Ryback vs. Mark Henry
There were multiple ideas floated for who would work with Ryback at WrestleMania 29 scheduled for tomorrow night (Sun., April 7, 2013) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Not unlike Fandango, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon is (still) high on him and therefore has spent more time than most on figuring out what to do with him. Initially there were rumors that a match with Big Show was imminent, and would be done to give Ryback a "WrestleMania moment" that could help further his career. That was scrapped, and Chris Jericho's name entered the picture. Then he was chosen to go get Fandango over and that left Ryback with really one option: Mark Henry.
The Road to WrestleMania 29
The build to the match between these two has been brilliant in its simplicity. Too often WWE writers come up with convoluted storyline ideas that are made worse by McMahon when he rips up the script and demands rewrites mere hours before Monday Night Raw goes live on USA.
There's been none of that here, or if there has it's been nearly impossible to tell.
It started, quite simply, with the two crossing paths on the "Old School" episode of Raw and sharing a staredown:
You can just feel the tension there, can't you? Immediately, fans like myself and my Cageside colleague Thomas Holzerman started crying out for the HOSS FIGHT that we were being teased with.
It got better the next week when the two used Drew McIntyre to try to one up each other with their respective finishers, neither man blinking during the process:
In response to this, a match was booked between the two for SmackDown just days later but before the two could ever really get going, The Shield showed up to crash the party and ruin all the good fun. They attacked Ryback while Henry bailed out.
Once the group finished their business, Henry climbed back in the ring and had his way with the now vulnerable "Big Hungry."
Unfortunately, it appeared WWE wasn't going to go in this direction after all when Ryback was booked to team up with Randy Orton and Sheamus to take on The Shield at WrestleMania. It was sad but understandable considering that feud had months of storyline build to it while Henry was only just making waves.
Thankfully, all that changed on Raw the next week.
After this, the creative brain trust at WWE kept it simple by booking the two monsters as ... well ... monsters, when they had Henry absolutely destroy The Usos in a 2-on-1 handicap match. Not to be outdone, Ryback asked for a match against all three members of 3MB so he could one up his new rival.
It got even better when a weightlifting contest was held on SmackDown that featured both guys doing bench presses an attempting to break an NFL combine record. They did so, though no one outside of WWE will ever acknowledge as much for all the obvious reasons, but Henry used the opportunity to pull a fast one and injure Ryback.
Because they needed to play up the clause in the contract that prohibits either of the two to come into contact with one another before the match, Henry was booked to kill Santino Marella on the go home edition of Raw so Ryback could come out and use him as a human missile before acting really proud of himself for figuring out a way to hurt Henry without touching him.
The final hype for the match came in the SmackDown go home show with Ryback simply squashing Primo and Epico.
It's on now, folks.
What's at Stake?
At a glance, it wouldn't seem like much but there's actually plenty on the line here.
For starters, Ryback has cooled off considerably since he got hot enough to headline a pay-per-view in a WWE championship match. Because WWE booked itself into a corner, the decision was made to job him out dirty in the hopes that the lack of a clean loss would preserve his heat.
What's worse, he was just hot enough to try to capitalize on but not enough to put over clean, so he lost a series of matches via less than honest means. The idea was to keep him strong but fans aren't stupid and he's been struggling to get back to that point ever since.
An impressive win over Henry, a former world heavyweight champion who still does fantastic work, could provide him just that, especially if he somehow manages to deliver the Shell Shock for the "WrestleMania moment" WWE hoped he could get with Big Show.
As for Henry, he's close enough to the end of his career this could very well be his final match at a WrestleMania. If there was ever a time to make the most of a match, it's here and now.
Sometimes it's nice when a match is booked using such simple logic as "I'm big and strong and you're big and strong, let's meet in the ring and see whose really big and strong here." Because expectations will undoubtedly be relatively low for the quality of the match, this one has a very real shot at stealing the show. Can the irresistible force defeat the immovable object? We'll find out tomorrow night!