Out of the glare of the bright lights of WWE proper, Mason Ryan has been growing, improving and developing as a performer at NXT.
The last most fans saw of the powerhouse was either his sporadic matches on WWE Superstars or when Cody Rhodes eliminated him during Survivor Series 2011. The best thing he had going was his physique and power. Beyond that, he had little to offer and was often awkward in the ring.
Rather than letting him continue to wilt and sputter on the main roster, WWE made the right move and sent him down to developmental.
Since that move, Ryan has let his hair grow out and adopted a Torture Rack into a neckbreaker as his finisher. Beyond those cosmetic changes, it appears that Ryan is learning the in-ring craft. In his January NXT match against Sakamoto, Ryan showed glimpses of being able to control and harness his staggering power.
It's a bit difficult to see here, as it was shot with a fan cam, but this NXT match showcases Ryan being a convincing and intimidating force.
He is still not as fluid as you'd like to see, but he is getting better.
Jim Ross has noticed Ryan's recent improvement and had this to say on his blog: "Mason Ryan has made some significant improvement since being back in NXT and I look for him to be able to contribute on the next level if he continues to push himself and receive his coaching as he has been."
Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com had even bigger accolades to hand out.
After seeing Ryan's recent performance against Enzo Amore on NXT TV, Johnson wrote that Ryan "looked like an explosive monster and far more confident in the ring as a performer" and also that he "looked like an old school beast in the ring."
While this fan doesn't have the renown of Johnson or Ross, his tweet is right on.
Seeing Ryan grow like this is a testament to the fact that NXT is doing its job. Less pressure, veterans in one's ears and practice on top of practice is supposed to help these prospects sharpen their skills. It's apparently working if Ryan is making strides.
It won't be an easy path back to the main roster, though. With a multitude of talented prospects in developmental alongside him, from Kassius Ohno to Corey Graves, Ryan has a surplus of competition.
Should WWE remain patient and should Ryan continue his improvement, the company could have a serviceable powerhouse to bring up to the main roster. His size and build are going to leave the door open for him; it will just be a matter of what he can do once he steps through it.