Hello everybody, Liam here once again with another riveting, stimulating edition of Tea Time with Liam. Once again my chronic laziness has me beat, meaning that once again, this is still somewhat of a bi weekly gig. As always I come to you from the little floating island known as the United Kingdom. Summer is in full flow right now which means……nothing but wind and rain. But enough about me boring you with stuff about me. It’s now time for me to bore you with my latest thoughts and ramblings on the world of pro wrestling. Today I’m going to focus on one man. His name is Zack Ryder.
On February 17th 2011, Zack Ryder uploaded his first episode of Z! True Long Island Story to YouTube. On July 13th 2012, He uploaded his seventy fifth episode. Almost one and a half years of shows. The main aim of his show was to get himself noticed and to expand his fan base. He was quite rightly frustrated with his lack of progress and direction in WWE. His videos were fresh, funny and clever. Full of not subtle but light hearted knocks at the WWE for his lack of TV time. What I want to explore today is how much or little progress Zack Ryder has made in the past eighteen months.
Ryder’s web show gained attention from the start. His fan base grew He certainly grew a dedicated fan base. His T shirts often sold out on WWEshop and just from reading house show and TV taping reports. They often mentioned “seeing a lot of Ryder shirts being worn” or “the Ryder merchandise table was sold out.” The success of his web series soon filtered out to the main stream audience and by May/June 2011 “we and Ryder” chants could be heard on Monday Night Raw. The fans had latched on to Ryder. They now only hoped the WWE would too.
It seemed that WWE were still reluctant to push the go button. Although Ryder did start appearing on TV more often. It was mainly in backstage segments. Were he would mutter his catch phrase or act like a dork. Just after WrestleMania 27 most of his backstage segments started to feature John Cena. Now being limited to segments wasn’t the best but at least he was starting to feature on TV more often and even better for him, getting to spend TV time with the face of WWE in John Cena. Cena has also been an avid supporter of Ryder, putting him over on Twitter several times and also featuring on his web show.
It wasn’t until June 6th when Zack Ryder had his first match of 2011 against the then United States Champion Kofi Kingston, losing the match in just under three minutes. Two things that stood out for me in this match. One was that Ryder had the “jobber” entrance, meaning he arrived to the ring of camera. The second thing to stand out was the fact that Michael Cole referred to Ryder as Zack Ziggler. Now I know that probably doesn’t mean much and if any of you remember, Dolph Ziggler was on commentary, so it was a simple mistake. But my thought is that if you don’t care enough about the wrestler to get his name right. Is he even worth me emotionally investing in him as a character. Nonetheless, his web series was working. He was now on TV and wrestling matches.
On June 16th 2011. Ryder competed on Superstars, in his hometown of Long Island. Of course he arrived to a huge crowd pop, especially for a home town boy. But what I’m sure felt special for him. He went from fearing he would be released to then a few months later, being able to perform in his own town, in front of his family and friends. This was the night when most fans claim he solidified himself as a baby face as he beat his former heel tag team partner, Primo. Things were steadily improving for Zack. His fan base was growing, as was his time on TV. Even his match time was growing. His match with Primo went just over nine minutes, compared to his defeat to Kofi in just under three minutes.
Towards the end of July 2011. Ryder was appointed as the assistant to SmackDown general manager, Teddy Long. This now granted Ryder permission to be on both Raw and SmackDown. Again, this was a vast improvement from the start of 2011. With Ryder now appearing on both WWE weekly brand shows, his TV time was again expanding. Although on SmackDown, he was mostly relegated to backstage segments with the odd match on some weeks. His fans were just happy to see him on TV. Infact he did bring a little humour to SmackDown. You guys all know how I feel about Teddy Long. With Ryder, the segments that involved Teddy were at least watchable.
Throughout the rest of summer 2011. Ryder was pretty much quiet, Appearing on both Raw and Smackdown, having the occasional match. When September arrived. Things really started to change for Zack. Middle September 2011. Hugh Jackman was the guest host of Raw. During a match between Ryder and the then United States champion Dolph Ziggler. Jackman helped Ryder get the win. Now this victory earned Ryder a US title match the following week. A match in which he lost, followed by a rematch at the vengeance PPV, in which he also lost. Now of course his fans were disappointed with this. They felt it was Ryder’s moment and that WWE were still holding him back. But looking at it objectively, you had to see it as progress. Looking from when he started his web series as a way to be noticed, progressing all the way to competing for a mid card title at a PPV was damn good progress.
Then came November. This is the time when I personally feel that WWE finally began to the chance on Ryder. On November 7th 2011, He was in the main event of Raw for the first time ever. Not only that, he was main eventing Raw in a tag team match which had John Cena as his partner. As I mentioned earlier, Cena has been vocal in his support of Ryder and rumours frequently circulate that Cena has often tried to help Ryder behind the scenes. Then, a few weeks later, came another major point in time. Zack Ryder was scheduled for a match against Cena himself, where the winner would earn a championship match. If you recall, Cena won the match but then turned down the offer of a WWE title match to give Ryder a second chance. Now of course, this was all done on TV and I’m sure the some of you will point out the fact “that it’s scripted dumbass. He was always going to give it up.” My point here is that right there we had the current face of the WWE, John Cena give up his own WWE championship match, just so Zack Ryder could have a US title match. For me, that spoke volumes and it was a very unique way of having Cena try to put Ryder over.
Ryder received his second chance. All that was required was the small task of beating Mark Henry in a NO DQ match. Cena interfered to help Ryder win the match. Once again, another example of the face of WWE attempting to help a young talent. Then came TLC. A US title match against Dolph Ziggler. I remember the match as being very physical. Finally, after a gruelling twelve minutes. Ryder had finally did it. The US title was his. His first singles title in WWE. What an end to the year for him. It looked like things could only get higher and higher for him.
Ryder had gone against the WWE machine. He knew he was going nowhere fast. He made his own luck. What his web series had done was expose himself and his personality to the world. Once the fans had gotten behind him and his merchandise was selling, WWE finally pulled their finger out and gave him the push he craved. In the time frame of eleven months, he went from a relative nobody, fearing for his job, to a solid mid card baby face with the mid card US title and was also currently appearing on both shows. It was a fantastic turn around and Ryder deserves a lot of credit for making it happen.
Then came 2012. Ryder was now established and his fans were hoping for a long a prestigious US title reign which would solidify his status in WWE. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Ryder became involved in a romance storyline with Eve and was also used as cannon fodder in the “embrace the hate” story between Cena and Kane. For the majority of this story, Ryder was pretty much Kane’s chew toy. Ryder lost his US title against Jack Swagger due to an injury inflicted by Kane. Ryder was assaulted by Kane almost on a weekly basis,. He was choke slammed off the stage and was even Tombstoned by Kane at the Royal Rumble. Then a few weeks later, Kane wheeled Ryder of the stage, putting him out of action for around a month.
At the time, Myself and most other fans were expecting a Kane vs. Ryder match at WrestleMania. It seemed logical that if WWE were serious about pushing Ryder, a victory over Kane at the biggest show of the year would have been huge deal. He’d spent over a year trying to get himself out there and be noticed, a spot on the WrestleMania card against Kane would have been a great moment for him personally. However, when Ryder returned he seemed more interest in acting like a goofball around Eve, rather then even attempt to take revenge on Kane.
So instead of a potential career defining match against Kane at WrestleMania, he is instead thrust into the General Manager tag team match, where he, not surprisingly was distracted by Eve, which led to his team losing the match, followed by Eve causing him even more embarrassment with a low blow. Now you could look at this from two different angles. On the one hand, he is made to look like a whipping boy by Kane, he loses a WrestleMania match and is embarrassed by Eve. On the other hand, where it wasn’t the match with Kane that most people wanted to see at WrestleMania. He did at least manage to grab himself a spot on the card, which again shows a vast improvement from where he was just a year earlier.
He had his chance for revenge against Kane, only a month later, however he had to settle for the Over the Limit pre show on YouTube. He lost in just under seven minutes. Sadly, that was probably the end of the Zack Ryder push. From December to February, he was doing okay, but since his return in March, its been pretty much the same old routine. Appearing in backstage segments or if he is lucky enough to have a match, he is quickly squashed. This past Monday’s Raw is an example. He has had one brief bright point in recent weeks. Winning a battle royale on Smackdown to become the next weeks GM. Although to be honest, the show he was GM, was a forgetful show and just pointed out the flaws of having a wrestler be the GM of a show. Wouldn’t logic suggest he might have put himself into a title match, or at least have the sense to book himself into the MITB match. Once again I’m probably over analysing but it’s a fair point to make.
So where is Ryder now? In my opinion he’s stumbled back in recent months. Although not as worse as he was eighteen months ago. He is a severely underused talent who with the correct writing and a slight tweak of character could be a very profitable talent for the WWE. I just hope the WWE realise that sooner rather than later.
Let me know what you think. What is Zack Ryder’s current position? Why do you think WWE is so reluctant to push the button on him. Do you see him still in the WWE in twelve months time? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Time for the plugs.
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That’s it for today. As I’ve been mentioning a lot lately this is still looking at a bi weekly right now. I do try to get things out once a week, I’m just a very lazy person. Thank you for the guys who stick with me and enjoy my writing. It’s a great pleasure to know that there a people out there who like what I write.
Until next time. Thanks for reading.