In the midst of all the madness coming out of this week's Monday Night Raw, it was most certainly one of the most exciting Raw broadcasts in a long, long time. Not only was it a night of surprises and returns, but also the biggest night in career of the young Zack Ryder.
Since February, Zack Ryder has single-handedly become one of the most beloved Superstars in the eyes of the IWC simply due to his innovate YouTube videos entitled "Z! True Long Island Story." In his 24 editions of the podcast, Ryder makes obscure references to his constant misuse of character, as well as hilarious comedy any WWE fan would enjoy.
With his popularity growing ever stronger, Ryder is finally being given the push of a lifetime, most recently his streak of victories on WWE Superstars as a prime example. This all came to its climax this past Monday, with new leader of the WWE, Triple H, granting Ryder his second-ever contest on Raw in 2011, pinning commentator Michael Cole in a matter of 30 seconds.
His reaction was simply awe-inspiring, as his tremendous hard work finally paid off, as he was cheered and chanted for at an above-average level this past Monday night. Now acting as a babyface, sky is the limit for the Long Island Iced Z.
However, one question still remains in my pondering mind: Why in the hell did WWE not pull the trigger sooner? If Ryder had started this "revolution," so to speak, at the peak of his career in ECW, he quite possibly could have won a handful of championships by now.
Here, I will bring these 12 instances to your attention and let you be the judge as to how Zack Ryder's talent should or could have been used instead over the past two years. I do realize I'm exactly the stereotype of an IWC mark with this article, complaining about something that should be positive, but look at it as a blast from the past and where flaws can be fixed.
On a side note, I do advise readers to keep any spoilers regarding Zack Ryder's new role on SmackDown to themselves as some of us, myself included, enjoy the element of surprise.
Following his run as a tag team competitor on SmackDown, Zack Ryder was drafted to the underrated ECW brand as a part of the 2009 WWE supplemental draft. Upon his debut in late May in a backstage segment with then-ECW general manager Tiffany, Ryder was now sporting a Jersey Shore-like look with clean-cut spiked hair and unique wrestling tights.
After months of numerous random booking and a brief feud with Shelton Benjamin, Ryder emerged victorious from a packed battle royal that had ECW Championship No. 1 contender implications, only minutes after his previous loss to Yoshi Tatsu. Only a mere week later, the Long Island Iced Z received his shot at the silver belt against then-reigning champion Christian, but came up short in what was one of the best matches of Ryder's five-year tenure in WWE.
It always baffled me as to why creative kept the title on a veteran such as Christian for as long as they did, when they really could have just used the championship to elevate the rising Zack Ryder and reign supreme over the stomping ground of ECW.
In late December 2009, Zack Ryder initiated a rivalry with Tommy Dreamer on the ECW brand over respect, after verbally abusing the ECW Original in a backstage segment. Dreamer challenged Ryder to a match the following week, only to come up short.
The next week, Dreamer requested one more match against the Long Island Iced Z, this time with his career on the line. Following a failed top-rope attempt, it was all over for the former ECW champion, delivering one more heartfelt promo on his way out of the company.
After that, Ryder began to dub himself as the new face of ECW, before engaging in a feud with the Hurricane. Once again, Ryder came out successful, with Hurricane being released only a few weeks later.
With a hot streak going, Ryder even competed in the 2010 Royal Rumble Match, even if it was for a few seconds before being eliminated by CM Punk. Had he kept the momentum running, Ryder could have been able to draw serious heat for retiring two of the best athletes in the Land of Extreme.
Upon ECW's closure in February of last year, Zack Ryder and Rosa Mendes would soon find a new home on Monday Night Raw, making his debut match for the brand in a victory against Primo on WWE Superstars. The following week, Zack Ryder made his singles debut for Raw in a contest that had Money in the Bank implications, coming up short against MVP and missing out at an opportunity of competing at WrestleMania 26.
Since then, creative has failed to insert Ryder in either of their Raw Money in the Bank Ladder Matches at the July event for two consecutive years. Even when R-Truth was bumped from last year's contest due to injury, why not replace him with Ryder instead of the eventual Mark Henry?
In late 2009, Zack Ryder became embroiled in a rivalry with the turning Shelton Benjamin, attempting to decide who was the true contender for the ECW Championship. While feuding with Benjamin, Ryder began to shift his focus to the newly drafted Rosa Mendes, who sat at ringside for the series of matches between the two.
Despite costing himself some victories on some occasions, Ryder's passion grew for the spicy Diva, and eventually they become a couple after Ryder read Mendes a handmade poem straight from the heart. She didn't really add much to Ryder's act, but they were a nice package while it lasted nonetheless.
After Mendes was sent packing to Friday nights via the 2010 WWE supplemental draft, Zack Ryder once again initiated a search for another valet, now having his sights set on Gail Kim and Alicia Fox. Eventually it became the latter, and they were only a package deal for a matter of weeks before Fox was instructed by Raw guest host Ashton Kutcher to turn on him in the ring.
Although I do prefer Ryder alone, as it differentiates him from his TNA counterpart Robbie E, a sexy valet at one point could have garnered him strong heat had she helped him win matches using dirty tactics.
If there was ever any hope of Zack Ryder as a successful singles competitor, the time was certainly early last summer, when Ryder was chosen among Dolph Ziggler and William Regal to be The Miz's tag team partner against the team of R-Truth and John Morrison. Before this past Monday, that night's win would be his only victory gained on the flagship show.
The victory entered Ryder in the running for the United States Championship, earning himself a spot in the Fatal Four-Way championship match the following week against the three other competitors. During the contest, the Long Island Iced Z hit his finisher before hitting the floor and suffering from a minor concussion, watching from the sidelines as The Miz would pick up his second United States Championship.
On June 1st, 2010, Zack Ryder was announced as the pro of Titus O'Neil for the upcoming second season of WWE NXT. It was painfully obvious these two had barely any chemistry together at all, which is a shame seeing as Ryder has much to teach from his five years of experience.
Only a few weeks into the season, Titus would find himself the first one eliminated due to his stupid, hilarious promo on "making it a win" and his disappointing win-loss record. Ryder would continue to take part in the show, competing against the likes of Percy Watson and Michael McGillicutty.
Ironically, O'Neil has since returned to WWE NXT as apart of the Season Five cast, this time around being mentored by Hornswoggle (seriously) and becoming the star of the show with impressive in-ring and mic skills. Last month, Ryder returned to Tuesday nights to defeat his former rookie one-on-one.
Following last year's SummerSlam, then-WWE Champion Sheamus was at a loss of a contender for his championship. In late August, a series of matches were held on Raw that he witnessed on the stage to determine who he believed should be next in line for a title opportunity.
After witnessing stellar performances from Randy Orton, Edge and others, Sheamus chose the unfortunate Zack Ryder instead, whom he defeated in an impromptu championship match in a matter of 10 seconds only in order to waive his 30-day title from defending the belt at Night of Champions.
Ryder's short performance and being squashed by the Celtic Warrior is still mocked to this day as being a former No. 1 contender, something he really shouldn't be remembered for. That ultimate squash abolished any credibility he once had, as he then became the laughingstock of the WWE for a good while.
Last September, Edge had a series of confrontations with the anonymous Raw general manager, including his recent string of losses against then-United States champion Daniel Bryan and John Cena. During this "rivalry" with the laptop, Edge would voice his rants and complaints on Zack Ryder in backstage segments, all of which made for hilarious television.
At one point, Edge talked to the Raw GM over the computer via a voice box, where even though the general manger's voice was disguised, the slang he was using sounded much like something Ryder would say. The segments between Edge and Ryder only lasted three weeks, but I was interested if creative was planning on either reuniting them or having them feud based upon their history and chemistry during the promos.
Hell, I even thought Ryder was acting as the Raw general manager through all of this, but sadly, it wasn't meant to be. Edge would soon be traded to SmackDown a few weeks later, leaving the Raw GM and Ryder completely irrelevant.
Last fall, I had high hopes there was a slight possibility Zack Ryder could finally be booked correctly once discovering he was going to be a part of the qualifying matches for Team Raw at the Bragging Rights pay-per-view. I should have seen the outcome a mile away knowing his opponent was destined to be the fan-favorite comedian, Santino Marella.
The match didn't last long by any means, and made Ryder look like even more of a joke. He sure as hell could of made more of an impact in the match than Santino, who would go on to be the first one eliminated from the contest at the event.
Zack Ryder's wrestling skills are probably more solid than about half of the WWE roster, as he's highly underrated for putting on decent matches with his opponents. Add that to his arguable gimmick and look, and it shocks me to why this Superstar is relegated to Superstars more often than not.
Back in April, Ryder was a guarantee to be sent packing to SmackDown due to being a more wresting-oriented show. Once the 2011 supplemental draft rolled around on the website, Ryder was nowhere to be seen among the 30 picks that were drafted to the opposite show.
Who knows, the Long Island Iced Z may have been able to freshen up the now stale Intercontinental Championship picture. I do realize he'll be appearing on Friday nights as a regular now with his new role, but that move will just make the annual draft feel even more meaningless.
Although Zack Ryder wasn't a victim of the annual WWE draft this past April, his former tag team partner Curt Hawkins was sent packing to Monday nights to join Ryder as one of the later picks of the supplemental draft. With the tag team division at its worst at the moment, reuniting the two would have been an excellent idea to get both back on television and reincarnate their old stable just with their new gimmicks.
As weeks passed, my dream team finally came to fruition on the May 12th edition of WWE Superstars, as Curt Hawkins aided Ryder in victory in his match against Vladimir Kozlov. The following week, Ryder and Hawkins, now dubbing themselves the Major Broskis, reunited for the first time in two years in a losing effort against Santino Marella and Kozlov.
The Major Broskis were finished after that, as they haven't teamed or been associated in anyway on WWE television since. However, Hawkins continues to make cameo appearances on Ryder's YouTube show from time to time.
The final and most recent missed opportunity for Zack Ryder came last month when Raw was being held at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York, the place where Ryder calls home. Following a solid match against then-United States champion Kofi Kingston the week prior, many expected Ryder to at least make a cameo appearance live on Monday night.
Once the time arrived, the Long Island Iced Z was nowhere to be seen that fateful Raw broadcast, where as many already discovered, he worked a bout prior to the show on WWE Superstars against former ally Primo. Although he was welcomed with a huge reaction, it wasn't the same as appearing on the flagship show and making an impact in a meaningful way.
After months of built-up popularity and confidence over his YouTube show that has since reached over two million hits overall, hopes for the former WWE tag team champion had ultimately been crushed. Throughout the night, chants such as "We Want Ryder!" were heard loudly, especially in Santino's match against Sheamus.
However, the future now looks bright for Ryder following his first victory this past Monday night thanks to the new chief of operations, Triple H, and the returning CM Punk's demands. Ryder's presence may also be felt on Friday nights as well, but I continue to look forward to a possible championship run for Ryder in the near future.
Thanks for reading, Bleachers. Make sure to voice your opinion on these instances I have brought to your attention, as well as Ryder's current WWE status. But hey, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. GSM out.