|The guy on the right was rehabbed just fine. Why can't the guy on the left?|
Photo Credit: WWE.com
I do give credit 2 WWE for rehabbing Ryback after killing him for almost 2 years in 3 weeks.
— Missy Hyatt (@missyhyatt) November 18, 2014
His seeming double-turn in England last week seemed to put him down the same namby-pamby path upon which he was set ever since CM Punk was finished with him the first time, but it turned out to be the rare case where WWE deserved the benefit of some storytelling doubt. In three weeks, the world's most prominent Paneraphobe seemed to reclaim the mojo he lost in early 2013. Everything that he endured has been undone because WWE finally put two and two together and got behind a guy that the crowd was ready, willing, and able to support.
Fans, for all their faults either as individuals or a mob, pick up on things. People in the crowd that might be stereotyped as a sheep that WWE can mind-control can pick up on guys who have "it" in some degree or another. Dolph Ziggler and Damien Sandow are two wrestlers who get the benefit of that doubt because they've been able to show their hands even in the shittiest of situations.
Ryback, since being disengaged from The Shield and CM Punk, participated in one of the greatest instances of worked attempted murder, developed the best possible Rob Riggle character, was bold enough to go all-in on kissing Paul Heyman without hesitation as to what kind of heat it would bring him, kept improving in the ring, and in his grandest stroke, got human heat sink Curtis Axel over in a tag team. He did so with irrepressible enthusiasm, and as the "Goldberg" chants segued to "Feed Me More!" singalongs, the crowds were won over slowly but surely to the point where his comeback pop could be mined for something more than a cheap, one-night reaction.
The Big Guy is the poster child for how easily a wrestler can be rehabbed, sure, but someone else on the roster, a guy who shared the ring with Ryback on two separate occasions, has an even greater potential. Ryback's run at least had the injury to give him an excuse to lay low. Meanwhile, Cesaro came off a first quarter that saw him wrestle in the NXT and possibly WWE match of the year and get the ultimate shine of being the first Andre the Giant Battle Royale winner. Since Mania, he was mangled and battered in ways that were baffling given his paygrade. He still has been near the periphery of relevance, but he's always just been a guy rather than someone with any kind of agency.
I hesitate to use the harsh overreactive language of the stereotypes because Cesaro has been in these big-time matches. He was in Money in the Bank for the vacant title, and he's been given long showcases against guys like Ziggler, Dean Ambrose, and now Ryback. If you're not in favor with the office, you don't get time to create like Cesaro has. You're Zack Ryder, who makes a monthly appearance to take lumps from Rusev just to keep the Bulgarian-representing-Russia from accumulating too much rust on his gears.
However, if you're just a guy going out there to make other dudes look good, then what kind of career are you having? it's entirely possible that maybe Cesaro's calling in life will be to linger in the space between the main event and midcard, acting as some kind of metaphysical gatekeeper who acts as a barometer for his opponents. If you can't have a good match with Cesaro, then you can't have a good match with anyone, so to speak. But I'm not sure WWE has read the entire book on the Swiss Superman.
Cesaro has proven that he can go in the ring. He's shown that he can carry feuds in front of smaller audiences, both in the indies and more recently in NXT, where he and Sami Zayn took a throwaway "I NEED MORE COMPETITION" promo and turned it into a simple yet straight fire story that spanned nearly a year. WWE has yet to take the next step on the big stage. The company put him with Heyman, and inexplicably, the "greatest manager ever" spent the time trying to get Brock Lesnar over than anything else. The budding feud with Jack Swagger was paid off by having Cesaro splinter off and spin wheels against Rob van Dam. He spiraled into arrhythmic and sporadic appearances with no semblance of story. WWE has done him dirty.
Yet, he still gets people bringing the "Cesaro Section" signs. People still chant for him, and they even pop for him when he's teased in a big spot like he was at the end of the show. And just as The Big Guy was the latest to prove, heat in wrestling is elastic, especially if you've got the performance ability that people crave. Ryback's reboot was well-needed and much-appreciated, but another wrestler who could totally carry a feud and especially a series of high-profile matches is in need of the same rehabilitation. The question is whether WWE pulls the trigger on Cesaro, or whether Vince McMahon's rumored continual "not getting" of Cesaro will leave him to wither in WWE's purgatory for the rest of his career on the roster.