In recent months, we've seen the rise of one of the most unexpected talents to get bigger pops than some of the superstars meant to be at the top. That talent is Zack Ryder.
Think of him what you want, say about him what you want, it's a fact: John Cena is one of the top superstars in the company, and Zack Ryder gets louder and more consistent pops than him. That's fact; it's real.
On Monday Night Raw, we've seen Zack Ryder pin the United States Champion, Dolph Ziggler, approximately three times. After the first couple earned him a US Title Match at Vengeance, which came as an impromptu add-on to the "Zwaggler" vs. Air Boom Tag Team Championship match, and Ryder failed, he managed to pin Ziggler again on Raw.
When this failed to yield him a second title opportunity, Ryder began a petition on Twitter to have him granted another chance. His social media based attempt has since been undermined by John Laurinaitis who has chosen to grant John Morrison a title opportunity instead.
I'm tempted to say fans are outraged, but I'm going to go with confused. After all...
Reported on this site the past month or two has been the story that John Morrison's contract is almost up. Today, it was reported that his contract ends at the end of November, so giving him a title match seems entirely counterproductive on paper.
Ryder is a loyal WWE talent, starving for his chance to really get crowds going, and even without the help of WWE Creative or Management, he's developed an immense global fanbase.
Morrison, on the other hand, seems to have plenty of confidence in his status. He's been acting out backstage, taking an attitude with coworkers, and even shunning legends like Trish Stratus at WrestleMania.
Behavior like that is usually reserved for those on their way out, not established locker room leaders.
While some are immediately recognizing Zack's value in working crowds into absolute frenzies, others see him as a joke character relegated to nothing more than backstage skits with Santino.
Although, it's not that Ryder is relegated to playing games with Santino. It's that he CAN do that and still put on believable matches.
Both Morrison and Ryder have their pros and cons, their reasons for being in the main event and their reasons for being held down. So, who deserves what kind of push? There are different kinds of pushes, aren't there?
Let's take a look at both superstars and see where they logically should be based on what they've shown us...
Main event champions in WWE are typically very charismatic personalities. Most critics, when discussing reasons why Morrison isn't in the main event, usually revolve their arguments around Morrison's "lack" of mic skills.
I've said it before. I hate when people call up that same SmackDown promo Morrison cut where clearly there was some issue with either cue cards or a teleprompter, or else he simply forgot his lines and giggled. It happens to plenty of people in show business. Also, think about this...
SmackDown is a taped show. Since Sin Cara debuted, I've read tons of reports and spoiler sheets that talk about various Sin Cara matches being retaped so that the screw-ups and botches don't show on TV. That one Morrison promo where he screwed up couldn't have been more than a minute or two. They couldn't retape that to make him look better?
Instead of going that incredibly cliche route, I decided to call up a better video where Morrison is genuinely funny, or at least shows some wit, in a lot of places.
Chalk it up to the guy still trying to work a tired gimmick of being some old school "Lizard Man" rip off rock 'n' roller.
Point here is simple: Morrison has some potential on the microphone, but his sense of humor and style need to be fleshed out a bit. He's like Kofi Kingston. Both guys are amazing to watch in the ring, but their speeches tend to leave us flat. That doesn't mean Morrison deserves to be released or held down. He just needs something to validate his talents.
Much like Bryan, everyone gets on a losing streak when they think they're something special. Morrison's match at WrestleMania 27 may have been a throwaway gimmick, but he still worked the event and was seen on the broadcast with a celebrity. Bryan was there, but in a dark match US Title bout that devolved into a useless battle royal that went nowhere.
In this case, Morrison could use a belt.
Morrison's tag team resume may be somewhat short compared to great teams of old, but he has held half of tag team gold multiple times with partners Joey Mercury and The Miz on separate occasions. Also, as a single, he's held the Intercontinental Championship three times and the ECW Championship once. Not a terrible set of accomplishments there.
Still, with all that gold in his past, logical progression says he should've gotten bumped up to main event level by now. He's held singles titles, tag team titles, world titles are next, right?
At the beginning of the year, Morrison put in an amazing showing against The Miz, but it turned out to be just a way to put Miz further over so that Cena had a stronger opponent to face at WrestleMania.
When I look at secondary titles these days, I often see them as a way for WWE to restart people who got off to rocky starts. Sheamus always comes up for me immediately as a prime example.
His start on the main roster was a quick shot to the top, with a severe deficit in credibility and clean victories over high profile opponents. A King of the Ring win and a short reign as US Champion started Sheamus' career on the road to recovery, and even before he turned face, he was looking a hell of a lot better with a belt that he won cleanly.
Morrison getting a United States Title opportunity at Survivor Series may seem like the wrong way to go, but if they allow Morrison to win the title, and hold onto it legitimately, it would do wonders for not only giving him incentive to stay in WWE, but to work harder to be a more exciting superstar.
Besides, just because Zack may not have a scheduled match (Morrison didn't have a scheduled match against Cody a PPV or two ago, but that happened) doesn't mean he won't be at the event. Something could always happen to get Zack bumped into some impromptu match. Not only that...
Besides holding the undisputed WWE Internet Championship (not officially sanctioned by WWE, mind you), Zack Ryder's music can hit, he can prance to the ring with his camera, and get crowds worked up better than most superstars on the roster. That ability should not be underestimated.
You know who else used to come to the ring brandishing a camera and look ridiculously excited to main event? Shawn Michaels, that's who. Ever hear of the Kliq Cam? And Zack is a joke for yipping about it? Are you serious, bro?
Furthermore, Zack is a far better mic worker than critics give him credit for. He delivers promos and backstage lines more naturally than most current superstars. Again, this ability should not be underestimated simply because Zack gets excited about main eventing.
That's another thing. Zack has passion that most superstars don't.
Most guys win world titles, it means so little. I've said it before. People wonder why titles mean so little, well, it's not WWE devaluing them, it's the characters that devalue them.
Alberto Del Rio wins the WWE Championship, Sheamus wins it in a tables match, they're not busy crying over it, they're not clutching it to their chests and falling over because they struggled their entire lives for it. They just hold it up, show it to the crowd, grit their teeth, maybe yell, and walk out.
Hell, Jack Swagger didn't do any of those things that when he won his ONE World Heavyweight Championship from a slightly injured Chris Jericho.
Zack should get excited to main event. He should get pumped for every appearance on Raw or SmackDown, because while Heath Slater, Darren Young, Evan Bourne, Mike Chioda and Sin Cara are getting caught for wellness violations and suspended, Zack's busy filling in, and psyching up crowds better than all of them.
Well, maybe not Chidoa, he's a ref, and a skinny one, but you know what I mean.
Truthfully, does Zack need a title this quick or that bad? He could use a belt to validate him, sure, but he gets big enough pops as it is. People in crowds all over love him and respect him, regardless of what belt he wears.
He's like CM Punk. Critics say all the time how WWE is destroying his momentum by not handing him a world title. Screw that! It's part of an ongoing story and it gives Punk a journey and a struggle to conquer. And honestly, WWE's tactic is working, because most of us Punk fans want him to wear gold even more now, so hope you're happy, is WWE is getting exactly the response they want.
Would fans like to see Ryder get a secondary title? Of course! But it's not necessary. And why is that...?
If Zack's "Twitition" to get a US Title match were something that WWE wasn't even dealing with on TV or the website, I'd say he's likely not to get his desired match or respect. But they've been talking about it on Raw. Might've been on SmackDown, too, I can't remember.
Point is, they're inserting that into WWE televised storylines. They're keeping it visible, they're using his social media fascination as a way to get him involved, it's looking like it has a purpose.
A story broke on WWE.com where Ryder's petition came up, and he asked Mr. Lauriantis, "Are you serious, bro?" Laurinaitis' decisions lately involving other superstars aside from Punk and Cena have been very telling.
He's been pushing back Brodus Clay's debut. He rehired Nash and Awesome Truth after Triple H fired them all. He gave a title match to Morrison after one victory over Ziggler when Ryder's scored three. There's no question, Ryder's clearly being held back, but ultimately, that's a good thing.
R-Truth got the conspiracy ball rolling months ago. He called out each and every one of the "Lil Jimmies" in the crowd for supporting such a corporate "yes man." After his own attempt to take the belt off Cena failed, he enlisted the help of another superstar that's likely been held back over the years, The Miz.
Awesome Truth has caused all manner of problems and chaos on Raw, up to and including being one of the top thorns in the side of management. Yes, Laurinaitis hired them back, but not long after they arrived back on Raw as reinstated talent, the Executive Vice President of Talent Relations and Interim General Manager of Raw booked them in a Survivor Series tag team match where John Cena was allowed to choose The Rock as his partner.
Not fair, any way you cut it. These two struggle to get noticed, and now they have to face The Rock and Cena together? Can't you almost see the heel and face situations reversed? If it wasn't for Rock, I could almost see Awesome Truth being the faces we need to root for.
Zack started in WWE as an Edgehead, then became a Major Brother, and was repackaged on ECW in some kind of strange gimmick where he awkwardly "wooed" ladies who didn't like him. He took it upon himself to start a YouTube show, same as guys like Matt Hardy have, and suddenly, his star shined brighter than ever.
Ryder isn't going away that easily, and just because the system is holding him down, doesn't mean he's going to fade away. People keep saying CM Punk's momentum is slipping and that WWE is "burying" him because he hasn't won a match on PPV in months, but he's staying plenty visible and getting louder cheers than ever.
That's the mistake people make when they hear someone's getting a "push." A push doesn't mean they're instantly getting handed a belt and are told, "here, do something fun with it." A push just means they get more visibility, more chance to make an impact, more chance to get crowds on their side, and they get booked into more matches where they're scheduled to win.
Look at Mason Ryan. He's getting a "push," and personally, I like how he's performing, but he's not getting nearly the response from crowds that WWE really wants to get.
Some people who got pushes are making it now, others aren't. Some of them are hopefully waiting in the wings for the right kind of opportunity for them, others have either left or been released.
Ryder seems to have been passed up for this opportunity at the US Title, but there will be others to come along. And if they don't? WWE will either find some other way to keep him in the spotlight, or else...
Zack will find his own way to fight the system. Does this mean he'll join Awesome Truth and turn heel? Not necessarily. But don't mistake Zack's fun nature for weakness. They're building him somewhat slowly and logically as far as picking up wins. He obviously can't go undefeated overnight after being enhancement talent.
This can only be a good thing. Look at everything we have! Controversy, pushes, spotlight, possible deception, backstabbing, all the good stuff!
Ryder's getting more spotlight and making an even greater effort to get noticed not only with his Twitition but his Twitition getting edged out by the Interim Raw GM! Laurinaitis admitted on WWE.com that he knows how badly fans want Ryder in that match, but he gave it to Morrison instead. It was a conscious decision, and Ryder will not be disappearing because of it.
Morrison is in a US Title match at the PPV. If he wins, it's a good indication that he'll be sticking around, and possibly getting his head straightened out so he can make bigger waves in the near future.
Not only that, but if Morrison takes the title on Sunday, Ziggler will be without a title, and furthering some losing ways. Not enough to be a streak, but losing a lot nonetheless. Either he'll have to get involved in bigger drama, or Vickie may have to turn on him.
After all, they stayed business partners after their romance petered out, mainly because SHE thinks he can be big. But frankly, in many (not all) moments where she hasn't helped him cheat, he's lost. Sometimes, he's held his own on his own, but when Vickie and Swagger aren't not cheating for him, he almost gets this attitude like they should've been.
I love Ziggler, but his character seems to be getting lazy. He's leaning on Vickie to help him, but eventually, it's going to start costing him titles, and if Vickie dumps him and grabs up a bunch of other superstars from anywhere on the card to add to her clientele, Dolph will have to weigh whether he wants to stay "The Heel," or if he wants to fight back against Vickie and her new stable. It would be a move that may turn him into "The Face," though hopefully his attitude doesn't disappear with such a change.
Survivor Series could prove to be very important for so many parties, and the surprising addition of Morrison to the US Title picture only adds to the speculation of what could result from the PPV's outcomes.
As I always say, let's not be so quick to judge. WWE has a plan here, and until we see it fully, we can't tell if it's flopped or not. I'm willing to see where it goes, and I have high hopes for everyone involved.