Ryback spent the last year being built up as one of WWE’s top babyfaces, but now, the creative team has apparently decided to move forward with a heel turn for the up-and-coming star.
After last week’s Raw ended with Ryback clotheslining and then Shell-Shocking John Cena, I was one of many fans who thought that Ryback targeted Cena simply because he wanted to be WWE Champion. But this week’s Raw made me do a 180.
Ryback’s pre-taped promo that aired Monday was very heel-like. At the heart of the promo was Ryback putting the blame for his recent struggles—including big loss after big loss—on Cena, which is something that only a heel (or someone in the process of a heel turn) would do.
Even if some thought that Ryback’s promo didn’t solidify him as a heel, the ending of this week’s Raw very well may have. The show, of course, ended with Ryback watching on as The Shield beat down Cena—something that would have been avoided if a babyface Ryback would have made the save.
Because Ryback essentially turned his back on Cena, he appears to have firmly entrenched himself as one of WWE’s top heels.
The reality, though, is that a heel turn for Ryback could—oddly enough—ultimately make him a bigger babyface.
One major reason why that’s the case is because Ryback showed more emotion, passion and conviction in his first heel-like promo than he did during his one-year run as a babyface. Perhaps in part because it was pre-taped, Ryback delivered the best promo of his WWE career on Monday.
Although that’s not saying a whole lot because Ryback hasn’t exactly been stellar in the promo department, it could be a telltale sign that he simply “gets it” more as a heel than a babyface. We all know that Ryback got mega over as a good guy, but what made so many hardcore fans sour on him as a face (his promos) could prove to be what makes them a fan of his as a heel.
That’s what is so crazy about WWE these days. Heels—like Fandango, Dolph Ziggler, Brock Lesnar and CM Punk—are often cheered loudly while faces are often booed mercilessly. Ryback may turn out to be one of those guys who the more hardcore fans cannot stand as a face but will love as a heel because of the simple fact that he’s a heel.
Of course, Ryback likely wouldn’t be generating such a big babyface-like reaction with his heel turn if it wasn’t for who he turned on, which, of course, is Cena.
Although Cena has been WWE’s top babyface for nearly a decade, he is, for all intents and purposes, a heel in the eyes of many fans. It’s not that Cena acts overly heel-like, although he did so on the road to WrestleMania. Rather, it’s that the fans have gotten so sick of him being the top star that they’ve essentially turned him heel by default.
Make no mistake about it, though—Cena is still a face. But in essence, he’s a face and a heel because, as the WWE’s announcers will tell you, no one generates a more mixed reaction than he does.
It is that mixed reaction, however, that could result in Ryback becoming an even bigger babyface just because he’s feuding with Cena.
After all, Cena—despite technically being a face—often finds himself getting booed while his heel opponents are cheered. We’ve seen that happen with so many of Cena’s rivals, including CM Punk.
Speaking of Punk, he is unquestionably WWE’s top heel. But how did the crowd react to him at WrestleMania 29 and on so many other occasions? With cheers, chants and applause.
But that’s just the world we live in. Heels are cheered. Faces are booed. Anyone who feuds with Cena has the potential to become a (bigger) babyface by default rather than design.
Despite WWE wanting to use Cena to help Ryback turn heel, the exact opposite may occur. Ryback will be feuding with the one man that can make anyone a babyface, and in the end, Cena may make him one of the biggest babyfaces around.
Why? Well, because it’s Cena, but also because many will feel that Ryback is justified in blaming his recent failures on “The Champ.”
Ryback may come across as a heel for putting his struggles on the shoulders of someone other than himself, but because it’s Cena who he’s doing that to, so many will overlook the fact that it’s a very heelish thing to do. Rather, they’ll just be glad that someone is trying to paint Cena as a bad guy when many think he comes across that way.
While Ryback’s transition to being a heel will likely result in him transforming into an unquestioned villain, you never really know with Cena involved.
Truly anything can happen here, and yes, that includes what WWE wants to be a Ryback heel turn ultimately resulting in him becoming one of the biggest babyfaces in all of pro wrestling.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!