Despite only being on the main roster for around five years, Ryback has one of the most up and down careers in WWE history.
After his time in The Nexus was brought to a premature end, The Big Guy debuted as Ryback in 2012, and initially, it appeared as though he was going to have an incredible career in WWE.
He was pushed heavily right out of the gate, but things quickly changed, and his time in the company was eventually filled with a variety of ups and downs. From botched heel turns, to disappointing partnerships, his run could have seen him become one of the biggest stars in WWE, but instead he left in 2016, failing to come close to realizing that main event level potential.
Very rarely has a superstar had a career in the company so brief, yet filled with so many highs and lows, and Ryback’s tenure was truly a rollercoaster from start to finish.
He Was Initially Treated As A Major Star
Following his repackaging and debut in 2012, Ryback was pushed heavily and immediately became one of the most impressive superstars in the entirety of WWE. He was treated like a major player, and his character was booked dominantly.
Similar to WCW’s Goldberg, the now 40-year-old went on an impressive winning streak following his debut and would dominate anyone put in front of him. He got over in a major way with fans who lapped up his ‘feed me more’ catchphrase, and in no time at all, he was viewed as one of the biggest stars in the company.
Shortly into his run, Ryback was involved in the WWE Championship picture, a true testament to just how highly the company valued him at that time. First feuding with CM Punk for the title, he main evented a pair of WWE pay-per-views in the process, first at Hell in a Cell and then also Survivor Series in a Triple Threat match also featuring John Cena.
It’s not often a superstar is pushed into such a prominent role so high up the card so early into their career, but it was clear WWE expected big things of Ryback, but unfortunately, this was as good as it got for him.
His Botched Heel Turn After WrestleMania 29 Halted His Momentum
After losing to Mark Henry at WrestleMania 29, Ryback turned heel the very next night on Raw, and the move absolutely destroyed any of the momentum he’d built for himself.
Immediately feuding with Cena over the WWE Championship, The Big Guy was initially booked to look equal to the champion, but after a couple of high-profile losses, he slipped down the card, and never returned to the top.
He eventually debuted a new gimmick where he bullied smaller people backstage but was too intimidated to fight anyone close to his own size. It portrayed him as a cowardly heel, a far cry from the dominant force that had gotten over with fans, and it derailed his chances of ever returning to the world title picture.
His Run With Paul Heyman Was A Major Let Down
Things began looking up for Ryback in September 2013 when he paired up with Paul Heyman in his feud with CM Punk. Heyman had become known for his excellent work as a manager, and his ability to push his clients up the card.
For one reason or another, though, the pair just didn’t work as planned and didn’t help Ryback in the slightest. He was instantly used as fodder for Punk to beat up in the feud with Heyman, and it just made his character look weak.
The pairing lasted just a couple of months before Heyman turned on The Big Guy, and it went down as a huge disappointment. His time with Heyman did lead to his tag team with Curtis Axel, though, which was mildly entertaining, so there’s that.
His 2014 Face Turn Led To An Intercontinental Championship Run
When WWE realized Ryback was much better suited as a face, he was turned back into a fan favorite in late 2014, and the move initially helped his character. He won the Intercontinental Championship at Elimination Chamber 2015, his only title in WWE, and it seemed his career was on the up once again.
With victories over the likes of The Miz and Big Show, things weren’t going too badly for him, but once he lost the title to Kevin Owens, his career took a downturn once again, and it wasn’t long before he left the company for good.
Despite his run on the main roster as Ryback lasting less than four years, he somehow still had an incredible amount of highs and lows that ultimately led to him feeling like a major missed opportunity.