Ryback will be facing John Cena for the WWE Championship at Extreme Rules on Sunday night. This will be the fourth title shot that Ryback has received, with the first three opportunities coming against former champ CM Punk.
And though Cena is the undisputed face of Vince McMahon’s company, I for one have to wonder just how good Ryback will look in this match, as opposed to those he worked against Punk.
To put it another way, will Cena give him anything?
It’s a situation that we as fans have seen before. Anytime a challenger, especially if he is a newer talent, challenges the top guy, then the match becomes a balancing act. The truth is there’s really no other choice.
The balancing act is that of allowing the contender to look as good as he possibly can, versus continuing to look good yourself. After all, the champ is not the champ by accident—he must look the part when he’s in the ring.
And the challenger must appear to be a viable threat to the championship he’s wrestling for, otherwise, why is he there to begin with?
Of course, this situation is unlike others we have seen in the past. This is mostly because Ryback is such an untested worker, a guy who rose up very fast in the company to heights that some fans believe he does not deserve. Indeed, it did seem as if he went from squashing one jobber after another to suddenly working CM Punk on pay-per-view.
Just like that.
However, we all know that very little happens in WWE by accident. Vince McMahon is apparently a fan of Ryback and believes that he is more than capable of handling the pressure that goes along with being a main event Superstar in WWE.
Ryback’s rise to prominence was all done by design, and now that he’s here, we have to deal with it. That is likely not good news for his critics, many of whom feel that Ryback should be yanked out of the spotlight as soon as possible. But again, Vince is in charge, and as long as he wants Ryback, then Ryback will be there.
So, for me, the issue becomes that since WWE is sticking with Ryback as one of their new fresh faces, then he must be allowed to look like a true contender when he faces Cena at Extreme Rules. This is especially true since his recent heel turn, which was surely meant to reinvigorate his character and give him renewed spotlight.
If Ryback does not look good against Cena, like he can more than hold his own and potentially win the WWE Championship, then he has no business being in the match.
And that leads me to the other part of this situation, the one that many fans are surely already anticipating. It involves the current champ and his perceived lack of willingness to consistently sell for anyone he faces.
Super Cena. We have heard that nickname so many times before that even WWE acknowledged it during one of Ryback’s recent promos. The fact is that whether fans agree or disagree with this moniker, it cannot be denied.
John Cena’s Superman routine has become the stuff of legend for WWE fans. His character is very resilient and has a very high threshold for pain, so high that he typically gets beaten down for two-thirds of a match until finally making his comeback. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this, as many babyface Superstars give the heels quite a bit of room to work during a bout, only to come back and get a victory at the end.
But when Cena does it, he does it with a smile on his face. He takes a crazy amount of punishment, including high-impact moves and finishing moves, and he just keeps kicking out at two. No matter what his opponent throws at him, Cena just keeps getting back up and coming back for more. And more often than not, he is on his feet at the end of the match, none the worse for wear.
For many fans, this is not only unacceptable but totally unrealistic. Despite the fact that Cena is in great physical and cardiovascular shape, it just doesn’t make sense that he could take the beating that he does and rarely ever show any signs of damage after the match is over.
And now, he will be defending the WWE Championship against a 291-pound strongman who relies on a hard-impact power game in his matches. Doesn’t sound like a very good combination, does it?
Therein lays the major difference between how good CM Punk made Ryback look in the ring versus what John Cena could likely do at Extreme Rules.
Punk is not your typical muscle-bound WWE Superstar. His physique is more streamlined—his routine in the ring is more of a technical attack. So, when he worked Ryback, he sold all of the bigger man’s power moves with real gusto.
Every clothesline, every punch and every power move was sold so well, improving Ryback’s momentum and making him appear very strong during the bout. Punk was very convincing when he sold for Ryback, and as a result, he made him look like a genuine threat to his championship.
But Cena is not streamlined—he's not physically small by any means. He is absolutely ripped and is physically a very strong guy. He is not easily outmatched or out powered by anyone. He could technically go toe to toe with Ryback and it would be a plausible contest.
However, if the match goes in this fashion, or if it follows the formula that Cena usually uses, then Ryback could very well look weaker after Extreme Rules than he possibly ever has.
The fact is that the best workers are able to lift their opponents up to a whole new level. They are so good that the other guy steps his game up, and by the end of the match, both men look like a million bucks.
Will that be the case when Ryback and John Cena hook it up at Extreme Rules? Will both Superstars come out of the match looking good, despite who goes over in the end? Or will we perhaps witness Cena take a brutal beating, then put on the red cape again and leave Ryback behind as he celebrates with the WWE Championship?
Is this a job for Super Cena?