Welcome one and all to this- the fifth article in the series of historically notorious wrestling moments! Today we look at how to cut a rising star's hopes off at the knees.
Please Note: I was going to do another article for the fifth article, but due to what has occurred in the wrestling world in the last 72 hours I've decided to hold that off for a later date.
Fans of WWE will often talk of a superstar's 'Wrestlemania moment'. Some would say that it is simple as having a good match on the Grandest Stage of them All, however that is not the case. Wrestlemania moments are unforgettable things that people remember for years to come. Creative can attempt to set them up, but its the crowd and the WWE universe that will tell them if they have succeeded. Hogan slamming Andre? Massive Wrestlemania moment. Fandango beating Jericho? Not so much.
There is no doubt that when the WWE booked Mark Henry and Ryback they were thinking about making yet another Wrestlemania moment in order to catapult Ryback's career to the next level. After debuting less than a year before Big Hungry was running through the midcard competition like a dose of salts, decimating the likes of the Miz and Dolph Ziggler. Many in the crowd- particularly the younger demographic- were captivated by the high impact moves of Big Hungry and it seemed that like Goldberg he would wind up with a midcard title fairly soon before eventually mounting an assault on one of the World Titles.
And then John Cena got injured.
CM Punk needed a challenger for his WWE Title at Hell in a Cell and instead of allowing someone else the chance to job to the Straight Edged Superstar, WWE creative gave the task to Ryback- thereby automatically placing him under infinitely more scrutiny.
The next few months for Ryback were not great ones. After being unbeaten up to Hell in a Cell, Ryback suddenly could not buy a win on a PPV with Punk and the Shield causing merry hell with his credibility.
In one sense then Wrestlemania was a chance to hit the 'reset' button on Ryback's push and ensure that they had a future main event player by having him lift Mark Henry over his head for the Shell Shock and give him a lot of momentum heading into the post-Mania season when all the part timers departed.
Unfortunately Ryback got neither Wrestlemania moment, nor plaudits for various reasons.
First off, the match was pretty bad. Some may say that I am being overly generous to the two big men, but there is no doubt there weren't helped by where they were placed on the card- straight after the frenetic 6-man tag team opener. Secondly, with two hulking behemoths one would assume that they would try to keep the match time to a minimum but they gave them more time bell to bell than the Tag Team Championship. If they pruned a good 3 mins off the match then it would have been much more watchable.
But that still would not have made up for the stupid, stupid finish.
Near the end after mounting his comeback Ryback hits the meathook clothesline on Henry and then motions for the Shell Shock. The crowd is waiting, for the big moment and then...Henry falls on top of him. Then pins him.
I am working under the assumption that someone on creative thought this was a good idea and it wasn't just a botch. But why would this be seen as a good idea? Ryback had Mark Henry- Mark Henry- on his shoulders for his finisher and the WWE make him look like an idiot by having Henry fall on him and pick up the win. It was so bad that for a little bit it truly did feel like a botch until Henry covered Ryback for the pin. The WWE tried to appease fans by having Ryback do the Shell Shock after the match, but that just seemed half-assed and did nothing to change the fact that Mark Henry won the match against Ryback by essentially being too heavy for him to pick up. Short of both men slipping on a banana peel and rendering themselves unconscious as they hit the mat, this was probably the finish that did the least for both men.
If Ryback went over Mark Henry, Henry would have been fine. His career and credibility are such that a loss to someone like Ryback would not really dent him at this stage. Ryback however needed the win desperately to re-legitimise himself as some sort of force within the WWE.
However, what made it worse was the aftermath where Ryback somehow leapfrogged Mark Henry to become the #1 contender for the WWE Championship- turning heel in the process.
Now there was no doubt that Cena needed somone to feud with after Wrestlemania with the departure of the Rock- but why Ryback? The guy needed some momentum, which would not come against the face of the WWE. It seemed bizarre that the WWE were so obsessed with Mark Henry winning the match at Wrestlemania, but unwilling for him to challenge for the championship.
Ryback's match at Wrestlemania 29 was a missed opportunity. It was a chance to get him back in the winners' circle and allow him to build up some very sorely needed momentum that had been beaten out of him by feuds with CM Punk and the Shield. Furthermore it was a great chance for him to build some more crowd affection by having him lift Mark Henry on his shoulders and slam him to the mat before covering him for the win. Instead the WWE seemed to want to pull a swerve for no real reason and left the fans disappointed- particularly when one considers the wrestling match they had to witness to wait for the event to occur.
There are plenty of problems with Ryback's career- both in the ring and with creative. But Wrestlemania 29 was the last real chance at consolidating the good vibe around Big Hungry. That was lost in New Jersey.
That concludes the fifth article in this series folks! Next time we'll look at closure and when it doesn't work. See you then!