The key to becoming a successful wrestler is creating a bond with the audience. If a wrestler can get that then everything else will eventually fall into place, unless you’re exceptionally unlucky. The people in charge will recognise that people want to see the wrestler win and alter their position on the card accordingly. It just takes that initial connection.
One man who realises this is Zack Ryder.
He first debuted alongside Curt Hawkins as the Major Brothers, a bland babyface tag team in WWECW. After floundering for a while they were given their current names and moved to SmackDown, becoming henchmen for World champion Edge and getting a run with the WWE tag team titles. They were prematurely split up (as is the way with all teams in WWE) and moved to the role of jobbers in the singles ranks. It was a wasteful decision: the tandem had a lot left to offer.
Being booked week after week as enhancement talent or wrestling on weekend shows that bear no consequence on the product’s direction tends to make most wrestlers complain and stop caring. Not Zack Ryder. He decided to film a series of webisodes for wwe.com (which can also be seen on YouTube here), using the fact that he works for a company with a popular website to his advantage. We get to see far more of the man’s personality in these online videos than we’re ever permitted to in his TV appearances. The reason for that is simple: he’s made them to get himself over and so he is the star of the show. His catchphrase, “woo woo woo, you know it”, may be silly but it’s memorable and helps to differentiate him from the rest of WWE’s enhancement crew.
Z! True Long Island Story (for that is the name of his show) comes across as a mixture of modern WWE, old school wrestling references, Frat Pack films, and Family Guy. It’s a genuinely humorous show featuring a host not afraid to portray himself as something of a clown, which is in line with television character. He’s making the most of what the creative team gives him, which is another intelligent move. By working with what he’s given he’s giving them ideas of how they could use him on TV whilst also getting himself noticed by fans.
Endeavours like this are to be applauded. Ryder has gone out of his way to write and produce these videos himself, all in an effort to create that emotional bond with the audience and get himself over. It would be nice if everyone being used in a similar fashion (male or female, no matter what company they work for) showed as much initiative and drive as this.
Will this ultimately lead Ryder to a main event spot with the company? Anything’s possible in WWE, as they used to say, but I won’t hold my breath. To go from the wilderness of Superstars to a main event spot would be too much of a leap, but I do think it will help Ryder survive the annual post-WrestleMania roster cull. John Cena, the promotion’s golden boy, being a fan won’t hurt Ryder’s standing either.
With Superstars having stopped airing in the States (it will continue to be syndicated to the various networks that air WWE programming overseas), and the Draft having shaken things up, I think there’s a slim chance that we could see Ryder begin to appear on RAW again. I can’t see him doing anything meaningful for the foreseeable future, but if he can retain his cult status amongst WWE fans he should be able to stick around for a while. I hope he does anyway, because he’s working hard to make himself someone worthwhile and not sitting back and expecting someone to hand it to him.
Does he deserve the chance to move up the card? As Ryder himself might answer: woo woo woo, you know it!