FATP: The Rise and Fall of Zack Ryder
Welcome to the 2nd FATP of the week here on PWMania.com! You won’t find the articles I write here posted anywhere else. Thanks to those of you who followed me, and tweeted your feedback to the article I posted on Sunday, where I blamed WWE for their lack of fresh main-event stars. I’m sorry if I didn’t get back to all of you individually. I’ve been hell of a busy lately, but I’ve read everything you said. Reader opinion seemed to be split 50-50 on whether or not WWE are solely to blame for their lack of new main-eventers, which was what I expected to be honest.
Talking of Sunday’s article, I guess someone from WWE was reading it, because Jack Swagger won the Chamber match and is now heading to WrestleMania to fight it out with Alberto del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship! I’m fucking ecstatic that Swagger is finally getting another chance to remind everyone just how good he is. The borderline xenophobia is another thing entirely, but we’ll see how it goes.
Today, I figured I’d stick with WWE and write about the rise and fall of Zack Ryder. You’d never have guessed that from the title huh?
A little over 2 years ago, Ryder’s career was going nowhere fast. He was barely on TV, if at all, and it seemed like he had nothing to lose, so he started up his own YouTube show – Z! True Long Island Story. Over the next few months, more and more people started to watch the show, to the point where Ryder had millions of viewers watching the show he was filming and editing himself. The goal of the show was to get fan support and eventually, TV time to show us what he could do.
The likes of CM Punk, Dolph Ziggler, Randy Orton, John Cena, HHH and others appeared on the show in some way, shape or form, and people started to get behind the kid from Long Island, NY who always wanted to be a WWE superstar. Unfortunately for Ryder, WWE either weren’t paying attention at that point, or they simply didn’t care what Ryder was up to. Ryder kept faith though and continued to produce weekly shows that, to be honest, were funnier than most of the skits that we saw on WWE TV. With no TV time, Ryder was entertaining people on a weekly basis. He showed how entertaining he could be, and how good his promos could be if he was given the chance.
Eventually, in the autumn (fall) of 2011, Ryder started to get more exposure on TV. He was involved in and around the United States Championship scene, which was being dominated by Dolph Ziggler at that point. Ryder kept pushing for a shot at the United States Championship, but it seemed like WWE weren’t listening to their fans. Despite chants and signs showing support for Ryder in arenas all around the world, WWE refused to capitalise on it.
The best example I can think of was at the 2011 Survivor Series when, for some reason (and nothing against him personally), John Morrison was granted a shot at the United States Championship in Ryder country. When that match happened at Survivor Series, the crowd sh*t all over Morrison. It wasn’t at him per se, it would’ve happened to anyone who wasn’t Zack Ryder. Throughout the match, and the entire night, the crowd were chanting “We Want Ryder!”. It got to the point where either WWE management would actually listen to their fans (which is what they claim to do), or we’d have to send Vince, Steph and HHH for hearing aids. Eventually, the ball dropped with someone in the office, because Ryder finally got his chance at the WWE United States Championship against Dolph Ziggler at WWE TLC 2011.
In the opening match at the PPV, Ryder and Ziggler went over 10-15 minutes in one of the best matches of the night and Ryder came out on top. The kid from Long Island had done it. He’d become a singles champion in the WWE. Who can forget the sight of Ryder celebrating with his family, friends and fans at ringside as he held the championship high above his head? It was a great moment for underdogs everywhere.
I remember watching Raw the next night and being so excited about the future of WWE. After TLC, Punk was the WWE Champion, Daniel Bryan was the World Champion, Cody Rhodes was the IC Champion, Ryder was US Champion, Kofi and Evan Bourne were Tag-Team Champions and Beth Phoenix was the Divas Champion. Seven young wrestlers who the fans could look up to. Seven deserving champions who had earned their spot.
Sadly, all that excitement and hope died away less than 4 weeks later. Despite being US Champion and having earned his spot there, Ryder effectively became a patsy in the John Cena/Kane storyline. Kane destroyed Ryder on several occasions to the point where Zack had to defend his championship despite not being “medically cleared”, and he lost it to Jack Swagger in January 2012. For all his hard work, Ryder got jobbed out. His YouTube show was pulled from his own channel and put on WWE’s YouTube channel. Someone from the office probably saw how successful Ryder’s show was, and wanted to reign it in for a bit. Hell, you couldn’t even comment on the videos for a while!
You’re probably thinking that it was just a blip. It wasn’t and it hasn’t been. Despite losing his title, Ryder was still on TV, but essentially playing the role of Eve Torres’ bitch. To be honest, I’d have loved that role, but that’s a completely different story for another time! Zack played the lovesick dude who kept getting his heart broken, but he managed to get a spot on Team Teddy at WrestleMania 28. Just when it looked like Ryder was going to win the match for his team, Eve kicked him square in the nuts and Ryder lost the match. Talk about a figurative kick in the balls for all of Ryder’s fans, and anyone who’s been the underdog right? Since then, we’ve seen Ryder sparingly, if at all, and he’s become almost a jobber at this point, which is a goddamn shame. The kid deserves better than that and he deserves to be on TV a hell of a lot more than some others that I could mention.
The thing that really pisses me off about the whole Zack Ryder situation is this. We always hear from wrestling legends like Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette and others that wrestlers today need to stand out from the pack and do something to get themselves noticed. That’s a valid point and it’s exactly what Zack Ryder did just over 2 years ago. The problem is that, despite selling a fuckload of merchandise and getting over with the crowd on his own with no real TV time to speak of, WWE jobbed Ryder out.
This is just my opinion for what it’s worth, but to me, it felt like WWE said to Ryder, we might not have made you, but we’ll damn sure break you. That’s a stupid decision. Ryder has made a lot of money in merch for WWE, despite being booked like a joke for most of the last 2 years. I don’t pretend to know about wrestling, or the business, but it seems to me that if someone is making money and getting popular, you capitalise on it and milk that son-of-a-bitch for all it’s worth. Makes sense right? Apparently not. At least not to WWE management.
Instead, WWE buried Ryder because he got over without the machine behind him. Making him a patsy in the Cena/Kane feud, jobbing him out to Swagger and having Eve humiliate him at WrestleMania felt like WWE giving a massive fuck you to all the people who got behind Ryder and made their own choice to support him.
I genuinely fear for Zack Ryder right now. I can’t see any way back for him. It’s not his fault. He’s a talented, entertaining, hard-working kid who deserves his spot on the roster more than others who are just happy to sit on their arse and pick up a paycheck. It seems crazy to me that WWE would fail to capitalise on Zack Ryder because he got over without their support. It just seems incredibly petty to me. Mind you, Vince McMahon is the most successful wrestling promoter ever and runs a multi-media entertainment juggernaut that’s trading on the Stock Exchange and I’m just a fan, so what the hell do I know?
What’s the moral of the story for aspiring wrestlers? Don’t get over without the support of your company. Otherwise you’ll probably end up getting screwed like Zack Ryder has. A kid who took a chance to stand out from the pack and get over with the crowd, and he’s been punished for it. Be careful what you wish for, or else you’ll end up getting buried like Zack Ryder has and that’s a goddamn shame.
It’s over to you now. What do you think? Did WWE drop the ball with Zack Ryder? How would you have capitalised on his popularity? You know the drill by now. Either leave a comment below or send a tweet to me @george_sltd. I’ll be back next week with another FATP, so until then, thanks for your support and for reading.