The Mother Brain Files: Feed Me Nonsense
By Mother Brain
Lately I find myself again frustrated with the current WWE product. I’d run down every problem from booking to de-pushing Daniel Bryan; however, that’s a topic for another time. My focus for the moment is the rise and fall of a once potential top star for the company, Ryback. A year ago, he had the biggest push of his career when he entered the Royal Rumble at #30. Today, he’s ranting nonsense on Twitter about giving Dolph Ziggler a near career-ending injury and insulting Lillian Garcia while being reduced to a second-rate feud with Big E. Langston over the Intercontinental Title. How did such a big freak of nature with potential to dethrone John Cena as the new face of WWE suddenly become such a joke?
Making his on-screen debut in 2010 as the cowboy hat wearing Skip Sheffield, the superstar who would become Ryback was part of the first season of NXT. Although Daniel Bryan had all the attention and Wade Barrett ended up winning the competition, there was no question that people were high on Ryback’s physique and everyone saw potential in him, including Vince McMahon. Of course the audience couldn’t take him too seriously with his meathead gimmick under the guidance of William Regal. But he managed to shed that persona when he was involved with the Nexus angle that very summer. Unfortunately he didn’t stand out too much. He would injure his ankle and be off television for over a year.
When he returned as Ryback in April 2012, the character was repackaged with a new singlet gear, beard, and the catchphrase “feed me more” as he dominated over a variety of jobbers each week. Sometime beating more than two jobbers in one match. Ryback was getting over day by day. Yet, his physical and character resemblance to Bill Goldberg caused chants for the ex-WCW star to go off in every arena where Ryback wrestled. His identity was nothing original even if the kids brought into it.
One would believe Ryback would have a slow climb to the top. But when John Cena fell to injury before the 2012 Hell in the Cell, WWE decided to test the waters of Ryback’s popularity when he was positioned to face CM Punk for the WWE Championship. It was match with an uncertain outcome. Keep Ryback undefeated or preserve Punk’s historic title reign? Debates between Vince and Triple H went on behind closed doors as Vince wanted Ryback to win while Triple H felt he hadn’t paid enough dues in the business to become the top guy. Ultimately, it was more important to keep the belt on Punk until his match with The Rock at the 2013 Royal Rumble and Ryback would lose his match due to referee Brad Maddox getting paid off by Paul Heyman. Management believed the loss wouldn’t hurt Ryback and felt he could be rebuilt over time.
Next big match for Ryback came with the triple threat title match with Punk and Cena. This was the night when The Shield debuted and immediately destroyed Ryback, costing him the match. Suddenly, it became more important to keep The Shield unstoppable than a one man wrecking machine and a disturbing pattern emerged:
TLC 2012: Ryback and Team Hell No defeated by The Shield.
Royale Rumble 2013: Ryback enters at #30, eliminated by John Cena.
Elimination Chamber 2013: Ryback, John Cena, and Sheamus defeated by The Shield.
Wrestlemania 29: Ryback defeated by Mark Henry
Ryback lost five straight PPV matches in a row. Victories on Raw and Smackdown were irrelevant. Now the “feed me more” catchphrase was irrelevant. Who was he feeding on? His push was an even bigger colossal failure than Lex Luger’s Lex Express run 20 years earlier. Was he too stiff? Too one-dimensional? Knowing his momentum had stalled, management immediately turned Ryback heel when he attacked John Cena on Raw the night after Wrestlemania 29.
Now coming out with “Ryback Rules,” Ryback became the official bully of the WWE. He had backstage vignettes where he attacked and humiliated staff members backstage, totally contradicting WWE’s Be a Star campaign. But he ended up being nothing more than a monster heel for a guy like Cena to destroy and the Goldberg chants got louder. Then his alliance with Paul Heyman was a last ditch effort to bring him crowd heat. Besides a disturbing but brilliant promo where Heyman “proposed” to Ryback to be the newest Heyman guy, the experiment failed. He would lose multiple times to CM Punk.
Where did all this leave Ryback? Quite simply a whining heel with no original identity who preached his delusional dominance and would yet work a stiff style that left his opponents hurt for real. Management lost faith in him and soon Ryback became no different from the jobbers he once destroyed a year earlier. With old favorites like Batista and Brock Lesnar returning as well as new stars in line for a push like Roman Reigns, Ryback is one of the few big men who currently has a bleak future in WWE. Between his Twitter rants and his lack of TV time, I would not be surprised if he becomes the next Vladimir Koslov or even worse, “future endeavored.”