Do you think fans determine wrestlers ultimate positions in the business?

All the topics about who drew and who didn’t lately on the blog have been fascinating to me. My question to you is do you think the fans determine what positions wrestlers are to be in before an organization decides to push or not push someone. Meaning, if the WWE lost their minds today and decided to put the WWE title on, let’s say, David Otunga, gave him a Goldberg-like winning streak along with a good storyline while at the same jobbing the daylights out of John Cena, it wouldn’t matter. To us, Otunga will always be a jobber while Cena is a main-eventer to us (the usual complaints about him aside).

What brought this about was being kind of surprised about who didn’t draw but you would think should have, Mr. Perfect and Ricky Steamboat. I think we can all agree that those two are two of the best wrestlers ever. Yet, according to you, Perfect’s feud with Hogan bombed while Steamboat’s trilogy with Flair (while classics) didn’t quite do great business. Does that mean that no matter what, in our minds, we WANTED them to be nothing more than midcarders. They had almost no chance of going up the card (and in Steamboat’s case, staying there) because we didn’t want them there.

​That’s one way to look at it. Perfect was an interesting case because he drew really well in the AWA given what state they were in and WWF pushed the shit out of him on TV all the time and gave him a win streak of a year or so. And yet fans just didn’t buy him at that level and I don’t think anyone is really sure why. Even PWI was acknowledging back in 1990 that the program was dying, so you know it was obvious.

That being said, I’ve long maintained that wrestling is the snake that consumes its own tail to survive. Foppish JTTS Hunter Hearst Helmsley gets repackaged a million times until he gets over as The Game being the most extreme example. Goofy surfer the Sandman gets repackaged into ECW hardcore legend The Sandman, etc. Look at Ryback, who would have bought him in this role back in the Skip Sheffield days? They stuck boring Ron Simmons and Butch Reed under masks and barely even pretended that they were anyone different, and even that got them over. So maybe if you called Otunga something else and pushed him as a killer, he’d get over. I wouldn’t bet against it, because above all else wrestling fans are WEIRD and fickle and you never know what’s going to get over or who they’re going to turn on.

Ryback in 2012


What did you think of Ryback's run in 2012 where he got over huge? I don't think he was ready to win the belt when they put him into that title match vs. CM Punk, but he was consistently getting huge reactions and looked like a star in the making. What could they have done differently with him during that time? Keep him away from the title picture, keep having him squash guys, and then win the belt off of Cena after WrestleMania?

​That was a really weird situation for everyone.  They were really backed into a corner by booking Ryback into that match, even though it did business.  It really, REALLY should have been some sort of screwjob DQ, however.  It's not like Hell in a Cell isn't compromised enough as it is that you couldn't make an exception and just have both guys fight out of the cage and call it a no-contest or something like that.  
That being said, I don't think I ever would have put him over Cena, but you certainly could have done pretty well by keeping him unbeaten until after WM and then doing the Cena program.  What was REALLY baffling, though, was getting out of the match with the cheap finish and then beating Ryback four more straight PPVs afterwards.  If they were just going to destroy him anyway, why bother with the banana peel win for Punk?  ​

Ryback & Reigns

Hi Scott,
I understand that the chances of this happening are slim to none, but I have a simple solution regarding the future of WWE. Make Ryback and Reigns the last two men standing at Royal Rumble, and let the fans decide who wins based on crowd reactions for both. The winner dethrones Lesnar at Mania. If it's Ryback, then turn Reigns heel for a post-Mania program. If it's Reigns, then put him against Rollins after Mania and/or a heel Ambrose and too bad for Ryback. Thoughts? Thanks,
Ryback?  REALLY?  

Look, I know there's all this imagined backlash against Reigns and such, but really pussyfooting around like that is what killed the Luger push.  If they want Reigns to be the Guy, then great.  Have him win the Rumble and beat Lesnar and see what happens.  I can assure you that any perceived aura of main event status that Ryback has is only going to last as long as he's not doing a bunch of jobs, whereas Reigns is a guy that they're seemingly committed to for the long term.  

Ryback = destined to fail, again

Hey Scott,
Not to sound overly pessimistic, but isn't it unwise to do the EXACT SAME THING with Ryback that failed so spectacularly last year? They've literally had him come out and squash a few people and then thrown him right into an angle with John Cena – basically a condensed version of what happened last time, which only served to expose Ryback's limitations in singles matches that go over 5 minutes. Literally nothing has changed about Ryback since then, but they seem to be going for it again anyway. I get that Vince has a hard-on for him because he has an impressive appetite or whatever, but is there any way the Ryback experiment works this time or is it doomed to fail like it did the first time?

​I find it hilarious that the people who literally own all of wrestling history now and make documentaries about all the stupid stuff that their dead competition did now continuously repeat the same mistakes themselves.  And yes, Ryback is doomed to fail again, but they have no other alternatives for top guys (in their mind) and so they trot out the same muscle-heads hoping that this time lightning strikes.  And they'll get him to the top and then decide to randomly beat him when they book themselves into a corner one time, and the self-fulfilling prophecy will repeat.  It's kind of their thing now.  ​

Face Ryback

Ryback's return as a face last night got me thinking of a Royal Rumble spot they just HAVE to do this year(should have done it 2 years ago).  They need to give Ryback the '1994 Diesel' spot.  Have him come out at #10, clear the ring and as he's alone waiting and the countdown clock is winding down, he leads the crowd in a 'FEED ME MORE' chant.  Do this 3 times.  Feed him an Uso, a Matador, Heath Slater and then have a guy like Ambrose or Rusev come out to finally end it(anyone but Triple H).  I think that would be an awesome moment and it would really get the crowd into the match.  Not only that, it would put Ryback over huge.  I'm not saying Ryback should win the Rumble but that spot just has to happen.  That 'feed me more' chant is just made for that 'Diesel' spot in the Rumble.  Your thoughts?

That assumes a lot more thought and caring into the Ryback character than the creative team has put into him.  But yeah, there's a lot of fun spots they could do with him assuming he doesn't get injured again or say something really stupid on Twitter and get fired.  

Ryback Rules?

Hey Scott, 

I was wondering, with Rybacks ridiculous and hilarious social media gimmick, how is he not on TV? No heat? Too much heat? What gives? 

His latest video in hospital

P.S Odds on Sting working the Bee gimmick and Undertaker coming back to solve it as Detective Undertaker?

No way, he's at best a Bee-plus player.  


I was watching some WWE from 2012, and was blown away at how over Ryback was. I
remember the mainstream media(who usually never do stories on WWE unless it is
some scandal or controversy) writing pieces on what a rising star Ryback was
at the time.
This week on RAW, he is a loser in a 2-on-1 handicap match. The guy seems
stuck in heel JTTS mode. But this time 2 years ago he looked to be WWE's
hottest new talent. All those jobs to Old Man Henry didn't help. But
basically, how do you screw something like this up? This time in 2012 you
would have put money on Ryback being a Main Eventer today(granted he's never
going to be Hogan or Austin level over, but still). Instead he doesn't even
have a spot on the SummerSlam card, and is simply "muscular midcard heel who
always loses the big match".
What are your thoughts on this? Is this the biggest case of WWE totally
dropping the ball in recent years? WWE gave Batista and Kane main event runs
this year, but Ryback wasn't even on the WrestleMania or SummerSlam cards, and
loses handicap matches to fucking Sheamus.

​I don't think anyone is particularly losing sleep over the fate of Ryback, but it was definitely a dropped ball on their part.  Clearly the endgame was driving a dump truck of money up to Goldberg's house and having him come in and squash Ryback to end the character, and given how many DVDs that Goldberg has sold they probably could have justified it.  Really though, once they booked themselves into the corner with the Punk title shot, there was no going back.  They were unwilling to pull the trigger on him at that level and just kept downgrading him with each loss.  It turned into a classic self-fulfilling prophecy, where they'd book him to lose and he'd lose heat as a result, and then they could justify moving him down because he wasn't as over.  The Mark Henry thing REALLY killed him off, of course.  I dunno, I guess mostly it's just classic Vince where he gets fascinated with a concept for a while and then gets bored of it and moves on.  ​

Blog question on Ryback

Hey Scott,

  Long time bla bla bla.   I ordered Survivor Series and feel like I wasted my money. I agree with everything you voiced in the rant but would like to hear your opinion on one more thing: The crowd reaction to Ryback. First he came out to no reaction even though they introduced him last of the 3 wrestlers hoping for a monster pop but then there were sporadic “feed me more” chants during the match.   Are crowds just not completely buying into him yet so he gets 50-50 reactions or is it just that WWE draws such a mix of people to shows now that you will never get an entire crowd behind one wrestler (unless they are in his home town.) In terms of Ryback it just feels like he is over while not REALLY being over and it's sort of confusing.

It seems to be dependent on the city.  He seems to get better reactions in markets they don't hit as often, whereas the more cynical places like New York and Philly kind of see through it and crap on him. Honestly, at this point they should just push through it and keep him at that level, because they'll make him a main event guy just by association and then once you've had your Tippy Top Ticket punched, you don't need to break the glass ceiling again to get back up there.  The Punk injury is actually kind of a positive for Ryback, because now he's not being put in a position to lose a third title shot in a row and can instead destroy one of the Shield guys and win something.  

Ryback Equals $$$

From todays Observer news update… " -Hell  in a Cell did 200,000 buys on PPV, of which 152,000 were in North America.  The latter number is way up from most WWE comparable WWE events.  On the flip side, overseas numbers were well down from usual.  " Hard to argue those numbers as far as interest in Ryback challenging goes.

Ryback as a main eventer

I keep reading articles (like this one from Grantland about how the WWE has made a star in Ryback.
Where is this coming from? Ratings haven't just fallen – they're down to pre-Monday Night Wars level. And this has all occured during Ryback's push. The guy gets some decent heat but the notion he is actually a main event draw is baffling to me. I mean, maybe the plan is for CM Punk to make him look like a billion dollars on Sunday but I am just not seeing it.
Are you? I feel like the smarter wrestling fans are SO desperate for something new that they've sold themselves on Ryback. I don't even know if Ryback/Punk on Monday Night Raw for free would get me to tune in. At $50? Heck no.

Ryback isn't a draw and AJ is definitely not a draw and Team Hell No aren't draws either.  However, what WWE is doing is fairly ingenious, in that they're basically using The Big Lie to create new stars out of them.  I'm of course referring to the method of telling the same lie over and over until it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and eventually the truth.  WWE keeps acting like Ryback is a big ratings mover and telling people he's a big star on the rise, and you get articles like the Grantland one which basically do WWE's own PR work for them.  I have no doubt that if he squashes Punk on Sunday (which might happen) and they gets featured in main events every week (which might happen) that he will indeed be part of the main eventers club for good.  Which is interesting because they made no effort to do it with CM Punk, so that shows who they REALLY want as their top guys.
But yeah, ratings patterns are pretty clear in that these people are not compelling new viewers to tune in, and Ryback isn't exactly tearing up the house show circuit with Punk either.  But I concur with others — eventually they have to make SOMEONE into a new star, so why not Ryback?     

Ryback v Lord Tensai: Failure v Success

Both are former talents who were gone and then came back. Both squashed people only one man went over huge and the other is in a gimmick death dive I don't think it is a case of Mr Perfect v Red Rooster where one person had a far more marketable gimmick.  Is it really a matter that more people just recognized Albert or is it a matter of Nikita Koloff-Goldberg-Ryback having more charisma  Or a case of Lord Tensai begin a slow moving squasher and Ryback being a fast moving squasher? Curious on your take. Wayne

"Mr. Burns, your campaign has the momentum of a runaway freight train…"  
I think perception is an interesting thing, because Ryback hasn't actually beaten anyone of note, but he's current getting a good reaction, so the perception is that he's over.  However, keep in mind that he has not moved ratings one bit (and in fact, ratings have plummeted in the month since his megapush began) and he's never even been in an advertised PPV match.  I'm not saying he's the reason for the ratings troubles, since he's rarely featured at a point where he could make a difference, but please do keep in mind that his actual push to the main event only started two weeks ago.  This is PLENTY of time for him to crash and burn just as dramatically as Tensai.  Actually, Tensai hasn't done anything "dramatically" since his debut, so that's probably a bad analogy.  But the Cell PPV could (probably will) be a total flop, the fans could turn on the gimmick if the Punk match doesn't work, and Vince could wake up the next day and have Ryback doing jobs to Zack Ryder.  One never knows, so I think all the talk about programming him with Lesnar or Undertaker is a wee bit premature.  
However, if we want to compare, then yes, Ryback squashes guys quickly and gets out of there before he can get exposed, whereas Tensai bored the people from the start and never recovered from it.  


I will say this much for the Ryback push — the most intriguing main events tend to be those where both guys should win and neither one should lose, and that's definitely what they've got coming up with Punk-Ryback.  However, I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish they hadn't painted themselves into a corner with the HIAC stip, because clearly this is the perfect time for Ryback to beat the shit out of Punk and Punk to walk out of the match and leave the arena like a coward.  I don't often advocate that finish, but this would have been the place.  But since they can't really do Sheamus-Show in the Cell yet, they have to have SOMETHING in the namesake match for the show, and Ryback-Punk is it. Maybe Ryback throws Punk through the cage door, and then Punk runs away and drives out of the arena?  I dunno, but at least I'm somewhat interested in how they're gonna screwjob this one up, so that's…something?  I guess?  


Can't help but feel like they're missing the boat with Ryback.  Sure he isn't great in the ring, but I think they could have something here with him.  Instead of having him beat up guys half his size, why not use someone like the Big Show in this situation.  He could run his mouth until Ryback comes out and destroys him.  I mean, they have guys like Big Show on the payroll and he's pretty useless as it is, why not roll the dice to see if it'll get a new star over?  They might be waiting for the Rumble for this (which would be cool), but the slow burn with Rynack is doing nothing (and I like slow buring angles, but this is just going nowhere).  Sometimes guys just need a moment and it'll get them over – sort of like Ahmed Johnson years ago storming in and slamming Yokozuna (granted injuries and other things derailed his push, but I still remember that moment years later).  


It's been suggested that Ryback v. Undertaker could be a go for Wrestlemania, which leaves me wondering how they'd get there given that Ryback is their monster babyface right now.  I guess the two possibilities are either Undertaker working heel (unlikely) or Ryback swerving everyone and joining Team Heyman, which is a stronger possibility because he's not really established at that main event level yet anyway.  And really, if you've got a three-way with Cena v. Ryback v. Punk, there's worse ideas than Ryback fucking over Cena to allow Punk to retain.  Then you can run Ryback v. Cena for a few months and see if Ryback sinks or swims in the main event while Punk does something else until Royal Rumble, like feuding with Sheamus or whatever.  If you're gonna go for it, go for it all the way, ya know?