Wrestler of the Day – May 10: Zack Ryder

Woo Woo Woo. You Know it’s Zack Ryder today.

We’ll start with Ryder as a jobber, April 21, 2005 on Smackdown.

Matt Morgan vs. Brent Matthews

Morgan has a large and dark goatee here. He’s currently ticked off at having a speech impediment and asks the terrified Matthews if he’s laughing at Morgan. A HUGE boot to the face and clothesline to the back of the head put Matthews down and a major side slam does the same. The Hellevator gives Morgan a quick win.

Ryder would head to OVW and DSW as part of a tag team called the Major Brothers along with Curt Hawkins. After a few years in developmental, they were brought up to Smackdown for a quick run, including this match on April 24, 2007 on Smackdown.

Major Brothers vs. Jeremy Young/Mike Fox

Brian (Hawkins) starts with Foxx before it’s quickly off to Brett for some arm cranking. Brian comes back in with a sunset flip for two as the fans really aren’t all that impressed. Some quick double teaming doesn’t get the Brothers anywhere and Brett gets beaten up in the corner. That doesn’t last long either as it’s back to Brian to clean house. Everything breaks down and a cobra clutch slam/Russian legsweep combo gets the pin on Young. Short match and not a bad Smackdown debut.

Then one night they weren’t brothers anymore and were named Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins. The pair would get a Smackdown Tag Team Title match at Great American Bash 2008.

Smackdown Tag Titles: John Morrison/The Miz vs. Finlay/Hornswoggle vs. Jesse/Festus vs Curt Hawkins/Zack Ryder

Miz and Morrison are defending. Festus is Luke Gallows who freaks out at the sound of a bell. Jesse and Festus clear the ring so the champs send Horny in to fight him. Smart move guys. Horny wants to try it but instead dives through the ropes to take out the champ. Festus vs. Miz gets us going officially. Off to Jesse with the only world champion to be found in this match in trouble.

Morrison and Finlay come in and the Irishman is in trouble. Foley asks why you would tag into someone on another team since this is one fall to a finish. Miz and Morrison use various nefarious techniques to hurt Finley and it’s off to the chinlock. Miz and Morrison switch in and out twice and Finlay gets in a shot. I don’t think Hawkins and Ryder have been in yet and as I say that Ryder comes in to steal a pin attempt, getting two.

The former Edgeheads/Major Brothers hammer away on Finlay but he counters into the rolling fireman’s carry slam, whatever that was called. The Irish Club is brought in and I don’t know who got hit as Miz and Morrison ran in to break it up. Finlay gets in a shot on I think Hawkins and it’s off to Horny. Jesse tags himself in to beat on Hawkins. There’s the not hot tag to Festus and he cleans house. He and Jesse load up a rocket launcher but Ryder pulls Festus to the floor and Jesse gets slammed off the top. Hawkins pins Jesse for the surprise title win.

Rating: C-. Hey, you ever seen one of those multi team tag matches where not a lot really happens because there are so many teams that nothing can get going at all and no one is able to get anything going and the ending is a big mess with a team that didn’t do much stealing the win and it wasn’t bad but you’ve seen something just like it before? Well this was one of those matches.

Ryder would head to ECW soon after this and do a grand total of nothing for most of 2009. After ECW went away, it would be off to Raw for Zack. Ryder would have a pretty bad stretch for awhile, but he actually got a WWE Championship match on Raw, August 16, 2010.

Raw World Title: Sheamus vs. Zack Ryder

Bell, Brogue Kick, bell.

In February of 2011, Ryder started a Youtube show called Z! True Long Island Story. The show featured short comedy bits and segments designed to get Ryder over. It actually worked as Ryder would amass a large cult following, even drawing WE WANT RYDER chants while the Rock was in the ring. Ryder would start a petition to receive a US Title shot and press the matter for months. One thing that would help him was a match against reigning champion Dolph Ziggler on Raw, Halloween 2011.

Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler

This is non-title. Basic start with a missile dropkick missing and we head to the floor. Dolph is put down and we take a break. Back with Ziggler in control, working on the neck. A neckbreaker puts Ryder down and Dolph nips up. Ryder catches him in a slingshot and they slug it out. A flapjack puts Ziggler down and here’s the Broski Boot for two.

Ryder gets a double knee to Ziggler’s chest in the corner for the pin but Ziggler’s foot was on the rope. The bell rings but it gets waved off due to the feet. Zack chases him around the ring but Vickie interferes. A superkick puts Ryder down but he avoids the Zig Zag. The Rough Ryder pins Ziggler clean at 8:54.

Rating: C. Do they know if they want Ryder or Ryan to take the title off Ziggler yet? It’s really unclear at times but maybe that’s the point. You do have to give them credit for giving Ryder a push due to his crowd reactions lately. Not a horrible match, but they need to either have him win the title or move him on to something else.

With John Cena campaigning for him, Ryder would get a chance at a US Title shot…..if he could beat John Cena, who had to win in order to get a World Title shot. From December 5, 2011 on Raw.

John Cena vs. Zack Ryder

This feels like a big match. Think about that for a second. Both guys are tentative to start. They fight over a long headlock and the fans are split as usual. Hip toss gets two for Cena. Notice something here: Cena is respecting Ryder and that’s the biggest rub Ryder can get. Ryder grabs a spinning neckbreaker for two. This is very slow.

A tornado DDT gets two for Ryder and he loads up the Rough Ryder. Cena ducks and initiates his finishing sequence. The AA is countered and Ryder puts him in the corner. Broski Boot looks to set up another Rough Ryder but Cena catches him in mid air and the AA is enough for the pin at 6:47.

Rating: C. The match was boring, but the important part is that they made Ryder look solid here. They needed to make sure that he saved face here and that’s what they did. Cena had to win here because Ryder would have been way over his head. Still though, dull match and i’m not sure why they did it.

Ryder is mad post match and Cena says hang on a second before running to the back.

Cena comes up to Ace and Otunga in the back. He shouts Otunga out and tells Ace to listen to the people and make Ryder #1 contender to Ziggler. Ace says no because Ryder blew it. Cena gets in his face and says be creative. Ace says Cena has to give up his title match at TLC. Cena isn’t sure of course but says he’s a ten time champion because he got opportunities along the way. Cena drops out and Ryder has to face….someone still. Ok then.

From later in the night.

Zack Ryder vs. Mark Henry

I think I smell interference. Henry has a bad ankle/leg here. Ryder gets beaten down like a chump to start which to be fair, he’s in over his head. Ryder gets him down for a second and rams the leg into the post. Cue Cena who hits the AA on Henry and throws Ryder on top for the pin at 2:20.

And now, the peak of Zack-a-Mania. From TLC 2011.

US Title: Zack Ryder vs. Dolph Ziggler

Battle of the Z’s here. Ziggler has on blue trunks and they’re really not working for him. Ryder controls early on and is pretty fired up here. The champ gets control quickly though, hitting a DDT onto the apron. Ziggler drops a bunch (as in like ten) elbows on Ryder but they only get two. Off to a chinlock and the fans chant “Let’s go Ryder, Woo Woo Woo”. Ziggler uses Ryder’s body to brace himself for situps.

And now let’s start talking about Twitter. Ryder fights back but gets caught in an Angle Slam for two. Ryder comes back and hits a missile dropkick from the middle rope for two. Here’s his comeback and the Broski Boot hits. Vickie puts Ziggler’s foot on the ropes and gets ejected for it. They trade rollups and Ziggler tries two Fameassers, one of which hits. Dropkick gets two for Dolph. He goes up and gets crotched, allowing Ryder to bust out a top rope rana for two. I love how his arms fly up in the air on every cover.

Rough Ryder is countered into a hot shot into the post for two. The fans are still cheering for Ryder as they were earlier. Out of nowhere, Ryder hits the Rough Ryder and WINS THE TITLE at 10:25. The camera immediately cuts to Ryder’s dad in the crowd which is a really nice touch. They treated this like a really big moment, which it was.

Rating: B-. Why it didn’t happen in MSG is beyond me but whatever. This is the definition of a guy working as hard as he could have, the fans responding to it, and the company PAYING ATTENTION TO WHAT THE PEOPLE WANTED. I can’t emphasize that enough: the WWE listened to what the fans were telling them and pushed him accordingly. Pretty decent match too.

Then Ryder would start running away from Kane and not be able to change a tire, eventually culminating in his new love interest Eve thinking Cena was more man than him. The ruining would be furthered when he would lose the US Title to Jack Swagger in mid-January, though he would make it onto Team Teddy at Wrestlemania XXVIII in the battle for complete control of WWE programming.

Team Johnny vs. Team Teddy

Johnny: Miz, Mark Henry, Drew McIntyre, Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler, David Otunga
Teddy: Kofi Kingston, Great Khali, R-Truth, Zack Ryder (with Eve), Booker T, Santino Marella

Each team has a Bella as a fan, the match is for total control of both brands, and Johnny is in a white suit. Oh and Vickie is with Johnny and Horny is with Teddy as the flag bearers. Otunga and Santino are team captains, because Miz and Booker aren’t good enough. Kofi and Dolph start things off for their usual solid sequence. Truth comes in for a double hiptoss and a dancing legdrop.

McIntyre comes in to pound on Truth but it’s quickly off to Khali to change momentum. It should also be mentioned that they’re in red and blue t-shirts with the GM’s on the front. Off to Booker to chop away on Drew and a superkick puts him down. Booker goes after the rest of Team Johnny but the numbers catch up with him, allowing Swagger to take over. Jack gets to beat on Kofi for a bit and it’s off to Henry. Mark pounds him down in the corner as the match slows way down.

Off to Miz with some knees to the chest and a boot to the face for two. We hit the chinlock for a bit but Booker comes back with a suplex for no cover. Ziggler comes in to break up the tag and drop some elbows for two. Everything starts breaking down as Henry hits the Slam on Booker but Khali chops him down. I can’t keep track of everything going on but Henry catches a diving Horny in mid-air.

The girls get in a brawl and there’s the hot tag to Santino to pound on Miz. The Cobra connects and Cole panics until Ziggler makes the save. Another hot tag brings in Ryder for the Rough Ryder for Dolph and a beatdown on everyone else. He loads up the Broski Boot but Eve gets in the ring as well. The referee tries to get her out and the distraction lets Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale on Ryder for the pin, making Ace GM of both shows.

Rating: D+. As is the usual case with stuff like this, there was way too much going on to keep track of anything. There were something like 18 people involved in this whole thing and the ending was about Eve and her heel turn more than anything else. Ace would be GM for about four months or so while boring us to death against Cena. Not much to see here though due to the amount of people in the match.

Post match, Eve finally turns on Ryder for good, confirming him as the biggest loser in the WWE. Wasn’t Eve already a heel in the Divas tag? Why is this supposed to be shocking?

Ryder would get some false hope due to a battle royal on July 3, 2012, a live Smackdown Great American Bash special.

Battle Royal

Alberto Del Rio, Kane, Jack Swagger, John Cena, Heath Slater, Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, Big Show, Great Khali, Brodus Clay, Damien Sandow, Tensai, Ezekiel Jackson, Justin Gabriel, Dolph Ziggler, Kofi Kingston, Zach Ryder, Santino Marella, Cody Rhodes, Christian

Only the big names get entrances as per usual. At the moment I’m probably missing some names but i’ll fill them in as we go. Show throws out Justin and Brodus quickly. A bunch of people team up to throw out Khali. I’m missing one guy but I’m not sure if Sheamus was replaced or now. Ryder knocks out Sandow and Cody throws out Santino. Oh Christian is #20. Show shoves out Kofi and Cody as we take a break.

Back with ten guys to go as Bryan and Punk slug it out. Bryan stands in front of the ropes and Punk charges at him, eliminating both guys. Ok so we have Kane, Ziggler, Cena, Christian, Del Rio, Tensai, Ryder and Big Show to go. Big Show chokeslams Cena but Kane chokeslams Big Show. Tensai goes after Kane and pounds him into the corner. Cena erupts and beats up everyone before tossing Del Rio. Kane takes an AA but Tensai slows Cena down.

Christian and Ryder work on Big Show but that gets them nowhere. Cena dumps Tensai but Show dumps Cena immediately thereafter. So it’s Big Show, Ryder, Christian, Ziggler and Kane. Show spears Ryder down and easily tosses out Christian to get us down to four. Ziggler puts Show in the sleeper but Kane kicks Show in the head to put them both out.

It’s Ryder vs. Kane now which isn’t the pairing I was expecting. Kane pounds him down but runs into the corner knees and the Broski Boot. Ryder tries the Rough Ryder because he’s not that bright, but he escapes the chokeslams and low bridges Kane for the elimination and the win at 10:50.

Rating: C+. Why not? Seriously, why not? You can’t say this was predictable and it was pretty fun at the same time. Ryder has nothing to do and it’s good to give him a featured spot on next week’s show. This is probably Ryder’s second biggest win ever and maybe it’ll be the start of a new push for him. Nothing special here but I had a good time with it.

He did get a nice little moment in the shade (it certainly wasn’t the sun) at Night of Champions, starting with a pre-show battle royal.

Pre-Show: Battle Royal

Brodus Clay, Epico, Primo, Justin Gabriel, Tensai, Tyson Kidd, Michael McGillicutty, Zach Ryder, Titus O’Neal, Darren Young, Jinder Mahal, JTG, Drew McIntyre, Heath Slater, Ted DiBiase, Santino Marella

The winner gets a US Title shot at Cesaro later in the night. Cameron is back from suspension apparently. Anybody but Santino. Anybody. Slater asks everyone to stand back so he can dance and he’s eliminated by 15 people at once. McGillicutty is thrown out as is DiBiase in about 40 seconds. Brodus dumps Primo and Mahal a few seconds later. The problem in battle royals is that there isn’t much else to say other than who tosses out who until we get to the end. Brodus puts out Epico and Tensai LAUNCHES Gabriel out.

Kidd is sent to the apron and tries a slingshot hurricanrana but gets powerbombed onto the pile of people. The monsters square off and Santino tries a double Cobra to no avail. The Players and McIntyre team up and dump Brodus, who may have hurt his shoulder. The Cobra puts JTG out and Ryder dropkicks McIntyre out. Brodus leaves and his shoulder seems fine so maybe it was just something quick. There’s the Cobra and it drops Tensai and Young, with the latter getting covered.

O’Neal dumps Santino and we’re down to Titus, Young, Tensai and Ryder. Titus suplexes Young onto Tensai before the partners go after Ryder. The Players double team Ryder but get dumped by Tensai. Tensai thought Ryder went out but he slid back in. Tensai charges into the double knee in the corner but he blocks the Rough Ryder into a powerbomb position. He goes to dump Ryder but Ryder counters into a hurricanrana to eliminate Tensai for the win at 5:42.

Rating: C-. It’s a battle royal so there isn’t much to say here. Ryder getting the shot is fine as the fans are going to react to him. He doesn’t have much of a chance against Cesaro but that’s ok as I’m sure more than one other title will change hands tonight. This was about what you would expect, but at least Santino didn’t win which would have been insufferable.

And from later in the match.

US Title: Zack Ryder vs. Antonio Cesaro

Ryder won the preshow battle royal to get this shot. The word of the night is Unfair, which is what Cesaro thinks this match is. Cesaro takes him down with ease to start but Ryder takes Cesaro down by the wrist to counter. A flapjack and dropkick get two for Ryder but Cesaro shrugs them off and hooks a chinlock. A clothesline gets two for Cesaro as does the gutwrench suplex.

Cesaro gets the same off a regular suplex and the fans cheer for Ryder. They slug it out but Cesaro throws him into the air and hits the European uppercut for two. Cesaro hooks a reverse neckbreaker but pulls Ryder onto his back for a submission hold. Ryder escapes and hits a discus lariat for no cover.

A rollup gets two for Ryder as does a middle rope dropkick. Ryder hits a neckbreaker for two and Cesaro rolls to the apron. He goes up but Ryder brings him down with a hurricanrana. Ryder loads up the Broski Boot but Aksana pulls him to the floor. Back in and a European Uppercut sets up the Neutralizer to retain the title at 6:40.

Rating: C-. This was perfectly fine. It wasn’t a great match at all but for a thrown together PPV title defense this was fine. Cesaro needs a bit more development but he’s fine having random challengers like this one. Ryder is good to throw out there as the people still like him so the fans react to what he does. Nothing great but this was fine.

Ryder’s stock had fallen a good bit and he didn’t even make it onto Wrestlemania in 2013. He would have to settle for a six man tag the next night.

R-Truth/Santino Marella/Zack Ryder vs. 3MB

No entrances for any of these guys in this random tag match. Truth and Heath start things off with Slater being slammed down. Santino comes in, thrusts his pelvis, gets punched once, and bails. Off to Ryder vs. Mahal with Zack getting beaten down on the floor by a cheating McIntyre. Apparently Drew is legal now and hits a big boot to the jaw for no cover.

Off to Slater for some more beating before it’s back to McIntyre for an armbar. A neckbreaker puts Drew down and there’s the hot tag to Santino. He cleans house on Slater with his usual stuff but Mahal breaks up a near fall. Everything breaks down and the Cobra is enough to pin Slater at 3:30.

Rating: D. I have no idea what the point of this was. Were they running short or something and needed to fill in five minutes with something like this? None of the guys have anything going on right now so let’s spend a few minutes on them here to fill in a gap….I guess?

We’ll wrap it up with one last match from Superstars, on November 29, 2013.

Fandango vs. Zack Ryder

We’re in Ryder’s hometown here with Ryder nailing a quick flapjack and a dropkick to send Fandango into the corner. Fandango sends him into the buckle and dances a bit as the announcers ask an important questions: when you get to the amount of World Titles that Orton and Cena have, who keeps count? Byron Saxton: “Ric Flair?” Ryder comes back with a faceplant and middle rope dropkick. The Broski Boot and Rough Ryder are enough to give the hometown boy a quick win.

Ryder wasn’t the best in the world and never will be, but he had a run in late 2011 that was absolutely awesome. I’m not sure why WWE pulled the plug on him as fast as they did, but once they did they pulled it, things went south in a hurry for Zack. He’s a great example of someone that used social media to become way bigger than he was and even wound up as the United States Champion. That’s quite an accomplishment for a guy who used to be a Major Brother.

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  1. Killjoy says:

    Never liked the character. It just didn’t strike me as being someone worth caring for.

  2. CheckYourEmailKB says:

    I remember Ryder coming out of that Cena match looking great. Score one for Team Cena-Doesn’t-Bury-People.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I tried to reply to the one you sent me but it said the email didn’t go through. Do you remember any part of your old email on WZ? I’ve got it in front of me.