I remember watching Extreme Rules with Thomas, Anthony, Moose, and Asti back in April when Ryback made an unscheduled appearance on the stage. As he trudged his way to the ring, Thomas asked me what I thought of this newest addition to the WWE roster.
“Not much. He’s strong, but his in-ring technique can use some work. And squashing a bunch of local nobodies isn’t going to get him over with fans. And the Goldberg chants do not help.”
Ryback went on to squash two wrestlers that night, and despite his ridiculous strength (he had both men up in his Shell Shocked finisher, a cradle suplex lifted and transitioned into a running horizontal muscle buster. Thanks Wikipedia!), I didn’t see the gimmick going anywhere. Extreme Rules was the same PPV where Brock Lesnar had mauled John Cena, so I didn’t see much room for another monster on the roster. Even Brodus Clay had to use the Funkasaurus gimmick to get over with the fans.
Ryback had previously wrestled for WWE as Skip Sheffield in The Nexus but had to bow out of the storyline due to a broken ankle. While The Nexus angle worked well for Wade Barrett, David Otunga, and even Heath Slater, I never paid too much attention to Sheffield. I’ve never been a huge fan of monster characters anyway, aside from Goldberg (my hatred of Lesnar can be heard on any wrestling podcast I’ve done since Extreme Rules) as I find most of them one dimensional. The two monsters in recent memory that I liked were Mason Ryan and Ezekial Jackson but both have been hampered by injuries.
As the months progressed, his unbeaten streak was being mentioned and he moved on from local wrestlers to standard WWE jobbers, but even as recently as June, he was still not being very safe with his opponents. But somehow, the Goldberg chants from the crowd were slowly changing to “Feed! Me! More!”, his signature phrase he would say after squashing another opponent. A feud with longtime jobber Jinder Mahal in July/August seemed to legitimize him as a face and helped get him completely over. But I still wouldn’t have called him ready.
Now, Ryback is less than a week away from facing CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Hell In A Cell. And while this may appeal to the casual fan who hates seeing Punk (who’s in the middle of an almost year long run with the belt) as champ, I just don’t buy it.
After Punk retained in a draw at Night Of Champions1, I couldn’t really see the original plan of a third consecutive Punk/Cena title throwdown working.2 As far as I can tell, the plan is for Punk to retain the belt until the 2013 Royal Rumble, where The Rock will use his magical title shot to get revenge for Raw 1000 and end Punk’s long reign. Having Cena continue to lose to Punk only makes him weaker, something the WWE never wants him to be. The guy is having the worst year of his WWE career (not to mention a real life divorce on top of it) and they can’t justify a Cena/Rock Wrestlemania XXIX rematch for the WWE Title if Cena looks easily beatable.
Enter the elbow surgery. I still can’t tell if the injury is a work or legit but I think Cena’s terrible year has a lot to do with it.3 I think the plan was for Cena to take legitimate time off following his match with Lesnar but the WWE was too afraid to take him off television. This might explain the crappy year, as he was forced to slug through PPVs with (what I believe to be) a legit shoulder injury from Extreme Rules. And with WWE creative so focused on Punk retaining the Title, there’s only so much they can so with Super Cena.
If the ultimate plan is for Cena to beat Rock at WM XXIX, there’s only a few ways to accomplish this:
- Give Cena the belt for a month or so, then have Punk regain it in time for the Rumble.
- Have Punk retain constantly until the Rumble. While I’d be okay with that, the ratings and buyrates would surely drop.
- Have Ziggler cash in on Punk instead of Sheamus, have Cena and Punk duke it out with him until he drops it back to Punk.
- Redo 1998′s Goldberg storyline with Ryback.
And that’s the best WWE could come up with. Run the man with the unbeaten streak into the man who refuses to lose the belt (Hogan then, Punk now). Hell In A Cell is also in the Georgia Dome, the exact place where Goldberg won the World Heavyweight Championship from Hogan 14 years ago. It doesn’t help that there are no disqualifications in Hell in a Cell matches either, there has to be a clear winner somehow.
Would I put the belt on a barely tested wrestler, even for a short amount of time? No way!
But WWE is apparently worried about making Ryback look weak by having Punk cleanly beat him. Not that a loss to the WWE Title holder wouldn’t make sense to anyone. There’s even a rumor that Lesnar might run in to save a fellow Paul Heyman guy from Ryback.4 But this would waste a precious Lesnar appearance that they were saving for with Triple H or The Undertaker, so I don’t see the sense in this.
Ryback should win the WWE Title this Sunday.
It would re-energize the company, since it always struggles in the 4th quarter of the year to get to the Rumble. They had to bring The Rock to the Survivor Series last year just to keep everyone’s interest after their unsafe working conditions storyline with Triple H fell flat. A dominant, monster, face champion could be fun for a spell as Punk keeps failing to win his belt back. It might give Cena a little bit of time to rest up for next year. It might make the ratings go up.
But I don’t think WWE has the balls to do it.
Asti is probably right5 but there will be some kind of interference from somewhere to save Punk’s behind. Only the Anaconda Vice could be used for Punk to win the match, as there’s no way he gets a clean GTS off. The Hell in a Cell environment gives Punk the advantage of weapons but no one wants to see Ryback clobbered into submission. Maybe there’s even a way to have the Title held up for a future rematch where Punk could cheat his way to victory more easily. But for some reason, WWE refuses to let Sheamus and Punk’s reigns end, no matter how beneficial the outcomes.
So I expect next Monday’s Raw to begin with a smiling CM Punk in the ring with Heyman, boasting about how he defeated the monster Ryback. I’m okay with this, because I’m a CM Punk guy. But as a WWE fan, I’d really like for Ryback to come to the ring with the strap on his shoulder.
Then I want Punk to beat him down with a chair and steal the belt back, all while screaming, “I’m the best in the world!”
But then I would need WWE to start direct depositing money into my account. ASAP.
On the other hand, I just want Asti to be wrong.
- A classic Dusty finish. I went from disappointed to confused to excited to letdown. As much as I didn’t want Cena to get the Title back, couldn’t Punk have pulled some brass knucks out or something? ↩
- They pulled off multiple rematches with Daniel Bryan but they had to add Kane and AJ Lee to keep things interesting. We all know great wrestling won’t put butts in seats in the WWE. ↩
- Cena’s results for 2012 PPVs: Draw v. Kane at the Royal Rumble, Won v. Kane at Elimination Chamber, Lost v. The Rock at WrestleMania XXVIII, Won v. Brock Lesnar at Extreme Rules, Lost v. John Laurinaitis at Over The Limit, Won v. Big Show at No Way Out, Won Raw Money In The Bank match at MITB (Won v. Punk via DQ at Raw 1000, but the Title didn’t change hands due to disqualification), Lost v. Punk & Big Show at SummerSlam, and Draw v. Punk at Night Of Champions. That’s a PPV record of 4-3-2. Meanwhile, Punk is 8-0-1. ↩
- Mike Asti has been dying for Punk to be put into some form of stable again now that he’s a heel. He also loves the Kevin Nash Kool-Aid, but that’s another topic. ↩
- Excuse me while I go hurl. ↩