Five weeks ago, he was a monster heel destroying everyone in his path. The man known as Ryback fought off the “Goldberg! Goldberg!” chants from fans as much as he could. He wanted the fans to know, during this interview, that he was a somebody with a plan to gain dominance in WWE.
Remember when Ryback put Daniel Bryan through a table in order to get heat for his Ambulance Match against John Cena? I know you do. Some of the best monster heel work we’ve seen in a while in the WWE from two guys of different backgrounds, Ryback and Brock Lesnar. Through Paul Heyman’s work into the mix and WWE TV has seen some pretty impressive heel beatings.
Month after month, Ryback has destroyed the competition. He even planted two, three jobbers into the mat at once. If Vince McMahon could draw a psycho monster with a ripped muscular physique, Ryback was the guy.
Ryback and Cena had their Three Stages of Hell match. It was pretty good considering the circumstances. However, WWE stopped short of giving Ryback the title belt. Cena, retaining the title, has moved onto a program with Mark Henry. Henry’s mic work has ranged from good to excellent. However, if you had told me that WWE’s plan was to go from Ryback to Mark Henry, I don’t think there would be a lot of interest. Conversely, if you had told me that Ryback would go from Cena to Chris Jericho, I would have been somewhat interested. After all, the seeds of Ryback/Jericho as a program were planted last May. Just a couple of months ago. Plus, Chris Jericho is still great in the ring and had a terrific match with CM Punk in Chicago.
So, what could go wrong? Well…
WWE management has decided that they want to try to add some layers to the Ryback character. Rather than be a monster one-dimensional animal, they want to give the fans some shades of gray. After losing to John Cena, management wants the fans to believe that Ryback is going through a crisis of confidence… or is he working over everyone with some sort of methodical scheme? His knee is now supposedly hurting or at least hurt enough to where he is running away from matches or asking for the referee to stop the bouts. It’s a new twist on the “chicken heel” act that WWE loves to have their heels use. It’s also a dangerous route to go because there’s a very good risk that such a routine will confuse the fans who have been sold one bill of goods and will now either give up on the character or believe in Ryback more as a gutless chicken than as a monster for the months that WWE spent portraying him as.
After losing to Cena, Ryback has been wrestling guys like The Great Khali and The Miz. I kid you not. He’s even going to be wrestling Khali in Japan. And continuing to job to John Cena in tables matches at house shows while pretending not to have any sort of knee injury that he’s trying to convince the fans that he has. Confused? You’re not alone.
During the Ryback/Miz match this past week on RAW, Chris Jericho did everything he could to try to detail the nuance of what we’re seeing with Ryback. One minute he’s calling him Cryback and the next minute he’s calling him a dangerous monster who is capable of winning any match but somehow didn’t win The Big One. The problem with the way WWE is having Jericho portray Ryback is that it’s as if they flipped the switch on the guy and went in a completely different direction. Monster heels generally stay monster heels in wrestling for a reason. It’s the same reason why you can eat pizza or ice cream every single day, because it’s great. Stan Hansen made a ton of money in the States and Japan as the destroyer from Borger, Texas who steamrolled everyone with a lariat while sometimes not having the best vision or temperament. Hansen beat the crap out of wrestlers and they were thanking him afterwards! Hansen became a legend for being a monster and now he’s treated as everyone’s favorite grandfather in Japan. Vader lived the dream in Japan and America as the monster with finesse offense that could do things we had never seen before. It was Vince Russo, during his then-WWF stint, who came up with the brilliant idea of having Vader call himself “a fat piece of shit” in order to make him a jobber. You don’t make monster heels jobbers if you want them to bounce back and get on top of the mountain. Thankfully, the fans ignored Russo’s schtick and Vader went on to have a great run in All Japan & NOAH. Oh, and if you don’t think fans love Vader, his nostalgia match recently against Heath Slater elicited “you still got it!” chants from the WWE fans.
And God only knows what Bruiser Brody would have done if Vince McMahon would have told him to job to John Cena in an ambulance match and then turn into a chicken heel weeks later. Actually, God would know… and so would guys like Lex Luger who had to deal with the man who would beat you up and then walk out on you for good if you didn’t give him what he wanted.
There’s nothing wrong with monster heels who are one-dimensional in character nature as long as they can add new tricks to their in-ring arsenal. Not everyone is Mick Foley when it comes to psychology and doing shades of gray. Mick is one-of-a-kind for a reason. WWE has spent a lot of energy in trying to convince the public that Ryback is an unstoppable animal who can destroy multiple people at once… and now they are playing with fire by trying to change up the mindset of the character. It’s a high-risk proposition for WWE given that Brock Lesnar is not a full-time wrestler, CM Punk is a babyface, and Mark Henry is only a short-term solution as a heel. They need to be careful to protect Ryback and not confuse the fans to the point where he’s simply another guy on the roster. Keeping him strong should be a top priority right now. The pressure is on Chris Jericho, a tried-and-true master, to do the best he can with the creative shakeup that WWE is implementing right now.