Official’s View with Wes Adams – The Sad Story of Ryback

In 2004, WWE presented their latest, greatest idea to create new Superstars. You’ve heard of Tough Enough right? Well how about we have tough enough, only this time the winner gets A MILLION DOLLARS! We’ll call it….Million Dollar Tough Enough! Yeah that’s right! The 2004 version of Tough Enough featured future WWE Champion the Miz, future WWE developmental talent Dan Rodman, a guy name Justice, eventual winner and MMA fighter Daniel Puder, future male cheerleader of WWE Nick Mitchell, and a guy named Ryan Reeves.

Ryan Reeves was a huge guy, who in his tryout video was standing in his kitchen and said that this was his passion, and he was sorry his video was late but he still wanted to enter. I don’t remember anybody else right of the top of my head but there was some future talent there. Reeves didn’t win Tough Enough, but made a good enough of an impression that he received a developmental deal to train in OVW and Deep South. After about 2 years of training, and being a part of a team called High Dosage (a rib after failing a wellness test), he was let go. Reeves was let go the same week I was hired, and was re-signed a few weeks after I was let go. We never trained together so I can’t say what his attitude was or how he was during the developmental process. But I will say that guys let go from developmental who possess bad attitudes usually don’t get resigned.

I’ve met Reeves at a couple of events I’ve visited and he has always been very nice. So Reeves starts in Florida Championship Wrestling and begins developing the first incarnation of the Ryback gimmick, in which he was a version of The Terminator. I read about this gimmick and was very intrigued. I thought that it had potential to get on TV, which at that time, there weren’t a lot of potential TV gimmicks in developmental. So imagine my surprise when he is renamed “The Cornfed Meathead” Skip Sheffield, and starts a ridiculous cowboy gimmick. Who the hell thought that was a good idea? First off, cowboys aren’t bodybuilders. They’re supposed to be farm strong. They’re big, but they don’t do incline bench presses and preacher curls. They throw hay and pigs and wrestle horses to the ground. Reeves is an obvious weightlifter. Maybe not a bad gimmick for somebody else, but damn not him!

So the newly renamed Skip Sheffield makes TV on the new NXT program and begins competing with several of his FCW classmates for the right to be the next WWE superstar. Daniel Bryan, Heath Slater, Michael Tarver, Justin Gabriel, Wade Barrett, Darren Young, and Skip Sheffield were called up to be the seven “rookies” that were to participate in the new tv show. Sheffield was easily the biggest guy on the show, and had it not been for the potentially career handcuffing gimmick, might have had a stronger showing. He was eliminated from the show, and then eventually was brought back when the Nexus formed, led by Wade Barrett, and took the WWE by storm. Then creative jobbed them out to Cena and a potentially great money making angle was dead in months. Fantastic. In August of 2010, he broke his ankle on a house show and wasn’t seen again until April 2012. I initially feared that he was going to be let go during his recovery, as most of the Nexus guys with the exception of Daniel Bryan were floundering around WWE with no real purpose. I certainly didn’t expect them to rush Reeves back to TV.

In April 2012, Reeves appeared on SmackDown as Ryback, and thankfully Skip Sheffield was gone forever. But WWE did something different with Ryback. They didn’t spend money on elaborate videos, or months and months of teases and near debuts, like they did with Brodus Clay, Fandango, and Damien Sandow. He came right onto tv, and got right down to business. He started kicking ass, and in the process, began picking up steam, and began to organically get over. Sure there were Goldberg chants, but he no sold them for the most part and slowly but surely the crowd started to get behind him. The “Feed Me More” chants were starting to catch on, and when Ryback seemed destined for a showdown with CM Punk for the WWE Championship at Hell In A Cell, it seemed like WWE had caught lightning in a bottle and we were just inches away from WWE having the new breakout star that was going to take the torch from Cena just like they need an just like the people want. But here’s where things got really screwed up.

In October, at the Hell in a Cell PPV, Ryback’s 38 match undefeated streak, and his crowd support, went straight down the commode as he lost the HIAC match to Punk after referee Brad Maddox went “rogue” and cost Ryback the match. Then the next month at Survivor Series, he loses another title match, this time in a triple threat with Punk and Cena. This time, he was attacked by the debuting Sheild and spent the next few weeks getting beaten up by the Shield. Did the WWE rush into Ryback challenging for the championship? Yes they did. During the course of his streak, Ryback defeated Intercontinental Champion The Miz with ease. He should have been given a brief run as IC champ before stepping into the WWE title picture to continue to build his momentum. Why? Because WWE had already made up their mind that the Rock was getting the belt from Punk, and Cena was getting his win back on Rock at Mania. And there was no changing their mind.

The WWE’s organically grown superstar that they’ve been waiting for all this time was destroyed forever in a matter of months. As soon as Cena threw him out of the Royal Rumble, everyone was told that this guy wasn’t as good as Cena. Then Ryback is thrown into a feud with Mark Henry. Great idea, and the weightlifting challenge segments were fun to watch. But Ryback lost any chance of getting his momentum back when he dropped Mark Henry and lost at WrestleMania 29. So from there, WWE is panicking and don’t know what to do with him. They turn him heel. Start a ridiculous crybaby gimmick that is so terrible that people are calling him Cryback. Then they start turning him in to a bully, obviously influenced by the Impact Wrestling character Bully Ray.

They try to make him a Paul Heyman guy, but only after a few weeks, that is stopped and he is being phased out of TV because “he has backstage heat”. Why does he have backstage heat? Well I sure as hell don’t know but from what I have read, WWE feels he has a negative backstage attitude. Well holy tap dancing shit WHY SHOULDN’T HE HAVE A BAD ATTITUDE??? From what I’ve read, he has been a wrestling fan his whole life. He has spent over 7 years in the WWE system. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he understands the business. He understands how booking works and he understands the difference between good booking and bad booking. He has probably been told for 7 of those 7 years in the WWE system that they are going to make him a superstar, a millionaire, a world champion and lord knows what other kinds of promises he’s been told. And due to the WWE’s bad booking of him and his character, why wouldn’t he be upset? If WWE would had some patience and stretched out his feud with the Miz and put him into the WWE title picture AFTER the Rock and Cena were through, maybe things would have been way better. Or, if the WWE would have struck while the iron was hot and put him OVER CM Punk for the title at WrestleMania after winning the Royal Rumble, maybe things would be better.

Ryback was the perfect guy to start a brand new streak, and be the one to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania, but that’s all been ruined. They can NEVER turn back the hands of time and get that back. And Ryback suffers. I can’t say that he has a bad attitude because I sure haven’t been around him. But if he’s mad and harbors resentment because the WWE has not delivered on promises, and because they have tanked his career because WWE is so afraid to steer off of the course chartered by Cena, who in the blue hell can blame HIM? We all know that WWE doesn’t have the kind of atmosphere where you can air your grievances and be heard. You’re not allowed to care where your career is headed. You’re not allowed to think about what kind of long term damage the WWE is doing to your career with short sighted booking and stop and start pushes because you have a “supposed bad attitude”.

There may be one chance to salvage his career, and it may or may not happen. Who is the person that WWE fans really want to see Ryback fight? That’s right, they guy that he reminds them of. GOLDBERG. Sure there are some similarities there, but Ryback was never a carbon copy of Goldberg. Goldberg wasn’t the first guy to get over by no-selling and defeating everybody in his path. The Road Warriors, The Ultimate Warrior, The Undertaker and even Hulk Hogan all got over by beating absolutely everybody. Goldberg’s streak was a once in a lifetime phenomenon that ALMOST was recreated in WWE with Ryback. The difference is, WCW was more patient with Goldberg’s push, put him in a upper mid card US title feud with Raven, and grew him before putting him in the World title picture. Goldberg debuted on television in September 1997 and defeated Hulk Hogan for the WCW World Championship in July 1998. That is 11 months.

WWE rushed Ryback from debut to WWE Championship picture in 6 months. WCW fans wanted Goldberg to win the championship, and he did. Then they got behind him and stayed behind him until shitty booking ended his reign and killed his momentum. WWE fans wanted Ryback to win the championship, and he didn’t. Then the fans felt let down, and WWE once again went with Cena as the go to guy. And again Ryback suffers. I don’t know what kind of shape Goldberg is in, or if he could even work a match of PPV quality at this point with Ryback. But if WWE cares about Ryback as a character, an intellectual property, or if they care about Ryan Reeves as a person, they would throw whatever amount of money Goldberg wants to come in and put Ryback over. Then they can say “We’re sorry” to Ryback by pushing him, sticking by him, and making him the WWE Champion that he can be. It may be too late, but it is worth a shot.

Goldberg has said that he would like to have one more match so his son could see him wrestle. If they can’t get Sting, then Goldberg would be more than enough to draw back some WCW fans. New Orleans was a Mid-South town, and later, a WCW town. WWE needs all the reasons for lapsed fans to come back and start watching again. Let Goldberg be a reason for them to come back, and let Ryback be a reason for them to stay.

What do you think? Post your thoughts, opinions, feedback and comments below.

Thanks for reading.

Wes Adams
Twitter: @WesAdams1980

About Wes Adams: Wes Adams is a former WWE official/referee. Adams signed a WWE developmental deal in early 2007, and was assigned to Deep South Wrestling. After working as a official/referee on WWE television, he opened his own wrestling promotion “PowerSlam Productions.”

  • den

    Good article, one problem. He absolutely sucks.

    • Ali

      No he doesn’t! It was all WWE’s fault for killing his momentum as they did with so many others like Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno), Justin Gabriel, Kofi Kingston and more.

  • Trainwreck

    Interest to know he failed a wellness test when he categorically denies ever using roids.

    • Wes Adams

      Steroids aren’t the only thing that you can fail a wellness test for. Elevated testosterone, certain over counter medications and supplements can too. I should have mentions that that was the story I heard. But the team was a define rib about that.

      • Trainwreck

        Oh right! Still probably was roids :’)

        • Ali

          No it wasn’t! It was a mistake with a bunch of supplements that he took. They just messed with the readings.

  • Raihan Khan

    ok so ryback is big but he is not a good wrestler, look at cena, people say he cant wrestle but his matches get 4 to 5 stars mostly(out of 5) or max 3. and he is fun to watch cz he uses 5 moves mainly but he uses diffrent ones too, and ryback is not even like goldberg, cz goldberg was fast and powerful, ryback is slow and powerful,

  • yragcom1

    Nice recap and analysis. You’re right, Ryback is permenantly damaged. They could out him up against Batsita. That would make a great type on type match, but now I smell a Batista/Orton WM, with Batista going “Face Of the Company” when it’s all over. Why? Because it exactly what the fans DON’T want. WWE is typical like that lately.

  • Tom

    Loved the Article. Finally, someone is putting the blame where it should be put & that’s WWE & not Ryback. He’s been trashed for all his loses which are predetermined matches(meaning WWE picks who wins & who looses) Ryback has been screwed over so bad by the WWE. I don’t think it would be as bad if the WWE Fans respected Ryback. They blame him for everything that is NOT his fault & not in his control. Ryback has worked his ass off, did what he’s told (like most employees do when their boss tells them to do something) to do & instead of reaching his rewards (titles & top guy) he gets kicked literally to jobbing & on top of that, the fans blame him! Total bull-shit. I’ve lost so much respect for the WWE. Ryback deserves so much better.

  • Zach

    Really agree with Wes here. They really screwed the guy over as hard as possible. I loved the Ryback character as soon as he started, and I was genuinely looking forward to his squash matches on Raw and smackdown every week. Its painful to be a big fan of his when he isn’t even allowed to win a PPV match. I can’t think of a single reason he should have lost to Henry, and having him tap to Punk and having big show kick out of the shellshock just seemed to be intentionally stuffing him down the toilet.
    If they really want to bring him back they should have him turn face and kick the shit out of Batista tonight. After his pathetic rumble performance I’m sure the crowd’s instant favorite will be whoever would go kick his ass.

  • rumblr

    Great write up, gotta agree that someone in Ryback’s position probably has a right to have a bad attitude at this point, although regardless of justification it’s still not going to get him anywhere by pissing off the wrong people.

    Maybe I’m imagining it but I’m starting to see him lose interest in his performance as well, it seemed out of character to get tossed out of the Rumble and just casually walk past two camera shots on his way to the back without even the slightest reaction or sign of upset. (I believe Batistia took him out but not sure) Seemed kind of like a “okay, thanks for using me to make Batista look strong and not having me go late into the Rumble match, I’ll do what I’m told and stroll to the back when I’m done”.

  • Bart

    You are right on. WWE always drops the ball on potential superstars that can put butts in the seats. I love Ryback and feel bad for him for what they have done with him. Borkline

  • David Garcia

    Wes has one way of looking at Ryback, but I have a slightly different read.

    I think WWE sees potential in Ryback. His look means he has a much easier path to stardom than somebody like Daniel Bryan, who has too work twice as hard just to get to the spot a guy like Ryback starts at. I think WWE also sees Warrior, Goldberg, Lesnar. 3 guys that had the rocket push of too much, too soon, likely given responsibilities they were nowhere near ready to carry.

    Warrior, Goldberg, and Lesnar were pushed to the moon from the start of their big league runs and they either got swelled heads, without all the tools to handle what they felt entitled to (Warrior, Goldberg) or they realized it was just too much work and they didn’t want it (Lesnar). Either way all 3 were the recipients of huge investments before they had been really put to the test. By that I mean being saddled with a bad gimmick they would have to get over on their own, being given losing streaks, getting pushed to the brink of superstardom, before getting the rug snatched out from under them to see how they respond. Do they pout and stop trying or do they put their head down, listen, and grind through it? Do they work harder to improve at everything, giving them the tools for extended success?

    At the end of the day, I just don’t think wins and losses matter. Hell, Daniel Bryan would be my exhibit A, but you can see guys who lost a lot and then the booker made them win a lot and they were good to go. Most fans, especially the casual ones WWE caters to, have very short memories. If Ryback takes his taste of success as motivation, rather than allow his disappointment over not going all the way hinder him, if he keeps working hard, listening to advice, showing his reliability, and improving, then I have no doubt that WWE will follow through with him in a big way.

    To me the superpush Wes and others advocate is a simple cost/benefit analysis. If you take an unproven commodity with so many unpredictable variables (is a guy injury prone, can he handle adversity, a heavy workload, being a superstar in the ring, in the media, and in the boardrooms of corporate partners, etc) and invest time, which can be quantified as money (prime TV spots, marketing push with merch, being made the priority over others since not everybody can be pushed at once, lessening the role of other stars already generating money, etc). Taking in these factors, if I’m WWE, I see the potential of short term gains rivaled by the expense of the push and only if I can limit the exposure to the variables, will it make sense to go all the way with the guy. Had WWE/WCW followed this more logical and responsible process, maybe Warrior, Goldberg, and Lesnar have the tools for real longevity, making their employer a ton of dough…or maybe they get weeded out and the next guy with long term potential gets the shot and passes the tests.

    Anyway, that’s my read..

  • Keifer

    actually one of the best and most insightful articles i’ve read about the industry and its destruction of characters, i completely agree and since paul levesque has taken over its never about what’s ”best for business” it’s about an extended Kliq and extended family of older wrestlers,
    some of these are good pushes like cody rhodes and roman reignes but theres a reason why reignes is the pushed one out of the sheild, and thats his family (the rock, rikishi, yokazuna etc) but why not rollins or ambrose? (ambrose would be better individually as a tormenting character to his importants),
    triple H has brought back his friends and gives them the story lines and gives others to people that have WWE families
    Why is Bo Dallas NXT champion? wrestling family, although his brother actually has one of the best gimmicks i’ve seen for a long time in Bray Wyatt and is a good wrestler although be in seeming quick a clumsy person and not athleticly gifted as others.
    In other words wrestling is going downhill as triple H has control of it and with TNA going down the crapper, being on TV and making money becomes triple H and his friends playground and will get more small minded and tedious.

    • arlowoodenhead

      Have to disagree with you about Bo Dallas. I have to fight the urge to fast forward whenever he speaks, but his wrestling reminds me a lot of his uncle Barry Windham and would love to see more of that.
      His brother Bray Wyatt seems like he deserves the push he’s getting and it is being done at a good pace. Follow the buzzards!
      So, surprise! WWE is a family business. Who knew?

  • Nicholas Cobraetti

    “Ryback was the perfect guy to start a brand new streak, and be the one to defeat the Undertaker at WrestleMania…”

    Absolutely ridiculous, bordering on delusional.

  • Snnrx

    75% of your article makes complete sense. But i don’t think he can built a new streak not in with any gimmick i dont think he has that stamina like the undertaker has. Overall, you are right on his charcter’s gimmick. wwe’s decision maker’s or the creative story line team have killed his character by making him crybaby but Bully’in people was not that bad good gimmick at all, if only, they have strict to it. Unfortunately that even didnt convince the creative team. In the end what can we do we have to watch what they think which is good for business. LOL. Sometimes i wonder that Vince have hired some thugs to make storylines i mean common why cant they make charcters on some rules or on some principles for a charcter like earlier charcters like Dusty rhodes, Bret the hitman Hart, A.P.A Protection. I m not happy with what they are doing with Wade Barrett, Miz, Fandago and brodus clay even Prince Albert or Tensai. Earlier they started to boost the Miz’s Character but see what have they done.. he is only competing in some raw’s all he is there to beat up and for that MIZ TV interviewing smucks. and look at this Barrett Character man he could be the next big thing. he is a total package but they are ruining his potential. he is awesome on mic and he can wresstle as well. i dont know what went wrong with the storyline directors or with the booking team. they are annoying now a day. See now Batista won the rumble. He barely came in and he claims to be number 1 contender. what the heck. interestingly enough, theyve almost killed Damian sandow’s character with this rumble. 8 months before he was the number one contender for the title after winning the money in the bank and now look. Cena was hand over from Sandow when sandow has more potential than cena. cena cant even take roman reign’s spear in a good technic. I dont know why i love this game even though it has bad people who are making decisions and bookin for matches. STUPID SHYT

  • Ali

    Finally, a grown-up with a well nurtured brain and logical reasoning. WWE you bombed with Ryback, Chris Hero, Justin Gabriel and Dolph Ziggler. Stop with this repeated, monotonous and boring formula that people are sick to death of and give them what they really want!

  • KevinGillman

    The worst thing they did was turn Ryback heel after Wrestlemania. Cena surely didn’t put him over, so why do it? Another guy that needs to be pissed is Kofi Kingston. He has won every title WWE has to give, except the big one. The worst things they do is this stop and go pushes. It serves nobody any favors.