The powerhouse will be featured with the rest of the superstars and Divas as the show settles into its new home starting 8/7CT Thursday, Jan. 7. Before “Feeding Time” commenced, Ryback talked about what the transition from SyFy means for the program.
“The big thing is we are going to have more eyes on us,” he said.
“Having both of our WWE programs Monday Night Raw, our flagship show, and SmackDown, which is the second longest running episodic show, only behind Raw, on the USA Network. That makes it easier for our WWE Universe to know where to go…We are very excited. We just have to keep doing what we are doing. We have some of the top talent in the world in WWE. There is the competitiveness of our roster where we go on each week and aim to put on the best show possible. When you have that kind of environment, it makes for great TV.”
Since its inception in 1999, SmackDown has delivered its share of memorable moments. Ryback, real name Ryan Reeves, has a few that stick out.
“I remember with Big Show and Brock Lesnar when the ring imploded,” Ryback said.
“I thought that was a huge moment on SmackDown. I personally loved all the themed shows because they never went without a food fight and you never knew what you were going to see on that. I remember the period with Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero, Triple H and Kurt Angle. They were going out there every week on SmackDown having the best matches. Not only on that show, but any of the shows on WWE, whether it was pay-per-view or Monday Night Raw included. I think that is where we need to get back to. Having the quality match-ups, and we have the roster to do it.”
With a new era beginning for SmackDown, there is a world of possibilities for the future. Ryback can see revising past concepts like the brand extension where two shows have their own exclusive rosters. The Las Vegas native can picture the Intercontinental championship given renewed prominence and the return of a separate world championship.
“I have talked to people about making myself exclusive to SmackDown, which I have wanted to do,” Ryback said.
“…[And] any time you can make something like the Intercontinental championship more important than it is and have it exclusively on SmackDown where you have viewers tune in each week to see it defended only on that show. I think that is a great idea and proposal by Daniel Bryan. It’s doing things like that and stepping outside the box and giving the people something different. That works.
“…I know from a talent standpoint to have that competitive back-and-forth between the two shows, it only brings out the best in everybody. I’m sure [the brand extension] has been talked about. We have to build up the roster and have enough talent o do that, but it’s something that’s very possible in the near future. I know personally it’s something I would love for to happen. It gives the show a different flavor and over time you can have those cross-promotional rivalries and it makes for great TV.”
Similar to New Year’s resolutions, the driven competitor has a goal board. This helps him envision what he wants to accomplish in the next 365 days. The tool keeps the “Big Guy” motivated and hungry. The lifelong fan takes his job as a role model to youngsters very seriously.
“One thing I had last year and is on it again this year is becoming the best in-ring worker and just making myself at a level that nobody can compare to me,” Ryback said.
“Recently I have stepped outside the box and not relied solely on power moves, which is my bread and butter. I’m a student of the game and at home or on the road, whenever I can, I try to study matches. I’m trying to show different dimensions to the Ryback character in doing these different moves and high-flying moves. I’ve gotten a great reception and feedback from the WWE Universe…So it’s about treating each day on the job like it’s the first day and showing up to be the very best. No matter what happens, what I do on TV. That is my goal personally. For me, I also want to be WWE World heavyweight champion because I think I am a great representative of WWE and feel can bring it to a whole new level.”
Ryback has plans in his head for WrestleMania season. He also hopes to one day work with The Undertaker and Triple H, as well as expand his reach within the entertainment industry with potential move roles. However, he remains dedicated to WWE. This is why it makes him happy to see the growth of the company’s developmental brand, NXT.
“What Triple H has done with NXT has been absolutely incredible,” Ryback said.
“I’ve been in all the developmental systems from Deep South Wrestling to Ohio Valley Wrestling to Florida Championship Wrestling. Then being a part of the initial NXT competition with Daniel Bryan, Darren Young and Heath Slater. To see the show go from that and WWE developmental to being put it on the map like Triple H has, it is absolutely incredible. The sky is the limit with NXT.
“As much as it is under the WWE brand, we have put a different flavor on it and spin on it. The WWE Universe has been very receptive to that. Those NXT specials have been a huge hit, and they continue to expand with travel and selling out everywhere. I think it’s only a matter of time before they decide to go somewhere like the USA Network or doing more television specials to get more eyes on the product. The kids down there can deliver and go. They now have eyes on them. They have stepped up to the plate and hit home runs.”
The repackaged Ryback persona officially debuted on SmackDown three years ago. It was a milestone for him and an example of how the show can help showcase emerging superstars.
“I believe Brock Lesnar came back the night before on Monday Night Raw,” Ryback said.
“I didn’t want to come back that night because of the following he had. So SmackDown for me at the time was a great outlet for Ryback to be introduced to the WWE Universe. I was on SmackDown for a while. For me, it was great. I think it will do the same for the NXT talents to come in and debut on SmackDown because it’s a different flavor than Raw.
“Raw being live on USA Network, it’s a different animal. Sometimes you take a talent with all the talent in the world and throw them on that live program and that crowd is a little different. With the producers and higher-ups, it’s a more tension filled day. It takes a special animal to handle that. You never know how they can handle that the first time. So having SmackDown on USA is a great opportunity for NXT talents, and I feel a lot of hem will take advantage of that.”
Even though the 34-year-old’s rookie days are over, he is always learning inside and outside the ring. This includes social media and the way he approaches it.
“Early on I didn’t understand social media.” Ryback said.
“I would always say, ‘Did ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin have a Twitter account during the ‘Attitude Era?’ The answer would be, ‘Hell no!’ Then obviously this day and age things have changed where social media has become an important aspect of this and a great way to promote things, not only the WWE brand, but our individual brand. It’s one of those things where anything you put out there lives forever, so you have to learn that if you want to make a tweet and Instagram post, make sure it’s something you can live with for the rest of your life.
“You open yourself up by having social media outlets to a world of negativity that you would not have to deal with had you not had them. To me, it’s necessary in this day and age, so it’s about learning how to deal with the negativity and eventually blocking it out…I love social media these days. The WWE social media guy talked me into Instagram last April overseas initially. That’s my favorite thing now on social media. It’s a great way for fans to know you outside the ring and a great way for character development inside the ring. Social media has done a lot of good for me the last couple of years. And I’ve become much more receptive to it because I understand it more now. That’s the future, so you got to be on board with it.”
Ryback is laser-focused on his career and what’s next for him. He is ready to make an impact on SmackDown. It’s a regular place where he can apply what he picked up inside and outside the ring through various sources of inspiration.
“I try to watch everything,” he said.
“I can’t watch a TV show or movie without thinking about what I can take and use in WWE. I just can’t relax and enjoy it. That is my mindset all the time. I like to watch old school wrestling like Nick Bockwinkel and guys like that. I like to watch the pacing of Harley Race and how he worked in front of a crowd back then because it’s a different style, but you can take elements into today and put that into what we are doing.
“I like to watch like to things outside of WWE. Looking at the NXT roster, a lot of them were top guys on the independent scene. I watch to see what thy ware doing outside of WWE….I watch ‘Game of Thrones.’ I’m a big ‘Sons of Anarchy’ fan. It’s one of the shows I’ve actually seen all the way through. Breaking Bad is another thing I love.
“I’m friends with the guys from Impractical Jokers, so I’ll watch that show to see if there is some humor or mannerism I can take and apply in my own way. Going to the movies, I recently saw Daddy’s Home about two weeks ago. Mark Wahlberg’s character plays this rebel badass in the movie. I like that character and think what I can take from that. It doesn’t matter what it is or watching. It’s not always the case of taking from what I watch, but that’s the WWE mindset I have.”
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Photos Courtesy: WWE