When Ryback faces John Cena at WWE Extreme Rules, it will undoubtedly be the biggest match of his career.
Sure, Ryback has had WWE Championship matches in the past. But he’s never wrestled the face of the company one-on-one, and he’s never done so as a heel.
Of course, Ryback has yet to wrestle at all as a villain. He just started to turn heel only a few short weeks ago, and he’s yet to get in the ring since then—instead avoiding wrestling at all costs to firmly cement himself as a heel.
So when Ryback takes on Cena at Extreme Rules, it will be his first major match as a bad guy and his first true test as a villain.
If he loses cleanly to Cena at the pay-per-view, what kind of message is that sending about the heel version of Ryback? That he’s the same as the babyface version who lost literally every big match he participated in as a good guy?
As we’ve all heard a thousand times, Ryback the babyface was a loser. There’s no other way to put it. He lost so much that it came to be almost expected every time he had a match.
When Ryback faces Cena at Extreme Rules, he’s going to try to end a PPV losing streak that extends all the way back to October 2012. Odds are, however, that Cena is going to walk out of that match still the WWE Champion no matter what.
We can all be pretty certain that Cena is going to win that much, especially since it's a Last Man Standing match. But how he wins the match will play a major role in determining whether or not Ryback has any sort of success in the future.
If Ryback does what most expect him to do and loses cleanly to Cena at Extreme Rules, then the WWE is sending a very clear message: Ryback’s losing ways are going to continue.
There’s a very simple way to get around that, though, and it’s to have Ryback look strong even in defeat.
Especially because this match is taking place under Last Man Standng rules, the WWE could easily book a hobbled Cena to defeat Ryback in some sort of fluke manner. Cena is such a big name at this point that he could lose cleanly a thousand times in a row, and it wouldn’t hurt him.
Thus, having him win one match in fluke fashion isn’t going to do any damage to his character. At all.
Who will win at Extreme Rules?
In order for Ryback to truly get over as a top heel and establish himself as a major villain for the long-term, he’s going to have to show that he can hang with the WWE’s top dogs. Luckily, he has an opportunity right out of the gate to show that he can hang with the top dog.
If Ryback could beat Cena, that would, of course, put him over in a major way. But since that’s unlikely, having him lose in cheap fashion is the only real option here.
Cena vs. Ryback at Extreme Rules should be used to put over Ryback’s strength, intensity and destructive ways as a heel, and that can be done by having him nearly beat Cena, only for Cena to luck his way to victory.
If Cena wins that way, so what? He’s already cemented himself as one of the biggest WWE stars of all-time.
But if Ryback loses that way, it will actually matter. Sure, he will continue his losing ways, but this is the best possible scenario here—one that doesn’t kill his heel character right out of the gate.
After all, it’s better to look strong in defeat than weak in victory, isn’t it?
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!