There seemed to be a lot of skepticism surrounding the feud between Ryback and WWE champion John Cena when Ryback turned heel the night after WrestleMania XXIX. After their excellent Last Man Standing match at Extreme Rules, however, there is little doubt that Cena vs. Ryback is the most compelling rivalry in WWE.
It's safe to say that expectations weren't particularly high for the match as Ryback is obviously limited as an in-ring competitor and Cena usually needs a good worker across from him in order to have a great match. Despite those deficiencies, Cena and Ryback arguably put on the match of the night and acquitted themselves very well.
Ryback and Cena threw everything they had at one another, but neither superstar would stay down for a 10 count. The bout reached its conclusion when Ryback picked up Cena for what was seemingly going to be a Spinebuster at the top of the ramp. Ryback decided to drive Cena through the LED set instead and both men went crashing into the backstage area.
Neither Ryback nor Cena could get up without help, so the match was ruled a draw. Ryback limped away after the match while Cena was put in a neck brace and placed on a stretcher. He ultimately refused to get in the ambulance and receive medical attention, however.
Ryback addressed the match the next night on Raw as he cut a promo atop an ambulance. Ryback said that while he wasn't declared the winner, he was able to walk away while Cena was carried off on a stretcher. He then proceeded to challenge Cena to an ambulance match at Payback due to the fact that Cena refused to be taken away in the ambulance at Extreme Rules.
Even though ambulance matches generally don't turn out to be very good most of the time, the WWE deserves a lot of credit for the manner in which it has booked and pushed this feud thus far. There is definitely some long-term planning at work as the ambulance angle from Extreme Rules was used on Raw and will continue to be a factor leading up to Payback.
Also, the manner in which their match at Extreme Rules was booked was excellent. It is well established that Ryback has lost at every pay-per-view since Hell in a Cell, so he certainly couldn't afford to lose another match on the big stage. With that said, he may not be ready to hold the WWE Championship, so the writers needed to figure out a way to keep the title around Cena's waist.
A draw was the perfect solution as Ryback didn't lose and Cena retained the title, but Ryback came out looking strong since he executed the move that ended the match. It was great to see a superstar protected against Cena because that is something that has happened quite infrequently over the years.
Ryback admittedly needs to work on his mic skills as his promos are very mechanical and tough to listen to at times. Also, Cena needs to show a bit more edge as he is on path to do the same thing he always does. That, of course, is overcoming the odds and rising above Ryback's hate. For once it would be nice to see Cena get nasty in order to beat Ryback if that is indeed the endgame.
With that said, there is no current feud in the WWE that is more intriguing than Cena vs. Ryback at the moment. They exceeded expectations at Extreme Rules and it seems like the creative team is serious about pushing Ryback as a top heel.
That can obviously go by the wayside very quickly if the writers let their guard down and start getting lazy, but everything involving Cena and Ryback since the Raw after WrestleMania has been sensible and well done. The creative team has obviously put a lot of time and effort into this angle and it shows.
When someone such as myself who isn't a fan of Cena or Ryback is actually interested in a feud between them, it means that the WWE is doing its job. Hopefully that continues to be the case heading into Payback and beyond.
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