I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I think Zack Ryder has the potential to become the future of professional wrestling. I stated it on the FTW podcast, Episode 29 (http://theftwpodcast.com/ftw-episode-29), and I still stand behind that statement.
Granted, I’ll take a ton of heat for that thought, but it’s one I don’t think I’ll back down from. Zack’s a younger guy, coming in at twenty-five years of age. While a lot of people look at him and say, “Zack needs a good character and to learn more from the business”, well... I think he has both, and you’re going to find out why.
When Ryder joined the main WWE roster, he came in with tag team partner Curt Hawkins. They were then thrust into the on-screen role of Edge’s lackeys in La Familia. If the WWE didn’t see something in Zack and Curt, they wouldn’t have put these guys in the spotlight in one of the top angles at the time.
Under Edge’s tutelage in and out of ring, on and off camera, Ryder and Hawkins were able to acquire the WWE Tag Team Championship from John Morrison and The Miz in a fatal four-way match. (This match also included the pairings of Jesse and Festus, and Finlay and Hornswoggle.) This accolade made them the youngest tag team to hold the Tag Team championships, if only for two months.
Frankly, his time in La Familia was probably the best thing WWE could have done for Zack, on the whole. It gave him the time to learn from not only one of the greatest tag team champions of all time (Edge has had fourteen tag titles in WWE alone), but also from Chavo Guerrero, who has held a number of titles throughout his own seasoned career.
Being able to learn the business from both of these veterans, both in-character and behind the scenes, would prove to be invaluable to Zack as he would soon step into singles competition. Developing an individual persona and how to work the mic were only a couple of skills Zack picked up under these two knowledgable ring vets.
On April 15, 2009 Ryder was drafted to the ECW brand as part of the 2009 Supplemental Draft, separating him from Curt Hawkins. It was probably the best thing for him. With WWE wreaking havoc on the tag team division, guys were struggling to come up with new gimmicks, and Zack leaped on what some would call a grenade, and redefined himself.
Months before the “Jersey Shore” TV series came about, Zack Ryder was his very own fashion victim, shouting to the heavens about Long Island. He got himself known visually by sporting the purple and orange shirts and ring gear, and stood out even more with his one-legged tights. Did he look like a goofball? I’m sure many thought he did. But if you’re going to stand out in some way, why not take a page out of The Miz or Jeff Hardy’s book, and stand out visually with your ring attire?
Zack quickly took to the mic, inciting some heel heat from the crowds, and put his cockiness on display. “Woo woo woo, you know it!” became the catchphrase, and it works. Why? It’s easy. And as soon as the first “woo” escapes his lips, the crowd, even begrudgingly, finishes it. It’s a mark of making a connection with the crowd, even as a hated heel. He makes the needed connection when he has a mic, and he makes you hate him. He does that job well.
Some people say Zack Ryder isn’t creative enough in his moveset. I counter that with his signature moves: the RoughRyder jumping leg lariat, and the Zack Attack. How many guys are pulling off the jumping leg lariat? They could, but no one seems to give it the panache that Zack does, be it as a finisher or not, it’s a cool move to watch. And the Zack Attack? It may be the bastard child of Carlito Colon’s Backstabber and MVP’s Playmaker, but the move just works. You feel the pain of his victim, and three seconds later, Zack’s got a win.
It’s just a shame that the WWE isn’t willing to put the power behind this guy. They’ve given inkings with his tag team title reign. He was given the “honor” of being the guy who sent Tommy Dreamer packing. They gave Zack a push when Ryder won a 10-man battle royal to earn the number one contendership to the ECW Championship. (He took the shot and lost to Christian the following week on ECW.)
They have even put him in momentary contention for the U.S. title, and made him a Pro for NXT Season two. They’ve given these shots to him, but they haven’t done much else. Obviously, they’ve seen something in him. If not, he wouldn’t be on TV, and he surely wouldn’t be given these spotlight shots. It seems they’ve relegated him now to Superstars, and when he does get on Raw, he’s used mainly as a jobber.
Is Zack taking a more “Matt Hardy” role by being a guy who works better elevating an opponent? Possibly. Chris Jericho’s been able to do that for years, but even Y2J has had his pushes. We all know every wrestling company needs their whipping boy. ECW had Mikey Whipwreck, WWE has Chavo Guerrero, but even both of those guys had Heavyweight titles (Both held the ECW title - Mikey under the original company, and Chavo under the WWE umbrella).
What do I think would be best for Zack Ryder in the short term? Programs with Kofi Kingston, Daniel Bryan, John Morrison, or even Drew MacIntyre. All of these guys are up-and-comers making their mark to be the future of WWE, and I’d love to see Zack get involved to help elevate all the talent involved.
I know Zack may not be everyone’s definition of main event material now, but in the future, he’s going to carry Heavyweight championship gold. I mean, if Miz can do it, Ryder surely can.
Woo, woo, woo... You know it.