Ryback's WWE Raw Promo & Its Apparent Lack of Connection with Fans

Tom ClarkFeatured ColumnistApril 17, 2013

photo by wwe.com
photo by wwe.com

Ryback told the world on WWE Raw why he chose to attack John Cena last week on TV. His reasons were very concise, straight to the point and the overall promo was perhaps the best that he’s cut since the Ryback character was introduced.  But, did his words fall on deaf ears?

For a guy who has never really been given the opportunity to talk all that much, I thought that Ryback did a great promo.  He may not have broken any new ground when it came to his delivery, and he did maintain that wild-eyed stare, paired with that crazy-intense breathing we've become accustomed to.

But even with the snarling and the gnashed teeth, I think he fully drove home the point of just why he did what he did to the face of Vince McMahon’s company.

Revenge.  Simple, clear-cut revenge.

The revenge was born out of frustration with his lack of success in WWE.  Ryback is a man who needed to find the reason why he could not take that last step to reach that all-important next level. He has all the physical tools necessary, he has the momentum.  But what he did not have was a helping hand.

Ryback claimed that hand should have come from John Cena, who befriended him upon his arrival in WWE.  Because of that history, he felt that John should have been there for him when he needed an assist against The Shield.

Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins had Ryback firmly in their sights from day one and on six separate occasions they destroyed the big man and left him for dead.  And with each attack came no help from Cena.

Not even once.

But, as Ryback pointed out, he had been there for John all three times he was targeted by The Shield. Whether he was acting out of concern for John or a need to gain a measure of redemption against the trio from NXT, the fact is that Ryback made the save for WWE’s top star.

And John never reciprocated.

So, Ryback’s reasoning for turning on John Cena, and his subsequent refusal to help him at the end of Raw when The Shield once again stormed the ring, makes a great deal of sense.  Ryback’s motivations for going his own way are very clearly defined, he presented his case to the fans in a very public forum, and the entire angle seems extremely plausible.

And the crowd did not seem to care.

Therein lies the problem: Ryback has struggled in the past to fully connect with the entire WWE fanbase, to win the fans over and gain their unwavering support as a babyface.  Call it a lack of a credibility in his character, or an overall disapproval in Ryback’s ring ability, but the guy has quite frankly had a tough time effectively getting over with the majority of fans who by now should be completely in his corner.

Turning on John Cena should have fixed at least some of the issues that fans have had in regards to Ryback’s character and his place in the company.  After all, for a good number of the WWE faithful who love to see John get pummeled and be on the losing end rather than always conquering the moment, Ryback’s actions should have put him over the top in terms of fan reaction.

The crowd should have responded.  And, the truth is it did, with barely a whimper.

Of course, it was one crowd on one night.  We can’t all expect the sort of audience that WWE played to in New Jersey two weeks ago.  Nights like that were an aberration in many ways, as the  fans were essentially making their own fun when perhaps they saw too many segments that just were not that entertaining at all.

That crowd roared with approval when Ryback delivered the Meat Hook clothesline to John Cena. And the pop grew even more intense when Cena was hoisted up in the Shell Shock.  Fans found a reason to love Ryback on that night, when before a good number of them couldn't have cared less.

Of course, they were supposed to have booed Ryback.  He did turn heel, after all.

But the reaction that WWE was looking for may not happen as expected, because of the insane level of hatred that so many fans have for Cena.  Depending on what town WWE shows in, Ryback may either be the most hated man in the building or the most loved.

For WWE, either response is likely just fine.  It’s the third option, the one that involves near silence as fans are turning away from the Titantron, followed by the typical Goldberg chants, that WWE likely wants no part of.

That response benefits no one involved in this angle whatsoever.

While Ryback’s Monday Night Raw promo may not have been delivered with the passion of Dusty Rhodes or the supreme confidence of Ric Flair, it nevertheless was very well done in my view.  His reasoning was solid, his motives crystal clear and his frustration very apparent.

For the first time, Ryback was given the opportunity to truly connect and put himself out there for his critics who claimed his character was too hollow and one dimensional.

And I believe he rose to the occasion.  But will it make a difference?