Zack Ryder: Criminally Misused or Criminally Overrated?
Posted by Greg De Marco on 08.14.2014
Since the rise of Zack Ryder's Z! True Long Island Story webseries, fans have been waiting for a monster push that never materialized! But is he misused by WWE or overrated by internet fans? 411’s Greg DeMarco takes a look!
"I just don't understand why the WWE won't push Zack Ryder!"
WWE Superstar Zack Ryder is halfway through his ninth year with the WWE, signing his first contract in 2006. This signing came just two years after his pro debut in 2004 and one year after his first WWE appearance.
Those nine years have been full of debate among internet fans that the WWE has wasted the talent Ryder possesses, and squandered away all of his hard work building a following online, as part of his use of social media and his popular Z! True Long Island Story webshow.
But I have to ask…has Zyder been misused? Or do we have unrealistic expectations for the career of someone was never supposed to pass the midcard in WWE?
I think you know my answer…but let's see why!
Always A Role, But Never A Major Role
Yes, pun intended. Zack Ryder's early WWE days were spent as a member of The Edgeheads, originally The Major Brothers (with Curt Hawkins, who played Bryan Major while Ryder was Brett Major). They were role players used to enhance Edge, and managed to win the WWE Tag Team Championships in the process. They rarely (if ever) defended their championships on television before losing them to Carlito & Primo on Smackdown.
When Ryder moved to ECW, he became "The Long Island Loud Mouth" and even scored Rosa Mendes as a valet. He emerged as a challenger for Christian's ECW Championship, but failed to win the title. He did defeat Tommy Dreamer to send him packing from WWE shortly before ECW folded. He was eventually split from Rosa and relegated to an enhancement role on Raw.
In 2011 (after the start of his YouTube show), Ryder started to interact with John Cena in backstage segments. This would, of course, lead to Ryder being a bit player in the larger angle with Eve, Kane and John Cena, where Cena "got the girl" (at least for a night) and Eve revealed that she used Zack Ryder. Many felt this would have been a great spot to turn John Cena heel…but c'mon, would Cena really turn heel over Ryder??? No.
Ryder's biggest role in 2012 was as a member of Team Teddy at WrestleMania 28, where he was pinned by The Miz after being distracted by Eve.
Ryder further disappeared in 2013, appearing on only one pay-per-view—The Royal Rumble. Do you remember anything Zack Ryder did in the 2013 Royal Rumble? Yeah, me neither.
Z! True Long Island Story
As mentioned earlier, Zack Ryder developed Z! True Long Island Story in 2011, scoring over 12 million views and catching on with fans at live events, as well as Raw. "We Want Ryder" chants started to echo throughout arenas, and his merchandise was moving. Dolph Ziggler once used his position on commentary to call out the WWE's perceived ignorance to Ryder as a draw as part of his short lived "Follow That" persona.
The show was eventually moved to the WWE's own YouTube channel before it was ultimately ended at the 100th episode. At the time, reports were circulating that the WWE was actually upset at Ryder for being so popular on his own, including being among the top merchandise sellers. Thanks to his position on the card, Zack Ryder likely didn't have a "sweet" merchandise deal, so he likely didn't get all that much out of all the t-shirts you fans bought!
Today Zack Ryder has no popular webshow and isn't among the company's top merchandise sellers.
The Internet Championship
Cody Rhodes once revealed that he paid for the old school Intercontinental Championship to make a comeback, complete with the white strap used today. That is an example of a wrestler making a wise decision when having a belt created.
Zack Ryder's Internet Championship is NOT an example of a wise decision. In fact, it's bush league.
Something seen all too often on the independent scene is a wrestler starting a promotion so he can crown himself champion. This is often over frustration that the other local indy is misusing him, since he should be their champion.
Sound familiar? Zack Ryder, who had a documented frustration with how the WWE used him, went out and made his own championship belt—The Internet Championship (crafted by the fine folks at Wildcat Belts, by the way). As a self-professed "belt mark," I can appreciate one having a belt made. That's fine. Display it in your house, show it off to friends, but don't go public with the damn thing!
The belt was never recognized by the WWE, and rightfully so. What the WWE did likely recognize is a man desperate for attention and willing to do anything to get noticed.
The Bottom Line
Zack Ryder is obviously a lifelong wrestling who achieved a dream when he made it to WWE. He got to see himself on television, hear fans chant his name, even have his own action figure. He's a former World Tag Team and United States Champion, he's been involved in angles with Hall of Famers like Edge and John Cena.
If he's not happy, it's his own fault. He's achieved more than 99% of those who get professional trained and have a "career" in the world of wrestling. He made it to the WWE just two years after his debut. It took Kevin Steen fourteen years to sign a WWE developmental contract, which he did just this year.
As a fan, if you're not happy it's because of your expectations. Why Zack Ryder? This past Monday's Raw featured midcarders such as Jack Swagger, Cesaro, Dolph Ziggler and Rob Van Dam—three of whom are former world champions—and better performers than Zack Ryder. He had a webshow. So what? Do you really think there was a future in the Long Island Iced Z character? Do you think a push could have been sustained for Ryder? How so? Santino was a better comedy wrestler. The above mentioned Swagger, Cesaro, Ziggler and Van Dam are better midcarders. So are Kofi Kingston, Big E, The Miz, Sheamus, Ryback and countless others. Only three of the nine guys I just mentioned are even booked for SummerSlam. Push Ryder to the main event? Over Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose and Bray Wyatt? No thank you.
"I just don't understand why the WWE won't push Zack Ryder!" is something I've heard from fans for the past few years. And maybe don't get it—I don't understand why the WWE would.
Greg DeMarco is a wrestling fan of over 30 years and has also worked on the independent circuit as a promoter, announcer, character and booker. Greg a weekly contributor at 411Mania.com, applying his opinionated style to the world of pro wrestling on Sundays and Thursdays.
He began writing for 411Mania in October 2010 and has been pissing readers off ever since!