The various turns of Ryback
Last Monday on Raw, Ryback left his teammates, The Big Show and Kane, high and dry in quite the heelish move.
When asked why by Rich Brennan, The Big Guy stated a need for solidarity in order to better his career. In what turned out to be a nice little play on verse, he recited, “That glass ceiling? That brass ring? Break it. Take it.”
Coming much as a surprise to fans and commentators alike, this becomes the latest of a many character shift for the man from Las Vegas once known simply as Ryan Reeves.
Ryback V1.0 / Skip Sheffield / The Nexus
After impressing WWE by being the first runner-up on $1,000,000 Tough Enough Reeves spent three years wrestling in OVW, mostly in a tag team. He made a brief impact in singles competition under his new Ryback/Terminator gimmick and won the Heavyweight Championship.
In 2008, Ryback joined FCW. After some time in another tag team, his gimmick was scrapped and he was asked to go back to the drawing board. Out of this ether came Skip Sheffield, a happy-go-lucky cowboy character.
In 2010, Sheffield was chosen to be one of the rookies to join the cast of NXT. This led to his first main roster push, as part of the Nexus. However, the rookies remained fairly faceless and gimmick-less while members of the gang. Sheffield broke his ankle in August of 2011 and would not return until April 2012.
Ryback V2.0 – main event push
When Reeves returned to the ring, however, he would not remain faceless for long. In less than nine months, he would find himself in the main event.
Sporting a beard, shaved head and singlet, Reeves brought back his Ryback character -with a vengeance. WWE booked him as a monster who would squash local jobbers one, then two, then three at a time. He quickly gained momentum with his impressive displays of strength and intense demeanor. It was during this time that crowds began “Feed me more!” chants.
After carving an undefeated streak through the jobber and lower mid-card ranks of WWE from April to September 2012, Ryback came to the aid of fan favourites Mick Foley, Jim Ross and Vince McMahon after attacks from WWE Champion CM Punk.
Ryback head-lined television and pay-per-views throughout the fall and winter, but failed to defeat Punk for the championship, in part because of interference by the new Shield faction.
The night after WrestleMania 28, new WWE Champion John Cena was attacked by Mark Henry. Ryback came to the champ’s aid, but then turned heel on Cena. Claiming he wished to step out from Cena’s shadow, he challenged for the title.
He also debuted his new catch-phrase: “Ryback Rules.”
At Extreme Rules, Ryback fought Cena for the WWE Championship in a Last Man Standing Match, but it went to a no contest. They fought again for the title at Payback. Ryback once again failed to win the championship, and the feud with Cena blew off.
After defeating Chris Jericho at Money in the Bank, Ryback began his bully gimmick. Calling himself “The Big Guy”, he would slap around local jobbers, stage hands and other employees in backstage segments throughout August and September.
The Heyman-Ryback Connection
At Night of Champions, Ryback helped Paul Heyman and Curtis Axel defeat CM Punk, and aligned himself with Heyman. This began a bizarre partnership, as Heyman would cut promos speaking affectionately, even lovingly, towards his saviour. He even kissed Ryback’s cheek and proposed to him – that he be a Paul Heyman Guy.
Ryback, in turn, spoke in contradictory manor, claiming he hated bullies like Punk, and swore to defend Heyman.
At Battleground, Hell In A Cell, and again in a street fight on Raw, Ryback lost matches to CM Punk and was dropped by Paul Heyman.
In December 2013, Ryback and fellow ex-Heyman Guy Curtis Axel began teaming together, calling themselves RybAxel. They failed to win the WWE Tag Team Championships at TLC and the WrestleMania XXX Pre-Show. Although they earned a victory over former champs Goldust and Cody Rhodes at Payback, they were later defeated by Goldust and Stardust at Money In The Bank.
The team dissolved after Ryback took time off for hernia surgery.
Ryback V3.0 -” The Secret”
In October 2014, Ryback returned with his baby-face “Feed Me More” gimmick. But he wasn’t the same, mindless wrecking machine he once was. Bringing real life experience into his character, he talked openly about battling depression. He said he turned his life around years ago when he discovered “The Secret”, and devoted his life to turning negatives into positives.
With his new, motivational persona, Ryback became pivotal in the build-up to the Survivor Series main event, joining John Cena’s team to battle the Authority.
At Elimination Chamber 2015, he won the vacated Intercontinental Championship. He defended his title against The Miz and The Big Show throughout the summer before losing it to Kevin Owens at Night of Champions.
Ryback had a lackluster winter coming into 2016, and this latest team battle against the Wyatts brings us to the current, apparently selfish heel turn.
Ryback is, in a classic sense, the quintessential WWE superstar. You can see why Vince McMahon would push a man like Ryan Reeves right out of the gate based on his look and presence alone.
All this talk of glass ceilings and brass rings makes one realize that Ryback was – perhaps too quickly in his career – thrust into a golden opportunity, main eventing alongside the likes of CM Punk and John Cena in 2012. However, being surrounded by such established stars (not to mention the returning Rock and the emerging Shield), he was never destined to hold the title during his first push.
In his second push, as a heel against Cena, he was given an opportunity to add layers and complexity to his character. Either as a result of the Cena factor, or perhaps because the brass decided he wasn’t ready, Ryback was once again denied a title reign in 2013.
Ryback’s bully phase, his anti-bully Heyman Guy phase, and his RybAxel phase can be chalked up to therapeutic misadventures.
His latest baby-face push appeared to be a step in the right direction. He incorporated the complex character of his motivational face persona into his wrecking ball persona which earned him such initial acclaim. He’s even been broadening his move-set, incorporating high-risk maneuvers built for getting crowd pops.
So it seems strange that he is so quickly jumping to the same “out of the shadow” heel turn he pulled in 2013. The move seems rushed and forced.
So, what can be gained by turning Ryback heel?
With Kevin Owens holding the IC belt, a pursuit of the title would make little sense. It’s possible he may pursue Kalisto’s United States Championship. Or, his character could possibly be building to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania.
One thing’s for sure, he won’t go anywhere without a worthwhile program. Unless he distinguishes himself in some way, he will simply become another Kane or Big Show: flipping heel or face as the company needs him to at the time.
In fact, that seems the most likely purpose. With Shane-O-Mac back in town, raising hell within the McMahon ranks, the Authority will need enforcers. Could that be the “brass ring” that Ryback is eluding to?