Ryback has made his goal clear: He wants to replace John Cena at the top of the WWE.
He’s said it in out-of-character interviews, and judging by his recent actions on TV, it’s clear that Ryback, the character, wants to dethrone Cena as the face of the company, too.
Those are, of course, lofty aspirations for anyone. Cena has been the WWE’s biggest star for nearly a decade, and so many have tried to challenge him for that top spot, but failed—including CM Punk, Randy Orton and Sheamus, just to name a few.
Ryback won’t be able to do it, either.
It’s great to see that Ryback has such big goals and that he’s working so hard to make those a reality, but no one has ever been able to replace Cena up to this point. Why would that change anytime soon?
Things would be different if Cena was in his early-to-mid 40s, and there were signs that he was about to call it a career. But there’s been virtually nothing to suggest that he’s going to hang up his boots anytime soon, and until there is, he’s safe as the WWE’s top star.
After all, even the WWE’s biggest and fastest-rising stars have been unable to unseat Cena—mainly Orton and Punk.
From roughly 2006 to 2009, there was no one who was as close to being the company’s star as Orton was. Cena and Orton were essentially “1a” and “1b” in the company, and Orton solidified himself as one of the greatest stars of the modern era during that time period.
Orton won World title after World title (he’s now sitting at nine total), and he was constantly involved in main event angles and many of the WWE’s biggest feuds. Yet, he was never able to firmly entrench himself as the No. 1 guy, and he’s struggled mightily over the last couple of years to reach the level he was at not all that long ago.
Similarly, Punk skyrocketed to superstardom in 2011, becoming arguably the hottest act in the wrestling business and establishing himself as a surefire future Hall of Famer. In the last two-plus years, he’s held the WWE Championship twice, having the longest reign in the modern era in the process, and has put on countless great matches.
There’s even been talk amongst the fans that Punk had challenged, equaled or even surpassed Cena as the biggest star and face of the company. But of course, we all remember that—despite Punk’s incredible WWE title reign—he often played second fiddle to Cena, who main-evented nearly triple the amount of pay-per-views that Punk did during his historic title reign.
If that proved anything, it’s that no one will take over Cena’s spot anytime soon. Not Punk. Not Orton. Certainly not Ryback.
This isn’t to say that no one will ever replace Cena as the face of the WWE. But what happened with both Punk and Orton is telling.
It’s safe to say that Punk and Orton are significantly better performers than Ryback currently is. That’s not a diss to Ryback, either. Rather, it’s a true testament to the abilities of both Orton and Punk, who even to this day rank among the very best all-around performers in all of pro wrestling.
You can’t really say that about Ryback, though.
Ryback has only been on the main roster for about a year now, and he’s only got a handful of major matches under his belt. He’s actually performed pretty well in the majority of those matches, but it’s just too small a sample to think that he can be elevated to the tip-top of the company already.
After all, we haven’t seen a whole lot from Ryback on the mic, either, and these days, being able to cut good promos is a crucial part of being a top star. Although his pre-taped promo from this week’s Raw was very solid, doing that in front of a live crowd is an entirely different ball game, and Ryback just hasn’t delivered any earth-shattering live promos yet.
When you look at Ryback’s inexperience in terms of major matches, angles and promos, it’s hard to imagine him ever surpassing Cena—much less doing so anytime soon.
Yes, Ryback has gotten very over with the crowd, and yes, he’s still young enough to improve drastically. But with the way things are shaping up, he’s going to be dealing with Cena for another several years, and—truth be told—that just won’t workout in his favor.
Cena is going to be the WWE’s top star as long as he wants to be the WWE’s top star, and because he likely has another five-plus years left in that role, Ryback is going to have an awfully difficult time accomplishing his goal of toppling Cena.
He may remain a top star, he may main-event PPVs and he may win a bunch of World titles. But Ryback as the man who finally unseats Cena?
It’s simply not happening.
Drake Oz is a WWE Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter!