Since bursting onto the WWE scene as part of The Nexus in 2010, Ryan "Ryback" Reeves has been pretty much a fixture of the WWE in some form or another... except when he had one of his long term injuries that is.
This past Monday, backstage at RAW, a meeting occured between Ryback and Vince McMahon, which led to Ryback being sent home.
Since the "The Big Guy" has elaborated with the below blog.
Feed Me More
Today I sit and fly home and for the first time in years feel absolutely free. I will start by saying I did request to be taken off of WWE television until myself and Vince could get a yes or no on a new deal. This has been going on since my IC Title run and had been nothing but a major strain on my life as all I ever wanted to do was work for WWE. I was told to head home until we agree or not agree to specific terms and contrary to reports it isn’t over money or a bus that stuff was settled a while ago. It comes down to a major problem I have with not only WWE but wrestling in general.
Wrestling is pre determined, we as performers know before we go out to that ring or perform a backstage scene who is winning and losing etc or have a general idea of what we are going to say. It blows my mind how in a sport which is pre determined from a company standpoint winners are paid so much more than the losers. Every single person who works for WWE from top to bottom is absolutely just as valuable as the next. The winners cannot win unless the losers go out there and agree to lose to them.
It blows my mind that in this day and age though we still adhere to this formula. Obviously things have always been this way, but does that make them right? Times have changed and our goal as humans should be to evolve and learn from our past and the past of others so we could make this world a better place. Why is it a guy who is told he is going to go out and lose and does everything he is told be paid not only less, but much less than said winner over a period of time. Every single performer for WWE sacrifices the same amount of time from home and their families and every single man or women goes out and does what they are told. Looking at this formula though losers turn into what fans like to call jobbers and their value decreases in the companies eyes and before you know it they get released. For what? For doing exactly as they are told!
Why not pay the talent equally? The winners have more MERCH as it is or are supposed to anyways so they get that extra perk, but why make the guy who is told to and agrees to lose earn less and sacrifice spots in big pay per view match ups etc. This is one of the major problems with wrestling and WWE today. Most guys take great satisfaction in helping making other talent, the bitching and the moaning we always hear about stems from the fact they know they are ultimately over time going to make less and live in fear of being released.
I am proud to say I have never gone to change a finish and have gladly took pride in helping put over other talent. Hell look at my pay per view record of 12-26 and you will see that has been the pattern of my career. I have always been confident in my ability and work ethic to being my best every day and ultimately always felt that by doing good it was the right thing to do. Personally seeing my money go down over the years though even though I was working as much as ever and being denied magazine covers and other projects as well as watching my role diminish no matter what I did or how hard I tried takes its toll on a human. Being told no matter how hard I work or how good I get doesn’t always pay off is something I fucking refuse to ever believe in my life. I am a creative being and to be restricted time and time again is no way to live life. There is nothing I cannot do and I know no matter what comes of this situation I am going to be just fine. It isn’t soley about money, it is about commitment. Commitment to a guy who fucking cares and who loves this more than anything in the world and wants to know that his passion his efforts and his determination to constantly improve is going to be recognized and taken care of.
WWE may very well release me, which if it is the case so be it. If we can work things out a lot needs to change as I am not living in fear and creatively cannot continue to live a life that limits me creatively. I have many other interests and passions and have been very smart with my finances over the years. I thank every WWE superstar from top to bottom for their sacrifices and for working with me. The world is an amazing place and there is more than just a WWE universe there is The Universe and I will prove one way or another over time I am the greatest big guy in the universe!
Pretty strong stuff!
Why is Ryback thinking WWE will release him? Is he right? What is the can of worms he has, seemingly intentionally just opened up?
There is one word that can never be spoken in the WWE, and in his defence, Ryback hasn't here... he's done all but say it however. That word is "Union".
In the late 80's, just as the then WWF was changing the game in terms of professional wrestling, one talent made a big issue about unionisation backstage. He felt that it was unjust that some received more than others, that there was no protection for workers in the industry and that their lives were basically at the whim of promoters. This of course did not go down well with Vince and the WWF who promptly released him, leading to an entirely surprising chain of events, starting with a lawsuit that this man won.
He Ain't Got Time To Bleed!
His name was Jesse Ventura and he became Governor of Minnesota!
Ventura was angry at what he saw in the business and sought to change it. He was quickly removed and didn't set foot in the WWE for 10 years, by which time his new found status meant he could write his own ticket.
It didn't work in the 80's, could Ryback's veiled rallying cry work today?
Yes, it could... and it is probably scaring the WWE board half to death.
In essence, what Ryback wants in his rant, is standard contracts for wrestlers or at least protection that the "creative whims" don't affect them. WWE's entire business model has always been based on it "not being a sport" so NFL style players unions could never get involved.
Why Is Union Talk A Problem?
As time has gone on, WWE has positioned itself globally as a TV show, almost a soap opera if you will, one SET in a wrestling show rather than being one. This was originally to get away from being licensed as sporting events and thus not being subject to control by State Athletic Commissions.
It is here that there are some dangers for WWE potentially with talk of unionizing.
Take Monday Night RAW, still one of the top rated shows on US TV - its main competitors are of course Monday Night Football when in season, but other than that it is other shows like Gotham. Shows where everyone involved is part of some kind of union!
From the Screen Actors Guild to the Directors Guild Of America, everyone on a production like Gotham, even down to those moving the gear have to be unionized in some way, yet RAW, which is making a BIG deal of not being a sport but a show, doesn't have to?
It is a major loophole that up to now hasn't been really looked into. But what if SAG decide that enough is enough? or if the producers and networks of other competing shows feel that there is some anti-trust going on here in WWE's favour?
If WWE superstars are in effect, stunt actors or actors portraying a role as WWE is quick to point out, then they shouldn't they be covered by SAG or something similar?
After all, The Rock cannot be in his movies without being part of a union? Why should his participation in WWE and that of his colleagues not count under the same rules, when it's directly competing for ratings with shows that are regulated?
It's a very murky situation for WWE. After all, look at other shows that have had industrial issues such as The Big Bang Theory, Simpsons or Two & A Half Men? They always get resolved with BIG payrises to the key players, the juggernaut is too big not to continue. but in all cases, there is a limit before the show is killed.
WWE works because even a top, top talent like John Cena makes a relatively low amount per episode appeared on when compared to those competing stars, but he can make millions on merchandising rights.
The live aspect of WWE allows for T-Shirt sales at every show, and those who are popular sell more shirts. Part of Ryback's argument is that this is manipulated by WWE, that they in effect decide who gets to be popular, so many are being penalised with low contracts and then low merchandise sales on top. It's an argument VERY similar to the one Ventura won in court, only at that time it was over video royalties. You know how on the WWE network all the commentary from the old days is re-done or the ring music isn't how you remember it... that's why. Oh and on the network, no one gets royalties at all, not like when it was DVD/Video... another thing that has made talents like Ryback much worse off.
Under a union agreement, we could soon see Cena and his fellow top stars being entitled to what competitors get, relative to ratings so imagine Jim Parson's $1m an episode, times by the number of televised shows Cena does a year, which if he goes a whole year uninjured could be over 120... It could see him earn over $120m, that's just Cena, never mind an opponent who can make you watch the match as well..
It wouldn't be sustainable and WWE would go under quickly. Alternatively the talents would become watered down and ratings would diminish as the "cheaper stars" could not draw the crowds and viewers. Remember 1995 in WWE? When talents like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage & Big Bossman made way for Salvatore Sincere, T.L. Hopper & Isaac Yankem DDS? Yeah, something like that...even if the latter did become Kane.
So what happens to Ryback?
History doesn't show good things when you go head to head with Mr. McMahon in this way. Several stars have fallen foul of the legendary "blackball" from Vince, making it difficult to get work and often your history with WWE is laid open to ridicule, parody and in some cases outright defamation. Famously, The Ultimate Warrior fell out with Vince for many years and a very derogatory DVD was put out, taking many years before finally burying the hatchet (ironically he died the day after his final WWE appearance) enough to return to the company. Even then, in his Hall of Fame speech, Warrior made it clear that it hadn't been forgotten, even if things had now moved on, enough for the two parties to work together again.
First off, that name... Ryback is gonna go - he'll have to use his real name Ryan Reeves or some variation of elsewhere. He probably won't be able to use his "Feed Me More..." catchphrase as that will be trademarked by WWE too.
It's important to note that he is not the only WWE star who has shown dissent - a while ago Dolph Ziggler made clear he didn't intend to sign a new deal, only to do so at the eleventh hour. CM Punk famously walked out on the company yet returned with a new deal and a one year title reign. Most recently Wade Barrett delivered some "Bad News" to WWE by indicating he would not be resigning.
Of all the names so far however, Ryback is arguably the least successful. Punk and Ziggler were both former World champions, while Barrett has been a 5 time Intercontinental champion... all 3 are also VERY popular with fans, with Barrett yet to have that "good guy run" it's possible a deal can yet be worked out.
In Ryback's case, he is viewed very much as average by fans, with new talents constantly coming in via NXT, including many TNA alumni such as Bobby Roode, Austin Aries & Samoa Joe then Ryback isn't going to be missed by WWE fans particularly. Success-wise, he has had one Intercontinental title, which came after several stalled pushes for him and has recently been losing to Kalisto, a much smaller lucha style wrestler for the US title. Add to that the annoying to WWE chant's of "Goldberg" and the very real issue of the time he has both had on the payroll (best part of a decade since entering developmental) and injury layoffs you can see why they might be "low-balling" on his offer this time out.
That being said, he's a big enough name that he has some options if he can get his unconditional release early, or indeed when his contract lapses.
TNA would seem a logical place to try. TNA has very much focused on WWE alumni in recent months, with Matt Hardy, Jeff Hardy and Drew Galloway all in main event spots. Ryback could be a "new wrinkle" in that equation and potentially someone they could build on. Much as Christian did when he jumped, there is scope for someone like Ryback to become the "Big Man" in TNA.
The other big alternative is New Japan, smarting from the big talent raids WWE have made in the last year or so, they could easily make a play for Ryback. There is also precedent of such a move being a success. Matt Bloom wrestled as Albert for the WWE in the late 90's and early 2000's before making the leap to Japan when he was released. He became known as Giant Bernard and was a top, top level star for several years before returning to WWE with a main event push as Tensai. Bloom now heads up NXT's training, so it is clear he is viewed as a success from that move. While it's doubtful Ryback would get such a return, it's not impossible... His look and style would fit NJPW well and with the right promotion, he could easily become a big star over there, one that could be valuable over in the US eventually.
The least likely option is the Indy scene. If Ryback is unhappy with how the well oiled machine of WWE works, then it's doubtful he'd tolerate the mixed bag that makes up modern indy promoters. For every good one there are two bad and as a guy who doesn't have the best rep when it comes to fan interaction, with some calling him rude and others, at best distant then the "schmoozing" required to get booked and make money on that circuit will be alien to him. Guys like AJ Styles could make a living because they hustled, they went to shows, did the photos, the promo, even if it was for 200 people in the UK or a small armory. Will the guy used to the "grand stage" be able to handle that?
Will promoters, keen to work with WWE or get their talents in front of them for tryouts risk working with a guy who seems to be leaving so acrimoniously? Again, remains to be seen.
One thing is clear, Ryan Reeves is his own man. That he is quite happy to tell his employer publicly that they can release him if they don't like what he is saying sets a pretty big bar. Will other talents follow suit? There is at least one potentially on the outs and another two who have beefs over suspensions they feel are unfair (Titus O'Neil & Adam Rose) or were harsh.
WWE has a lot to worry about image-wise, this kind of thing is the last thing they need. Because it brings focus into areas they REALLY don't want it on. It's going to be an interesting few weeks, that's for sure.