champion Cena.
Jim Ross commented about Ryback's change of heart on his personal blog. He wrote:
Loved how RAW went off the air Monday night, @Ryback22 standing tall over John Cena. Is Ryback a newly minted villain? Not so fast there knee jerkers. I think that the fans will make that call and perhaps even more people will boo John Cena that have previously as Ryback obviously, as he should, has his sights set on the WWE Title and a top spot within WWE.
Ryback, too, seems to have adopted Ross' view that he did what needed to be done. On Twitter, he posted the following:
Doubt my drive n ability. I will run right through you. I am a Highly Evolved Machine. There is no right n wrong no good n bad. #FeedingTime— Ryback (@Ryback22) April 11, 2013
He also tweeted:
We all want more we need more. My actions will feed my needs. At our core we all crave more. Lost souls will fall to my power. #RybackRules— Ryback (@Ryback22) April 11, 2013
The two key phrases to take away from Ryback's tweets are: "There is no right n wrong no good n bad" and "My actions will feed my needs."
The Ryback heel turn is the right move. His character has every motivation to switch to the other side and position himself as, if not the No. 1 contender, then at least the No. 1 threat to the WWE title. It's a perfect storyline for a wrestler who needs a compelling storyline.
With both Punk and former champion The Rock out with injuries, Cena will need a new challenger. As for Ryback, he needs a new goal. This accomplishes both.
With 13 WWE and world titles under his belt, Cena doesn't need a long title reign, but Ryback does. He could take the gold from Cena at Extreme Rules and carry it through the summer, dropping it back at Cena at SummerSlam just in time for the inevitable revival of the Cena-Punk feud.
Ryback needed a drastic change in the WWE. His heel turn was the right move.