WWE officials (including Vinnie Mac himself) were said to be upset with how badly exposed Ryback was on last week’s episode of Raw when he worked Jack Swagger.
In a match that lasted less than three minutes, it became apparent to even the unwashed masses that Ryback has many holes in his game.
So, what do you do with him at this point to maximize your investment?
Send him back to FCW for polishing? Thrust him into another four months of tv squash matches?
For my money you have three options on how to proceed with Ryback right now.
Option 1) Push Him To The Moon.
Much like they did with Sheamus, have this relative newcomer (he’s actually been employed by WWE for several years) win the WWE Title. Soon.
You could have him named as a surprise opponent for CM Punk by General Manager AJ Lee and in dominant fashion, go over for the title.
I’d like to state that this is my least favorite of the three options, however – given Ryback’s history of injuries, and the fact that he’s 30 years old now, he may in fact be in his prime.
If you go this route, he is going to have to continue to dominate big name talent in order to keep his entire gimmick going.
This could evolve into an old-school Survivor Series elimination match where we end up with a 4 stars against the new champion, in an effort to finally see him down and out. If he drops the title it should be in a way that he isn’t even involved in the decision (i.e. triple threat / Elimination Chamber / etc) or some kind of bullshit stip, like someone running out of a traditional cage match.
Option 2) The Warrior Formula.
Use the exact same formula that was used with the Ultimate Warrior. Put the Intercontinental Title on him ASAP in a match that only lasts a few seconds.
In an effort to lengthen the program, and develop a layer of interest in Ryback’s character, The Miz would launch a weekly Raw Vignette entitled “How To Beat Ryback”.
This would focus on Miz having already slapped Ryback senseless when they were each competitors on Tough Enough IV. Depending on how “edgey” the WWE is feeling, you could even have Miz show footage of “The Cornfed Meathead” Skip Sheffield getting thrown around by a bunch of mid carders.
Ryback who never says anything other than his three words of doom, would be defended to the tv audience by the commentary crew (DO NOT expose him further by having him cut lengthy promos). Cole & Lawler would explain how everyone has to start somewhere, and while he may have had some struggles early on, he has evolved and become a true monster.
This could be supplemented by a series of vignettes showing Ryback going through some Lesnar-like caveman training in an effort to showcase his legitimacy.
The Miz promos would run each week immediately following another convincing Ryback win against another would-be competitor.
The eventual rematch between Miz and Ryback would see the big man in danger for the first time, but ultimately still pick up the win and move forward as the WWE’s resident steamroller.
In keeping with the “Warrior Formula”, this would have to build towards a Champion VS Champion match at WrestleMania. We know that the WWE champion will be facing the Rock, so Ryback picks up the World Champion. Upon winning the World Title (yes, I said that), Ryback would then set his sights on the WWE Championship. At that point, I’d die of laughter and hope that Scott Hall and Kevin Nash showed up with a cattle prod.
Option 3) The Safe Approach aka Old School, Son!
Imagine this: Ryback is set up against David Otunga for a match on Raw. As he gets the Harvard man up for his finish, and starts marching around the ring, the Prime Time Playas rush and puts boots to Ryback’s giant cranium. Otunga recovers and this turns into a 3 on 1 beatdown.
Ryback sees multiple hope spots during the mugging, but the numbers catch up with him. “Feed Him Less”.
Otunga is revealed to be AW’s replacement and Ryback is in a whole heap of trouble, as the brothas are hell bent on getting rid of the meathead.
That’s when someone steps up and offers to become Ryback’s new tag team partner.
In order to maintain his super hero persona, it is important that Ryback resists the help and insists on handling on his own, before yielding to the advice of the veteran. Keeping with the super hero theme, this new partner (sensitive of Ryback’s ego) can make it clear that even The Incredible Hulk has partners, as Ryback’s new pal straps on an Iron Man mask (just for the promo, not forever folks)!
My first choice would be to go back to his roots, and call on the man he used to work with in OVW as one half of High Voltage – Jon Bolen. Bolen is a solid worker who can do a bit of everything for you. Brawl, chain, come off the top… whatever. He can also talk, and he looks the part in terms of a jacked up dude who would be pals with Ryback. Bolan and Ryback had tremendous chemistry in OVW and could totally bring something new and believable to the tag scene.
If the WWE doesn’t sign Bolen, my next pick would be Santino Marella. While you may scoff, envision Santino as Ryback’s mentor. Santino is one of the longest serving members of the current roster, and a former tag, US and Intercontinental Champion. He would also help Ryback to move away from the Goldberg-esque persona by injecting a little comedy (something Goldberg publicly refused to do for years).
In tag matches, Santino could take all of the heat, allowing Ryback to pull a hot tag and be the over-the-top baby. Ryback could also extend himself by selling when it’s a two on one scenario. They both wear singlets anyway – let’s make em match! And can’t you just see Ryback doing his marching gimmick while Santino plays his celebratory air-trombone? Gold!
This slower burn with Ryback would keep him on tv (potentially on the two main shows plus the Saturday Morning version) and not overexpose his deficiencies. At some point, you have Santino convincing his big buddy to go after a singles title, OR Ryback goes hunting after a guy who took his partner out.
In many ways, this angle is what should have / could have happened with Santino and Kozlov … except Kozlov failed to get over.
Because Ryback at this point is essentially a less athletic version of Batista, my choice would be to go with Option 3.
Options 1 and 2 are different with the specific details, but both are high risk / high reward scenarios.
Option 3 also allows the opportunity to build sympathy from the WWE Universe. It could come in the form of Ryback’s concern for Santino, or as a result of the beatdowns he receives when he steps out of his comfort zone. A babyface that doesn’t make the audience worry for their safety will never emotionally engage them.
To be clear, I’m NOT a Ryback fan in the least, but I recognize that the roster is almost completely devoid of main event talent and the WWE has to work with what they currently have and can ill afford to screw up on this push or the subsequent pushes of any other top level talent.