Ever since leaving WWE, Ryback has been sharing story after story about the times they held him back or promised him something without delivering on it. Given everything he’s said, it’s no wonder that he decided to take his talents elsewhere when it was time to renegotiate his contract.
The latest reveal, from Ryback’s “Conversation with the Big Guy”, is about a time that Vince McMahon lied to Ryback about never giving up on him:
[Vince McMahon] sees me, this was before my third surgery, he comes up to me and we had a nice little lengthy discussion and he goes, 'I'll never give up on you.' He goes, 'we're going to get through this together.' He goes, 'I don't have anybody like you. You're going to make me a lot of money.' He goes, 'you know how to get over,' and he goes, 'that's something that not everybody knows.' And he goes, 'I'm going to allow you to make me a lot of money and I'm never going to give up on you,' were his exact words. And then, they gave up on me."
Granted, five years passed between the time Vince reportedly said this to Ryback and Ryback bailing on WWE when he felt like he had been given up on, but there’s also a more troubling tidbit here related to said lie: Ryback claims that he was forced to drop his medical malpractice suit in order to keep his push going (transcription courtesy Wrestling Inc.):
"I get a phone call from [former WWE Vice President of Talent Relations] Jane Geddes... and she tells me, 'Ryan, this phone call is off the record' and I go, 'okay' and she goes, 'do you want your standing in this company to remain good? Do you want your push to continue?' was essentially what she told me. And I said, 'yes, of course, why wouldn't it?' She goes, 'we need you to drop the lawsuit against Dr. Herscovici immediately.' And so, this was a multimillion dollar lawsuit, not against the WWE. It was against the doctor who did this surgery to me that caused all this damage that was an open and shut case from everything I was told from my team of attorneys... you have to remember, so she essentially just threatened me with my push and everything going on, getting the chance to live my dream, money, finally, at this point, I'm making really good money now and everything, so they waited till just the right time."
So, WWE supposedly pushed Ryback into dropping this suit because he didn’t want to derail his push, but then, WWE started interfering with his push all the same, with Ryback saying that he just so happened to start losing constantly when the statute of limitations was running out on the lawsuit, i.e. once Ryback could no longer be a legal headache for WWE or any doctors they wanted to protect.
This is not a great look for WWE! It’s also not a surprise, as this is the sort of thing that can happen when the talent doesn’t have a union to back them up. WWE can push around its performers as much as it wants to, and as Ryback said, they can get away with it until the talent starts to “punch them back.”
At least things have changed a bit in the industry since the start of all of these issues in 2011. There is Lucha Underground, New Japan — where another former WWE superstar, Cody Rhodes, is currently thriving — Ring of Honor, and a growing independent scene where performers like the Young Bucks are figuring out how to make money without cashing WWE’s checks. Maybe the next time WWE tries to pressure someone like Ryback into bending to their will in exchange for living their dream, they’ll know they can live that dream somewhere else. Or at least threaten to without having to be unemployed for years afterward until WWE has decided you’ve learned your lesson.
This sort of thing will never truly be sorted out until there is a union in place for WWE performers, though, especially since no one is able to pay wrestlers like they do even if there are more options than there used to be for actual employment.