WWE could have been tempted to give into the comparisons and to do the same thing WCW did with Goldberg. They could have sacrificed the title and the chance at building a character for the hollowness of a man whose sole worth was a bunch of wins, strung together in a row. Obviously, there’s some controversy in that statement. What is Ryback’s character? How is it defined more than the wins he’s gotten over the last few months?
Well, it’s all in the verbiage of him and the people talking about him. The phrase that Ryback states most is “Feed me more!” John Cena, in explaining why he gave up the chance at getting a shot at Punk in the cell, said that Ryback might not care about winning the title. His actions have mirrored those words to a tee. His hunger for violence has been insatiable. With Goldberg, there was always a sense that he was in control of his actions and that his endgame was always to win matches. Ryback has felt different. He’s had more of a animalistic vibe emanating from him. Again, we go back to the words of people describing him; JBL during that main event match proclaimed that Ryback had to have at least part animal DNA.
A streak is fine and good, but it can be very limiting if it’s allowed to dominate who the wrestler is. You could argue that Goldberg’s streak swallowed him up. Then again, there were so many other things that went wrong for Goldberg after that streak ended that it’s impossible to tell. Still, some of the blame has to go to the one-dimensional nature of how he was pushed to the top. When you condition fans to only look for the result, they will lose interest when the only true result that matters to the character doesn’t happen.
A character though? That is what sticks regardless of result. A character is what allows a wrestler to be able to connect with fans, sell merchandise and be a must-see in the ring without having to win the match. It’s why The Rock is one of the most popular superstars of all-time despite putting over more wrestlers than he might have “needed” to according to some armchair booking experts, the leader of which wears Hawaiian shirts and likes to call wrestling “fake” every chance he can get. It’s why Daniel Bryan is insanely hot right now despite the fact that he hasn’t won a singles match in I don’t know how long. It’s how wrestlers have long careers.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.
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