The list of successes Paul Heyman guy is vast and prestigious, with the likes of Brock Lesnar, CM Punk and now Roman Reigns all dominating as world champions during their time as Paul Heyman as their manager. However, not everyone aligned with WWE’s resident “wise man” is guaranteed a surefire rise to the top, as several names failed to make a real impact and ultimately became complete failures. One of Heyman’s failed associates was Ryback, who initially held a lot of promise for WWE but ended up being both a missed opportunity and someone who caused his own downfall.
Ryback needed a new direction in WWE
In 2012, Ryback looked set to become a big name in WWE, with his ascent similar to that of Goldberg. Ryback has crushed jobber after jobber, gaining popularity over the weeks. No matter how many men he faced, fans immensely enjoyed watching him walk through the opposition, chanting “Feed Me More” along with him. It was an act that spread like wildfire, until WWE decided to blast him into the WWE Championship picture out of nowhere.
Once Ryback suffered a loss, his aura was damaged, and despite a few PPV main events and a runner-up spot in the Royal Rumble, he didn’t really feel like he was on the brink of success anymore. Before long, his momentum was zapped and he dropped the card. Losses to Mark Henry, John Cena, Daniel Bryan and The Miz made him feel like another name on the roster. Not even a heel turn changed his fortunes, because when it came to major matches, he was no winner. At Night of Champions 2013, he was offered a fresh start.
Ryback teamed up with Paul Heyman in his rivalry with CM Punk
Throughout the summer, Paul Heyman had begun feuding with his former client and friend, CM Punk, turning his back on The Best In The World, targeting him along with his other clients such as Brock Lesnar and Curtis Axel. In a no disqualification handicap match at Night of Champions, Ryback shockingly interfered on behalf of Heyman and Axel, helping them win their match against CM Punk.
Ryback became a “Paul Heyman guy”, which seemed to give him a huge boost. Heyman as a spokesperson could have been key in propelling him to the main stage of the event, just as he has done for other physically large performers such as Brock Lesnar. However, there was some hesitation, as Curtis Axel didn’t exactly set the world on fire alongside Heymanfor he was merely a background figure for Heyman’s feuds and a punching bag for his rivals.
Ryback received little attention and his alliance with Paul Heyman ended quickly
It became immediately clear to focus more on Ryback rather than Axel, but that didn’t necessarily equate to being a good thing. Punk would defeat Ryback in both Battleground and Hell in a Cell PPV in two very disappointing matches. Similarly to Axel, Ryback was only used as a tool in the feud between Punk and Heyman, without him getting any sort of proper rub or push. Before Heyman and Ryback could further develop their partnership following their Hell in a Cell match, the decision was made for Ryback and Axel to no longer be Heyman’s clients.
Ryback’s time with Heyman ended before it really began, with no time to try to make Ryback feel important. He was someone who still had some name value his run to the top in late 2012 and early 2013, but WWE didn’t take advantage of it. There was clearly no thought given to this long-term partnership, with their alliance coming to an end after just two months.
The blame must lie with the creation of WWE. Heyman has proven time and time again just how masterful he is on the microphone, so it was all about content rather than Heyman’s performance. The focus was also on himself or the absentee Brock Lesnar, rather than those competing full-time on WWE television. And when WWE had the chance to finally shed some light on Ryback, they ended the association, which made everything feel like a big waste of time. The fact that Heyman had so indiscriminately dismissed Ryback made him feel even less important than before. It was a promising partnership, but one that was quickly swept away by a sea of lack of creativity and poor focus on WWE’s part.