As we continue down this path through four pay per views in seven weeks, there was something that caught my attention this week on “Monday Night Raw.” It wasn’t Lana finally embracing the fans and giving up on Rusev. It wasn’t Seth Rollins continuing to try to get his daddy’s attention by using his Pedigree. It wasn’t how so many people are stuck in the same midcard spots they’ve been in for years now. It was how annoyed I still am over how WWE wasted Zack Ryder.
Back in late 2011, Ryder was the hottest thing in wrestling. As the Rock stood in the ring at “Survivor Series 2011” in Madison Square Garden, after showing he hadn’t lost a step after not having a match in seven and a half years, the fans LOUDLY chanted that they wanted Ryder. Rock gave a WOO WOO WOO and said he was a Ryder guy. Somehow, WWE decided to not put the New Yorker on the official card (to be fair he did have a run-in during the show).
This came as a result of Ryder producing “Z! True Long Island Story”, a highly successful internet show which gained some underground support and was regularly mentioned on WWE TV, eventually leading to Ryder pushing for a shot at United States Champion Dolph Ziggler. Over time, the RYDER chants became too loud to ignore and WWE finally started pushing Ryder.
Everything came together at “Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2011” where Ryder shocked the world and won the US Title in the opening match by pinning Ziggler. The fans blew the roof off the place and Ryder celebrated with his dad, a regular character on the internet show. The following night on “Monday Night Raw”, Ryder, WWE Champion CM Punk and World Heavyweight Champion Daniel Bryan won a six man main event and posed with their new (well mostly new) titles to end the show. It was, to steal a phrase, a new day, yes it was.
And then it died. Ryder held the title for 29 days before losing it to Jack Swagger. In his defense, Ryder came in with bad ribs after Kane had attacked him prior to the match. This was due to Ryder being an associate of Kane’s then rival John Cena, who had been getting the attention of Ryder’s love interest Eve Torres.
This led to a feud with Kane, where Ryder barely ever fought back, couldn’t change a tire to drive away from Kane as he stalked Ryder and Torres, and for some reason never tried to use the wrench in his hand to defend himself. Kane destroyed him and put Ryder in a wheelchair, from which he saw Torres kiss Cena, making Ryder think his friend had stolen his girl. Ryder never received a rematch and was the man who got pinned at “Wrestlemania XXVIII”, after Torres officially turned on him of course. His next win on Raw didn’t come until late August 2012.
Ryder went from white hot to fans tuning in to see how much worse it could actually get for him from week to week. So what happened? His matches weren’t bad, his promos were still working well and the fans still seemed interested in him, but he suddenly was dropping a mirror after he saw a black cat as he walked under a ladder with an umbrella open indoors on Friday the 13th.
Now before we get anywhere else, let’s get something big out of the way: Zack Ryder was never going to headline a Wrestlemania, at least not without some major changes. He wasn’t winning any World Titles and he wasn’t going to be a serious main event players. I’m not at all suggesting that he was going to be anything more than an upper midcard guy at best, but there was still value to him for one reason: the people cared.
Every wrestling company including WWE has wasted more time than I can count pushing people with one lame gimmick after another that had no chance of ever getting over. You can push someone to the moon if you want but if the fans don’t care, it’s never going to work in the long run. You have to connect to the fans if you ever want to have any sort of long term success, and that’s what Ryder had accomplished.
Notice what I said there: Ryder accomplished that connection. He started up the internet show on his own and was getting over despite barely being on TV. In other words, Ryder did the hard part for WWE on his own instead of waiting for a character to be handed to him. This is where I get more annoyed with WWE than anywhere else: they were handed something and just decided that he wasn’t worth their time anymore and took everything he had done and threw it away for the sake of making Ryder a pawn in a Cena vs. Kane filler feud
That’s where it’s so annoying. Ryder is now a big joke as he’s nothing more than a jobber who used to be US Champion over three years ago. There’s no reason to care for him, no story for him, nothing interesting for him and barely any TV time. In a word, Ryder has been wasted.
I’m not going to list off ways to fix Ryder or get his push back, because those days are long gone. This is about a stupid decision that was made for seemingly no reason other than WWE didn’t want to push someone they didn’t choose. Of course there’s almost no way to be know if that’s what happened, but it’s still a waste of a ton of potential. However, if WWE threw away Ryder because he just wasn’t in their plans, it’s one of the dumbest moves they’ve ever made.
This isn’t about Ryder. This is about WWE being handed someone on a silver platter and just throwing it to the side, stomping on it, and laughing in its face for trying to ever do something without their permission. It makes Vince McMahon’s brass ring comment on the “Steve Austin Show” all the more ridiculous. Ryder reached out and grabbed the brass ring but WWE felt that he wasn’t deserving of holding that ring for whatever reason.
There should be no such thing as having too much talent on a roster. If you have too many people to fit on a show, put them on another show or strengthen your tag team division. Don’t just crush someone who works hard to get the important work done. It makes the rest of the roster think there’s no reason to try any harder than they are at the moment because you are who you are and you’re not advancing unless your name is called.
Seeing Ryder as a jobber on the level of Reno Riggins or the Brooklyn Brawler earlier this week on “Monday Night Raw” didn’t make me sad to see him that far down the card. It made me think of people like Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn. I’m going on a short limb to say they’re going to have more security than Ryder, but what’s going to stop WWE from deciding that those guys aren’t being cheered for the right reasons and have Kane try to pull him down into a fiery inferno like a bad horror movie?
My point is enjoy these pushes while they last, because you never know when WWE is going to change their minds and go somewhere completely different. I can’t imagine it’s going to be as drastic of a change as what happened to Ryder, but who would have thought he would have been crushed that hard by such a bizarre move? I still don’t like the move and think WWE threw away something handed to them, which the more I think about it is far less infuriating and far more terrifying
Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews, check out my website at kbwrestlingreviews.com and pick up my new book of Complete Monday Nitro Reviews Volume III at Amazon for just $3.99 at:
And check out my Amazon author page with cheap wrestling books at: