In 2011, the hottest act in pro wrestling was CM Punk. For most of 2012, it’s been Daniel Bryan.
But right now? It’s gotta be Ryback.
Although he hasn’t even been on the main roster for a year now, “Big Hungry” has quickly taken the WWE by storm. And despite the presence of guys like Punk and John Cena, he has grown into arguably the biggest big thing going in pro wrestling today.
Even though Ryback has had a ton of success so far, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have some detractors. For every fan who chants “Feed me more,” there’s another wishing that Ryback would just get full.
So, what is it about Ryback that makes the fans go crazy for him? And on the flip side, what is it that makes some hate him?
Let’s take a look, with my analysis of three positive points and three negative points about the monster known as Ryback.
Negative No. 3: Mic Work
It’s been rather surprising to see Ryback work the mic as much as he has.
While he doesn’t cut as many promos as other top guys, like Cena and Punk, he has spoken fairly often and hasn’t proven to be an elite mic worker in the process. I don’t think it’s all that necessary for his character to speak, but if he is going to do just that, then high expectations are going to come along with it.
I actually think Ryback’s mic work is more than passable for his character, but the bottom line is that he’s seen as a top guy now and with that elite status comes the expectation that he will also be an elite talker.
While talking will never be Ryback’s main selling or strong point, there will always remain a small, yet very vocal, group of pro wrestling fans who won’t see him as a legitimate top guy until he cuts great promos.
Positive No. 3: A New Face at the Top
We’ve begged and pleaded for new top guys for years, and now that Ryback is becoming one, many of us—myself included, at times—seem to be complaining about it.
That’s rather odd because we’ve simply gotten what we’ve wished for.
We want somebody to make such a major impact in the WWE that he will establish himself as a big-time player in the business and freshen up the main event scene as a result. That’s exactly what Ryback has done.
He’s become a fresh, new main-eventer, and when you consider that the WWE needs to build up as many top stars as possible, it’s nice to see someone—anyone actually—succeed at evolving into a major star.
Negative No. 2: In-Ring Work
About 95 percent of the matches we’ve seen Ryback participate in have been short squashes that usually last only a few minutes.
The only three non-squashes I can think of are his two PPV matches for the WWE Championship and that tag team match he had with Cena on Raw awhile back. As a result, we only have a limited sample of Ryback’s in-ring work on the main roster.
It may actually be too early to make any sort of definitive judgment on whether or not Ryback is a quality in-ring performer, but at least so far, he hasn’t shown enough to suggest that he’ll develop into an elite wrestler like many of the WWE’s other big stars have.
I don’t believe that Ryback is anywhere near “terrible” like many seem to be labeling him, and I think he performed very well at Survivor Series. But is he a fantastic in-ring performer?
Well, I can tell you this: Not many people think he’ll ever become one.
Positive No. 2: His Look
Let’s just be honest: If anyone looks like a pro wrestler, it’s Ryback.
The dude is basically the epitome of what you would expect a pro wrestler to look like. While he may not be super tall, his biceps look like basketballs and he’s ripped up beyond belief. He has a ridiculously impressive physique that is almost superhuman, and there are very few guys on the WWE’s roster who can even begin to compete with him in that department.
I know, I know—“If you pushed someone based solely on his look, then David Otunga should be World Champion.”
I’m not saying that Ryback should be pushed for the simple fact that he has a great look. I’m just saying that it helps that he has a look that sells—a look that, quite frankly, gives him the appearance of a top guy.
Negative No. 1: He’s Been Pushed So Hard So Quickly
If there’s one problem I’ve had with Ryback, it’s that he’s been pushed so hard so quickly.
Nine months ago, this guy wasn’t even on the main roster. But he quickly annihilated the lower and midcards on his way to a main event slot and a WWE Championship program with Punk.
Hey, I’m all for guys being elevated and new stars being created. You just have to think that pushing a fresh face to the top of the WWE in such a quick manner might not be the best decision for his long-term future. (See: Del Rio, Alberto)
Yeah, Ryback is having a ton of success right now. But what happens when his feud with Punk is over and he (likely) moves on to something else, without the WWE title in hand?
Presumably, the only way for Ryback to go is down, which is the main reason why I’ve questioned his lightning-quick push and wondered if it may have worked better had it happened a little bit more slowly and organically.
Positive No. 1: He’s Over
What matters more than anything else in pro wrestling? I’d say it’s whether or not a superstar is over.
If a heel is getting drowned with boos or a babyface is getting showered with cheers, it’s safe to say that the guy is getting the job done and getting himself over. It’s also safe to say that Ryback has done exactly that.
Like him or not, he is over like rover right now. The fans absolutely love him, and if we’re just being honest with ourselves here, we know that the fact that he’s grown to be so popular in such a short span is ultimately what matters the most.
He could look like crap and be terrible in the ring, but if the crowd goes bonkers every time he enters the arena, then—guess what?—that means absolutely nothing.
Ryback is over, and unless that changes, that will continue to be the biggest thing he has going for himself.
Whether you hate Ryback or you love him, the WWE’s newest top babyface seems to be here to stay for the foreseeable future
While he may not be everyone’s cup of tea or the most well-rounded superstar to ever step foot inside a wrestling ring, the fans will dictate whether he turns out to be a flash-in-the-pan superstar or someone who makes some noise for the next several years.
Either way, though, I’m just going to enjoy the ride. It’s been a hell of a show so far.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!