In AT&T Stadium, at WrestleMania, the grandest stage of them all, Zack Ryder defeated Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Sin Cara, Stardust, The Miz, and Dolph Ziggler to become the WWE’s Intercontinental Champion for the first time in his career. Of all the competitors in the match, Ryder appeared to be the least likely to win.
This isn’t an indictment of his ring ability or even how he is received by the fans, because Zack Ryder is quite popular with the WWE Universe. He’s a loveable goof, talented in the ring, and he has a great sense of humor. A few years ago, he was able to turn the success of his YouTube show, “Z! True Long Island Story” into an organic push as he won the United States championship at TLC.
Of course, it was all downhill from there. Ryder was thrown into a dreadful angle with Eve, Kane, and John Cena, which ultimately led to Ryder being cheated on, trapped in a wheel chair, and rolled offstage by Kane. The next four years of Ryder’s career would be hell. He wouldn’t sniff another championship during this time period, and he would endure a two year losing streak before being sent back to WWE’s developmental promotion, NXT.
He would toil away in a tag team called the “Hype Bros” with NXT’s Mojo Rawley for nine months before making a surprise appearance on Raw in a triple threat match to determine who would face Kevin Owens for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 32. Of course, the match fell apart, and it was determined that those three, as well as Zayn, The Miz, Ziggler, and obviously Owens, would face at Mania.
It was almost obvious that either Sami Zayn or Kevin Owens would leave with the title, likely leading into a program between the former tag team partners moving into the summer. Of all seven men, Ryder was the least likely to win, and many believed he was only in the match so that either Zayn or Owens could pin him.
However, at the end of the match, he pushed the Miz off of a ladder and unhooked the championship. The crowd went crazy as the WWE proved yet again that at WrestleMania, anything can happen. While this was a feel good moment for Ryder and everyone who has supported him over the years, the story is much bigger than the title. Title reigns come and go, and not all are remembered. What Zack Ryder winning the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania means is that there’s hope for everyone.
If Zack Ryder, who didn’t win a match for two straight years, who was delegated to SuperStars and Main Event, who was sent back to developmental, can win a championship at WrestleMania? Anyone can. Words like “jobber” and “buried” get thrown around a lot whenever a gimmick falls flat or a guy seems to lose a lot of matches, but nobody was buried deeper than Ryder. Nobody was more of a jobber than Zack Ryder was.
Wrestlers like Tyler Breeze, The Ascension, and Bo Dallas have yet to find a ton of success on the main roster, but there has to be reason for hope now. These wrestlers that scratch and claw for television time just so they can be squashed by someone else have a hero now. They have somebody they can look up to. They have someone to motivate them to keep trying, and to keep grabbing for that imaginary brass ring.
Zack Ryder didn’t just climb the ladder at WrestleMania, he cut a path. He showed others how to sneak past that glass ceiling. And he gave superstars, as well as the WWE Universe reason to stay hopeful as time moves on.