I wrote back in November that Ryback was doomed to fall from the main-event picture he was occupying around Survivor Series and TLC. I'll admit it. I was wrong about Ryback. He's improved by leaps and bounds since November. It's just too bad that as soon as he starts to hit his stride, he's now destined to fail.
A lot of the blame falls on WWE. The company pushed him before he was ready. He went from beating Stansky and Rosenberg to beating Jinder Mahal, Curt Hawkins and JTG. And then a title shot. It wasn't as if Ryback was so hot that the company needed to put him into the WWE title picture when it did. He needed more time to work on the things that limit him as a performer.
The beauty of Goldberg's undefeated streak in WCW was that he worked his way up the food chain. He started with Hugh Morrus in September 1997. In April '98, he got a shot at Raven for the United States Championship. That match was pitch-perfect for a television match involving Goldberg. Then in July, he received his World Heavyweight Championship shot against Hulk Hogan, but not before beating Scott Hall on the same Nitro.
It was perfectly handled by WCW, and Goldberg was established as a legitimate title contender by the time he took on Hogan.
It's also in stark contrast to what WWE has done with Ryback. It's pushed him too fast, and now it feels like he's just another monster who will be felled by Cena. Super Cena took out the likes of The Great Khali, Umaga and Batista. It's a story that fans have seen too many times.
Then, when Cena is done with his challenger, Ryback will go back to the midcard with little chance of regaining the momentum he started to build around the end of last year.
The biggest shame of it is, Ryback has been great since turning heel. Unfortunately, all of his good points have been overshadowed by his flaws. The negatives have gotten to the point where they're stopping people from actually seeing the good in Ryback right now.
Say what you want about his delivery—which is definitely poor for a main title contender—Ryback's promos have been very good in terms of content.
Take, for instance, his confrontation with Mick Foley.
What Ryback is saying is completely right. Why is Foley even in the ring, and what point does he have to prove? It just so happens that his new DVD set did just release. Perhaps that has something to do with it rather than having any salient point to make about Ryback.
Bringing in past stars to help drive current feuds can work under the right circumstances. It doesn't help when you have Foley rambling on about himself and not really bringing it back to the Cena/Ryback feud.
Foley is a legend, no doubt, but he has no business calling out Ryback. Ryback got his title shot against Cena. What more is there to prove before the actual match?
It was quite a bit like the time Foley did the same to CM Punk. The gist of that promo before Hell in a Cell was basically that Punk had to beat Cena to establish himself as a star. I guess Foley had forgotten about Money in the Bank 2011 and the other occasions Punk had already beaten Cena.
Until Punk had beaten Cena in every match imaginable, Punk would never become a legend. Plain and simply, it was a stupid argument.
Rather than seeing the flawed logic of Foley, the biggest thing critics want to point out is how Ryback breathes so heavily before talking. Cena has even made light of it. It's fine for wrestlers to have unique styles on the mic, but having Ryback wheeze doesn't do him any favors. And sometimes, that's not even the problem. In his promo with Foley, there were times when Ryback wasn't even talking into the microphone.
The criticisms are valid to a certain extent and mask what was a very strong promo in terms of what Ryback was saying about Foley.
Ryback's problems are mostly because WWE has chosen to put him in the ring by himself before he's truly ready to take a stage this large. Even a monster like Brock Lesnar has Paul Heyman as a mouthpiece. It's not as if Ryback can't be a major star and have a manager who does the talking for him.
Strong, if stilted, promos aside, another thing that makes Ryback so great right now is that he's not just some dumb heel who keeps putting himself in a position to get his butt kicked.
There's a bit of a difference between being a coward and being smart. Ryback is not ducking Cena. He's got his title match now, so there's no reason to continue getting into brawls with the champion. With his match at Extreme Rules already in the bag, Ryback has been ensuring that he'll be 100 percent when he steps into the ring.
Plus, it's not as if Cena himself hasn't resorted to cowardly behavior. Once again, let's break down another segment from Raw.
Cena leaves Ryback all alone to deal with The Shield. Fair enough. Ryback did the same to him the previous week and Cena was simply getting his revenge. That makes sense. Then, for whatever reason, Cena comes back in to help Ryback. Maybe it's just to show how much of a hero this heroic, gallant and courageous John Cena is.
Cena is so much of a hero that he grabs a steel chair in order to fight off The Shield. Bringing in a steel chair to beat up somebody is a bit of a cowardly move. But then the coup de grace comes. After Ryback has taken some major blows from The Shield, Cena simply gives him the Attitude Adjustment and leaves the ring.
What's the point in coming in to save Ryback if you're only going to take him out afterward?
With WWE being WWE and Cena being Cena, you can expect a fearless, valiant and noble champion—Achilles injury and all—to fight off a strong Ryback and subsequently kill any momentum the challenger has built.
Over the past couple of months, Ryback has actually grown into a multi-dimensional character with motivations beyond satiating his never-ending hunger. It seems, though, that his express purpose now is to lose to Cena at Extreme Rules and possibly Payback in June.
Here's to hoping Ryback continues to be the character that he is now and grows as a performer; however, you could easily see the company using all the negative feedback directed at Ryback and using it as justification for throwing him back into midcard purgatory.