If you asked a WWE fan over a year ago what their opinions were on Zack Ryder, one of the most common answers you would have heard could have been, "Who?"
Fast forward to the summer of 2011, when fans attending Raw live at Nassau Coliseum in his hometown of Long Island, NY, chanted, "We Want Ryder," throughout the broadcast, while the self proclaimed 'Internet Champion' was kept off WWE's flagship program.
Zack Ryder has gone from WWE Superstars jobber to one of the most popular superstars in WWE today. As I am typing this article, his picture is the first image on WWE.com's homepage, as he promotes his petition for a second shot at Dolph Ziggler's U.S. Championship.
You see, Zack Ryder has mastered social networking and the Internet community. His show, Z! True Long Island Story, has become an internet sensation. His twitter has over 275,000 followers, and he has fans around the IWC lobbying for his push, as well as more TV time—something that he's seen more of in the past few months.
But Ryder has admitted that had he not come up with the idea of a Internet series, his fate would have been similar to so many misused talents of the past that have faced WWE's annual releases. In an interview with his hometown paper, Newsday, Ryder said:
I was sick of just not being on TV, sick of just sitting in the background on the sidelines. So I created my opportunity. I created my own Youtube account. My parents got me a Flipcam for Christmas. And I started to make my own shows. And 16 episodes later, more than a million views, it’s starting to pick up…How much worse of a position could I have dropped to, you know? So it had to go up. That was my mind set. I was just sick of being at the bottom, knowing I could be so much more. It was all or nothing, basically.
It was do or die for Ryder, and his actions have paid off dramatically. His merchandise continues to sell-out, his popularity continues to grow and he has been getting the biggest push of his career.
Ryder is expected to get his rematch with Ziggler at some point in the near future, and all indications point to Survivor Series at Madison Square Garden. The opportunity to let Ryder, one of the most popular Superstars in WWE and a hometown hero, win in front of one of the best live crowds in the country is too good to pass up.
Ryder has paid his dues as a part of the WWE since 2006 and has evolved from a Major brother, to an Edgehead, to a broski as a young superstar on ECW, to a jobber on Raw and Superstars and then to an Internet phenomenon. In all honesty, when I first remembered seeing Ryder in the broski gimmick with the one pant leg cut up, I was like, "What's this guy's deal?", as I'm sure many fans felt similarly.
That all changed in February of 2011, when the world was introduced to Z! True Long Island Story. Fans were finally shown just how entertaining the "Woo Woo Woo Kid" truly is.
I can remember first watching ZTLIS after reading all the comments in WWE's live online draft praising Ryder. I was told by a friend about the show, but hadn't actually watched it until then.
In that afternoon, I was immediately hooked on the show, watching episodes 1-10 in one sitting. Ryder is not only funny on the show, but he comes off as a likeable character that fans can easily get behind. It's easy to see, he's not just some bodybuilder who decided to try wrestling one day. He's a genuine fan who is just happy to be in the industry.
He has the ability to keep fans watching on a weekly basis and stay entertained, something many Superstars today lack. And the fact is, despite his young age, he has paid his dues in the Independent circuit and WWE more than many other superstars who have received a major push.
The fact of the matter is, Ryder has come from career uncertainty to one of the most popular superstars in WWE. The WWE has the opportunity to cash in on Ryder's popularity and push a young talent to the top. WWE has received criticism from their fans on the misuse of superstars in recent years, as was the case with Ryder during his popularity growth.
As a fan of Ryder and the product, all I can say is hopefully they don't drop the ball on this one.