We may not have witnessed a scenario quite like what has happened to the once-dominant Ryback. When was the last time a main-event push actually ruined an up-and-coming superstar's momentum?
After a year of build, including months of jobber squashing and protection, Ryback looked like a main-event star. His sudden ascension to the WWE Title scene as a fill-in against CM Punk at Hell in a Cell was accepted, nay, welcomed by the fans.
He was protected during the TLC match at TLC against The Shield. He was the last man standing against John Cena in the Royal Rumble.
They had done everything right in building Ryback to pose a legitimate threat to Cena and stand equal to any foe on the roster. Then he inexplicably turned heel the night after WrestleMania and the air was released from the balloon.
The only comparison I can make is the sudden Randy Orton babyface turn when he was kicked out of Evolution after winning the WWE Title. Orton had just become the youngest top champion in the company's history, was gathering steam and crowd support for his role in Evolution, and the company was ready to make him the face of the company.
Then they cut off his manly regions, turned him into a smiling, happy-go-lucky and plucky babyface and the crowd turned on him. They took away everything that had made him Randy Orton. Following Ryback's turn, we saw much of the same. Everything that made him Ryback was lost.
Ryback was a wrecking ball that didn't step down from any fight. One jobber? Give him two. Not enough? Feed him three jobbers. CM Punk? The reigning WWE Champion and Best in the World? No fear.
You truly believed that if someone dared him, Ryback could run through a brick wall and he'd enjoy it. Now, he walks away from fights and attacks Cena from behind.
On Sunday, Ryback will receive his second WWE Title match in as many months. After last month's bizarre no-contest in a Last Man Standing match against Cena, he faces the champ in a Three Stages of Hell match that features a Lumberjack Match, a Tables Match and an Ambulance Match.
Based on having watched too much wrestling for my own good, here's what I expect to happen based on the stipulations: Cena wins the Lumberjack match, fighting off a flurry of heels that don't like him because he's a good guy and they're bad guys to overcome the odds.
Ryback wins the tables match because throwing a guy through a table can be a fluke. It's not skill and Cena loses no heat. Cena battles back after being thrown through a table, dragged around for a few minutes on the third fall before rallying against all odds to toss Ryback into the Ambulance for the victory.
So, the question remains, what happens to Ryback next? Daniel Bryan is considered a front-runner for a WWE Title challenge sometime in the next few months. CM Punk is back. The Shield keeps rising. Brock Lesnar is always lurking. Ryback isn't getting another title shot for some time.
But what's left of the babyface roster? Does Ryback vs. Sheamus excite anyone? What about Ryback vs. Alberto Del Rio? Does Kofi Kingston return from injury to battle his assailant, only to be put down again?
There isn't a logical place for Ryback on the show. It's unclear as to how he's handled by creative going forward.
What do you think is the best use for Ryback after Payback?