Ryback joined Dave Lagreca and Doug Mortman on Busted Open. Here are highlights from the interview.
His path to success: “Last year at Wrestlemania I was coming back from injury and sitting in the family box and watching the show. It was great and as a fan it was fun. At the time we weren’t sure what I was going to do yet. I was chomping at the bit to get back. I just said to myself no more; this is the last Wrestlemania I’m going to miss. Especially in developmental I saw a lot of guys come in after me, getting called up before me. I always stayed positive and knew when my time would come it would be the right time. I told myself when I’m going to hit, I’m going to hit big and strike hard. We are coming up on a year and it’s arguably one of the biggest years anyone has ever had. Merchandise wise I’m right behind John Cena. My goal is to pass John and get to be the number one position in the company. I’m sure he doesn’t like hearing that but I believe I’m the guy to do it.”
On the severity of his ankle injury: “Pretty much what happened is I was in a match with David Otunga against the Hart Dynasty over in Hawaii and I took a dropkick from Tyson Kidd feeding in and my ankle literally… I had just gotten brand new boots from Stagecoach, they make my boots now they’re great and it was probably my fault, I measured my foot wrong and made my boots too narrow so I was rocking really bad. I didn’t give it any thought because I’ve always had good balance. I took the dropkick and I didn’t go down my ankle just ripped out in three places, my foot was dangling. When I’m out there I feed off the adrenaline and what’s going through my head, I just remember it went into slow motion at the time and I can’t lie here and cry because the way I come off on TV that would just kill it so I just popped back up and kept going. I wish they could show the footage of this but I pretty much fed an entire comeback running with my foot dangling on the ground. Each step I took I spiral broke my leg because the break reached, I believe, the tibia or the fibula on the other side. It literally spiral broke all the way up below my knee. I finished the match and we win, after the cavalry the adrenaline just left my body. I just laid there and I couldn’t move, my foot was literally just all contorted. They took me to the hospital and I pretty much broke my bones very badly. What a lot people don’t know is we had some complications with the surgery; a doctor botched the entire first surgery. I have a scar that runs all the way up my leg because I’ve had my leg filleted open three times now. He did the surgery improperly and unfortunately put metal through all my nerves and I lost function from my calf down to my foot and my big toe. I lost function of all that. To this day my big toe still doesn’t go up, it’s just nerve damage and I believe it’ll come back over time but it takes a long time. I told him that I’m not right and the guy did a second surgery on me and it didn’t fix it. I’m out a year now and with that injury I was only supposed to be out three or four months and the doctors pretty much thought I was done and that I’d never wrestle again. I told them that I wanted the metal taken out of my leg and if they took the metal out my leg would get better. Thankfully the WWE stuck by my side and it was one of those things where I had been out for a long time and I hadn’t done anything on TV really significant yet so they were just going on potential and they stuck with me. They took the metal out and believe it or not my nerves started growing back very quickly. It’s going to take years for them to fully get back to normal but I was just rehabbing morning and night. The leg started getting better and they started bringing me back on the road, I was out a year and a half and hadn’t wrestled a match. I came back and wrestled my first live event after being out a year and half with no ring time and just hit the ground and they brought me back up until I finally debuted on TV as Ryback. Funny story… When I first started doing the shell shock I started marching around the ring which was another thing that was never planned out, it helped me keep my balance when I had a guy held up in that position. My foot now is great but when I first came back it was very wobbly and I was having a bit of balance issues so I had to do that rock back and forth because that was the only way that I could really do that and keep the guy above me. It just got better as time went on. I still do rehab with it and work my calves twice a week really hard to get that strength. It’s been a work in progress but I’m very thankful for everything. If it had not worked out that way I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in. We had to get rid of that other identity so it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
Being marketable to kids, teenagers, and adults: “Our company needs a guy now; John’s [Cena] been on top for eight to ten years and been untouchable merchandise wise because we haven’t had anyone that could replace that. I know that I am the one that can not only replace it but can exceed it. We haven’t had a guy since Austin sell to kids, teenagers, and adults, Ryback sells to all three. I’ve seen the stats and John sells to kids so in my eyes I say why not run with this thing and let’s make ourselves some more money.”
Winning over Goldberg fans: “The Goldberg things never bothered me. The fans are very loyal to those who came before us and everyone loved Goldberg when he was on top in WCW and then he came into the WWE and had a good run. It just takes time to make the fans become loyal to you. I knew that if we kept doing what we were doing and we were patient, they would go down and the “Feed me more” chants would take over. I remember at the TLC pay-per-view in Brooklyn, I did the spear to Dean Ambrose and this was my true test. I wanted to see where I was at with the fans. I knew doing the spear in Brooklyn was going to initially trigger Goldberg chants and it did. If you go back and watch the pay-per-view, I spear Dean Ambrose and Goldberg chants just erupt in the arena. I then go to the corner and instantly “Feed me more” drowns it out and it was right then when I was like okay I got this I can control this now a little bit. I love Goldberg and I wish he’d be able to come back down the road and we could have a huge matchup and let the fans decide. Hopefully, that’s in the cards for the future.
On where Ryback and “Feed me more” came from: “Ryback actually was Terminator based from when I was out injured. It’s pretty much a take on my real name Ryan and Silverback my initial nickname as a kid growing up put into one. I was fired from WWE and watching Terminator 2 one night on TV and I’m sitting there and I’m a machine. How am I not with the WWE right now? Even though I was a little lost at the time I was still busting my ass going hard each and every day and I was like I set goals I just need to set better goals but I was like I’m like a Terminator so that’s where the whole Terminator base thing came from initially with the whole Ryback character. With ‘Feed me more,’ they were giving me the local athletes out there and it was week two and I was already kind of like… I wanted to come back and face the main roster talent and they were giving me these tiny little locals. Benny Camer was his name, a little blond haired kid, it was week two and the bell rang and I clotheslined his head off and he took this inside out and folded em’ up and the crowd just lost their breath when it happened. I picked him up from the ground and hit the shell shocked and I looked at the hard camera and I covered him, this wasn’t planned and I’ve said this in other interviews, I just screamed to Vince [McMahon] and Hunter because I know they’re watching in the back ‘Feed me more’ because I was saying I want more and I want to be their number one gladiator and I want more. I want the best. I wake up each and every day and more is never enough for me. I want everything that life has to offer; more money, more women, more power, more energy. I’m always looking for more because I believe life is meant to be lived so ‘Feed me more’ is who I really am. It’s not food based at all even though I eat a tremendous amount of food.”
On referring to the local wrestlers as “local athletes” and picking up wrestlers over his head: “I will say this publicly, thank you to each and every one of them because without those guys I would not be where I am. Those guys are under a lot of pressure. They come in and it’s very nerve wracking coming up here in the WWE and being around not only the main roster guys and Vince McMahon, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon and Kevin Dunn and all these guys, to be back there in that environment is very intimidating to someone coming in from the outside. So for them to come in and come out here and be able to perform and sell the way they sold, I’m very thankful. I spend a lot of time each week with every local athlete that came in and hung out with them to get to know them because I knew I’d be relying on these guys heavily and especially picking up two of those guys. You’ve seen feats of strength before from guys in the WWE usually you do it that one time and leave it at that. We’ve gone out there with myself and we’ve pushed the envelope quite a bit doing the two guys up there and that’s high risk. The room for error on that is great but I’m a homerun hitter though I swing for the fences and I’m not afraid of striking out. I like to throw most guys over my head but with the bigger guys I have to tuck my head because they have large stomachs so I can’t get the stomach over my head. Paul (Heyman) I wanted to tuck my head with but I’m very stubborn at times and I was like no weight wise he wasn’t an issue. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how big Paul Heyman’s stomach was and we joke about this now but the man’s stomach sticks out beyond any man I’ve ever seen and we went back and I looked and was like that is physically impossible. I would have had to have him so high over my head from a dead pole position. Physically no one on the planet could pick him up that way. You would have to tuck your head so the other times that I’ve done it I’ve tucked my head and it’s been easy.”
If he’s happy with his character: “Obviously, we can always evolve the character and I think the first step will be when I get more mic time. I think that we’ll surprise a lot of people but we’ve kind of gone with the slow build here and it’s worked perfectly. I don’t know if you’ve seen me before but I’ve done some pretty stupid things out there and I’m not afraid to do anything to entertain the fans. It’s all about just believing and having fun and there’s nothing I’m above doing. I love who I am though and this is truly the closest thing to me that you’re going to see because I’m very intense in real life and I want to be the best and that’s exactly what Ryback’s all about. You see guys go out there and dance, whatever’s asked of me I will do but I believe in the role that I’m in right now. There’s no reason I can’t be the number one guy and run this place.”
If he can get Mark Henry in the Shell Shock: “That is the question going into Wrestlemania. A lot of people are saying that I cannot get big Mark Henry up for the Shell Shock finisher. My goal going into this thing and coming out of it is going to be the one thing that people will remember coming out of this Wrestlemania isn’t going to be CM Punk/Undertaker, Brock/Triple H, or Rock/Cena II it’s going to be Ryback picking Mark Henry up, marching around the ring, hitting the Shell Shock, 75,000 plus people screaming ‘Feed me more’ at the Metlife stadium with myself so that’s the goal going in and I believe one hundred percent that I can do it.”