I actually assumed it happened back in May. Ryan Reeves–who went by Ryback while in the WWE–announced Friday afternoon he and WWE officially parted ways. The Big Guy, who’d been in a contract dispute with WWE for almost a year was pulled from live events in April after he mentioned his stalled contract negotiations with the company on two separate occaisions: Once in an interview and again during a live show in Dubai.
Ryback is just the latest of a growing list of mid-tier talent who’ve either been cut or released by WWE due to irreconcilable differences this year. Most notably, Cody Rhodes left the company in May due to the creative team’s refusal to allow him to transition out of his Stardust character. Stu Bennett, who went by the name Wade Barrett in WWE announced in January he would not renew his contract with WWE due to disagreements with the creative team regarding his character. Bennett was released in May along with 7 other superstars, one of which–Jinder Mahal–returned this week on RAW.
Going back to Ryback, he was in a dispute with WWE over licensing rights to his in-ring persona and all the catchphrases associated with it. Like Cody Rhodes, apparently he’d been preparing for his exit from WWE for some time. Also like Rhodes, it sounds like he was able to get what he wanted on the way out. Ryback also announced he plans to continue wrestling full-time but is also working on launching a clothing line, website and a book on healthy eating and exercise “very soon”.
TNA might be the only promotion that could be interested in signing him given the circumstances of his departure from WWE. Ryback won the Intercontinental Championship during his run with WWE though he was in the title picture for the WWE Championship a few times. Even so, it was painfully obvious his character could have been handled much better than it was. Making him a heel backfired hard when he got injured. He came back as a Heel but that was around the time The Shield broke up and the feud was being pushed.
Alot of midcards and even so top-tier talent were shelved to push the former shield members, who also held the WWE Championship since Wrestlemania 31 (Dean Ambrose is Smackdown’s WWE Champion and it’s likely Seth Rollins will win RAW’s Universal Championship at Summer Slam). That effectively denied alot of veteran midcards a shot at the title. In Ryback’s case, you had no reason to believe he wouldn’t have had at least one championship run. It truly is a shame WWE denied him that.
Ryback was a missed opportunity despite his booking issues. What he said a few months ago is spot on, it seems: Hard work in WWE isn’t always rewarded. It’s not just about who you know but who wants to know you. If Triple H is smart, he’ll find a way to get Ryback to return via NXT. Letting him go was a big mistake but then again the same could be said for Bennett, Rhodes and Damien Sandow.