When Ryback steps into the ring with John Cena at Extreme Rules, he could very well walk out as the WWE champion. But what type of success would he achieve with the gold?
It depends on your definition of success.
If success means a long, drawn-out but well-defended reign like CM Punk's 434-day run, then no, it won't be a success. If Ryback takes the gold from Cena, his reign will last no longer than SummerSlam at most.
However, if success is defined as him not losing the belt back the next night or at the next pay-per-view, then yes, he'll be great.
But it needs to be looked at through Ryback's potential as WWE champion. The man once known as Skip Sheffield has the look of the classic WWE wrestler. Even if the standard size of today's grappler is more in line with Daniel Bryan or Punk, there is still enough room for a guy like Ryback.
Wrestling needs more than another mundane bad guy. Ryback, as a bad guy, is a perfect monster heel. He's a performer who can turn the good guy into a hero. He's the dragon that needs to be slain before the top of the mountain can be attained.
The wheels of his turn are already in motion.
After Ryback attacked Cena two weeks ago on Monday Night Raw, speculation ran wild as to whether he had turned heel. The rowdy New Jersey crowd cheered his actions. Even Jim Ross wrote about what the WWE Universe had just seen and if it meant Ryback was turning.
On his blog, Ross wrote:
Just because @Ryback22 is hungry for the WWE Title and the money that comes along with it why does that motive make the powerhouse a villain? Since when did ambition make one an antagonist. Antagonist display a variety of common traits, none of which I have seen yet, I stress yet, from Ryback.
However, this past week should have erased any questions about what side of the fence Ryback now stands on.
As The Shield beat down Cena at the end of Raw, Ryback stood on the entrance ramp and did nothing. His promo earlier in the show, where he talked about how Cena had failed him, was classic heel motivation and played out well.
Ryback is a heel, and it's the best thing he could have done for his potential title run.
Ryback is a monster. He's strong, unafraid and could easily go from beating people to hurting them. He's a newer version of Mark Henry.
As a face, Ryback looked confined; his character had no real room to grow. But as a heel, he's got an edge and ferocity that was lacking. His dead-cold stare directed at Cena as three men beat him was chilling.
So Ryback facing Cena as a heel, and beating him for the title, sets up Ryback for a summer-long run with the belt. The last heel champion was Punk, whose final few months as champion saw him morph into the classic cowardly champion.
A Ryback run with the WWE Championship allows the company to have a young monster be the man to beat. Cena is at his best when he's chasing the belt and out righting wrongs. A summer-long program with Ryback, where Cena regains the belt at SummerSlam, will help create a lasting career for Big Hungry.
Not only does Ryback prove he can main event shows, but holding the gold will erase all the damage his last six pay-per-view losses dealt him. That damage would be his loss of intimidation and lack of interest in his matches. Why would the WWE Universe care about a guy and his match if his record showed he was going to lose?
Truly, mean guys are in short supply in the WWE these days. Ryback could ride the heel wave for a few years, taking over for the likes of Henry and Brock Lesnar once they move on to other things.
Ryback's potential future as WWE champion is bright.