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As the WWE continues to search for its next big star of the future, one individual, Ryback, has gotten more than his fair share of chances to run with the ball. Unfortunately, no matter how many big programs, and no matter how much air time the WWE gives Ryback, the fans of yet to really take on the Ryback character. The problem can attributed to both Ryback and the WWE, with the WWE probably deserving more of the blame.
Once Ryback returned to the WWE roster after being removed from the Nexus due to injury and being rechristened as "Ryback", Ryback went onto a long undefeated streak, mostly taking on jobbers and local talent in quick squash matches. Despite the lack of progression, Ryback did begin to get some positive feedback from the crowd and at the very least his "Feed Me More" catchphrase was over. Slowly but surely, it looked like the WWE had put Ryback on the right track to eventually become a major player in the WWE.
The best way to build someone like Ryback is to go extremely slow. I hate to bring up the Goldberg comparisons, but what WCW did with Goldberg was brilliant and should be blue-printed for all performers that are brought in as unstoppable forces. Goldberg didn't cut promos and he didn't get put in storylines, all he did was decimate his opponents. Eventually he won the US Title and worked a feud with a capable veteran in Raven, eventually propelling Goldberg to main event status.
Ryback started out the same exact way, however the WWE, missed the all-important middle step. Ryback was never involved with a long-term feud with a mid-carder like Raven, instead he accelerated straight from squashing jobbers to contending for the WWE Championship. All of a sudden the WWE put Ryback in a match that he clearly was not ready to win, thus ending his undefeated streak and all of a sudden Ryback was mortal again.
With Ryback's goose pretty much cooked as a face, his only chance was to turn heel. After Wrestlemania, the WWE decided it needed a new heel for John Cena to face over the WWE Championship, and they settled on Ryback. Cena worked two pay-per-view matches to little fan-fare, where he was unable to capture the WWE Championship.
After failing to gain any support as either a face or a heel, Ryback was given yet another chance, this time as Paul Heyman's newest lackey in his feud with CM Punk. Besides the addition of Paul Heyman, this is more or less looking like the same feud that Ryback had with Cena, with Ryback laying Punk out every chance he gets, only to lose when the pay-per-view comes around.
We know the booking was bad, but why else has Ryback been a failure as a main-event star? I personally think it has to do with the WWE being behind the times in what the typical fan wants out of there WWE superstar. The WWE fans want crack speakers with an attitude like CM Punk, they want a charismatic underdog like Daniel Bryan, or they want a never-say-die action hero that makes lame 80s jokes like John Cena. They just do not want to see an over-muscled stiff who cannot properly use the English language. The times where that kind of a guy could be a big star are far off in the past.
Ryback is currently in a storyline that on-paper, should be a golden opportunity. He does not have to really speak because the master of the mic, Paul Heyman, is there for him. CM Punk is such an over face that ANYBODY attacking him should be able to get some heat. However, Monday on Raw, the fans showed that they still really do not care about Ryback, even if he is involved in a hot angle. CM Punk came out and cut a fantastic face promo, and then Heyman came out on a Rascal scooter and cut a great heel promo. The crowd was really into both guys, and then Ryback came out. The only thing people cared about now was that Ryback was out and now they could chant "Goldberg" at him. Ryback took away all the emotion of those promos by Punk and Heyman, and substituted those emotions with plain indifference.
The chant "Goldberg" is not one of support or of hate. It is a chant of indifference, which should be the deathblow to any professional wrestler. The WWE has done everything they could with Ryback, and still the only thing fans can say when Ryback is on-screen is "Goldberg." It is pretty clear by this point that no matter what the WWE does, the fans just do not give a damn about the guy.
There is actually a recent precedent for Ryback and the "Goldberg" chants. When the WWE signed Matt Bloom, the former Albert, from New Japan they had very big plans for him. Going by the name Lord Tensai, Bloom was set up to have a huge program with John Cena and to be a new big-time heel for the company. Unfortunately, he was never able to escape the fans chants of "Albert," and after a tiny run at the top of the card, he was reduced to being part of a comedy tag team with Brodus Clay.
Essentially, the same exact thing has happened with Ryback, however instead of being pushed back down the card, the WWE has pushed Ryback further and further to the top, up to the point that since Wrestlemania, Ryback has faced a who's who of WWE stars, working with John Cena, Chris Jericho and now CM Punk.
Lastly, Ryback has one final thing working against him now that he is involved in an angle with CM Punk and that is that CM Punk has just finished a feud with Brock Lesnar. Ryback is basically the same kind of a villain as Lesnar, except that Ryback is about one million times worse than Lesnar is. It is like comparing The Undertaker and Kurgan, yeah they both are kind of built the same, but one is so vastly inferior to the other that it is just stupid. Going from Brock Lesnar to Ryback can no way benefit either Punk or Ryback.
Ryback will most certainly work a few ppv matches with CM Punk, and he will continue to get plenty of air time. But after such a large sample size, I think it is safe to say that it will take a miracle to get him as over as the WWE originally envisioned him as being.