Feed. Me. Bore.
I don’t know at what point it’s okay to call Ryback’s gimmick a failure objectively. The right answer probably has something to do with t-shirt sales. All I know is that, personally, I’ve had enough.
Before I get into why his gimmick has started pissing me off, I want to explain something first: I understand how hard it is to build new faces in the modern wrestling environment. Not only are heels usually more complex and, therefore, inherently more interesting than one-dimensional superheroes, but ever since The Attitude Era, even heroes are expected to have that bad-guy edge in order to get over. Because it’s easier for heels to establish credibility and a sizeable chunk of the audience is more drawn to them anyway, more often than not, successful faces grow out of successful heels.
Alberto Del Rio is a perfect example. He started with the classic arrogant, rich dude gimmick and proved he had talent in the ring. After a few years, fans got used to him, and because he was a well established douchebag accepted him when he reformed his ways. Though it helped immensely that Del Rio had — at least by wrestling standards — a reasonable explanation for his change of heart (the love for his best friend), normally that’s not even a prerequisite for fans to accept a once nasty villain as a hero. We’d just as readily accept a random run-in saving an already established face or, even better, a valiant return from injury. Who cares if it doesn’t make sense for them to switch from bad guy to good? It hardly ever does. The redemption story is just too irresistible In a way, we want our villains to become heroes because then we get what we really want: a hero with a juicy back story that gives them depth.
Now, because I know how hard it is to establish new talent as faces, I’ve given Ryback the benefit of the doubt. Sure his first few months involved little more than squash matches and catch phrases, but fine, I get it. He’s a bad ass monster and a man of few words.
And the “feed me more” catch phrase? Why not? Dude likes to totally demolish people in the ring so much that it’s like a basic need he has. I’m feeling you, Ryback. You could have ended up in jail if you had decided to become, I dunno, an elementary school teacher or something and started lifting six of seven small children on your shoulders before shell shocking them at recess, but you decided to channel your energy into the right profession. Good on you, bro!
At some point, however, a catch phrase, a memorable ring entrance, and a unique physique are not enough to sustain my interest for the long-haul. Just ask Brodus Clay, who stopped being relevant months ago and is now forced to tag with Tensai in an obvious move of desperation on WWE’s part to get both guys over (last, ditch effort is always the comedy angle). And at least Brodus has the common decency to still show up with two hot chicks before he stinks up the joint.
After this past Monday on RAW, Ryback has officially moved into stale territory for me. Those annoying quirks that I used to ignore because I was hoping they’d be combined with more substantive qualities are now all I can focus on because, tragically, they are apparently all Ryback’s character has to offer. I want to address just a few of these annoying traits:
1. “WAKE UP!” and “FINISH! IT!” I get it, the dude is supposed to be fucking intense and fucking intense people shout random shit. Why, though, is he seemingly shouting commands at himself? Actually, I would like to pause here to ask you to reflect on the fact that a guy who literally has to maniacally yell commands to himself before taking action is a hilarious idea if done consistently.
John Cena: “Ryback, I think you have something you’d like to say to The Shield before our match this Sunday”
Ryback: “TAKE! MICROPHONE!” *heavy breathing* “RESIST URGE! TO EAT! IT!”
As awesome as that would be, that’s clearly not the direction they’re going with Ryback. Instead, it’s obvious that the only reason he says those random utterances is because they’re short enough to appear on t-shirts.
2. He has taken the hunger metaphor too far. It’s okay to be a man of few words, but at least make those words count. Every time Ryback attempts to say something relevant to an opponent, it just has to tie in to his “feed me more” catchphrase. This past Monday we heard him say “This Sunday, I feast on The Shield!” We get it, you’re the hungry dude. You say things that relate to eating. That doesn’t mean everything you say has to relate to eating. Trust us, we’re not going to forget. I can’t wait for the writers to really start reaching in order to make this work — “Seth Rollins, when I get my hands on you, I’m going to slather you in gravy before devouring you like a turkey on Thanksgiving!” At a certain point, the metaphor just becomes, at best, boring and overplayed or, at worst, kind of disgusting and gratuitous (tell me again, Ryback, how you’d like to place your opponents in your mouth).
3. The shoulder motion to “feed me more” chants before delivering the meat-hook clothesline. To me, it just reeks of desperation, like he’s trying way, way too hard to get the crowd to interact with him. It doesn’t feel organic, it doesn’t pump me up. I just find myself sitting there thinking “oh..right..this again…”
None of the above complaints would normally be enough to make me hate a wrestling character. It’s only a problem because that’s all there is to him. There’s no mysterious element to the character nor anything awe inspiring like the Undertaker.And there isn’t anything about the character that makes me think “okay this dude is genuinely deranged” like The Ultimate Warrior.
In fact, I think the one thing that Warrior had that Ryback lacks is genuineness. Even when he was rambling incoherently, you just felt that, whatever it was the dude was trying to say, he believed it. In wrestling, being a crazy, deranged freak is not an impediment to winning the fans’ adulation. You don’t have to make any sense at all! But if you are going to cross over into crazy territory it has to feel authentic, not corporate. Unfortunately, the Ryback character just feels like a company production, it has no soul.
I have no problem with Ryan Reeves the performer. I actually think he did the best he could, even with the Skip Sheffield character, and demonstrated that he’s actually a decent talker. Maybe it’s just that the material he’s given totally blows. I also don’t think it’s too late to develop the Ryback character into something more memorable and worthy of the obvious main event aspirations Vince McMahon has for him. But they gotta start giving us more than the same old schtick. I have a suggestion: turn Ryback heel. Sure, it’s the easy way out, but WWE just doesn’t know how to build mainevent faces from scratch. Nobody can tell me that heel Ryback could be more boring than face Ryback. It’s just not possible.