Prior to WrestleMania, Stephanie McMahon conducted an interview with Sports Illustrated where she discussed Roman Reigns pulling out of the event. She said that performing was on a voluntary basis for all Superstars and that they should only perform if they feel comfortable.
Ryback discussed her comments and his personal dealings with Stephanie on "Ryback TV Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report With Raj Giri."
"I like Stephanie. I always found her approachable and was able to speak to her. My issues were always between Hunter and Vince and conversations we had business-wise. For creative, she wasn't involved with that when I was there. If I had a problem, it was going to Hunter or Vince," Ryback told Wrestling Inc.'s Raj Giri.
"This is not her company – it's Vince and everybody is under that bubble. They give answers to protect the company. My thing is, it shouldn't be the talent's choice to begin with – and I give you the example of Drew, who has no pre-existing conditions. Do you think Drew is gonna miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity? …Because he knows if he says 'no' – even if he 100 percent feels that he needs to go home – he knows that opportunity is probably gonna never come again."
Ryback then contends that WWE is not testing its Superstars as Stephanie would have explicitly said that if they were. He also said that with the McMahons' relationship with President Trump, that WWE should be able to get tests for their Superstars before performing.
"At least that way, you can give that answer publicly and people can go, 'You know, as much as we don't agree with what they're doing, at least they are taking precautions to protect the talent.' Stephanie is under her father so, realistically, what is she gonna say," asked Ryback.
He then noted that when Superstars give outside interviews, they say what WWE wants them to say and if they don't, then they'll get buried.
This past weekend, WWE filmed part of WrestleMania cinematically for the Boneyard and Firefly Fun House matches. Raj mentioned that watching these empty arena matches is sometimes even more depressing because it reminds you of the unprecedented times that we are currently in.
"It's tough for me to watch," replied Ryback. "It brings me back to empty arena developmental practice where all of us just hated it. Wrestling sucks without a crowd [laughs]. I tell people that the one thing I miss most about wrestling is the adrenaline and energy. That's the real part of wrestling and now we've just got this fake stuff... and as a wrestler I have no problem saying it because it is. There's very real things in wrestling and the pain is real, but it is still fake. Movies are fake. I love and respect pro wrestling but you can't just keep lying to yourself. It's exposed when you watch it without a crowd.
"Also, I do think there are guys that are better out there fighting with a crowd. It exposes talent more as well because there's nothing to draw that energy from and some guys are better at doing it than others."
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Ryback TV Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report With Raj Giri with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.