Zack Ryder shocked the world at WrestleMania 32 by claiming his first Intercontinental Championship in a seven-man ladder match.
In the match where many questioned, and even resented Ryder’s inclusion, fans around the world were dumbfounded when the superstar claimed the prestigious belt. However, shock then turned to joy, as Ryder, a long-term fan favourite, finally got his big moment on the grandest stage of them all.
Thinking back to Zack’s last major WrestleMania moment – being low-blowed by Eve Torres after taking the fall in the Team Johnny vs Team Teddy match – this victory was made even more special.
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Ryder’s immense popularity, despite poor booking, seemed to have finally made something happen for the Long Island Iced Z and, after the initial shock, fans in the AT&T stadium and watching at home alike were all chanting “Woo! Woo! Woo!”.
However, as has always been the case with Zack, this bubble would burst.
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The Raw after WrestleMania, Ryder was challenged by The Miz to an impromptu title match, which he lost, thanks interference from The Miz’s wife, Maryse. Ryder’s reign as Intercontinental champion ended at just one day.
One day after winning it at the biggest show of the year. One day after the riskiest booking decision of the night received massive fan support. One day after those fans who were chanting “You deserve this” at WrestleMania, were also chanting Zack’s name on Raw.
Ryder then unsuccessfully challenged Miz again for the belt on Smackdown. The following Raw, Cesaro won a Number One Contender’s match to earn the right to face Miz for the title. It seems that, unfortunately, Zack has been lost in the shuffle and any chance of him regaining the belt is long gone.
The thought process WWE went through with Ryder is baffling. They gave him a huge moment at their biggest show, then let him drop the belt the next night, then moved the guy who took the belt away from him into a new program the very next week. It makes no sense.
The only saving grace is that this could be a slow burn – Ryder was featured on this week’s WWE.com interview with Michael Cole, which shows he’s still considered relevant, for now – but the momentum that Cesaro has received since returning to WWE has been huge and putting the belt on him makes a lot of sense. Whilst the fans would have no arguments with Cesaro winning the title, you have to feel sorry for Zack.
The same thing happened in late 2011/early 2012, when Zack won the United States Championship. Ryder won the belt and the crowd went crazy, then, he got involved in a John Cena-Kane storyline that saw him lose the title shortly after and get lost in the shuffle of the two more prominent men. Following this, Ryder went back to being a jobber.
History seems to be repeating itself for Zack here and it’s bad news. WWE had a huge opportunity to erase the mistakes they made with Ryder’s first big singles run, but instead, they seem to be playing out the same storyline, only this time, it’s more embarrassing for Zack as he’ll now forever be known as the guy who won at WrestleMania then lost the next night.
For someone as popular as Zack, this is terrible treatment. To give him his big moment then snatch it away the very next day is almost crueller than not giving him a moment at all. Maybe this storyline will end up putting Cesaro over to new heights, which is good, but it shouldn’t have been at the expense of Ryder.
Hopefully, Zack can still be a prominent member of WWE’s roster and not go back to jobbing. But, if history has taught us one thing, it’s that WWE love to repeat the mistakes of the past. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed for The Ultimate Broski.