Ryback may not have walked away from his feud with John Cena with a win or the WWE Championship, but he did come away a more effective talker.
His rivalry with Cena earned him a longer leash with WWE officials and provided space for him to grow; he became a much more well-rounded performer and can now move forward improved and more valuable.
When he debuted on WWE SmackDown just over a year ago, Ryback was a mostly mute beast. He was only expected to lay waste to his opponents, smash, slam and grunt.
It was an effective way to introduce him to the audience and to slowly build him up as a destructive force.
This was not something that could be maintained over time, though. Fans struggle to connect with a character that lacks depth. It's fun to watch the lion tear through the gazelles for a while, but eventually the lion needs another layer in order for the audience to invest.
When it came time for him to start speaking, Ryback was initially given very little time to work with.
It seemed as if WWE was fearful of him failing, and as a result, they only asked him to string a few words together at a time. Even with such little asked of him, Ryback's promos lacked a natural flow. They sounded forced and stiff.
This early SmackDown promo is a prime example:
He seemed to be hurrying through his lines. It's as if he was rushing to get to the "Feed me more!" line, which was his comfort zone for a long time. The pace sapped some of the emotional power of his words.
After feeding on jobbers and midcarders, Ryback was eventually given a run at CM Punk's title.
During this feud, his promo time was elongated slightly. He responded with great intensity, but with little finesse. His catchphrase became his crutch.
This Punk-centered promo shows Ryback again moving stiffly through his lines. In between exaggerated breathing, he delivered his lines as if he were reading something straight from a teleprompter. It didn't come off as if he was speaking his own words or expressing his feelings with the audience.
He later cut a stilted, pre-taped promo that explained his heel turn and why he attacked Cena. It wasn't until later in his feud with Cena that Ryback was given a real opportunity—one that he capitalized on.
In a segment opposite Mick Foley, Ryback boiled over with anger and frustration that translated well on screen.
Ryback stumbled at times, but it was his most genuine work yet. He made up for a lack of grace and precision with freight-train aggression.
"You fat, pathetic, lazy bastard, how does John Cena giving you that steel chair help you standing in the ring with Ryback?" he shouted.
Switching over to the dark side certainly helped Ryback in terms of his promo work; playing the nasty, teeth-gnashing beast appears to be a more natural fit for him.
Nearing his rematch with Cena at Payback, Ryback climbed atop an ambulance to challenge the WWE champ.
Ryback was clearly growing more comfortable in front of us.
He still had his missteps like mispronouncing "ambulance" at one point, but his timing was better. He no longer felt like a machine reciting words, but instead a dismissive, angry man with a clear agenda.
He said he wanted an ambulance match because it was a match where "it does not matter if you're standing or not. It does not matter if your heart is beating or not."
Darkness suits Ryback it seems. He was a monster morphing slowly from Godzilla into a more eloquent and ultimately, more unsettling creature.
That ambulance match was eventually changed into a Three Stages of Hell bout—of which Ryback would only win the first fall.
A promo leading up to that match again showed off Ryback's improvement. He's certainly not going to be confused with Nick Bockwinkel, but he demonstrated in this segment opposite Cena, along with his recent work, that he can be a major player for the company.
In contrast to Cena's goofiness, Ryback's intensity shined even more.
He was forceful and compelling here. Gone was his histrionic breathing and reliance on catchphrases.
When Ryback spoke of taking Cena to Hell and called himself "Beelzebub," he drew the audience in more effectively than he could a year ago. Allowing him to work out his kinks in front of us has proved to be a wise move.
Expect Ryback's growth to continue, as he morphs into a complete villain. Perhaps being pitted against Chris Jericho heading into Money in the Bank 2013 will afford him more opportunities to spread his black wings even more.