The World of Ryback

With the orange villain getting his future endeavored notice this week, social media has a chance to calm down and focus on memes of Bernie Sanders looking like he’s ready for a hot chocolate and a nap. As is often the case, professional wrestling provided a new feud on social media, with an unexpected clash of WWE Hall of Famer, Mark Henry’s exchange of words with former WWE star, Ryback made headlines.

Since Ryback left the company on rocky terms in 2016, including a dispute about the ownership of trademarks and intellectual property, I haven’t discussed him much in this column, not as a knock against him, but rather that he only worked about a dozen matches on the independent scene so he wasn’t really in the conversation of the industry. Outside of that, he became known for outlandish claims and rather odd business decision, but nothing directly relevant toward the pro wrestling business.

He made news almost five years ago when he left the WWE because he thought that since professional wrestling was a scripted sport that pay should be equal across the board. By that logic, Duane Gill should’ve made the same for his Survivor Series cameo in 1998 as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Nothing against Gillberg, but it’s fairly obvious why Austin was paid more than most on the card because he was one of the biggest draws for the company. Fast forward nearly two decades, Ryback wasn’t drawing Brock Lesnar money so there’s no legitimate argument that he should’ve had the same contract. Considering that Ryback was under contract in some form or fashion to the WWE for over 12 years and the sum total of that run was a brief period of big popularity, the company didn’t exactly get a return on its investment, especially when you take into account the numerous times that Ryback was injured or flopped under various gimmicks.

Ryback claims that he turned down millions of dollars to re-sign with the organization in 2016, which seems to contradict his complaints about fair compensation. Obviously, he wants to treat sports entertainment as purely a business, which is absolutely understandable, but from that perspective, how smart is it to turn down a multi-million dollar deal from the biggest sports entertainment company in the world? Furthermore, where, especially in 2016 when he left, was Ryback going to get a better offer? The fact that he hasn’t wrestled full-time or anything close to it since his WWE departure more or less sums up the demand for Ryback on the pro wrestling market.

As mentioned, Ryback continues to have disputes over trademarks associated with his WWE persona and went as far as changing his legal name to “Ryback,” which is the same path The Ultimate Warrior took to attempt to skate around the copyright. Ryback using the Ultimate Warrior as an example for common sense might tell you all you need to know about Ryback. After his WWE exit, Ryback started his own supplements company and the joke writes itself.

As you can tell, I don’t have much favorable to say about Ryan Reeves, not for his thoughts of a title belt being a prop, but with how he handled the situation with Mark Henry, including a series of tweets that insulted the former power lifting champion before he deleted them. One of the main keys to social media, it’s never a good look to delete tweets during a dispute because it eliminates almost all credibility from that person’s side of story. Clearly, Ryback didn’t stand by his comments if he deleted the social media posts. In one of many now-deleted tweets, he went as far as claiming that the WWE encouraged Mark Henry to defame him. Listen, the WWE has its problems, which can be seen by its recent ratings, but is Ryback enough of a priority that someone is going to ask Mark Henry to mention him?

Mark Henry is one of the most respected and well-thought of performers of his generation. In fact, it would be difficult to find one of his peers that would have something negative to say about him. Can the same be said for Ryback? During the famous CM Punk podcast appearance, he specifically mentioned that Ryback was dangerous in the ring, and it was reported that Dolph Ziggler suffered a concussion during a match with him. During Henry’s rebuttal of Ryback’s comments, he mentioned that Ryback had a reputation for being dangerous, which seems to be accurate based on the prior examples. For Ryback to make threats or imply he wants to fight Mark Henry is ridiculous.

Looking at the career paths tells the story. Mark Henry was signed to a big contract based on his Olympic lifting background, and struggled as times, as he was booked on television without much experience in sports entertainment. Still, he evolved as an athlete and his heel run in 2011 was probably the best work of his career, as he had a tremendous run as a main event performer in that era. On the flip side, Ryback had a WWE contract for over a decade and floundered for the majority of that time. It wasn’t until the writing team gave him Bill Goldberg’s gimmick and a catchphrase that he generated a measurable level of popularity. It’s ironic that he took the legal route of the Ultimate Warrior because similar to the former Jim Hellwig, he was all sizzle and no substance. After Ryback was booked for something beyond the two-minute squash matches, his limited skills yielded no longevity as a character.

I actually had the chance to meet Mark Henry at a local comic con in Pittsburgh a few years ago and he was very polite so I would guess that his reputation as a gentleman among his peers is correct. Booker T recently gave his thoughts on the Twitter feud, and Ryback issued an apology to backpedal from his previous remarks. I’d guess this is more because Ryback realizes that the wrestling fan base are very loyal to the accomplishments of the prior generation and doesn’t want to sour his remaining fans. Quite frankly, Ryback has put a lot of blame on others for his failures in the WWE, but he had a chance for 12 years so maybe he should at least consider the possibility that he’s responsible for his own failures. Finally, Mark Henry is in the Hall of Fame and a broadcaster on Sirus XM, while Ryback’s latest accomplishment is another goofy tweet so who had a better career?

Maybe Ryback should cut back on the Icopro

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta