REVIEW: WWE SUPERSTARS RYBACK
Mattel's line of WWE Superstars figures is an interesting blend of current Superstars, occasional "blasts from the past", and relatively new talent that's managed to make a sufficient impression in a relatively short period of time.
Given the lead time it takes to turn out a new action figure, even one that is likely to use some pre-existing body molds, keeping up with who's who and who's new and who's getting attention can't be the easiest thing in the world for Mattel. Heck, just keeping up with some of these guys' tattoos is likely something of a challenge. But, while this is purely speculation, I can well imagine Mattel paying attention to WWE programming, and some new face comes along, and they start thinking that, by the time they have the headsculpt and ring gear pattern ready to go, this guy will either be a major player or will have dropped off the radar entirely. No doubt they get some behind the scenes word from the WWE about this, as well. Regardless, by the time a figure of some newcomer is ready to go, that individual will have at least made some decently significant impression in recent events in the WWE ring.
One such individual goes by the name of RYBACK, and he's become notable enough that his figure wasn't especially easy to track down. Granted, although I've been collecting WWE figures for some months now, I have yet to discern any apparent pattern from one store to another, let alone one store chain to another, as to which store might have which Superstars at any given time. But I did recently find RYBACK, so let's have a look at the man's background in the ring, and then have a look at his action figure.
Ryan Reeves (born November 10, 1981) is currently signed to WWE, where he performs under the ring name Ryback. After being one of the eight finalists on WWE Tough Enough 4, he later signed a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment and wrestled in its developmental territories Deep South Wrestling, Ohio Valley Wrestling, and Florida Championship Wrestling. He also participated in the first season of NXT in early 2010 under the ring name Skip Sheffield.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada, Reeves started watching wrestling at the age of 8 and was allowed to ring the bell at a live World Wrestling Federation event. Wanting to become a professional wrestler, Reeves began weight lifting at 12 years old. He was nicknamed "Silverback" as a teenager, after a childhood friend joked that he resembled a Gorilla, and later adopted it as a part of his ring name. One can easily see where the name Ryback comes from, a combination of part of his first name and this nickname. Reeves excelled at baseball and football while attending Western High School and Palo Verde High School. He also played college baseball during his freshman year at the Community College of Southern Nevada, but broke his leg and ended up missing two seasons. Reeves attended UNLV and entered in the fitness management program.
Reeves spent the next two years concentrating on training to enter professional wrestling. He also attended University of Nevada, Las Vegas, majoring in fitness management, while working part-time at the Monte Carlo Hotel and Casino. Reeves sent a brief one minute videotape of himself to become a contestant on $1,000,000 Tough Enough and was invited to Venice Beach with 49 others. During the first week of training, Reeves suffered from bronchitis and a rib injury. He eventually became one of the eight finalists to appear on SmackDown! and the last to be voted off. Even though he did not win the competition, Reeves impressed WWE officials enough for them to sign him to a developmental contract. He spent time healing from his injuries in Las Vegas before heading to Atlanta, Georgia in March 2005.
After training in Deep South Wrestling for most of 2005 and early 2006, Reeves was transferred over to Ohio Valley Wrestling in early March. He defeated Kasey James, Pat Buck, Da Beast and Nick Nemeth in dark matches over the next two months and, with Mikey Batts, defeated the teams of Billy Kryptonite and Russell Simpson, and Jack Bull and Vic Devine.
In July 2006, Reeves was suspended for 30 days as part of WWE's Wellness Program. According to Reeves, he had been taking several over the counter bodybuilding supplements, one of which inadvertently caused a false reading. The supplements he was using were later taken off the market due to this effect and, although his suspension remained in place, Reeves eventually returned to the roster after passing a second test.
After his previous 30 day suspension, Reeves returned while sporting bleached hair. In September 2006, Reeves began teaming with Jon Bolen, and together the team became known as High Dosage. Scoring early victories against teams such as Los Locos (Aaron Lamata and Low Rider) and Gothic Mayhem (Johnny Punch and Pat Buck), they began feuding with the then newly formed team of Eddie Craven, Mike Kruel and "The Bad Seed" Shawn Osborne.
The two did not fare well against the trio losing both tag team and single matches to them during the next few weeks. On October 18, he and Bolen also lost to them in a handicap match. Things soon changed however when High Dosage beat Eddie Craven and Mike Kruel a month later. As a result of their victory, they were allowed five minutes alone with Shawn Osbourne, but he was able to escape with the help of Craven and Kruel. Although continuing to face their rivals throughout the year, High Dosage also won matches against Los Locos and Bad Company defeating them later in a Handicap Coal Miner's Glove on a Pole match on November 29. On December 9, High Dosage teamed with Seth Skyfire and lost to Craven, Kruel and Milena Roucka. Reeves also took part in a four-way Elimination Christmas Present match with Kruel four days later. The participants included Justin LaRoche and Charles Evans, T.J. Dalton and Steve Lewington, and Seth Skyfire and Paul Burchill who eventually won the match.
On January 6, 2007, High Dosage lost to Justin LaRouche and Charles Evans. They also lost to the Tag Team Champions Cody Runnels and Shawn Spears four days later. This was their last match together as Reeves was officially released from his contract less than two weeks later. Despite having been released from his developmental contract, Reeves returned to OVW on November 14 and teamed with Pat Buck in a losing effort to Colt Cabana and Shawn Spears for the Tag Team Championship.
After over a year's absence from OVW, Reeves returned to OVW under the ring name Ryback and under a new Terminator gimmick. In his first match since returning, he managed to win the Heavyweight Championship on October 15, 2008 by defeating Anthony Bravado. After wrestling Bravado to a double count-out on October 22 and thus retaining the title, he ultimately lost the title to Bravado on October 29. Soon after the title loss, Reeves was then re-signed to a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment. To explain his departure, Ryback lost a Loser Leaves OVW match to Bravado on December 17.
On December 16, 2008, Reeves, under his Ryback ring name and character, made his in-ring debut in Florida Championship Wrestling, losing a tag match with Jon Cutler against Kris Logan and Taylor Rotunda. Ryback soon formed a tag team with Sheamus O'Shaunessy and the duo unsuccessfully challenged for the Florida Tag Team Championship on a few occasions until O'Shaunessy was called up to the main roster as Sheamus. After the Ryback character was scrapped, Reeves made his FCW redebut on October 25 under the ring name Skip Sheffield, a cowboy gimmick, where he defeated Jimmy Uso.
On February 16, 2010 during the final episode of ECW, Sheffield was announced as one of eight FCW wrestlers, called "rookies", to take part in the first season of WWE's new NXT show. Although Montel Vontavious Porter was originally to be his mentor, or "pro", he was later replaced by William Regal.
Sheffield made his NXT in-ring debut on the March 2 episode of NXT, where he teamed with Regal in a losing effort against Matt Hardy and Justin Gabriel. On the April 27 episode of NXT, Sheffield picked up his first victory with a win over Daniel Bryan. However, Sheffield was eliminated by the Pros on May 11, despite an earlier win over Darren Young, in the first NXT elimination poll. He was one of three eliminations that same night, behind Bryan and Michael Tarver, and commented that he will be back upon being eliminated.
On the June 7 episode of Raw, Sheffield along with the other NXT season one rookies, interfered in the main event match between John Cena and CM Punk, attacking both competitors as well as the announcing team before dismantling the ring area and surrounding equipment. Led by Wade Barrett, who had won NXT, this was the first appearance of a new heel faction that would essentially go after any WWE Superstars, demanding that all be signed to contracts.
On the June 14 edition of Raw the rookies attacked Special Guest General Manager Bret Hart, when he refused to give them contracts. The following week on Raw, Vince McMahon fired Hart and announced the hiring of a new General Manager, who had signed all seven season one NXT rookies to contracts.
The following week, the group was named the Nexus. On the July 12 edition of Raw, the Nexus competed in their first match together, defeating John Cena in a six-on-one handicap match. The feud continued at SummerSlam, where Team WWE fought the Nexus in a seven-on-seven elimination tag team match. Sheffield eliminated both John Morrison and R-Truth from the match before becoming the third member of the Nexus to be eliminated. Ultimately, the Nexus lost the match. On August 18, during a live event in Honolulu, Hawaii, Reeves broke his ankle in a tag team match with David Otunga against The Hart Dynasty. Reeves then underwent extensive surgery after breaking his ankle, with a third surgery being his last. Reeves returned from injury at a Raw house show on December 3, 2011, by which time the NMexus had long since disbanded.
Resuming the Ryback name, and now sporting a beard and a new attire, he debuted in WWE on the April 6 episode of SmackDown, as a face. In the following weeks, he squashed jobbers, as well as more established wrestlers like Heath Slater and Derrick Bateman. At Extreme Rules, he made his pay-per-view debut as a singles competitor when he defeated two more jobbers (Aaron Relic and Jay Hatton) in nearly two minutes. At Over the Limit, Ryback defeated Camacho in another squash match.
On July 3 during The Great American Bash episode of SmackDown, he defeated Curt Hawkins to continue his winning streak. After defeating Tyler Reks the following week on SmackDown, Ryback defeated both Hawkins and Reks in a handicap match at Money in the Bank and again during Ryback's Raw redebut on the August 6 episode. On the July 27 episode of SmackDown, Ryback began his first feud since returning to the main roster against Jinder Mahal, after Mahal lost via countout instead of continuing to wrestle. Ryback faced Mahal in a rematch on August 3 episode of SmackDown, but won via disqualification after Mahal struck him with a microphone. On the August 24 episode of SmackDown, Ryback finally defeated Mahal via pinfall and did so again on the September 3 episode of Raw.
After defeating the Intercontinental Champion The Miz in a non-title match on the September 24 episode of Raw, Ryback confronted the WWE Champion CM Punk at the end of the show after Punk attacked Mick Foley. On the next two episodes of Raw, Ryback again confronted Punk after he threatened Jim Ross during an "Appreciation Night" segment honoring Ross, and after he brawled with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. McMahon then declared Punk must choose to defend the WWE Championship against Ryback or John Cena at Hell in a Cell, and if he refused, McMahon would choose for him. On the October 15 episode of Raw, Cena willingly backed out of challenging Punk in favor of supporting Ryback as Punk's opponent at Hell in a Cell.
On October 28 at the pay-per-view, Ryback's thirty-eight match undefeated streak was broken by Punk due to a low blow and fast count by referee Brad Maddox. After the match, Ryback attacked Maddox and hit Punk with the Shell Shocked on top of the cell. The following night on Raw, Ryback was named as the final member of Mick Foley's team to face CM Punk's team at Survivor Series. The following week, however, Ryback, along with John Cena, would be booked in a triple threat match for Punk's WWE Championship at the pay-per-view instead. On the November 13 episode of Raw, Ryback gained revenge against Brad Maddox by squashing him in a match before throwing him into an ambulance, thus denying Maddox a chance at joining the WWE roster as a wrestler.
On November 18 at Survivor Series, Ryback was unsuccessful in the championship match after he was attacked by Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, and Roman Reigns, who powerbombed him through the announce table, allowing Punk to pin Cena and retain the title. The following night on Raw, Ryback was again attacked by Rollins, Ambrose, and Reigns, now collectively known as The Shield, before they again powerbombed him through the announce table after Ryback attempted to attack Punk while he was celebrating his year-long reign as WWE Champion. I keep waiting for a three-pack of The Shield to turn up one of these days...
On the November 26 episode of Raw, Ryback demanded another opportunity at the WWE Championship, with Vickie Guerrero finally relenting and giving him the title match at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. Later that night, Ryback attacked Punk with a ladder and chair before finally powerbombing him through a table. Punk suffered a legitimate knee injury during to the attack, and the title match was postponed. Ryback would instead be paired with the WWE Tag Team Champions Daniel Bryan and Kane to compete against The Shield in a six-man Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match, where The Shield was victorious. The following night on Raw during the 2012 Slammy Awards, Ryback won three Slammy Awards for Newcomer of the Year, Crowd Chant of the Year, and #Trending Now. Meanwhile Mattel was probably wondering how quickly they could get a figure of him out. On the January 7, 2013 episode of Raw, Ryback again failed to capture the WWE Championship from Punk in a Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match after The Shield interfered and powerbombed Ryback through a table on top of the ring steps.
On January 27 at the Royal Rumble, Ryback entered the Royal Rumble match as the thirtieth and final entrant and eliminated five superstars before being the last man eliminated by John Cena. Ryback would then resume his rivalry with The Shield on the February 4 episode of Raw when he teamed up with John Cena and Sheamus to attack the stable. This culminated in a six-man tag team match on February 17 at Elimination Chamber, where The Shield emerged victorious when Seth Rollins pinned Ryback for the win. The following night on Raw, Ryback and Sheamus teamed up with Chris Jericho to face The Shield in a rematch, but were again defeated.
Ryback then began a feud with Mark Henry after several non-verbal confrontions led to them attacking Drew McIntyre with their finishing moves in an attempt to one-up each other. On the March 15 episode of SmackDown, Ryback defeated Henry via disqualification following interference from The Shield. Afterwards, Henry delivered the World's Strongest Slam to Ryback three times in a row. Ryback and Henry competed in a Bench Press Challenge on the March 29 episode of SmackDown, where Ryback tied Henry at 53 reps after Henry choked him after with the weight. On April 7 at WrestleMania 29, Ryback was defeated by Henry in a singles match.
The following night on Raw, Ryback saved WWE Champion John Cena from a post-match assault by Mark Henry before attacking Cena himself. The following week on Raw, Ryback explained his attack on Cena as stepping out from Cena's shadow and getting revenge for Cena not having his back against The Shield; Ryback got a measure of revenge later that night, by allowing The Shield to attack Cena. After becoming the number one contender to the WWE Championship, Ryback would continue his feud with Cena by attacking him on several occasions while also having confrontations with the Shield. All of this effectively turned Ryback heel. Ryback received his title opportunity in a Last Man Standing match on May 19 at Extreme Rules, however, the match ended in a no contest after Ryback rammed Cena and himself into the electric backdrop at the top of the ramp. The next night on Raw, Ryback challenged John Cena to an Ambulance match at WWE Payback. On the May 27th edition of Raw, John Cena accepted Ryback's challenge but announced that their match at Payback would be a 3 Stages of Hell match with the Ambulance match being the third match stipulation. The first and second stipulations were announced as a Professional wrestling match types: Lumberjack match and a Tables match respectively.
And as of this writing, that's where things stand.
So, how's the figure? Very impressive. If one pays attention to the current WWE shows, it's always cool to see someone who's made a recent and impressive impression in the WWE, which Ryback certainly has, get his action figure in the main Superstars assortment, and Ryback finally has.
The figure stands about 6-3/4" in height, maybe a little bit more. That's about average for this line. Ryback is a powerhouse, there's no question about that. But he's not a giant.
The headsculpt is superb. Ryback shaves his head, but has a mustache and beard. Ryback has a prominent brow, and rather pronounced features. He has pale blue eyes and a very fixed stare that can certainly be intimidating, and the figure conveys all of these attributes. The eyes are especioally neatly painted, with the irises being a very pale steel blue, appropriately. His mustache and beard have been carefully sculpted and painted. His facial expression is one of very serious determination.
Ryback has an imposing muscular physique. The WWE line uses a wide range of body types to as closely match the figure to what the actual person looks like as possible, and in Ryback, they have certainly succeeded. The musculature is pronounced and extensively detailed. We're talking about an individual that has been known to heft two grown men over his shoulders onto his back and actually march around inside the ring before slamming them to the mat. That sort of stunt takes some serious muscle power, which Ryback certainly has.
Ryback typically wears an outfit called a singlet, that consists of a combined tank-top like top and shorts. Ryback has several of these, and they are generally very ornate. Mattel's painting and imprinting areas got a slight break in that Ryback doesn't have any visible tattoos, because they certainly had to work overtime to manage his tights. It didn't surprise me to learn that Ryback, before coming to the WWE, had a "Terminator" type of gimmick, because his tights have this sort of robotic/armored design imprinted on them. The tights are black, with this very pale gray, almost white imprinting on them, a very complex, high-tech, cybernetic sort of design, parts of which look like armor plating. The back of the tights looks like a robotic skull with a stylized letter "R" dominating the image. This "R" also appears on the front, in a smaller size.
The design is accented with some neon green highlights, that look like some sort of mechanical fluid is oozing from the cybernetic parts and armor. It's overall an extremely complex image, and manages to look quite intimidating, in a sci-fi sort of way.
Ryback has two armbands painted on his upper arms. These are black, with circular sections that had a silver letter "R" printed on them. I'd swear the typeface is the same one typically used for the Transformers logo.
Ryback is wearing black, fingerless gloves, painted to his hands and lower arms. He has black knee pads, separately molded from flexible plastic and attached to the figure during assembly. They do not overly hinder the articulation of the figure.
Ryback's outfit is completed by low black boots, very impressively detailed with sculpted laces and such. The figure is poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivels, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, boot tops, and ankles. Notable by their absence are mid-torso articulation, an upper leg swivel, and the fact that while the legs move forward and back, they do not move outward. However, one needs to keep in mind that these WWE Superstars figures are pretty much Mattel's basic line. There are more articulated WWE figures from Mattel, in the Elite and Legends lines, but they're also a good bit more expensive. I'm entirely content at the Superstars level, and its character selection is more diverse, as well.
So, what's my final word? Ryback has come on the scene -- as Ryback, anyway -- in fairly short order and has made an impressive impact relatively quickly. Some of the WWE fans in attendance at any given event are prone to chant the name "Goldberg" whenever Ryback appears. This is in reference to a one-time WCW wrestler named Bill Goldberg, who came on the scene, had an extended undefeated record, and basically rose to prominence with very little prior experience as a professional wrestler. When the WCW folded, he briefly appeared in the WWE. Personally, I think the comparison is a little unfair. There are certain similarities, and Goldberg was certainly an impressive talent during his tenure, but I think Ryback has, studying his history, "paid his dues" a bit more than Goldberg did. One would hope that Ryback will be an enduring presence in the WWE for many years to come. I am sure Ryback himself hopes for that. At the very least, he's certainly an imposing presence right now, and his current prominence certainly warrants his inclusion in Mattel's WWE Superstars line, and I'm glad to have him. If you enjoy the WWE, I am sure you will, as well.
The WWE SUPERSTARS figure of RYBACK definitely has my highest recommendation!