John Cena will be defending the WWE Championship at the upcoming Extreme Rules pay-per-view on May 19. The match is occurring as a result of a Ryback heel turn the night after WrestleMania, and John Cena will be facing his first real test in his latest WWE Title run.
But does anyone really care?
It’s an all too typical route these days, to beat up on Ryback. Let’s face it, the guy has had his fair share of critics, and their criticisms of his character, his apparent deficiencies in the ring and overall presentation have not been very kind.
And as far as beating up on John Cena is concerned, at this point, it’s become a national pastime.
So, this is not to take yet one more shot at either Cena or his Extreme Rules opponent, and this is not to suggest that perhaps this match should not be taking place at all.
But should it be happening now?
The truth is that WWE has made a very concentrated effort to convince fans that Ryback is the new next big thing, that they should support him, believe in him and follow him as the potential new future face of the company.
The “feed me more” chants permeated through arenas all over the world, Ryback did and said all the right things, he was a comic book monster come to life and was positioned as a top guy in front of the fans.
And now, we’re supposed to hate him?
The fact is, Ryback was a hard sell from the beginning. Again, his critics have had a field day with him, and though the supportive chants were growing, the “Goldberg” chants were always there, right under the surface.
It seemed that no matter what he did, or what WWE did for him, that Ryback was not fully accepted as a main event level, top babyface Superstar in the company.
So, when all else fails, you turn a guy heel and start over. Makes sense, right?
But all the aforementioned work that went into building him up is now gone. Because now, Ryback is seen by many fans as not a legitimate threat to John Cena’s WWE Championship. He is seen as just the next guy that John is going to beat. Just another day at the office.
But since we’re talking about a feud that perhaps should not even have begun, what would have been an alternative? Who could have been the man to challenge John for the WWE Championship?
The most obvious choice would have been CM Punk, the man who lost the belt to The Rock. Punk and Cena have a definite history, great chemistry and when the WWE Championship is in the mix, they tend to step it up even more in the ring.
But, Punk is not around, and when your top heel is missing in action you have to find a way to replace him. It’s a safe bet that WWE creative simply did not have anyone strong enough to challenge Cena right now, so the decision to turn Ryback was made.
And we end up with a feud that, for me, just feels out of place.
Of course, if anyone could sell this rivalry to the masses, it would be Mick Foley, who appeared on Monday Night Raw to perhaps help further the story along.
Foley may not be God, but when it comes to cutting a promo, he can make a believer out of anyone, which was likely WWE’s intention when he stood in the ring with Ryback.
The truth is, Foley could read the phone book and make the fans feel every word of it. He painted a picture of Ryback as a man who was respected, as a man who had all the physical tools to become WWE Champion—it was just a matter of time.
And for a few moments I forgot that John—though he is presented as the top babyface—is truly hated among a large portion of the WWE audience. I also forgot that Ryback—though he had made great strides as a babyface—still struggled to fully get over with the majority of fans.
For just a few moments, John was the beloved hero, standing up to the villainous Ryback, everything was going precisely as planned, and the crowd was reacting accordingly.
And then reality set in.
John Cena versus Ryback will take place at Extreme Rules, with the WWE Championship on the line.
For the company, this is perhaps the next logical progression in the career of Ryback, a man who could very well be one of the biggest Superstars we have ever seen in the coming years. For me, it seems like a match that happened by default, not necessarily a match that truly needed to happen right now.
Does anyone really care about this one?