Friday 27 July 2012

Z 4 IC

Earlier in the week Zack Ryder made an appearance on a podcast and talked about how the storyline involving himself, Kane and Eve earlier in the year damaged his career. I can’t disagree there.

The on-screen association with Eve was designed to get Eve over, not ‘Long Island Z’. He was booked to look like a na├»ve idiot, completely smitten with the former Divas champion. That she got away with making a fool of him again and again harmed Ryder’s credibility and derailed the momentum he had built up at the end of 2011. Ryder looked stupid, and nobody wants to cheer for an idiot.

Meanwhile his jobs to Kane were numerous and utterly one-sided. Ryder was used as an extra in ‘The Big Red Monster’s’ rivalry with John Cena. The idea was that continually destroying Ryder, Cena’s friend both on- and off-screen (allegedly), would put more heat on the masked man and give Cena yet another reason to seek retribution (presumably Kane attacking Cena himself wasn’t enough).

That belt Ryder's holding is the Internet championship. He paid for it himself, it is not a recognised WWE title (sadly)...

That WWE was willing to waste a talent like Ryder in this fashion was incredibly disheartening at the time and remains so in hindsight. While Ryder is never going to be the best wrestler on the roster he achieved the impressive task of getting himself over with the WWE audience without the backing of the company’s booking squad.

That ‘The Internet Champion’ managed that says a lot about how well the man knows his own character. It’s a pretty strong indicator that he understands wrestling audiences too. To be able to get over using only a weekly YouTube show and appearances on Superstars is impressive and should have earned Ryder a continual push from the powers that be.

For a while Ryder did have a decent push going. He was pitted against then-United States champion Dolph Ziggler in the closing months of last year and was allowed to look competitive against him. That Ryder was permitted to look strong against a man higher on the pecking order than himself was a good sign. He was cleverly booked to lose to ‘The Show Off’ numerous times before finally toppling him, ensuring his eventual victory (in the opening contest at TLC) elicited a healthy pop and that Ryder was seen as the underdog throughout the battle.

Sadly once his programme with Ziggler ended Ryder rolled into the previously mentioned storyline with Kane, Cena and Eve. His US title reign failed to last as long as expected too: the former Edgehead was booked to drop the strap to Jack Swagger in a forgettable clash in February.

Since being duped by Eve at WrestleMania (as part of the Team Johnny v Team Teddy battle) Ryder has made sporadic appearances on both RAW and SmackDown, usually in losing efforts. The most memorable thing he’s done since the April 1st supershow has been hosting an episode of SmackDown. Dubbed ZackDown (for comedy reasons, presumably) it was not a good episode of the show and didn’t provide Ryder with the chance to do anything especially memorable.

Interestingly Ryder has recently begun tweeting about wanting the Intercontinental championship. Social media has worked well for him before, perhaps it will again. It was through tools such as Twitter that Ryder was able to prove to WWE management that he had enough fan support to get an on-screen feud with Ziggler and eventually win the US gold.

Ryder should stick to what he knows. That means a continuation of his YouTube show, utilising the support of his internet fanbase, and keeping his character work strong. That The Miz, a solid heel who is underrated as an in-ring performer, has just become the IC champ is a promising sign for the Long Island native. A feud between the two men would be fresh and could potentially provide some entertaining segments, especially with RAW now running for three hours.

Hopefully WWE had always planned for his US title reign to be on the short side. Perhaps it was a tester to see how Ryder worked in the role of babyface champ. If and when he captures the white belt he deserves a longer reign with a few more televised defences. It would do the title and Ryder a lot of good.

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