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Posted in: The PEN15 Mightier
The PEN15 Mightier - Zack Ryder: Fad or Future
By PEN15
Dec 6, 2011 - 10:49:39 AM


Since I started writing main page columns, I’ve been waiting for the day I could respond to a reply to something I’ve written. Again, as I mention at the bottom of every column, I’m fueled by discussion. I no longer have access to the forums from my work computer, so I can’t go back and forth in an intelligent fashion as much as I would like, so my perfect column writing career would be based on series of discussions with frequent readers.

After writing the recent piece on Madison Square Garden, Luke Imeson wrote “how could I forget to mention Zack Ryder?” (along with LOP PMs from dpowder, and Mizfan commenting in my feedback thread, as well as an email I received)

When I originally read this question, my immediate reaction was to facepalm, and then asked myself the same thing…

But then the answer came to me.

When I listed Cody Rhodes, Dolph Ziggler, CM Punk, and Wade Barrett, all as performers who received tremendous reactions from the NYC crowd, and how important that night might be in their careers, I was referring to future stars in the WWE.

Zack Ryder, on the other hand, does not belong in that discussion, because he is not a future star.

Now, I’m a Zack Ryder fan. I’m enjoying his push, I’ve loved his character since ECW, and have watched every youtube video he’s put out. He has a level of charisma not usually found in midcard talent in the WWE, and is catching on as a face in a way most stars never could (hard to name many stars that didn’t start out as a successful heel first, something Zack was not). He’s charming in a way that will definitely help him achieve success in the WWE.

I just don’t see it being long term.

Flavor of the Week

See, the main problem is the way Zack is getting over. He’s the cute, lovable loser. We’re enjoying cheering him on, while he’s succeeding when we don’t expect him to. It’s a fun time. But eventually, that wears off.

Granted, Zack could change his character eventually, and change things altogether, but that would be the only way he can find his niche long term. There’s only so far you can go being the young upstart struggling for your big break.

This isn’t a knock on comedy characters in general. While the immediate comparison is Santino, and would be an unflattering parallel in terms of career success, we as fans have laughed at wrestlers and seen them succeed. Mick Foley mastered this with the 99-era Mankind character. All it took was a switch in gears to Cactus Jack, and he was #1 contender again. It doesn’t take a different persona to change gears. Another example would be Goldust, who started out serious, and became a joke, but transitioned fine with a serious turn here and there. Eddie Guerrero has one of the best stories in terms of succeeding as a comedy character, with either his run as “Latino Heat” with Chyna, or leading up to his main event run with the “Lie, Cheat, Steal” persona he used to perfection. In the end though, he didn’t really last in the main event. I won’t blame the character completely, but it did lend to him not being taken as seriously as he could have been. And then, the best example is obviously Kurt Angle, with no description needed there.

You can be a lovable goof, win our hearts, and still win. But it’ll most likely not work with long term appeal, not without a heel turn where he turns against his popular ways. This is obviously an option for any face, but I’m failing to see how Zack Ryder would be anything special as a heel. He’d be a very generic, angry and moody heel. He doesn’t have the heel personality that Eddie, Kurt, Goldust or Foley had in droves.

Either option, I hope Zack is enjoying this momentum, and saving his money. Or else he’s just going to end up being a Red Rooster.

Skills = Meh

He’s just not that good a wrestler. He’s a very average WWE talent, very much a byproduct of the developmental process. No matter how you define a good wrestler in the ring, his skillset is quite watered down, even for a WWE performer. If you judge by variety of moves, he’s terrible. His finisher is weak (though that’s not such a knock in today’s WWE). His offense is bland. His best move is the corner boot to the face, and he’s thankfully turned that into a trademark strike. But other than that, he’s quite dry.

If you judge by how well he sells, he’s definitely nothing special. Psychology is tough to judge as he’s yet to really have enough time to show any of it, but what little we’ve seen has done nothing to impress.

And this leads to the previously mentioned heel turn; heels lead the match. He’s looked adequate with talent like Dolph Ziggler leading the way as his opponent, who may just be the best wrestler in the WWE today. In every other encounter, he’s quite average. Now, I hate pretending that I know anything about putting on a good match, as I’ve never wrestled outside of a backyard. But by taking every piece of information I’ve ever learned about the talent it takes to be a good wrestler, I don’t know that Zack Ryder has ANY of it. I’d rank Kofi Kingston as a better in ring performer right now, and all he does is jump before every single ****ing move he delivers. But he still knows how to work up the crowd. As dumb as Kofi’s offense can be, the crowd eats up his face comebacks. Ryder’s… not nearly as much. How could we trust him to lead a match as a heel?

Again, this isn’t an attack on his potential heel character, just a comment on how he’d wrestle as a heel.

Fads in Wrestling (yes, they were over at one point, but successful?)

Pro-US face turns in 90s by Nikolai Volkoff and Sgt. Slaughter
Face Virgil
Men on a Mission
Barry Horowitz
Vito (face it you ****ing turkey)

**** HHH

John Cena has appeared on countless of his youtube shows, and mentioned him on Raw more times than I can count. Hell, last night, he gave up his WWE Title shot to give Ryder a contendership match for the US Title.
The Rock put over Ryder in his only in ring appearance so far in 7 years.
CM Punk tells his bosses how much he wants to see Zack Ryder routinely.

HHH pedigrees Ryder off camera.


Honestly, I feel like I’m being rather harsh on the LI kid, and I don’t mean to imply that he’s destined to be future endeavored. He’s grabbed the WWE Universe by the short hairs, and demanded attention in a way that has never been done before. He deserves more attention on WWE TV than he is currently getting. Well, maybe until last night’s right, as that episode righted several wrongs. He’s more of a martyr, in the sense that by demanding the attention of the WWE Universe, as well as WWE creative, he’s paved the way for other talent to shoot themselves into a spotlight that is sometimes needs to be stolen, instead of earned. There’s no doubt that Ted DiBiase and Tyler Reks took Zack’s road to success for their own recent methods of getting over.

Hopefully those 2 have some more talent than Ryder. The fact of the matter is that the expiry date on the Ryder Revolution is coming a lot sooner than the Zack Pack seems willing to admit. Without showing something new, some sort of skill that has yet to be displayed, he’s merely a flash in the pan. He’s not going to be a future star. Enjoy it while it lasts (a message to both Zack and us fans) and hope things can turn out alright.

But the Magic 8 Ball is saying “outlook is rather bland.”

And on that note, peace out.

Feel free to email me a comment (link is at top of page, click PEN15). One of the best parts of writing is the discussions that come out of it. I don’t look at the facebook comments too much, so I’ll hope for your email instead. My hope is that your response could be used in a column to publicly discuss your comments.
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